Event - Pie Society Speakeasy Preview

They were called speakeasies during the Prohibition era because people had to speak quietly ("easily") about their locations so as not to let authorities know the whereabouts. After all, these were places that sold alcohol illegally. Though the alcohol ban is now over (thankfully!), the promise of secretive lounges is still tantalizing and the "speakeasy" still exists today, albeit not an illegal institution. Places keep it fun through a variety of methods such as ever-changing passwords and hidden entrances. For Pie Society in Costa Mesa, it's more about finding the place without a sign. Then again, you're reading this post here and are going to figure it out.

Oh who am I kidding? How do you call this place a speakeasy when everyone knows it exists (and it has a website)? Let's call it an excellent, well-crafted bar that operates primarily in the dark. No really, it was so dark in there that we had to bust out some unsightly lights for our photographs but hey, that darkness really lends to the mood. I want to come back. I want to lounge in their leather chairs, have myself some cocktails by the talented bartenders, and relax. You'll find your way in here by going straight to the back of Pitfire Artisan Pizza through an unmarked door. After all of the tasty libations though, have fun finding your way out!

The mastermind behind the handcrafted cocktails is Steve Garcia, formerly of Mesa and Broadway by Amar Santana. He is an original member of the Orange County Bartenders' Cabinet and is a genius in putting together artisanal, spirit-forward drinks. The selection available at Pie Society is separated into House Drinks, Iconic Selections, Beers, and Wines. They also have the fun option of "Book on the Wall" which involves you picking a spirit, picking a book off the wall, and letting your bartender decide on what you're drinking. I had a good time chatting briefly with Steve as well as Mike Galicia (formerly of Surfin' Cowboy), who proclaimed himself to me to be a cocktail geek. This little tidbit comes into play later in this post.

So when the bartenders start freely pouring for all of us at this preview, we can't help but try to taste everything. Pictured are some drinks that you can snag and ones that others ordered (but I had the barest sip of): the Pool Side ($10 - Ford's Gin, watermelon, lemon juice, Plymouth Sloe Gin, cucumber slice, shaken, over, long), the Hemingway Daiquiri ($10 - Cana Brava, Cuban style rum, fresh lime juice, housemade grapefruit cordial, Maraschino, frappe), Mai Tai ($12 - Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Rhum Agricole, orange curacao, fresh lime juice, housemade orgeat, mint, orchid garnish), and Medicine Rattle ($12 - Chinaco Blanco Tequila, fresh pineapple juice, green tea jalepeno SS, shiso, sake, shaken, up). I think the biggest surprise came when the mai tai was ordered and our waitress came by just to say, "Sorry, it'll be a few more minutes. We're just waiting on the orchids." My first thought --> "To be...shipped in from Hawaii or something?" Nevertheless, beautiful drink and tasty too!

My turn. Pictured are four that I had: the North Beach ($10 - Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Luxardo Aperitivo, Fernet Branca, housemade grapefruit cordial, soda, grapefruit peel, shaken, over, long), the El Primo ($10 - Sombra Mezcal, housemade lime cordial, lime wheel, shaken, up), the Art of the Kill ($10 - Death's Door Gin, Gran Classico, Cynar, tangerine peel garnish, stirred, one rock), and a classic Martini (done the right, old-fashioned way with my choice of gin: Death's Door). Is it odd to say that I liked all of mine best? I truly did, especially the Art of the Kill of the "House Drinks." However, my absolute favorite that I will really come back for frequently is that classic martini that Mike crafted for me. The geek he is, as he said, he was as eager as I was when I told him I loved gin and wanted a true martini. The most delicate of care he spent on making me this perfect concoction. I can't express how much I adored it. Pie Society, please take my liver.

Alas, it would be in poor reporting that I not talk about the food, a menu put together by Chef Jason Neroni. To snack on at the tables were cups of Pastrami Peanuts with Smoked Sea Salt ($3) - a crunchy, savory bite; Smoked, Marinated Olives ($5) - to drool over; and Our Pickles ($4) - their signature housemade pickles. We then also got their Kimchi Deviled Eggs ($4) - well-garnished but a little lacking in kimchi flavor; Crispy Dim Sum Shrimp ($8 - black sesame, sweet mayo, pineapple) - creamy morsels akin to the beloved large shrimp you find in walnut mayo shrimp dishes that had great crunches; Tater Tots ($7 - with aioli and chorizo fondue) - a table favorite for its potatoey goodness and incredible fondue; and Cheeseburger Hot Pocket ($8 - smoked Cheddar, dill pickle, house ketchup & mustard) - a playful riff off of childhood memories with their cheeseburger fillings, these actually reminded us more of lumpia than hot pockets.

The really heavy stuff came later: Sweet & Sour Crispy Pork Belly ($8 - pineapple & opal basil) - absolutely perfectly crisp where needed but would have been dry had it not been for the garnishes; Superba Fried Chicken ($8 - red wine, vin glaze, Parmesan, and chiles) - had a great skin to it though many at the table didn't like the choice of meat cut; Deli Pizza ($12 - pastrami meatballs, Gouda fondue, caraway seeds, fresh Mozzarella, pickled fresno) - a meat lover's pizza with very hearty flavors and heavy on the caraway; and Soprano Pizza ($13 - sopprasata, tomato, fresh Mozzarella, caramelized onion, Castelvetrano olives, freshno chiles, salsa verde) - just about my favorite for the entire evening in terms of food for how it satisfied the salty, savory, sweet, sour, and spicy needs on my palate. It even tasted fantastic afterward when we took the extra home.

Overall, the Pie Society is a fun place to go when you are looking for some of the best cocktails around and a low-key environment. Fitting approximately 40-60 depending on what parts of the room they open up, this speakeasy will surely please the crowds. If you're curious about the name, it actually stands where the previous Marie Callender's pie ovens were; also, you can't ignore the Pitfire Pizza (pie) place next door. Want to visit them? They opened on June 8, 2013 and can be found Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-close at 353 East 17th Street in Costa Mesa. Go "Experience the Pie Society: Sanctuary from Tedium." Thanks to everyone there who welcomed us!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos are available on Facebook.

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