Chef Richard Mead makes his splashy return to Newport Beach with Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
The cicadas’ song echoes through the trees that dot the grounds surrounding Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens. Perched above the winding paths lined with lush plants, colorful flowers and stone fountains, sits a wooden restaurant helmed by chef Richard Mead. For locals, the name should be familiar. Chef Mead owned two celebrated eateries called Sage–one in Newport Beach and the other in Crystal Cove, which shuttered in 2012. At the time, Mead’s farm-to-table approach to food was innovative and refreshing. His dishes tasted fresh and seasonal and celebrated flavors that, at the time, you could only find in northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Flash-forward to today and this style of dining is quite en vogue. It seems that almost every restaurant now touts a “farm-to-table” part of the menu.
After Sage and before opening Farmhouse, Mead has been elevating the craft of cooking by not only educating diners with private dinners and culinary demonstrations but by reenvisioning the spaces in which we dine. Mead enlisted Ken Ussenko Designs for the construction of Farmhouse. Together they envisioned a building that feels rustic albeit modern. The space actually looks like a quaint farmhouse drawn from a Thomas Kinkade painting. Sliding barn doors, patina-hued light fixtures and silver goblets filled with wildflowers, sage and lavender decorate the tables and fill the bar area with the essence of spring.
Just months before the restaurant opened, chef Mead joined a group of select artisans to celebrate The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. The guest of honor that evening was the goddess of locavore cuisine and farm-to-table dining, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Mead took the time out of his busy schedule to cook for a legend. The experience must have ignited his passion for California flavors.
At Farmhouse, steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with butter, garlic and fresh parsley create the perfect communal meal. At lunch, a group of four ladies, including myself, are huddled around the dish. We take turns sopping up slices of grilled bread in the briny broth. Each toasted bite is flavored with white wine and shallots. It reminds me of a Parisian bistro. As we sit outside underneath the shaded patio, a breeze blows through the trees and flitters the sun’s rays. A platter of grilled vegetables arrive at the table. Then, a juicy RG burger with butter lettuce, thick sliced tomato, feta cheese and creamy California avocado. We order a few salads to share–an Asian chicken salad 2.0 with savoy cabbage, Persian cucumbers, baby bok choy, and kumquats, dressed with sesame vinaigrette, and a seared albacore tuna and Asian noodle salad with English pea puree, picked watermelon radishes and crispy wonton chips.
I have since met friends at Farmhouse just for dessert on numerous afternoons. The Mason jars feature small tastes of comforting sweets, such as the sweet vanilla bean pot de crème with lemon thyme shortbread, strawberry panna cotta with orange curd and toasted pistachios, or the cozy carrot cake with traditional cream cheese icing and candied nuts. Homemade ice creams delight, especially when plated on top of delectable strawberry shortcake or the Windrose Farms apple crisp.
Dinners feature Mead’s love for fresh seafood. A panko-crusted Icelandic cod, grilled apple cider molasses glazed swordfish and pappardelle pasta tossed with succulent sea scallops, shrimp and juicy mussels. Other dishes include herb roasted Jidori chicken and grilled rib eye with roasted peewee potatoes and red wine jus. The RG burger is so popular that it also makes an appearance on the dinner menu. But, whatever you order, remember: save room for dessert.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar 92625 949.640.141 :: FarmHouseRG.com