Driving is always a bit more stressful when the car’s windshield wipers are wagging faster than your dog’s tail when you get home from vacation. It’s pouring outside, and I’m white-knuckling it as the sky above the 241 toll road to Rancho Santa Margarita is dumping rain like there are a thousand super soakers aimed directly at my head. “Thanks for the free carwash!” I yell on the way to grab dinner.
I’ve been waiting to check out The Blind Pig’s latest winter menu additions from executive chef Karl Pfleider, the guy who’s known to amplify simple flavors using inspiration from around the world. There are also a few all-new drinks, the final creations of bartender Josh Davey, who recently departed to start his own private bartending business.
We’re trying a few new cocktails: Hawaii 5-0 sort of drinks like a tropical, gin-based margarita. There’s also Euphoria, a rum and gin drink that’s floral like walking through a fragrant rose garden. My favorite of the night is the Upside-Down, which is a velvety flip cocktail with hazelnut-infused rye, overproof rum, and chocolate liquor that sips like a boozy chocolate parfait … all perfect for a winter night.
“I’m Filipino and Mexican,” Pfleider says. “I love making food that I want to eat … going with bold flavors from different regions makes creating a menu way more fun.” By doing so, there are a lot more levers one can pull by introducing fusions and techniques, and the proof is in these new dishes.
For the red wine or stirred cocktail drinker, try the simple-sounding Jidori chicken breast, which is anything but simple. It’s cooked like a hearty French coq au vin with fork-tender farm-fresh Jidori chicken bathed in a hearty coq sauce made with red wine and braised chicken skin. It’s rich without going overboard.
If you’re drinking something more tropical or fruity, definitely go with the spicy duck confit curry. “We wanted to get duck confit on the menu for a while and couldn’t figure out a way to make it, so I’m like, how about a Thai curry dish?” Pfleider says. I was glad he did, as the layers of freshly roasted nuts, lime, and curry cut through the cold night air like a laser. The duck is so tender and flavorful and works well in the dish.
Is it worth a drive to Rancho Santa Margarita in the pouring rain? That answer is, “yes.”
The Blind Pig, 31431 Santa Margarita Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita. They also have a location in Yorba Linda that has a different, yet delicious menu.