First off, what a great venue! Pirch is a showroom located in the South Coast Collection, conveniently located off the 405 freeway. With modern designs from kitchens, living rooms, to backyards, Pirch is a hip one stop shop for anyone looking to decorate their home or apartment. It has an elegant, modern feel, and it was the perfect place for SOCIAL to showcase their talent.
SOCIAL is a fairly new restaurant, open for about 6 months now. It has a capacity for 125 guests, offering a happy hour, dinner, brunch, and cocktail menu. It has that tangy New Orleans feel, with a hip Southern California flare. It is an American fusion restaurant that is sure to succeed and amaze its guests!
The demonstration began in a kitchen at Pirch. It had that food channel kind of feel, we all sat around a rounded table watching the magic happen, waiting for our glorious first tastes. Bar Master Mike West came forward and began talking about the brew for the evening. Interestingly named Dementa #2, it is a lot more of a sane choice than the name would suggest. Made with a gin base, a little bit of citrus, ginger, cucumber juice, and saline solution (to balance out the sweetness), topped with a cucumber ribbon and cracked black pepper, it sounds a bit trying. He offered this first drink to the crowd, and I excitedly volunteered to be the first to try it. It was delicious, sweet to a point, but that flavor was expertly halted to make way for a bolder, rich flavor with the cracked pepper leaving a spicy bang in your mouth. This drink is a fun rollercoaster of flavor and feelings.
Executive Chef Jeffrey Boullt then took over, starting out by talking about the Garlic Confit. He prepared it by mixing 10 cloves of garlic with 2 cups oil, a bay leaf, and thyme, as a demonstration. The next step would be to place this in a 300 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, then strained to save the garlic confit cloves.
Just like in a cooking show, Chef said, “And this is how it turns out.” He opens the oven, and a delicious garlic aroma rushes through the area and into our noses. He carefully strains his premade delicacy, and moves on to prepare the Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.
The Meyer lemon is a Chinese native fruit which is believed to be a mix of a mandarin and lemon. Half of this lemon’s juice is required for this recipe. The next ingredient is a quarter cup of Steen’s Sugar Cane Vinegar. The nice thing about having a well-rounded Chef is their worldly experience; Chef Jeff was amazed at the availability of this sugar cane vinegar in California! He is well experienced in it from his days down South, and I am glad he is able to bring that flavor to us. He explained it to be a neutral kind of vinegar, a good buffer in terms of balance of flavors. The next ingredients for the vinaigrette include the Garlic Confit Cloves, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. With a simple one step process, Chef placed the ingredients together and slowly whisked in the olive oil until emulsified.
The Chickpea Puree Chef prepared was my favorite. The chickpea is a common legume used in countries from Mexico, to the Mediterranean, to South Asia. Depending on where you’re from, you might know it as the Garbanzo bean. 3 Cups of the Garbanzo beans were soaked overnight, then drained. The first step, Chef allowed a half cup of Grape seed oil to heat up for about 15 seconds, then added in a cup of diced shallots. This filled the room with a rich smell; the shallots (a type of onion) being cooked in grape seed oil gave that home cooked smell that filled me with joy and desire, as I began to salivate. After about 3 minutes of cooking, he added the chickpeas, 1 teaspoon of cumin seed (which were toasted then ground), 1 teaspoon paprika, a bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick. After stirring for just 30 seconds, Chef added 4 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt and brought it all to a boil. The next steps would be to boil for 30 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and let steep for an hour. Just like TV, chef had prepared this beforehand and showed us the result.
He drained the Chickpeas and then combined them with a cup of the reserved liquid in a food processor. He slowly added the garlic confit oil from earlier. This beautiful paste was then served on top of a vegetable salad. The chickpea paste created a hearty, warm feel and taste, and with the expertly added addition of Greek yogurt, it cooled and softened the dish. The most amazing part was the cocktail’s pairing with the dish. Dementa #2 was like the hot sauce, the spicy kick to finish off the salad. Speaking with Bar Master Mike West, he described to me how it worked:
At SOCIAL, they create pairings of craft cocktails with the dishes being served. Chef will create a dish, and using the flavors and feels of it, a cocktail is created or edited to suit it. It is easier to bend the rules on a cocktail, and it’s fun too.
Watching Chef Jeff and Bar Master Mike West work live, and broadcasted on screens above, gave a fun, almost TV feel to the whole experience. But to view the process happening in front of my very own eyes, to smell the incredible aromas of the dishes prepared, and finally, to enjoy the delicious flavors and tastes afterwards, is an experience that I have not seen any other restaurant provide for me. I think this groundbreaking way of thinking and beautiful presentation is going to propel this restaurant to the top. Although new, I see great things for this whole crew at SOCIAL. Cheers!