Event - Haven Gastropub Fall Menu Preview

I call this an "Event" in my categories mainly because there's nowhere else to really put it. It was a media preview of Haven Gastropub's fall menu but the post itself won't be about the event - it's going to be about what you're here for: the food. My oh my are you in for a treat once you submit yourself to the whims of the talented chefs at this restaurant (we were at the one in Orange). The fall menu debuted yesterday so get at it now!

Our first treat of the evening was a starter plate of icicle, breakfast, and lime radishes (all radish types I have never eaten before) atop some housemade butter and Philippine sea salt. This was paired with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc by Cape Mentelle in New Zealand. With every dish and pairing, Chef Greg Daniels and Beverage Director Will Dee came out to explain the choices which made for an excellent dining experience. Daniels shared with the table how the first course was an inspiration incited by memories of his grandfather's backyard radishes; he used to eat them between butter-spread slices of Weber white bread with light salt. What a playful memory to bring to mind for a playful dish which had a satisfying crunch covered with a smooth butter perfectly accented with the sea salt. It was delightful, especially with the wine that highlighted the pepperiness of a raw radish. Soon after came out the Americano (campari, carpano antica, soda water) to pair with the duck confit salad (tuscan kale, roasted butternut squash, pepitas, walnut oil, sherry vinegar). Another spot-on pairing as the slight bitterness of the Americano matched well with the kale. This salad was one of my two favorite courses for the night as the softer pieces of kale were among crispy kale chips; overall the duck's slight saltiness connected splendidly to the butternut squash. Sous chef Courtney Chambers came out to explain the dish but I think we were all involved in the plethora of textures going on in our mouths as we dug in.


Course three was a lot of people's favorite for the night - a pumpkin gratin made of sugar pumpkin, grana padano, and crema. It was sweet yet surprisingly in gratin form with the cheesiness on top. The presentation was pleasing as well! This was paired with the Autumn Maple brew by The Bruery, a pumpkin beer. There was no surprise there. Will Dee (also co-partner in the overall haven Collective) was asked by a member of our table about his pairing choices; with all his expertise, of course a lot of these pop to mind immediately when he tastes the food! I liked how well he and Daniels worked together in terms of matching food with the right beverage. This was honestly my best pairing experience so far (but remember, I'm a youngin'!), and I think it was due in large part to the lack of trepidation towards mixing up a variety of beverages to offer. I admired how Will was not afraid to bring out wine for one course, a cocktail the next, and even a beer afterward. It really speaks to the concept that it's about the flavors and not the social aspect (I mean, really...how many pairings have you seen that just stick to wine?). Brilliant.

We moved on afterward to Duc's favorite dish for the night, the rabbit pappardelle (braised legs and seared saddle, roasted fall mushrooms including lobster mushroom and chantrelle, and rabbit jus). Chef de cuisine Craig Brady came out to offer his words on this dish and explained his culinary background amidst Italian restaurants - this was a nod to that history and in a well shown way I'd say. Housemade pasta is always an impressive touch but when it's done well, a greater applause should be heard. A fabulous dish paired with a 2010 Malbec by Giminez Rilli from Argentina that was a softer red and allowed for the notes of rabbit to shine through without being too gamey or losing the wine.


My other half of my two favorite dishes for the night was the lamb belly which had a vadouvan crust, lentils du puy, spiced rutabaga, and house harissa. I loved the French-inspired curry spices, and the use of lamb belly was a definite detraction for the usual pork belly. It tied in more succinctly with the curry influences, especially with the inclusion of lentils. A well-presented dish, this had a large variety of textures too with the softness in the fattiness of the belly and the crisp crust on the exterior. My favorite! Paired with Stone Brewery's Cali-Belgique, a soft Belgian IPA, the dish was a hit with me. I don't like IPAs but it worked well with the lamb belly. Soon after, Irish Coffees were brought out (Portola regular french press, Paddy Old Irish Whiskey, sugar, and cream) to finish off the courses. Hot, they hit the spot after gulping down the dessert for the evening - sticky toffee pudding paired with brown butter bourbon ice cream. Cheers to the pastry chef Santana Salas for creating such a perfect dessert. The toffee pudding had the correct balance between being cloyingly sweet and too bready. The bourbon ice cream helped keep everything from being too thick too (and the Irish coffee helped!).


I commend the Haven team for putting together such a fine specimen of a fall menu and am excited for everyone who will be feasting on those menu items soon. If you're going to be trying out these dishes, I suggest you stick with those pairings as aforementioned! They are perfect. My thanks go out to the Haven team for having us, Mona from moxxepr for the invite, my dear table-mates, and Duc for the photography (he even snagged pictures of me working - see? I do do work!). Cheers and have a successful fall!

Photography by Duc Duong and Minerva Thai. More photos available on Facebook.