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Chapter One: The Modern Local

February 25, 2015

One Friday afternoon, while I was home celebrating the end of the work week, I received a text from my husband, who was still at work, asking me if I wanted to try something a little different this upcoming weekend.  My husband wanted me to check out a local gastropub located in Orange County that he had heard about and been interested in trying out for awhile now.  Of course, I’m always up for trying something new since I always feel like we always do the same old, same old, when it comes to dining out.  And since I’m a huge lover of food, new stuff is always welcomed.  After checking out the bar’s menu online, it sounded interesting and certainly different, not the usual place we go to, so I thought why not?

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Chapter One: The Modern Local, located in a prime corner storefront location in Santa Ana calls itself a modern tavern for the hip crowd serving locally grown, seasonal fare and craft brews.  So named Chapter One because the gastropub is houses in a former bookstore, the interior décor of the pub reflects its name and modern hip feel.  There are still bookshelves that line some of the interior walls as decoration, and the standard uniform for everyone who works in the tavern is a modern, hipster look with newsboy caps and vest worn over a tie.  It does almost have the feel of walking into your neighborhood used book store.

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Being a pub, my husband wanted a sample of some of their local craft brews.  Unfortunately, the one brew he was looking forward to trying out on the day we were there, they were out of.  A bit of a disappointment.  So, he turned to an old favorite, Guinness instead while I opted for the homemade lemonade.  Of course, in keeping with the pub’s idea of modern seasonal cuisine made with locally sourced products, lemonade wasn’t just your plain lemonade but rather a homemade fruit lemonade.  I’m thinking raspberry puree (minus the seeds) as it tasted quite tangy and not quite a strawberry lemonade.  Whatever it was, it was quite tart, tangy and refreshing, especially on this rather warm day.

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Sisig fries was the one item on the menu that my husband had heard a lot about that he really wanted to try out.  Made with pulled pork, pig ears, pork belly, and pig jowl atop fries and then topped with salsa cricolla, a fried egg, cilantro and pickled onions, this was one rich and flavorful starter.  Ok, I admit that the idea of these fries had my husband way more excited than I did.  When I read pig ears, and pig jowl, I started to cringe a bit.  I’m all for pork, but I’d rather stick with the pulled pork and the pork belly, all the rest of it is just a little too weird for me, but didn’t seem to bother my husband in the least.  When this colorful dish came to the table, it smelled terrific and some of my apprehension for what was on the fries disappeared a bit.  The addition of the pickled onions was terrific adding a nice pop of flavor to the dish.  The fried egg atop the fries was also brilliant adding some great creaminess.  The pork products were also not as bad as I thought they’d be either.  Everything was kind of chopped up and mashed together as a mass of pork atop these crunchy fries making it hard to distinguish one part of the pork from the other, which in my mind made it a bit easier to stomach.  My husband loved these fries.  A little bit of a twist on your normal, plain, bland fries.  I didn’t love them as much as my husband, but I do admit that they were fun, different and tasty.

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We also decided to order a bowl of French onion soup to share between the two of us.  My husband is no fan of soup by any stretch of the imagination, but French onion soup is one of those soups that he actually wants to eat.  I think it’s because of the cheese!  Made with veal broth and caramelized onions and flavored with rosemary and Spanish sherry the soup is topped with a French baguette and melted with Gruyere and provolone cheese.  The whole bowl is topped by a handful of crispy onion rings.  First off, the flavor of the veal broth is fantastic, bringing out a deep, rich flavor to the soup.  The addition of the crispy onion rings was the star of this soup for me.  It added an unexpected twist and crunch factor from other French onion soups and made the soup stand out for the everyday, run-of-the-mill French onion soup.  Interesting how just one unique little touch added to a dish can completely turn it around.

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The harvest burger was my husband’s lunch selection at Chapter One.  Using a craft blend of chuck roast and brisket, the hamburger patty is topped with a rosemary aioli and apple-onion jam, Havarti cheese, and arugula.  The dish is served with a helping of duck fat fries and housemade ketchup.  First off, my husband was really excited to try the duck fat fries.  Frying these shoestring potatoes in duck fat really does add flavor and richness to the fries.  It’s a subtle depth of flavor and richness you don’t get from normal fries.  My husband enjoyed his burger.  The patty was flavorful and tender and the aioli and apple-onion jam created an interesting, and different, blend of flavors to the burger.  Apple-onion jam is certainly not a creation I’ve seen before, especially not as a spread on a hamburger.  I really liked all these small interesting touches each dish seemed to have.  My husband’s verdict was that his burger was rather tasty and better than your average burger.  Therefore, two thumbs up from him.

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Steak sandwich was my lunch selection for the day.  Made with chimichurri steak and topped with provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and garlic-herb aioli the sandwich was flavorful.  I was really looking forward to tasting the chimichurri steak, and was a bit disappointed that some of the flavor of the chimichurri was lost in the sandwich.  I would have preferred that the chimichurri sauce was used as a spread on the sandwich to go along with the garlic-herb aioli rather than just being a marinade sauce for the steak before it was grilled.  The caramelized onions were creamy and sweet on the sandwich and it balanced out the steak flavor of the sandwich.  The garlic-herb aioli was creamy and moist and was a nice addition to the sandwich as well.  Overall, the sandwich was tasty and filling, but not particularly stand out in any specific way.

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Originally, my husband and I weren’t going to order dessert as we were quite full from everything else we had eaten.  But, when the waitress presented us with a dessert menu and mentioned that the Monkey Balls were a great dessert to split and all I saw was that it said “banana”, my husband and I decided to order it, not even really knowing what it was.  Turns out, these little bite-sized balls were fabulous.  Called Monkey Balls, the dessert consists of banana cake doughnut holes sitting atop caramel sauce and crème Anglaise.  The combination of the banana and the caramel was heavenly.  It was almost like enjoy bananas foster, but in a doughnut hole format.  These little Monkey Balls were the perfect size, one and two bites so as to not overload or overwhelm you with flavor and sweetness.  This was a terrific little dessert to split with my husband and finish off our meal.  Again, a little creativity in a dish at Chapter One goes a long way.

Overall, the experience at Chapter One: The Modern Local was a fun one.  It’s always fun to try new, local places.  The vibe inside this gastropub feels a little trendy, focusing in on the hipster crowd.  The food feels the same way too.  Classic and fun dishes with a bit of a modern twist that transforms the dish slightly and brings it into the modern era.  The food was fun, creative and pretty tasty.  This is exactly the type of experience I expected to have at Chapter One – fun, relaxed, good eats, good times.  A little something different to break up the monotony of the normal routine of the weekend for my husband and I.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 1, 2015 7:13 am

    It sounds like we have both been trying new and fun spots to eat. The French onion soup really got my attention, one of my favorites.

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