Event - Spring Menu Tasting at Lark Creek: Cocktails and Appetizers

The spring season introduces the reappearance of greenery and fruitful gardens from a period of slow growth. The southern California winter this year was certainly hotter and drier than typical, so we've been in need of freshness and something bright. Many restaurants are turning over to their spring menus, and Lark Creek in Newport Beach at Fashion Island is no exception. We know them as a place very committed to seasonal and local produce, so we were eager to get a tasting of their newest cocktails and appetizers. The spring menu focuses on those ingredients that start to peep their heads around this time of year. As always, the cocktails were impeccable!

We have always been fans of Lark Creek's cocktails. They somehow know exactly how to balance a drink well between its spirits and accompaniments. We had four that beautiful sunny day, starting with The Blinker ($11 - Old Overholt rye whiskey, grapefruit, and raspberry syrup) and Black Betty ($12 - Hayman's Old Tom gin, Aalborg aquavit, blackberries, pineapple, lemon, and agave syrup). Somehow, Duc and I chose the ones that were perfect for each other and hardly wanted to share! The Blinker combines the inherent bitterness of grapefruit with the hint of that same taste in a whiskey - the raspberry syrup cuts through just slightly to keep the drink from being overbearingly dry in the aftertaste. The Black Betty was very refreshing and iconic for the springtime. Gin, being naturally very aromatic and herbal on the nose, played well with the fragrant fruits; the agave kept it nice and sweet and staved off the tartness that blackberries and pineapple might have. It was easily my favorite drink of the spring cocktails.

Our next two were the Whistle Stop ($14 - hibiscus-infused bourbon, lime, simple syrup, demerara simple, egg, and burlesque bitters) and Daiquiri Lavanda ($12 - Bacardi Silver rum, lime, simple syrup, lavender syrup). The Whistle Stop was floral and demurely flirty on the tongue. Coating your palate with an array of sweet, tart, and somewhat bitter, the drink is obvious in why it is a favorite by patrons on the new menu. Then we wanted to see what the Lavanda was about, and upon having some, better understood why this is a fun drink as well. Light and bright, the cocktail tasted like a cool lakeside vacation. Cheers to these two as well!

There were several appetizers available on the spring menu as well. To be honest, we were not impressed at all by the Rock Fish Ceviche ($14 - aji amarillo and plantain chips) which came out in large chunks and with plantain chips. The fish tasted a bit overcooked and was much too sour for our liking. It was the one we enjoyed the least of during our visit. However, the other seafood-centric appetizer of Crispy Calamari ($13 - cocktail sauce, herb aioli, and spicy chili sauce) was eaten quite quickly, leaving the plate practically spotless. Thinly sliced and with just the right amount of crunch, the calamari was the perfect shared plate and hardly needed the various dipping sauces they came with. However, if you do want some of the sauces, we recommend the cocktail sauce as the spicy chili sauce is too light and the herb aioli too heavy.

The two remaining appetizers we tried were the Deviled Eggs ($9 - Zoe's applewood smoked bacon with chipotle aioli) and Grilled Manassero Farms Artichoke ($13 - Bay shrimp remoulade with options of saffron aioli and melted butter). I really enjoyed the play between the smokey bacon and the chipotle aioli in the deviled eggs; they matched well and texturally were in contrast which can sometimes be a good thing. Duc, however, thought that the bacon overpowered everything else while he was eating it. The artichoke came with dipping sauces which were basically unnecessary since it has such a great flavor on its own. The remoulade was a shining star on top of the artichoke, and I only wish we had more of it. The grilled artichoke peeled away easily, and the leaves carried a lot of strong flavor. We really liked this of the bunch as well.

All in all, it seems like Lark Creek has a good grasp on what makes the springtime shine, especially with their cocktails. Our thanks to the team for having us there that day.

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