It’s that time of year again when the food adventurous flex their fork lifting muscles; limber up their discerning palates; and pull on their stretchy pants. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Orange County Restaurant Week 2015.

Now in its 7th year, the main agenda of OCRW is to promote the ever-growing culinary community in Orange County by offering a smorgasbord of eateries touting specially priced menus. Often, these multi-course prix fixe meals are priced at half off what you’d typically expect to shell out for them. Without making too much of a dent in your pocketbook or Apple Pay account, you’re able to partake in a broader spectrum of supping spots; ones that perhaps were vague reveries that never came to transpire.

One such restaurant for me on that procrastination list was TAPS Fish House & Brewery. Abashedly, I must confess that I had never even crossed its threshold prior to this past Sunday. I attribute my abstention to pure ignorance, foolishly assuming that the establishment fostered a brutish and boisterous environment. What a forehead slapping moment I had. Not only is the cuisine that waltzes from Chef Manny Gonzalez’s kitchen topnotch, but the service and ambiance at TAPS is truly exceptional. While the words fish house and brewery together may not conjure up visions of fine dining, TAPS wears the fine dining heart on its sleeve. At the end of the evening, I was stricken with much remorse for having missed out all these years.

It was in this FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) mode that spurred me towards their Foie Forward 3-Course Dinner Menu as my foray into the first day of OCRW 2015.

Rather than take the safe route with TAPS classics or the tried and true, Chef Manny took hold of inspiration’s horns with creations more likely to be showcased at their popular beer or wine dinners.

“I see our Restaurant Week menu as an opportunity to be adventuresome, and for our culinary team and staff to have fun with some different approaches,” commented Gonzalez. “So we featured versions of foie in three dishes. There are another six choices on the special menu for guests who have other tastes.”

 

 

~ Appetizer ~

Kale Waldorf Salad
Greek yogurt, celery, walnuts, grapes, apples 
 Pho Chips and Dip
Kennebec potato, five spice, cilantro, lime 
 Foie Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Duck paté blackberry, brioche, petite greens 
 
 ~ Entree ~

Sea Bream Chorizo and Clams
Chimichurri, Brussels sprouts, roasted onions, pee wee potatoes   
 Beef Short Ribs Sope and Mexican Corn
Guajillo, heirloom beans, lime, crema, cotija 
 Foieducken
Baby chicken, foie gras, duck rillette, kale, truffled grits, sour cherries
 
 ~ Dessert ~

 Italian Ice Cream Sandwich "Croquembouche"
Vanilla bean gelato, brioche, rock caramel 
 Carolina Gold Green Tea Rice Pudding
Genmaicha, dragon fruit, mango, crispy wonton  
 Foie Macaron
Berries, Sauterne whipped cream, wild berries

While mi amiga opted for the goose liver alternatives, I went foie all the way from appetizer to dessert:

The first course of Foie Butter and Jelly Sandwich was plated beautifully and reminded me somewhat of the Noguchi Garden with its “rock formations”. The foie component was in the manner of a duck pâté. The play of salty against the fruity components awakened my receptors for more delicacies to come.

The main course of Foieducken, a portmanteau of a royal roast of baby chicken stuffed with foie gras and duck rillette, was impressive in its composition and complexity. Although my first impression was that of aghast — it elicited images of a scene from David Lynch’s cult film “Eraserhead” — my trepidation was quickly assuaged with the first bite. Not only did it fill my mouth with joy, but it tasted like my own personal holiday on a plate. The foie gras itself did not take center stage, but did an excellent job in a supporting role to the succulence and savoriness of the petite bird. The sour cherries did wonders for cutting through the richness of the dish.

Although it’s often with demure that one attempts to deny one’s self of dessert, I wasn’t going to take that route with Foie Macaron on the menu. The macaron description is a bit of a misnomer as the confection was more that of a Pavlova in its shattering shell rather than that of a French macaron in its almond meal chewiness. The foie element, that of a torchon treatment, had a creamy and gel-like texture. Its mild brininess with the sweetness of the crisped meringue discs closed out a most satisfying evening.

By the time you’re reading this, there will only be three more days of Orange County Restaurant Week remaining. Do yourself a favor and peruse all the special menus on www.ocrestaurantweek.com. Revisit your old standbys, but more daringly, discover some new destinations. It’s like making new friends. TAPS and I, we’re new BFFs already. Thanks OCRW!

ABOUT TAPS FISH HOUSE & BREWERY 

TAPS Fish House & Brewery is a celebration of seafood, hand-cut steaks and award-winning ales and lagers handcrafted in the European tradition. A connoisseur’s wine list recognized by theWine Spectator showcases a variety of wines. The restaurant, privately owned by founder Joe Manzella, offers a choice of fine dining or the more casual, comfortable bar-lounge; a 20 seat oyster bar, multiple patios and private dining.

www.tapsfishhouse.com



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