The Yard: Perfect for After Work Drinks & Eats

Lauren: This last week, Lindsay and I went to the Yard (theyardsm.com), a gastro-pub in Santa Monica.  The first time I heard about the Yard, I was listening to KCRW and they mentioned that it was a great place to have a drink and eat some appetizers.  So that’s what we did.  Coincidentally, Lindsay also knew the Kitchen Manager there, so we definitely had a great time.  We also got to meet the executive chef,  CJ from Top Chef Season 3!  He was great.  Lindsay and I live and die by the small plates / appetizer meal.  It gives us the chance to sample a little bit of everything.  Let’s get into what we ate:  

Beer-Battered Fava Beans & Aioli

Beer Battered Fava Beans

The garlic aioli made the dish!

 Lauren: The beer-battered fava beans were incredible.  This coming from a girl that doesn’t usually eat creamy things.  The aioli was perfection and it really made the flavors of the dish pop.  I’m not sure that I have ever eaten fava beans, but I’ve rarely met a bean that I didn’t like, and this was no exception.  The beer-batter was also excellent and was a nice complement to the beans.  

Lindsay: We took my friend, the kitchen manager’s, word for it and ordered these unique treats.  It was your favorite deep-fried zucchini making a baby with the edamame you get at a sushi restaurant.  Pure deliciousness.  This dish brought an air of sophistication to what would otherwise be classified as typical American bar fare.  And P.S. who knew that you could eat the skin of a fava bean?  I guess it makes sense when you think about it.  We eat sugar snap peas and green beans whole, but why oh why do we discard edamame pods.  Just food for thought.  

Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Heirloom Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese & Heirloom Tomato Soup

One word. Amazing.

 Lindsay: Nothing screams childhood like tomato soup and a grilled cheese.  Well, this dish is all grown up and will satisfy the kid in all of us while bumping up the flavor profile to engage adult tastes.  While cheese is definitely Lauren’s Achille’s heel, I would have to say that the singularly best food in the world is tomatoes.  When they are in season, I probably eat one heirloom tomato a day.  I love ’em anyway you want to serve them and this soup definitely gave me my fix.  Add in a perfectly executed grilled cheese for dunking and you have made me one happy girl. 

On a side note:  We did not attend this restaurant on a Thursday, but if you do it sounds like you are in for oooeeeyyy goooooeeeyy treat.  Thursdays is when The Yard pays homage to all things cheese.  This definitely sounds like a meal Lauren and I will have to research.  And by research I mean eat everything on the menu. 

Lauren:  Grilled Cheese is pretty much my all-time favorite.  Let’s be honest, anything with cheese = my all-time favorite.  It said on the menu that the grilled cheese and soup was only available on Thursday, but lo and behold, they had it on Tuesday!  When we were talking to Mark, the kitchen manager, he said they get all of their cheese and veggies fresh.  The veggies come from the farmer’s market and the cheese comes from Andrew’s Cheese Shop, which I’m definitely going to check out.  But I digress, the grilled cheese was amazing.  It had parmesan, blue cheese and Gruyère on the inside and a parmesan crust on the outside.  The blue cheese really brought a more gourmet flavor to the dish.  The heirloom tomato soup was also to die for.  I’m a big fan of dunking my grilled cheese into the soup and the combination was excellent.  Overall, this was my favorite dish of the night. 

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob  Lauren:  I’m a big fan of corn.  This corn on the cob was good, but it wasn’t my favorite.  I have to say that my mom makes the best corn.  She manages to find the sweetest corn ever.  I think that may have been the problem with this corn.  It wasn’t very sweet, and that’s what I’m used to.  Overall, though, the flavors were really good.  There was some parmesan cheese and lemon that made the corn tart and fresh.  

Lindsay:  I am going to have to agree completely with Lauren on this one.  Idea was there, but vegetable was not.  I am actually growing corn myself right now, and eating that corn and looking at my stalks I know that corn is not quite ready to go for this year.  I applaud there use of Farmer’s Market veg, but it just wasn’t ripe enough.  Cooking it made it tough and dry. 

