On the Line: Aaron Anderson of Harlow's Fine Cuisine & Crafted Cocktails, Part One

When I inquired about Harlow's, I was referred to the singularly named Hoover, the bar-management program contact. He referred me to Harlow herself, who became my liaison to Aaron Anderson. Team Harlow creates a cozy, classy environment for patrons. To elaborate on the team concept, we extend some of our questions to Hoover in tomorrow's blog. Today, the floor belongs to Anderson.

What is on the current seasonal menu?
With the cooler weather, we have been doing a lot of braising. I have lamb shanks with crispy mushrooms and mustard greens, as well as Sumatran braised short ribs. We are also doing a pear dish with prosciutto and pecorino.

One food you can't live without:
I'm a burger guy. I wouldn't want to go too long without a good burger.


Favorite places to eat:
Here in San Juan Capistrano, Ramos House is one of my faves. I also like ARC in Costa Mesa. Smoqued in Old Towne Orange is great, too. Sabatino's in Mission Viejo is a great spot for classic Italian.

Your earliest food memory:
Grilled cheese and tomato soup on Sundays after church.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Diners. They are almost always kind and gracious. You don't find that anywhere.

Per your previous work experience, how does the dining scene in Portland, Oregon, compare to Orange County?
In Portland, diners are more interested in what they eat and where it came from. As a chef in Portland, you don't have to hold back at all. Anything goes, as long as it's well-prepared and sourced responsibly. Diners in Orange County are a little tamer, but I can see the broadening of OC palates in the near future.

Where was your most recent meal?
I had a pastry from Hidden House Coffee this morning. We buy all of our coffee from them. They do a great job with artisanal pastries and coffee.

Your best recent food find:
Stroopwafers. These are two thin, crispy waffles stuck together with sorgum syrup–a classic Dutch sweet. They are available at international markets and are dangerously addictive!

Culinary tip for the home cook:
Keep your knives sharp. A dull knife complicates even the simplest task.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Oh, I have had some weird ones. Most recently, I've had short rib flatbread, no flatbread. I also had a guest request for fish tacos in the middle of a Friday rush. I think I did it, too.

Favorite meal growing up:
My mom's chicken and dumplings. That's Midwestern comfort food at its finest.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Vinegar. There are thousands of different varieties, all with different acidities and varying degrees of sweetness. Balancing acidity is important in every dish.

You're making breakfast; what are you having?
I love eggs. So scrambled or over-easy with some fresh, toasted wheat bread and a little butter.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
One of the weirdest would have to be the hundred-year-old egg. It's a chicken egg that has been allowed to ferment underground for a long time. It is black and gooey and not pleasant at all.

Let's discuss the tuna tartare.
The tuna was a collaboration with my sous chef, one of my cooks and myself. We take diced tuna, house-made sriracha, mint, pomegranate and ginger syrup, and mix. It is topped with tobiko [flying fish roe] and a quail egg yolk. We fry thin slices of taro root into chips and serve those as the plate-to-mouth delivery method. It is one of our best-regarded dishes.

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