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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Chef Insights on TAPS Fall Menu

We dined as a guest of TAPS
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We spent a leisurely evening out on the patio of TAPS Fish House and Brewery, socializing with guests during their annual beer dinner in Brea. This event was not only an excuse to sip a few of their notable drafts, but an opportunity to see Chef Manny Gonzalez extend his creative side in the kitchen. Consisting of an amuse bouche, three courses plus dessert; we’re posting in ascending order of our favorite bites. Chef was also kind enough to provide some insight on each dish. We consider this a “Behind the Dinner” feature.

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Lamb Paella

Course Four: Lamb Paella – Baby lamb shank with saffron
paired with Pumpkin Ale

When we hear the term paella, we typically assume sausage and shellfish. While it may have caught us off guard, it was a seriously hearty dish. Saffron rice is not only a rich hue, but the precious spice contributes to depth in flavor. ‘Tis the time of year for all things squash, so it was only fitting to serve alongside their rich, seasonal ale. Flavored with allspice, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, it complemented the complexity of our main course.

Manny: The menu was also written for the Corona location. Chef Nelson (a.k.a. Nelly) was out due to a broken foot. His number one go-to dish is osso buco on saffron risotto. I thought of my good friend Nelly when putting this dish together.

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Spanish Octopus

Course Two: Spanish Octopus – With boqurones truffle vinaigrette, topped with tomato toast
paired with Triple Double DIPA

This course in particular appeared like a work of art. The curved tentacle textures contrasted by a striking smear of squid ink gave it a modern vibe. Despite the modest portion, it was the perfect bite—as long as you ate it before it cooled down. We also got schooled on this West Coast double brew comprised of a trio of hops.

Manny: This dish was for Joe Manzella. Everything on this dish is something that would make him smile. These flavors are so opposite, yet harmonious.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche: Croquettes de Jamon y Maiz Gazpacho – a.k.a. Corn and Spanish ham fritters
paired with Helles

Traditionally, an amuse bouche is a single bite meant to tease your palate and give you an idea of what to expect. All we could think about was the amazing sauce on this plate. Helles German lager pours golden, with a crisp bite. Its earthy hops were an appropriate way to ease us into our meal.

Manny: I loved the idea of a corn gazpacho, and I asked myself, “What would make this more awesome?”

The "tortilla"

The “tortilla”

Course Three: Baby Scallops – Con tortillas bravas y chorizo
Paired with Oktoberfest

A deceptively delicious dish, it resembled a Jello product more than anything else. We almost mistook it for dessert, as the name almost confuses (and it sounds like Manny’s crew felt the same way . . .) Oktoberfest was originally brewed to celebrate the wedding of the Crown Prince of Bavaria in 1810, but this current incarnation of TAPS’ malty treat gave a little kick, like our chorizo.

Manny: (It’s) not something you’d find in Spanish cuisine around here, but find all over the place in the east coast and up north. It took forever to get my staff behind this dish, for the sole reason it’s called a tortilla. The idea of this being a tortilla was ludicrous. Once they ate it, they loved it. But they still argued, “Chef, it’s not a tortilla, though.” It drove me crazy.

Almond & Olive Oil Cake

Almond & Olive Oil Cake

Dessert: Almond & Olive Oil Cake
Paired with Biere de Garde

We loved the dessert course, but not for the reasons you may imagine. Its mild sweetness was exactly what we desired. Plus, our French-style ale held up to the pronounced flavors of our ending.

Manny: I love the Spanish . . . but their desserts suck. You can ask any Spaniard, and they would admit to it. But one thing’s for sure, they love almond and olive oil.

The lemon and olive oil ice cream is my new found love. I eat it every night. The way the oil thickens on top of the cold ice cream, then sticks to your lips is a complete sensory overload.

Originally transplanted from the Bay Area, Anne Marie Panoringan is a freelance writer who prefers to divide her spare time motoring between great cuisine (especially breakfast!) and workouts that get her hungry again. Anne Marie’s day job is in government, but late evenings are spent typing and catching up with her spouse and DVR.

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