Foodmaker Dinner at McPhee’s

I was lucky enough to receive a ticket to the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau’s “Foodmaker Dinner”. The dinner was a fund raiser to help support the local agriculture businesses.

I’m a huge fan of Ian McPhee and was delighted to hear they had selected McPhee’s Grill for this dinner as part of their Foodmaker Dinner series. “Agriculture knows quality and prime steaks and seasonal menus have made McPhee’s Grill a destination of choice for more than twenty years. Owner and Chef Ian McPhee embraces the concept of fine food that people understand.” – SLO Farm Bureau.

As we arrived we were greeted with a glass of 2016 Patelin de Tablas Rosé  and given some time to mingle with the other guest. Ian had prepared some wood fired pizza as appetizers for this portion of the dinner. Who doesn’t love a refreshing rosé and pizza?

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Our first course was Ian’s Jumbo Lump Crab Cake severed over sugar snap pea and fennel salad. This is my kind of crab cake! It doesn’t have all the bread crumbs and isn’t fried crispy like so many people do. This one delivers the large lumps of crab for fresh flavors. The fresh peas and fennel really complemented the crab. (I talked Ian into sharing this recipe in my next book!).

A dish as fresh as this cries for a refreshing wine. It paired perfectly with J Dusi’s Pinot Grigio – a nice white that is less than $20 a bottle. Such a wonderful start to the sit down portion of the meal.

Steak-2

I expected something from the grill and was certainly not disappointed to see the slow oak wood roasted prime strip loin as the centerpiece for the entree. Cooked to perfection, this large (and yes I did eat the whole thing) steak was so tender with a nice sear and smokey aroma. Served with salsa verde, peppers, onions, peas, and grilled scallion mashed potatoes, this was so delicious — a very upscale meat and potatoes meal. The pairing with this course was the Hearst Ranch Malbec. This is one of my favorite Malbecs from the region and I need to get back over to the coast to taste the full line-up again soon.

ChocolateCake-2I had every intention of skipping dessert. Then I saw it was June’s Famous Chocolate Decadence Cake with Caramel Lime Sauce. I am such a sucker for a flourless chocolate cake. It didn’t disappoint! I decided something that good needs to just be enjoyed and savored, so no guilt. This decadent dessert was paired with Roxo Paso Melange, a port-style dessert wine that I could easily have instead of dessert.

Be sure to visit McPhee’s Grill and try some of his seasonal dishes. Ian has been in business at 416 S Main Street in Templeton since 1994. This is a local favorite where you can always count on excellent service, a nice wine list and very satisfying, delicious meal!

 

Somm’s Kitchen

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I’m always excited when a new restaurant opens in Paso Robles. It wasn’t long after I heard that the Somm’s Kitchen had opened that I ventured in.

Wine

 

First let me say it is much more than a restaurant. The Somm’s Kitchen is also a wine shop and will be holding educational wine tastings and private events as well. Sommelier Ian Adamo has brought his passion for food and wine together in this new venture.

There are currently no tables at the Somm Kitchen — everyone dines at the U-shaped counter with Ian at center stage as a very hospitable host. The menu is a very creative collection of delicious small plates that can be enjoyed with wine in smaller portions or full size glass (and of course by the bottle).

 

I decided to enjoy the full experience and had Ian pair small portion glasses with each of my dishes. I gave him a few criteria – like don’t break the bank, and I wanted wines from out of the region (I drink Paso wines daily so it is nice to explore International wines sometimes). His talent for pairing shined — everything I had was perfectly paired.

Foie2

Let’s jump into the food! First up was the Foie Gras Torchon. I had seen a sneak preview of the menu and was dying to try this. I love Foie Gras and hadn’t indulged in several years. Sourced from Hudson Valley, poached in Sauternes and served with a delightful orange oil, I could have stopped right here and gone home happy. Ian selected a lovely Reisling to pair with this dish.

CherryDuck2

 

Next up, and also on my “I must try list”,  was the Smoked Duck with cherries. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the kitchen used Sous Vide for most of their proteins. If you follow my blogs, you will know I have recently began experimenting with sous vide myself — check out – Eat this with… for my first beef sous vide experience.

I’m a huge fan of duck breast, and the sous vide handling of the house smoked duck breast was awesome. The cherry sauce made it over the top delicious and the New Zealand Pinot Noir was perfect.

 

I had planned to stop there. I was thinking my first experience should be just a couple of tastes. But I couldn’t — it was too fun, too tasty and too inviting to go home!

Asparagus

So next up was from the “garden” – I love veggies, and who doesn’t love a poached egg on top of asparagus! I have to confess, I could have skipped the Créme Fraiche on the bottom … but my dining companion loved it!

