Overheard during the recent media preview of Ironwood Cellar.Craft.Cook: “Laguna Hills needs a restaurant like this”, “There is nothing like Ironwood in this area”, “I’m so glad they’re open!” Take a look at why Laguna Hills and South Orange County is so excited about this newest upscale dining concept by Russ Bendel and partners.
Ironwood promises an all encompassing wine country dining experience focused on delivering exemplary service, high quality ingredients, eclectic wine selections, and hand crafted cocktails.
I am particularly fond of the cocktails concocted by partner Gabe Whorley, they are inventive and perfectly balanced with fresh ingredients and garnishes direct from the terraced garden at sister restaurant Vine in San Clemente.
Ginbo Slice | gin, lime, maraschino, citrus thyme, grapefruit, blood orange bitters
All three of the cocktails served at the media preview were outstanding. Gabe honed his craft working alongside Orange County’s mixology queen Gabrielle Dion at Charlie Palmer’s before partnering with life long friends Russ Bendel and Kyle Simpson to bring his innovative cocktail program to Vine where he entertains guests from behind the bar with his signature high-energy style and service.
Snozzberry | vodka, blackberry liqueur, lime, fresh basil, ginger
While sipping on cocktails and wine, guests at the media preview, nibbled on artfully arranged cheese board and charcuterie platter with accoutrements: prosciutto, burrata and goat cheese, olives, and marinated peppers (pictured above).
Currently open for dinner only, Ironwood features noteworthy meats such as Grilled Bone-in Ribeye and Jidori Chicken Schnitzel with Beech Mushrooms – the number one best seller on a menu of exceptional scratch-made dishes. The chicken schnitzel is an adaptation of sister restaurant Vine’s excellent Pork Schnitzel with herbed spaetzle, pattypan squash, spring vegetables and a bright preserved lemon and basil emulsion.
Executive Chef and partner Jared Cooke and Paul Villa reigned in the kitchen, preparing a variety of dishes from Ironwood’s menu. Only a few of the most popular items from Vine, such as Chef Jared’s “Giant Meatball” and the craveable Crispy Meyer Lemon & Honey Duck Wings will be included on the menu.
Oysters on the Half Shell | champagne & tarragon mignonette, fresh horseradish cocktail sauce
English Pea Dumplings with Goat Cheese ($8) | preserved kumquat, pistachio brown butter, spring garlic, thai basil, mint
Jumbo Lump Crab and Roasted Beet Salad ($15) | grapefruit, celery leaves, avocado, baby beet pickles, capers, charred lemon gastrique
We moved from the bar to the patio for coffee and dessert while Russ Bendel introduced the team, shared a little back story on each partner and how their mutual passions for wine and their craft resulted in Vine, and now, Ironwood.
The warm Fromage Blanc Brownie topped with Nutella ice cream and a hazelnut praline crumble was dense with a rich chocolate taste tempered by the fromage blanc. The second was an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Crumble served with Apple Strudel ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce.
Or finish off with another of Gabe’s memorable cocktails, as I did.
Don’t Rye About It | house-made vanilla infused rye whiskey, aperol, sweet vermouth
Ironwood boasts awell curated wine list, 10 rotating craft beers, reasonable prices – $7 to $19 for starters and $16 to $36 for entrees, a casual, comfortable space where modern lines are softened with natural wood, rustic iron fixtures, and vineyard inspired artwork. The inviting patio, with views of the Saddleback Mountains, is a prime spot for your next night out.
25250 La Paz Road, Laguna Hills
Laguna Hills, CA