“Oh no!” I groaned when the nice woman on the other line over at Playground in SanTana told me that the drink whose name and ingredient I had asked for might no longer be on the menu. I couldn't remember what it was–only that it was magnificent, that it was new, and that it involved quince, one of my all-time favorite ingredients. And although I know and respect the mercurial nature of Playground boss Jason Quinn, I had been to Playground just two weeks before–surely, he couldn't have already excised it?
I was put on hold. I fretted. I started thinking how I could bribe Quinn to bring it back–a block of quince from my hometown in Zacatecas? Some Hatch powder to complement his Hatch burger? A photo of Orange County Register food critic Brad A. Johnson, who bitchily called Quinn a “bully” earlier this year? Within seconds, the nice woman clicked back to me. “That drink you asked for,” she replied, “is still available. Sherry, quince, lemon juice, and simple syrup, and it's called the Cydonia.
That's RIGHT! The night came back to me: Dave Lieberman and I did a downtown SanTana bar crawl, starting at Little Sparrow and swinging by Playground before ending at C4. We ran into the Noble Ale crew at Playground, and squeezed into the bar. Chef Quinn threw some bluefin carpaccio, and told me about this new cocktail his crew had just concocted–upon mentioning quince, I was sold.
Now I remember the flavor: the quince's meatiness blending into the tart sherry, with the lemon juice and simple syrup adding even further tartness. But nothing could deny the flavor of that amazing quince (cydonia is its Latin name), and nothing could stop from me marveling at yet another Playground triumph. Even better? Even if Quinn drops the Cydonia that day, I trust in his current crew–he has just hired our Best Bartender as named in this issue, Joe Valdovinos. Let the surprises continue to come, but Jason: ALWAYS let quince represent!