We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with 2.0. Because it’s a restaurant like no other (that we know about) it’s not obvious (to us) how to make the best use of it. It was built for our invitation-only performances, but we’ve found that the intimate, theatrical setting is also great for simpler concepts. We seem to be settling in to offering a serious of reservation-only evenings at which we offer market dinners (the chefs go to local farms or the LA fish market and pick up the most exciting ingredients of the moment and prepare them for a small number of guests as a never-to-be-repeated tasting menu. Or Wanderlust, when our chefs – sometimes with guest chefs with specialized knowledge in a particular area – prepare an ethnically themed evening. We also offer pop-ups by our chefs and visiting chefs. For more information about upcoming events, please go to our 2.0 Calendar page. And if you want to have the ultimate party for 18 or so guests, talk to us about scheduling a private event in 2.0.
The liquor license purchase process cleared its last hurdle in February and we are now selling spirits. Jarred and his team are putting together a craft cocktail program and we’re redesigning our bar. Come in and give Jarred some feedback on his artisan cocktails. We’ll put as much effort into our cocktail program as we do into our food and beer; we’ll try to surprise you with unexpected flavors, house-made infusions and syrups, astonishing garnishes and our take on both popular and lost classics.
We have completed our intimate culinary theater and tasting kitchen in that little space adjacent to the Playground. We call the space, “2.0.” Seventeen seats nestle around what may be the finest kitchen in Orange County where we will offer special and unique dining experiences. We’ll offer cooking classes, special themed meals, pop-up restaurants featuring our own chefs as well as guest chefs, beer and cocktail nights, and all sorts of private events. Birthday party anyone? We’ll soon add a page to our website with a calendar of events and contact information. In the meantime, please feel free to contact Rhett@PlaygroundDTSA.com or Jason@PlaygroundDTSA.com if you’d like to host an event in 2.0. If you’re a chef who’d like to do a pop-up in 2.0, please contact Ryan@PlaygroundDTSA.com.
We quietly celebrated our first anniversary on November 18. Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year. We promise to put our full effort into improving and growing and continuing to bring you our very best in our second year of operations.
On Tuesday, August 28 all fifteen of our taps were turned over to Hanger 24.
On July 26th the Clay Oven hosted a six-course prix fixe dinner prepared by Chef Jason and the Clay Oven’s Executive Chef, Geeta Bansal. The menu was inspired by fresh seafood and Indian spices and cooking techniques. On August 15, we did a reprise of sorts at The Playground. This time it wasn’t a full tasting menu, but the two chefs worked together on several pork dishes inspired by the flavors and techniques of India. These dishes will supplement the Playground’s menu. My favorite was the Ghost Pepper Pork Tenderloin Vindaloo.
On August 14 we honored Firestone DBA (double barrel ale). We had DBA and Double DBA on draft, as well as a cask of rare unfiltered DBA.
On Saturday, August 11 at 9:30 p.m. we invited 10 of our favorite gluttons to compete in a contest to eat our “Shut the Duck Up Burger,” which featured two of our house-ground Wagyu chuck and dry-age ribeye torchon patties, two slices of cheese and a ration of maple-bourbon onions topped off with six ounces of Hudson Valley Grade A foie gras. Competitors were asked to eat the entire burger, a plate of fries and a porron of cold frosty brew from our tap. A few protesters showed up because they believed our support of foie gras was tantamount to supporting animal cruelty. Chef Jason spoke with the protesters and offered to help them protest against specific producers who treat their food animals inhumanely. We hoped to use this event to highlight that some producers of foie gras take great care of their ducks, such as Hudson Valley Foods where we have always purchased our foie gras. The California ban on the sale of foie gras that went into effect on July 1 does nothing to prevent the cruelty that some less ethical producers inflict on their ducks, but punishes the responsible producers, consumers and restaurants.
If you found yourself at the Orange County Fair on either of the last two Thursdays of the Fair (August 2 and August 9), you may have seen the Chowdown Competition on the Exhibit Promenade. Chef Jason competed against OC home cooks James Boyd (August 2) and OC Weekly’s Dave Lieberman (August 9) in the OC Fair’s first-ever Pro Chef vs. Home Cook Chowdown.
