EATS Kitchen & Bar Presents Innovative "12 Days of Christmas" Menu Specials

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." quite a lot of gifts that are random. What does one do with eleven pipers piping? I suppose if you're Chef Jason Montelibano, you just get inspired to whisk up a delectable dessert in honor of the phrase. Hotel Irvine's own EATS Kitchen & Bar led by the gregarious chef is celebrating the well-known song and holiday season with creative specials starting December 12th, running up until Christmas Eve and Christmas day (when guests can reserve seats for a five-course prix fixe chef's tasting menu). These supplemental specials all pay homage to the different days in the carol and run the gamut of types with cocktails priced at $10 to dishes ranging from $12 to $20 each. Curious yet? Well you better mark your calendars because they'll only run on their designated days, and based on the preview I got, you're in for some treats.

The limited quantities per item each day (served lunch and dinner) can certainly be another nudge to get you in the door. The quality of cuisine, however, should be the true driving force because Chef Montelibano does not skimp on the culinary skill. While we tried out their Nine Ladies Dancing inspiration (Pink Lady Cocktail - gin, half & half, fresh cherry juice, and fresh raspberries), the group at the table was salivating over the remaining menu items to try. The Partridge in a Pear Tree dish was a slice of grilled ciabatta topped with pear jam, mizuna, Brie, and fried quail egg augmented with a port reduction (when you order this on December 12th, you'll get more than one slice). Sweet and savory with some peppery bitterness from the dressed leaves of mizuna, this bite was a lovely palate opener.

What was it preparing us for? Well how about the holiday fowl? The crowd (and my) favorite was Chef's Six Geese A Laying which tossed juniper berries with five-spice onto the skin of roasted duck breast that was accompanied by pickled raspberries, carrot pureed with piloncillo, and dollops of bing cherry gelee. Heavenly. The breast was cooked to perfection, so easily melting in your mouth, and the flavors all melded together surprisingly well. How does one even come up with such varying profiles that would play together so deliciously? Quickly, next, we experienced the Three French Hens inspired dish of classic coq au vin which was red wine braised chicken leg over Cheddar and roasted garlic Ansen Mills grits and roasted vegetables (mushrooms and brussels sprouts), resting in savory chicken jus with veal stock. Tender, the leg meat peeled away with the barest fork's touch and the grits were just oh-so-creamy.

Finishing the evening off in style was the Eleven Pipers Piping concoction - a cupped blueberry trifle made of moist lemon chiffon cake, lavender pastry cream and macerated blueberries topped with the tastiest almond brittle I've ever had. Every scoop was a treat, not too sweet nor heavy. I just might have to come back for this one and that duck!

December 12 - Partridge in a Pear Tree (Pear Bruschetta)
December 13 - Two Turtle Doves (Chocolate Turtle Doves)
December 14 - Three French Hens (Coq Au Vin)
December 15 - Four Calling Birds (Roasted Squab)
December 16 - Five Golden Rings (Donut Rings)
December 17 - Six Geese A Laying (Six-Spice Duck Breast)
December 18 - Seven Swans a Swimming (Swanson Cocktail)
December 19 - Eight Maids a Milking (Cinnamon Toast Crunch Ice Cream)
December 20 - Nine Ladies Dancing (Pink Lady Cocktail)
December 21 - Ten Lords a Leaping (Crispy Frog Legs)
December 22 - Eleven Pipers Piping (Piped Blueberry Trifle)
December 23 - Twelve Drummers Drumming (Smoked Turkey Drumstick)

Photography by Minerva Thai.