Notes, Quotes and Observations from Last Night's "Mad Meat Men" Bird Finale at Picnics in Costa Mesa

Categories: Local Eats
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Bird is the word--I KNEW I'd write that!

With apologies to the dearly missed former Orange County Register sports columnist Randy Youngman, notes, quotes, and observations from last night's game fowl extravaganza at Picnics Kitchen in Costa Mesa hosted by the Mad Meat Men.

*Fucking Dave, I swear: fucking mensch! Unlike me, he's not a shameless self-promoter, so didn't promote this event AT ALL, like he has in the past. Not that Special Eats OC, the group headed by Anaïs Tangie, needed it: Picnics was packed, and the chef's table in the kitchen sold out.

*So what exactly was the premise of the dinner? Seven local chefs, some famed, some cult classics, each serving a course with birds sourced from Da-Le Ranch and veggies from the SoCo Farmer's Market over the course of two hours. No gimmicky contest, no time trials: just a bunch of guys cooking what they want to cook: a pop-up restaurant at its finest.

Me being the pendejo that I am, I forgot to take off the top of the pot...

First up was Jason Coulston of Hidden Kitchen fame, with pots of chicken liver pâté with red onion marmalade, pommery mustard, and toasted bread as an appetizer. Fine, if a bit expected. Then again, the chica and I combined our leftover pate to take home and spread over the course of this next week.


Playground's Jason Quinn followed with what was advertised as "Tea and Crumpets," but being the devilish imp he is, it was actually chicken broth and a Hot Pocket. He went on and on about how he had to strain the chicken through cheesecloth, but the end results were a bit too concentrated and would've worked better as a shot than a full mini-bowl. But the Hot Pocket was genius: luscious chicken chunks accompanies by ham and what I thought was Gruyere but was definitely a buttery cheese. Perfect crust, perfect size, Quinn better start selling these retail...

This crappy photo does the salad no justice AT ALL...

Our own Dave was next with something called a salade gasconne: mesclun, tomatoes, lardons, duck gizzards preserved in duck fat, croûtons, and potatoes fried in preserved duck fat, with a classic mustard vinaigrette. The chef's table I was at was skittish about the gizzards, which have no place at the modern-day American table, but they were spectacular: dense, gamy right at the end, as chewy as a sausage. The vinaigrette's spiciness cut through the fattiness of the rest of the salad, which was heavier than a hamburger, which meant it was AWESOME.


Course four came courtesy of bon vivant Michael Harris: roast pheasant ravioli, with browned Butter and sage. His pheasant was the best-prepared bird of the night: ground, airy, sweet, a meatball from heaven. But the dish suffered from an odd presentation (the great demiglaze at bottom would've worked better in a bowl than on a flat plate, to allow the ravioli to soak it all up), and the pasta was undercooked. Still: Harris could open an Italian spot on the strength of this dish.

Location Info


435 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: General

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