On July 26th at the Clay Oven in Irvine Executive Chef Geeta Bansal of the Clay Oven hosted a six-course prix fixe dinner inspired by fresh seafood and Indian spices and cooking techniques. Chef Jason contributed three dishes to the evening: Albacore crudo, mango curry leaf dressing, toasted coconut macadamia crumble, habanero salt and cilantro; Cockles and mussels in a coconut curry broth and steamed crab rice cake; and Tandoor charred Canary Island 15-minute octopus, bizarre potatoes, pomegranate raita and mint chutney.
On Tuesday, July 17 we will help our friends at Beachwood celebrate their first anniversary by hosting the party. We will serve only Beachwood beer all evening and will develop a dozen special pairing dishes that we will serve with 2 or 4 oz. tasters of Beachwood beer.
On Tuesday, July 10 all fifteen of our taps were turned over to Bootlegger’s. We served Black Phoenix (regular and nitro versions), Golden Chaos and many other Bootlegger’s favorites.
On June 15 we took delivery of an extremely rare (and expensive) Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Look forward to classic presentations of this ham from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns after weaning and an initial several-week fattening period. The ham is cured for 36 months and is prized both for its smooth texture and rich, savory taste. The ham is heavily marbled and because of the pig’s diet of acorns, much of the fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. So you could say it is a health food.
Farewell to Foie Feast
On Tuesday, June 19 we honored one of the most exquisite foods furnished by fowl. Foie gras, the engorged liver of duck or goose that has been encouraged to overindulge in corn, will be the subject of a statewide ban in California beginning July 1. Producers of foie gras say that wild ducks and geese naturally ingest large amounts of whole food and gain weight before migration, so the ducks that provide our foie gras presumably think they’re going on a long trip and are just storing up. In any event, we provided our family of foie fans one last opportunity to overindulge in this rich delicacy in a dinner in which every patron enjoyed one pound of Hudson Valley Grade A foie gras (some of it was taken home). Not very subtle, I know, but since when have we been subtle about anything?
On Tuesday, May 29 all fifteen of our taps were turned over to Firestone Walker. Firestone will always be one of my favorites because a friend handed me a cold bottle of Pale 31 when I dismounted my bike after riding all 104 miles of the Solvang Century. It was so good at that moment that it made me forget how sore my ass was. A lot of new Firestone memories were made on May 29.
On Tuesday, May 22 we helped our friends at The Bruery celebrate their anniversary by hosting the party. We served only Bruery beer all evening, including such classics as Fruet, Nottenroth, Filmishmish, Loakal Red, Trade Winds, Gremlin, Go Team! and White Oak. We developed a dozen special pairing dishes that we served with 2 or 4 oz. tasters of beer.
We hope you didn’t miss our March 13 Tap Take Over in which all fifteen of our beer taps were dedicated to Ballast Point beers. And not just any Ballast Point beers. We had some amazing stuff. Yeah, you could get Sculpin on draft, which is rare enough, but a nitro version too? Crazy, I know. And an habanero version? Barley wine aged in Syrah barrels? Plus, plus, plus. If you missed it, stay tuned for our next Tap Take Over.
Sunday brunch at the Playground is catching on. Even though we’ve all been up late the night before catering to the Saturday night crowd, we’re pretty excited about getting up early and doing it again. We make great pancakes, lots of egg dishes and, as always, fun proteins. You can wash it all down with champagne, fresh juices and pour brewed coffee made by a Portola Coffee barista. We can even recommend some excellent brunchy beers. You might want to add Sunday brunch at the Playground to your weekend routine. We’re open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
If it’s the first Saturday of the month, it’s Artwalk in DTSA. You’re invited to stroll down the four blocks of the Second Street Promenade from Broadway Avenue to Spurgeon Street, and from there two short blocks north on Spurgeon to The Playground. The organized event runs from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Admission is free.
You’re going to want to have a great meal and perhaps to settle into one of the many late night venues after you’ve looked at all the art and street shows. We hope you’ll choose The Playground. We’ll be serving dinner from 5:00 until the last hungry patron has been served. Reservations are absolutely essential.