It’s a RESTAURANT! It’s A WINE-SHOP! It’s a LOUNGE! Wait. What is it?! It is only San Luis Obispo’s newest dining concept and I say concept only because ‘experience’ was taken–several times–and just really doesn’t do the whole package justice. Now that Foremost Wine Company is fully open, it is prime time to get yourself down there and find what this place can teach you. Teach me? you say. I just wanna go out to eat and have a drink! Then go to Buffalo. Or Motav. Because if you are not ready for a cerebral venture, don’t go to FOREMOST WINE COMPANY. While the new space is cavernous, it is laid out in an intimate multi-plex of areas. The lounge is warm and comfortable and begs conversation. A good-sized stand-up bar in the rear foyer reminds of small after-work drinking establishments in Europe. It all flows into the dining room, done rustic and warm, but spacious. Large community tables, a dining bar overlooking the kitchen, and many close-set 2-tops–again, everything begging conversation. This place clearly wants to have an exchange about the whole dining experience and labeling themselves WINE COMPANY means one of the most important parts of a meal is going to be FRONT AND CENTER in the discourse! Just heaven.
So is it a wine-shop or is it a restaurant? It is a restaurant, and I did not find out about the FOURTH area of the floor-plan until almost through my meal–and I nearly choked. “Wait. There’s an actual wine-store here?!?” Sure enough, I was shown to a large area I had somehow missed upon arrival which displayed and offered for sale dozens of bottles–stuff you do not typically see at restaurants or wine-shops in the area. And what about the actual restaurant wine-list? Well, for starters: I didn’t have to ask for it. There have been a spat of places I have dined recently where–even though it is dinner, even though I am dressed for dinner, and clearly of drinking age–I am seated and have to ASK for the WINELIST! This is a REALLY QUICK way to get an F. But back to Foremost and their list. An innovative and well-planned list came with the menu and the most refreshing part about THIS list is it does not suffer from the usual suspects of dreadful Central Coast plonk which every restaurant in town trots out over and over and over, either a) CLEARLY capitalizing on the stupidity of their patrons or perhaps b) hoping one of these days we will just start LIKING it. Well, it doesn’t fly with me and Foremost has stepped their game up into the big-leagues by employing a full-on, dedicated sommelier–no, not the head waiter, not the night manager, not a busboy who works Saturdays in a tasting room and took a wine appreciation class–but an actual, real-live sommelier. Now, one of the first qualities of a true sommelier is the instant ability to judge a client and, this being ‘industry-night’ I suppose she was somewhat pre-programmed to assume we *spoke* wine, but bottom line: The sommelier was not cloying at ALL. This is a good thing. The wine list is full of interesting selections from all over the world–some familiar faces, some begging explanation. One disclaimer: Yes, one of the owners is a local wine-grower and producer and his wines are on the list, but again, Stasis Pinot Noir and Amore Fati Grenache are SERIOUS wines from viable vineyards, and not something you see on supermarket shelves–or even wine-shops. We tasted through 5 or 6 wines over the course of the meal and all were above average. You can read my notes on the wines here: http://soifknows.com/2014/11/foremost-wine-company-in-slo.html
And the food? At first glance the menu looks like small plates, and I wondered “Tapas?” but it was clear when they began arriving *small plates* and *tapas* were each terrible descriptions. Both the cauliflower with crispy fried lemon micro-slices and le lapin were fabulous, service was excellent and honest paired with an exemplary non-rushed exposure heavy on dialogue about the food and wine. Ingredients are sourced primarily from local organic farms and although you can only possibly try SO MANY dishes per visit, everything appears well-thought-out and innovative. Now that Foremost is fully open, I am looking forward to visiting again. There really is no easy description for this restaurant. It’s like Native and Ember and Tastes of the Valley all rolled into one. And all three of those are high compliments. I am so happy to see open another restaurant begging a conversation about food. And REAL wine. The number keeps growing. And here-to-fore SLO seemed to get none of them. Now there is a restaurant I can wholeheartedly recommend in San Luis Obispo. Props to all involved.