Autumn is enjoying a curtain call in restaurants across Orange County.
By Allison Hata
Before the crisp breezes of fall give way to a cool Southern California winter, there’s still time to savor the season’s best ingredients. Thick cuts of meat, hearty vegetable blends and rich soups offer warm and comforting options as the weather cools down—but with this year’s summer heat lasting well into October, fall menus have taken a backseat to lighter fare. This December, however, foodies can venture away from home to Newport’s nearest neighboring cities and still sink their teeth into favorite fall dishes before it’s too late.
American cuisine takes a contemporary twist at Paul Martin’s American Grill. With a dark, sleek interior and floor-to-ceiling shelves of wine, it’s hard to imagine a more inviting space for fall.
Though the restaurant’s year-round dishes include traditional steakhouse options, its fall menu, which is available into the new year, is the true star this season.
All the choices sound decadent—like the beef ragu and pappardelle pasta, made with short rib meat, ricotta cheese and extra-long noodles—but a classic meal of pork chop and soup takes dinner to a new level. To start, the roasted butternut squash soup transforms the fall vegetable into liquid heaven in a bowl. Creamy yet still light and flavorful, the soup is garnished with a Sonoma sage pesto, making for a nicely presented and hearty dish.
The hoisin-marinated pork chop is soaked overnight in the dark, savory sauce before being grilled, adding just enough flavor to enhance, but not overpower the tender piece of meat. Served with an accompaniment of Brussels sprouts, it’s the epitome of fall simplicity. (949-453-1144; paulmartinsamericangrill.com)
Even at the ultimate seasonal restaurant, Seasons 52, it’s not too late to get a final taste of fall. Available through mid-December, the menu at the South Coast Plaza restaurant features rich, earthy ingredients, including mushrooms, butternut squash, quail and Asian pears. Bite into a tree-ripened Subarashii Kudamono Asian pear in the organic baby spinach salad topped with toasted pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese to start, or sample Seasons 52’s take on the butternut squash soup topped with shiitake mushrooms and chives.
For a savory main course, the Manchester Farms quail is stuffed with creamy mushroom risotto and served roasted with spinach, bacon and aged balsamic vinegar. Simple autumn elegance abounds in the maple-glazed, roasted half-chicken, complemented with a vegetable medley of carrots, parsnips and cipollini onions. (714-437-5252; seasons52.com)
A rising star in the culinary world, Executive Chef David Fuñe brings his creative vision to Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort, showcasing an inventive fall menu available into 2014.
While taking in the endless views of the Pacific at the restaurant (which boasts an indoor-outdoor feel), start off the meal with a bowl of grilled eggplant soup, topped with a crumble of everything bagel. The smoky yet smooth soup serves as a prelude to David’s take on lasagna: Belgian endive, filled with walnut butter, white bean chevre mousse and langoustine. Die-hard carnivores will enjoy the pork osso buco with Parmesan broth, served with pine nuts, spinach two ways and giant white beans. (949-376-2779; surfandsandresort.com/splashes)
Whether you’re a vegetarian, meat-eater or something in between, just across Newport’s border you’ll find something fall-inspired to