Thursday, May 29, 2014
Event - Tasting The Globe's Spin to Gastropub Fare
If you have an inkling about the make-up of Orange County, you'd know that most everyone points to Garden Grove and Westminster for the best Vietnamese food around. You can't beat Little Saigon. You might also know that aside from that, most people try to avoid the area - "Ghetto Grove," "Garbage Grove," I've heard it all. I grew up here, and let's just say that there have been several gang-related and drug-related incidents not too far from where I live (that I only found out about once cop cars were in the neighborhood).
Nevertheless, for the past few years, every time I've met someone who proclaimed their adoration for Belgian beer, I've pointed them in the direction of my hometown. I regularly frequented our diminutive Main Street and "downtown" area growing up so was reluctant to like it when new businesses started taking over the old-timey feeling of the area. However, one of the blessings the change brought upon our city was the arrival of The Globe which is now known as The Globe Belgian Gastropub. Like Belgian beers? They have the finest selection and the hospitality to boot! I should know, from all the times I've been in but we recently dropped by via invitation to get a taste of what their new chef has done with the place. The food was well received before but now, you'll get an even better treat.
I was first introduced to The Globe by some high school friends who had become regulars of The Globe since day one (they say). One look at the remarkable "Beer Bible" on the tables, and I knew this was a rare place indeed. My initial reaction to the hospitality of the owners (both full-fledged cicerones) was that it had to be because I was with people they knew but that notion was quashed the moment someone walked into the room. Every person was warmly welcomed and catered to like a VIP. That in itself is something to be proud of but then there is also the beer and food.
Taps and taps of Belgian brews you would not see anywhere else line the bar, and the shelving on the walls holds glassware specific to each brewery and beer. If you didn't know, the glassware makes a difference on the taste of a drink and if you don't believe me, do your own taste test at home drinking out of different types of containers with the same liquid. Possessing all of the unique and specific glasses shows an impressive dedication to the true craft of beer but don't worry - you won't find a stuffy, cocky bartender here looking down on you for not knowing the differences between a dubbel and a trippel. The Pauwels, a husband and wife duo, have no qualms about educating so ask questions!
By the way, those portraits lining the walls? Those would be their "Ambassadors," aka daring souls who accepted the Chimay Challenge of drinking a 70oz goblet of beer solo. Our friends were the first ones to do this too, and their photos have plenty of flags on the frames which denote an additional time that they've done the challenge.
The smallest touches can make big impacts, and I've always admired how the silverware and napkins at The Globe come in a tidy tuxedo fold. Aside from the Ambassadors' framed mugs on the wall, there is also currency from around the world lining the interior, and the dining tables feature different collages of historically-representative photos for various countries. These are enough to stare at while your dining mates try to pick from the vast Beer Bible selection.
Because the beer has not been on tap for hundreds of years, the Chimay Rouge was my starter poison of choice, a rarity obtained only because the likes of owner Michael Pauwels exists who loves his curations. Duc began his evening with the Gulden Draak Triple ($9), a fond memory of a beer which we were first exposed to on our inaugural Globe visit and which we learned how to say properly in native tongue. I also indulged in the Gregorious Trappist ($10.50) and sampled Straffe Hendrik ($10.50). Bring on the dark beers!
If for some strange reason, you stumbled into a gastropub without the intention of having beer, there is also a collection of spirited coffees, regular coffees, soft drinks all noted by brand, cocktails, beer cocktails, and wines from all over the world (approximately one selection of each) from California to Greece to Australia to Chile to Argentina to French to South Africa.
So I lavished at length over the beers but the reason for our recent visit was the new hiring of Chef Christophe Jardillier to run the kitchen. We knew him from his menu direction at Encore Dinner Theatre but since that business has closed, the chef found his way elsewhere. It seems a good match too and a way for a variety of cuisines to be tackled by Christophe. The menu is worldly with an emphasis on Europe; the appetizer section featured a monthly special, staples like charcuterie and cheese, and flavors of other countries such as empanadas and hummus. We opted for a more Belgian approach to our choices.
