Not much going on this week. This will be quick.
I went to 5 GUYS for the first time. Been really curious, as I love a great burger and everyone raves about it. Easily some of the worst food I have ever experienced. How on earth can they sell such dretch? The fries are EASILY the worst ever constructed in the history of the planet. Even worse than In-N-Out, a feat seemingly impossible. The burger patty was obviously hand-formed–you know: it had that irregularity to it kinda like a outdoor BBQ. Not foot-ball-shaped like your neighbor does, but it had the breakage and cracking and crumblyness around the edges like a back-yard burger. But it was ridiculously bland. I don’t typically salt my burgers, but if it had been available, I would have this one. Otherwise, the burger was this grey, mangled thing, sweaty in its tin-foil and bland. I’m not certain it had onions in it. But it DID have mushrooms. I never need to go back.
See, now a bunch of people will write me and say, “That’s what you get you asshole for eating at fast food. You know nothing about food.” And see, that’s where you’re wrong. Fast food is fascinating. You think fast food just *happens*? No way! There are MILLIONS of dollars of engineering that goes into fast food. Corporate doesn’t take franchises lightly either. Imagine the food-science that goes into McDonald’s french fries? Ponder the engineering–the chemistry–in all their seemingly simple menu items. Fast food is fascinating and–unfortunately–basically part of our American food culture. You can call me any name in the book and it will not sway me from studying fast food. Do I eat it every day? Oh HELLS NAW! But you have to experience it.
Have you been to TIN CANTEEN yet? The hottest new restaurant in Paso Robles located in Tin City. After being thwarted by sporadic hours initially, I visited for lunch this past week before the Rhone Rangers tasting. It’s a lovely spot, beautifully done, and I ADORE all things ETTO PASTIFICO next door. Ordered some of that amazing pasta and the octopus with a couple glasses of wine in a nicely packed restaurant. First of all, the place is FREEZING. Everyone in the restaurant was dining in parkas. The octopus was nicely cooked and came with a portion of the… um… body? I guess that’s what you call it? I don’t want to say “head”! This is a new presentation for me and I am NOT complaining. At first I thought it was a huge mushroom sitting on top, but clearly it was a portion of the animal’s body. Really good–this part. Kinda funky foie gras-ish or truffle-ish, quite different texture and taste than the ‘normal’ parts we are all used to. I rather liked it. Always just been served legs before. The pomodoro was mediocre at best, blended smooth and integrated WELL into the pasta (if you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know I’ve been eating a LOT of pomodoro lately), served on spaghetti, which kinda cheapened it–not near as much as when a server unassociated with the table plonked down the plate announcing, “Here’s your spaghetti.” The pasta itself though was an absolute PERFECT al dente–something many restaurants fail at. The octopus came with generous slices of red onion which I am now positive was garnish, as I tried several times to manipulate them with a knife and fork and finally put them in the *inedible* category. The octopus legs were ridiculously salty. Just mind-bogglingly salty. Eye-blurringly salty. I could not finish them. Beautiful winelist of an absolute wish-list of imported wines. I wanted to order bottles and bottles and bottles off it, but stuck to a BTG selection of the house Giornata Barbera, which was a shallow, fruity little thing, but serviceable. The BTG selections come with a sidecar, which is a HUGE number of points in my book and means the wine-director is actually THINKING about your appreciation and gets millions and millions of points. This was all dashed when a waitress swooped by, arms full of dishes, and without asking, grabbed my still full sidecar and dumped it into my already-full glass and whisked it off. My meal was over at that point. All things considered, I don’t need to go to this restaurant again.
Lido has hired Pfaff as EC.
Cory Bidwell of Cass House Grill to HATCH Paso Robles. Everybody’s freaking out about this one, but I keep telling people, listen: Cass House will be fine. They ALWAYS hire up from the inside (Cory was Jensen’s sous-chef), and Hatch can ONLY benefit from this. I like Hatch. I’ve eaten there three times. It has never blown me away, FAR from outstanding, but decent. Regular readers of me will know Cory is one of my favorite local chefs and I am REALLY excited about the prospects for Hatch from this move.
Cass House is allegedly interviewing all week, but watch for movement up from the inside as usual.
Blue Mango Group has hired EC for NOVO but not announcing.
Maile Halme no longer at Far Western. Not fired, her set-up contract ran out and she actually over-stayed it by almost a month.
Rick Manson’s CHEF RICK’S is re-opening in Orcutt at the old Jetty.
What am I forgetting here?
DON’T FORGET: This coming Sunday at the Paso Robles Event Center (that’s the fairgrounds, dummy), Teri Bayus brings her annual CHEF’S COMPETITION to the FREE home show stage and this year is looking more exciting than ever. Listen to this line-up:
Chef Shawn Behrens — Blue Heron Los Osos
Chef Kari Ziegler — STAX Wine Bar & Bistro ( and Comfort Market)
Chef Gregg Wangard — Paso Robles Schools Nutrition (and won the Mac & Cheese Fest)
Chef Spencer Johnston — Danior Kitchen Catering
Chef Jacob Town — The Spoon Trade
Chef Bryan Mathers — Ocean Grill Avila
I will be judging, the whole thing is free, everyone gets to sample food, and it’s an all-around blast. NOON. SUNDAY. PASO ROBLES. Here’s your link for free tickets > eventbrite.com/e/taste-buds-best-chef-competition-tickets <
Hey, while we’re on the subject of Kari Ziegler and STAX WINE BAR & BISTRO, she’s been telling me about her French Fries for a couple weeks and how hard she’s been working on them–knowing I’m a total snob. I popped in the other day for a couple glasses of champagne and a huge bowl of them with her trifecta of home-made ketchup, fresh mayonnaise (do I look Canadian?) and a pimento aioli. Let me tell you the sauces–though excellent–went COMPLETELY to waste, because only bad fries get dipped in anything. These things are tiny little threads of crunchy, par-cooked goodness, not quite true *shoestring* size, but easily the smallest cut frites in town.
Oh! Where did you go to eat Valentine’s Day? This past Thursday, KREUZBERG CALIFORNIA threw a huge Valentine’s party as an impromptu addition to their DEVOUR chef pop-up supper series. Chef Julie Simon was at the helm again for this one and it was a fun time. The theme was *Breakfast for Dinner* and as a complete and total NON-breakfast eater, I kinda picked around at it. There was burrata in honey with almonds and wildflowers–a savory dish far and away my favorite–French Toast crostini with orange icing glaze, tobacco and sesame-glazed pork belly (OK, that may have been another favorite of mine), and fried chicken & waffles. Oh! and DONUTS! I forgot donuts! Donuts from DEBBY DO GOOD. Everything was paired with cocktails from Kreuzberg’s new lounge [you KNOW Kreuzberg has a full-one dedicated cocktail bar in the back now, right?]. I brought a few bottles of Champagne–not being a huge cocktail-with-dinner person. We had an awesome table too, with a veritable who’s-who of local media and beverage industry. STAY TUNED: The fourth in the DEVOUR series will be announced SOON.
Oh and I should probably mention here I visited The Kreuzberg Lounge on their opening night a couple weeks ago. I highly recommend it. See, now I’m a grown up–probably like most of the people reading this–and there’s a huge number of bars downtown in SLO you couldn’t PAY me to visit. There’s a few, but you know what I’m sayin. But the Lounge at Kreuzberg is a nice, low-key place. Fairly mellow and definitely mature.
Oh hey, and speaking of cocktail bars, I finally made it into NIGHTCAP, Kimberly Walker’s newest arrow in her quiver of establishments. I LOVE THIS PLACE. Talk about grown-up, mellow and mature. This is in the little speak-easy where Granada first started lo those many years ago (remember the paninis grilled on machines by the girls in the back and the winelist–WITH NO LOCAL WINES–printed inside classic books?) Well, where do I start about this place. I have a funny feeling a large number of people who read my scribblings feel the same way about bars as I do. Let me tell you unequivocally: If you’re a grown-up, you NEED to visit Nightcap. Quiet–YES, you can actually have a conversation, a gentle conversation–dimly lit, professional barkeeps, THE MOST PREMIUM alcohols, botanicals, and ice. This is the best bar in SLO right now and still a secret. Avoided drinking out in SLO for a while? Well, I’m here to help. Put this place on your list. NIGHTCAP is the best bar in town right now, and Kreuzberg Lounge a VERY close second. Both have *kinda* the same ambiance. (OK, and here’s the secret part: You can order the original Granada Cubano–the sandwich that started it all–AT NITECAP!!!)
Sprouts is hiring.
Eat your vegetables.