Got into LIDO for the first time since Chef Pfaff (formerly of NOVO) took over. He’s been promising me big things, and Lido rarely disappoints. Ambiance, maybe just a tiny bit, but that is my ONLY possible complaint. the food is always just drop-dead gorgeous, the service has literally no equal in the area, and the wine-list is to die for. Been kinda on a cioppinot kick lately, so had to try his. Never seen so much lobsta on this dish in my life.
Segue to NOVO‘s new chef, the very familiar local name of Michael Avila pops up. And I had the pleasure of eating at his *presentation* dinner up the street at sister-restaurant MINT + CRAFT at one of their Community Supper nights with a bunch of other media as a way to introduce him to back to town. How many pictures do I have from this dinner? Too many…. probably should just make its own post. BTW, there is ANOTHER Community Table dinner coming up soon–Oct 23–and I know I sound like a broken record, but these are absolutely THE best value–not just in price–but in quality of food, company, and community enrichment. These are my favorite pop-ups in town. And SO cheap. Only 26 seats–and they sell out. Here’s tickets to the next one <<CLICK HERE>>
SOOOOO much going on this past couple weeks–a lot of this will be OLD news. Paso Robles had a big surprise and not-so-big one. PARK STREET GRILL closed. That’s the old Panolivo spot. I actually ate there a few times, had an AMAZING dinner there early on, then a couple others which were more informal afternoon hits, but always reasonably solid. I think a lot of people just flat-out didn’t know this place existed. PIAZZA DEL PANE also closed unannounced and very suddenly, with rumors of jilted employees and unpaid bills. This is of course the second iteration of Chris Cherry’s Villa Creek location. Pretty sad, really, with Artisan gone and half a dozen other spots which used to be fabulous. It’s interesting: ten years ago, I complained that Paso got all the good restaurants–you could not throw a rock without hitting one–while SLO and the rest of SoCo ambled along with the usual tourist fare. I’m not saying San Luis Obispo has necessarily improved by leaps and bounds, but oh boy PASO. What is left? BISTRO, of course–my favorite–and IL CORTILE is very nice. Ian Addamo’s SOMMS KITCHEN gets rave reviews (I have not actually ever eaten there… I know, I know…) and somewhat in the same mold is SIX TEST KITCHEN across town. Speaking of Tin City, TIN CANTEEN has lost both their original chef and their wine director–who had both created the best in the area on each of their respective menus. HATCH is ok, but never going to appear on any Best-Of lists. We’re looking at you, LES PETITES CANAILLES. Are you ever going to open? While we’re up north, all the rumors about Maegan Loring in Creston are true. But she’s not cooking. An event center of some kind at either the Chute or the Saloon, I have heard an equal number of votes for each location and most from reputable sources, but am convinced it is the Saloon. Just pick one and believe it. So anyway, Paso: what does that leave? not much.
ANDREA’S ON PINE of course, but lunch only. THAT is a Romaine Wedge, boys & girls and it WILL make all your Caesar dreams come true.
Speaking of Creston, did you see that sandwich I got at the CRESTON MARKET??? holy wow was it good. Salami, ham, and pepperoni, with slightly melted provolone, black olives and pepperocinis. Ok, ok, enough with the black-olive hate.
While we’re north of the grade, those in the back rows will notice TODAY was the quirky, ever-gracious, always-smiling JONO KINCADE’s last day at ROSALINA. It will be interesting to see if anything changes. He is going to HOTEL SLO, who’s PIADINA restaurant is in soft-openings all last week. Here’s a strawberry-blueberry-brownie pile from Rosalina to see you off.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Before we leave NoCo, have you heard about the new CAFE BOVINO out at the Bovino Vineyards tasting room? They are really doing a great job right outa the chute. Steve Anglim makes all the wines, and they don’t suck either. Next time you’re way out Templeton-way in wine country, pop in and eat here. The vineyard views are AMAZING.
Headed South, is there anything new in SLO? Not really. Like I said, Piadina in Hotel SLO is kinda open, none of the other 2 hotel restaurants are yet. Can’t think of anything else new. THE CARRISA at SLO Brew is completely open, of course. An alcohol license is up (again) in the window at FINNEY’S CRAFTHOUSE, the old Forden’s building downtown next to Giuseppe’s and another one is up on the fence at SLO PUBLIC MARKET.