How does one deny a freshly made hot Pretzel ($4.95 - large Bavarian with Dijon mustard)? I recommend that you eat this one as soon as it comes out because large pretzels such as this are not meant to be eaten cold. The dough was fluffy but the crust tight and crackly. It may have come with mustard but the slightest sweetness from the bread made me enjoy it, devoid of dip. We moved on to a dish more familiar to an eater of American cuisine but with a Belgian influence, the Loaded Belgian Frites ($6.95 - hand-cut, double-fried crisp and golden frites drizzled with Gorgonzola cream sauce and bacon bits). Despite being buried beneath a slathering of cream sauce, these hefty potatoes managed to remain crisp. A golden crunch on the outside and airy, whipped starchiness on the inside made for a divine frite. These were easily devoured. We also opted for an order of the Skirt Steak Florets ($9.95 - with Gorgonzola, caramelized onions, and a Cabernet demiglaze) out of curiosity on the name. Sweet and tender, these swirled slices of steak were a good palate opener to a heavier steak to come.
With one beer down and several bites of appetizers already in me, it was difficult to accept that more was coming. The entrees hadn't even hit the table yet. The Globe's menu for these included some more well-known classics in European fashion including an array of pastas alongside greens, pizzas, burgers, and heavy-hitters like steaks. We opted to indulge so tried out their Steak au Poivre ($19.95 - outside skirt steak, sauteed seasonal vegetables, and green pepper steak sauce over Belgian fries), a towering plate with a much more refined touch than your average meat and potatoes. I am also a fan of pepper-crusted meats so this was right up my alley. The steak was tender and juicy, emitting bursts of flavor with each bite whether from the natural jus or the cracked peppercorns. Using green peppercorns in the sauce was a brilliant move as those are hardly as spicy as the black versions and have more of a vegetal flavor.
As is my tendency to order dishes with a restaurant's namesake, I went for the Globe Short Rib ($19.95 - boneless short ribs slow-roasted with jus, seasonal vegetables, and choice of potato dauphinoise or Belgian fries) and chose the potato dauphinoise. The short rib was extremely tender, breaking away at the barest touch of my fork into meaty slivers of flavor. I think the choice to go with potato dauphinoise was a good call in this case because they bathed in the jus as I dug into the short rib whereas fries would have gone soggy. Duc chose the Coq au Vin ($16.95 - braised chicken with caramelized onions, bacon, and mushroom medley in a red wine reduction accompanied by choice of potato dauphinoise or Belgian fries) with potato dauphinoise to change from the red meat tendency of the evening. A hearty, comfort food dish, the coq au vin may not present as well as other dishes might but looks can be deceiving. While I appreciated the long braise that resulted in a peel-away piece of chicken that was rife with seasoning, it was not my style but certainly Duc's who dispensed of it rapidly. Again, with such a heavy focus on a sauce in the dish of some sort, this entree served the potato dauphinoise better than I'd expect fries.
Despite what felt to be a burgeoning new waist size, we powered onward and gave in to having a dessert (but just one!). Sample sizes are presented on a decorated and well-arranged platter after the savory foods to tempt the eyes and diner to choose. I decided on a lighter flavor to hopefully ease our large stomachs (at this point) so the lemon and raspberry cake was a fun end to the meal. It was a meal of good execution and plenty of choice.
The beer selection here can easily blow you away, and the variety of food allows for a larger group to have something for everyone. However, don't go to The Globe expecting the experimental dishes and rotating seasonal menus that dominate the gastropubs of today; go there for an expertly crafted cold one, a value-driven well-made meal, and the company of two of the most dedicated and genuine restaurant owners we know. Find The Globe Belgian Gastropub at 12926 Main St. Garden Grove, CA 92840, and hey, let me know if you want to grab a glass together. After all, it's in my hood.
Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.