Again with the side note:  if you have never had raw corn you need to.  A little starchy, but super amazing none the less.  I make a little salad by stripping off the kernels, throwing in tomatoes and avocados (if you’re into that sort of thing), and dressing it lightly with fresh lime juice, oil, and salt and pepper.  

Arrancini

ArranciniLauren:  So, once again, we had trouble taking a picture of the arrancini before we started eating them.  Yes, they were that good.  Essentially, these were fried balls of risotto.  I had never heard of anything like this, but I’m glad I’ve heard of it now.  The sauce also made this dish.  It was a tomato-cream sauce (I’m guessing here).  But it wasn’t too creamy.  It was zesty.  The risotto was melt-in-your-mouth.  It was delicious.  

Lindsay:  Lauren and my tastes differed when it came to this dish.  The sauce I will agree was the best thing on the plate.  The acidity of the tomato shined through and the copious amount of Parm didn’t hurt either.  To me, the arrancini themselves lacked flavor.  The textural juxtaposition between the crispy crust and the creamy risotto center was nice, but what would have made me a true believer in these risotto balls was salt.  Maybe more inside the risotto itself, but a sprinkle straight out of the fryer would have made all the difference. 

A history lesson:  Traditionally arrancini are what Italian “mamas” make with the left over risotto from the night before, they form them into balls and fry them.  How’s that for a new taste on leftovers? 

Asparagus with Mushroom & Parmesan

BroccoliLindsay: Alert, alert, alert jumbo asparagus about to be consumed.  OK so besides being the largest asparagus I have ever laid eyes on they were also some of the best.  I mean simplicity is the way to go and The Yard nailed it.  The ends of the asparagus weren’t woody (I hate a woody asparagus stem), the mushrooms were divine (and since Lauren has beef with them, I got to eat them all…hooray!), the Parm shavings gave them saltiness and the grilled lemon lent the perfect amount of acidity.  All and all a delightful dish.  

Lauren:  Let me just say, these were the fattest asparagus I’ve ever seen.  I was apprehensive, because I usually find that fruits and vegetables that are larger than normal have less flavor.  Not in this case.  I love asparagus (Lindsay makes some of the best!), especially with lemon and parmesan.  I ate around the mushrooms (silly vegetable trying to be meat…not that there’s anything wrong with meat, I just don’t like mushrooms’ texture).  I also really enjoyed this dish.  It was fresh and summer-y tasting.  

Sea Bass

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of the gorgeous sea bass we got at the last-minute, but it looked wonderful.  Lindsay and I both don’t eat fish, but Lindsay got the courage to try it.  

Lindsay:  Being that I love too many other foods to concern myself with ever ordering a fish dish and from the “I don’t like fish even though I have never eaten it” mentality of my childhood, I must say this dish might have made me a convert.  It was a good starter fish for someone who does go whole hog for seafood.  The sea bass was cooked perfectly and the asparagus, greens, and sauce really complimented the fish and gave me something extra to sample the fish with. 

I would order this dish (when it is available, it’s a special).  And that means a lot coming from me. 

The Verdict 

Lauren:  Overall, I really enjoyed the fresh fare that The Yard has to offer.  I think it’s a great place to go and grab appetizers after a long day at work.  I’d definitely go back, especially to try the desert.  We got ahead of ourselves eating dinner and then didn’t have room for it.  We wanted to try to the chocolate cake with peanut butter ganache.  Next time, next time. 

Lindsay: Although this restaurant does not fall into my “last meal worthy” column of my mental restaurant checklist, it does have a fun after-work atmosphere with fun drink (try their adult lemonade) and small plate options.  It’s a great place to stop to meet up with friends or wind down after a gruelling day at the office.  And hey if you are Top Chef obsessed like yours truly, you might even catch a glimpse of the 6′ 8″ executive chef.

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