Speck

 

I was in a “let’s go for the menu” kinda mood. So next up was the Speck. The chestnut ricotta middle with a quail egg on top was yet another fun play on flavors.

 

I wish I had ordered it, but managed to catch it coming out of the kitchen, was another side – Carrots in butter and thyme (I’ll try it next time).

Salmon3

 

There were a few “from the sea” offerings, and after seeing the Salmon delivered to other guests 4 times, I decided I had to have it! The Akarona King Salmon with Potato was delicious. Ian indicated it was started in a traditional fashion and finished sous vide for 2 hours. The texture and flavor were perfect! Paired with a New Zealand Pinot Noir this was another winning course.

Lamb

So after going light, I had to try out something from the “Land” section of the menu. I am a HUGE fan of lamb so the Colorado Lamb Sirloin with Sauce Violette caught my eye. This dish was so good! If there were not other diners at the counter, I might had shoved my face in the plate and licked up all the sauce. Sauce aside, I have to say the sous vide treatment of this lamb was spot on — perfect color, texture and flavor! Perfectly paired with a Syrah!

GFAppleCake

 

Don’t judge me, but I am not a huge fan of dessert. Having said that the people to my right and left were! I heard rave reviews of the Orange confit and the Apple cake. The apple cake is actually gluten free (which made me happy to hear) — and the orange confit is a very interesting dessert. Being from Canada, I was delighted to see an ice wine from Niagra on the Lake paired with the dessert — and even happier to report my friend with the dessert shared her wine with me!

Ian

 

If you are in the Paso area, you really need to check this place out! The restaurant is open Thurs-Sun 11:30-2 and 5:30-9pm. There were many items on the menu that looked awesome and I will be back soon. One of the best points is that Ian is behind the counter, providing information about food & wine while making the whole experience awesome!

 

For more information visit: https://sommskitchen.com/

Paso Albariño – New Event!

AlbarinoSummitWebOne of the things I love about Paso Robles is that you can find so many different wines that thrive in the area. Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the most widely planted grape in the AVA, the red Rhônes are the most talked about, the jammy Zinfandels remind people of the early days and well somehow, the white wines don’t get much attention.

That is all about to change for Albariño. On June 13th, over 20 Central Coast wineries with gather in Paso Robles at Brecon Estate for the sole purpose of shining the light on this Spanish varietal. This is the first ever event dedicated to Albariño in the USA and will include both a seminar and a grand tasting.

The seminar is already sold out; however, if you are interested in attending the tasting you may purchase tickets on-line. The $35 ticket includes tastes of over 20 Albariño wines, live flamenco guitar and food pairings reminiscent of Northwestern Spain.

I plan on attending the seminar and tasting so will post the details after the event. I am looking forward to exploring this grape in depth and I’m especially interested to see what the sommelier has to say about food pairing.

 

Earth Day Food & Wine 2016

 

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Earth Day Food & Wine is an annual event hosted by the Vineyard Team, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working with growers on sustainability issues. The proceeds from the event support farmers through educational scholarships and free Spanish language education for vineyard workers.

This year, the event was held at Castoro Cellars. The venue was ideal with plenty of parking, several tents, a large stage for the band and open areas to lounge with couches, tables and chairs. Under the clear blue sky, with plenty of shade from the oak trees, event attendees enjoyed vineyard views as well as an unlimited sampling of wine, beer, hard cider, spirits and gourmet delights.

This is one of my favorite Paso events. One of the main reasons is that the food and wine selection is incredible. In general, most events seem to either be focused on wine with a small selection of food (usually just cheese and bread) or a food event with a few supporting wineries pouring limited tastes of wine. Earth Day Food & Wine offers an excellent balance of food and wine in a casual environment. Live music, lounge areas, vendor sampling, beer, spirits, hard cider, education and food demos all add to the package.

See the gallery at the end of the post to get a good sense of what was offered this year. I had a few favorites that I will call out:

Castoro Cellars for the wonderful venue (and the tasty Albariño)

Chef Charlie for the wonderful service and the tasty bite loaded with spice which paired so well with Zenaida Cellars‘ white blend (also delightful).

Jeffry’s Catering for their great food & service — you can find him at Barton Family Wines (the Kitchen Window Thurs-Mon)

Hurricane Kitchen for a full menu of interesting, gourmet items — this is my new favorite food truck in paso!

Negranti’s Ice Cream Truck for offering the best sheep’s milk ice cream I have ever had (favorite treat of the day)

Niner Estate for both the wine and the food at this event

Trumpet Vine Catering for the crowd pleasing pork belly bite

The Vineyard Team for organizing such a wonderful event for a good cause — and for keeping it earth friendly.