Event - Greenleaf SOCO Happy Hour Tasting

When we first heard of Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, it was for a Happy Hour tasting where we delved into hearty but healthy foods. It was at the 17th Street location in Costa Mesa where we dined and because we enjoyed the food so much, we've been back several times. "But why can't there be a closer one?" we wondered. When news that one would be opening at the South Coast Collection came around, we were so happy; when the day came, we eagerly awaited our tasting hour with other food bloggers and writers. Having been invited to try out the Greenleaf SoCo location for its Happy Hour, we happily agreed to show up and came to see the great sight that is a green and purple eatery.

As always, the exterior of the restaurant was surrounded by greenery and fresh produce of its own. Each location has a particular geographic style without diluting the brand imaging, and that was quite apparent in this spot as well. Apt for the SoCo Collection/OC Mart Mix area, succulents adorned nearly every carefully placed nook and cranny (including on the walls!) and unstained reclaimed wooden furniture sat everywhere. We were  fascinated by what they were growing out in their garden, mainly because it's become more and more appealing to spot dishes made direct from the source. This particular location is open for lunch, dinner and happy hour Monday-Friday from 11am-10pm, and brunch, happy hour, and dinner on Saturday and Sunday from 8am-10pm. Happy hour runs from 3pm-5pm.

To whet our throats, we were started off with their seasonal House Squeezed Plum Lavender Soju Lemonade, a tart and floral cocktail that was light on the alcohol and refreshing on the palate. A delicate sprig of lavender topped every drink and lent more scent to our sips. The first plate was their Grilled Deliciousness (grilled peach with peach puree, salted pecan-crusted burrata, micro-arugula, & crispy prosciutto salad with a drizzle of balsamic reduction), a plate that changes seasonally hence the ambiguous name. All I could think as I indulged in this tasting plate of sweet-salty-crunchy-bitter was, "Why is this plate so small?" The Turkey Sliders (mini turkey burgers with butter lettuce, roasted tomato, red onion marmalade, and pomegranate aioli on a sesame bun) packed plenty of flavor through the marmalade and fat patties.

At Greenleaf, they make their pizzas differently. Instead of a traditional crust, a proprietary whole-wheat tortilla serves as the base for their creative toppings. It allows for less calories but still plenty of savory goodness. We had three that evening: Romesco Sausage Pizza (crispy whole wheat tortilla topped with romesco sauce, turkey sausage, Parmesan cheese, arugula, and fennel), Burrata Pizza (crispy whole wheat tortilla topped with basil pesto, baby tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and burrata drizzled with balsamic reduction), and Mushroom Truffle Pizza (crispy tortilla topped with goat cheese spread, sauteed mushroom, Parmesan cheese, arugula, and Pecorino drizzled with truffle oil). The sausage pizza certainly had a kick to it that kept us coming back for more. I was eager for the burrata pizza, and it did not disappoint the Italian-food lover in me; how does one say no to burrata? Despite the greatness of the first two, my favorite was and still is their mushroom truffle pizza for its savory umami-ful  mushrooms and the saltiness that comes from shaved Parmesan.

After the lighter plates, we were presented their Farro Salad (sofritto and vegetable stock finished with Feta), Kristi's Quinoa (sofritto and green onion accented by balsamic vinegar), Antioxidant Orchard Salad (Scarborough Farms baby mixed greens, grapes, celery, walnuts, dried cranberries, apples, Bleu cheese, mint, red onion, cucumbers, strawberries, and blueberries with pomegranate whole grain vinaigrette), and Almond Chicken Sandwich (served with tangy slaw and romesco sauce on a vegan harvest bun). If you haven't had farro before, you should know that it truly fills you up even after a bite. Theirs was simple but satiating, accentuated by warm Feta and the signature tough bite. The quinoa was prepared with few ingredients as well but lovely with the little pops that quinoa gives. Their salad that we tried is one of their most popular and not on the Happy Hour menu but absolutely a treat with a healthy balance of juicy fruit and crunchy greens. As for the chicken sandwich, it was one of my favorites of the evening for its tanginess and the satisfying sound of crispy slaw and meat. If they turned that into a salad, I'd be all for it!

Our thanks to Greenleaf SoCo for having us and Chef Kristi and sous chef Ashanti for speaking to us about their dishes. This location is but a few weeks old and in the meantime, are offering free local delivery through September ($25 min. to 92728, 92799, 92626, 92704, 92707). If you're curious about visiting them for Happy Hour, below are their specials for 3pm-5pm:

  • $4 Glasses of Select Wine and Tap Beers
  • $5 Rotating Specialty Soju Cocktail
  • $5 Thin-Crust “Pizzas”
    • Wild Mushroom and Truffle
    • Romesco Sausage and Fennel
    • Burrata and Baby Tomato
    • Grilled Veggie
    • Turkey BLT
    • BBQ Chicken
  • 50% off all Side Dishes and Small Plates
  • Small Plates (regular price $5-7.50): Turkey Sliders, Steak Sliders, Seasonal Grilled Deliciousness, Salmon Crudo, Meatballs
  • Side Dishes (regular price $4): Baked Sweet Potato Fries, Hummus and Pita Chips, Tuscan Kale Salad, Farros Salad, Gluten Free Vegetable Salad, Kristi’s Quinoa, Green Lentils, and more!

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

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