Atari Ya in Santa Maria closed. In any sushi argument (and sushi arguments are as bad as taco arguments) this place consistently got trotted out as the best in the area. I never ate there. I meant to… sure I did. But going to Santa Maria for sushi just doesn’t pop up on the schedule very often, and on the rare occasion I have combined those two activities, it has been at NIYA in Orcutt.
Further East, have you been out to CUYAMA BUCKHORN yet out in New Cayuma? Wow have they really been working on this place. Driven by many times, eaten there ONCE many years ago. Now there is not only the main restaurant open, but a short-order cafe, and they are renovating all the hotel rooms. They look gorgeous. Everything is open now, so check out their website and click around a bit. Headed to Buckhorn STAT.
I went on a little Tuna Sandwich kick this past week, and ordered 2 only a couple days apart. SO DIFFERENT. BOTH EXCELLENT. Ok, so the cheese on the BAYWOOD TAVERN version kinda surprised me and was a little weird. I think I’d opt out of it in the future. Not used to that. The version at HULA HUT in Avila Beach was more traditional, and like all their food–and their service–continues to blow me away. YES even when it is crowded with tourists. You will have a fabulous dining experience, I promise. This is my DE-FACTO new lunch spot in Avila Beach.
Oh yeah, and speaking of side-by-sides, remember a couple weeks ago when I went on a Cubano rant? Well, another spot had been on my radar–MILANES inside Thai Bounty in Morro Bay. This is a pretty damn good Cubano. Ham and pork and gobs of pickles, great cheese and all pressed properly. Even had it with plantain chips (or were they yucca? I get confused) and a Cuban beer! This is definitely a place to check out. An entire Cuban menu, inside a Thai restaurant. Stranger things have happened.
Last installment of this column, I also ran afront of the law–not to mention risking life and limb–by trying and reporting on the tacos at Burger King. Well, I went back, but this time for a much better reason. The IMPOSSIBLE BURGER. I HAD TO! Loyal readers KNOW how I love a good garden burger–even though I’m not a vegetarian. I’m actually a pretty long-time fan of Burger King, I have eaten their Whopper Jr many many times in the past. I like the size of it, mostly because my interest in fast food has bottomed out by the time there’s about 4 bites left and and the Whopper Jr is just the perfect amount without wasting food. The Impossible option only comes in a full-size Whopper, and sure enough: my interest in this thing waned about 5 bites shy of the end. It’s a lot more like a garden burger than the BEYOND BURGER at Carl’s jr. You can taste the oats and vegetables or other grains like you can in a garden patty–you just can’t really SEE them. It is not pink inside or necessarily char-broiled outside, and has a gummy texture, sticks to your teeth and the roof of your mouth plus there are large al dente chunks interspersed. It tastes contrived. It’s a decent burger if you can get past all that but you definitely know you’re eating a garden burger and I can think of half a dozen garden burgers around town–hell even Sysco’s–that are yummier than this. I have preached for decades against the seeming need to produce a vegetarian product that exactly replicates meat. I just think it is a dumb crutch–one vegetarians do not need and shouldn’t want, and requires unnecessary and completely unnatural processes to achieve. One of my favorite garden burgers is out at Bayside Cafe–although I fear it is a pre-made food supplier item–but it has visible carrots and oatmeal and other goodness visible throughout and this thing is just a gray slab with strange chunks. IF you need your fast food meat substitute burger to be pink and charred and replicate hamburger as much as possible the Beyond Burger at Carl’s jr. definitely is the one for you.
Oct 17-20 TASTE OF SANTA YNEZ VALLEY Holy wow have you seen this schedule?? 4 days of food, chef, winemaker, restaurant and vineyard events in Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Solvang and Buelllton. BE THERE
Oct 23 7:00 PM MINT+CRAFT COMMUNITY TABLE featuring Chef Samantha Eitel.
Sat. Nov. 2 SLO Coast Wine’s HARVEST ON THE COAST their premier end-of-season harvest celebration under the tents at Avila Beach Golf Resort.
Sun. Nov. 3 Pacific Wildlife Care fundraiser SOUPABRATION with 25 chefs competing for best soup and wine & beer tasting. Also at Avila Beach.
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD