MO's Smokehouse BBQ - Pismo Beach & SLO

                                                                                         

This time of year when the temperatures swell, but the beaches remain a gift to those who reside her; I like to take my lunches in downtown Pismo Beach and then head for the beach to dig sandcastles. Now that I have my grandson as my daytime dining companion, I have an excuse everyday to go to the beach, where the seagulls preach and play in the sand and surf.  My grandson has a discerning palate at 13 months and really likes BBQ.  He grabs on to the ribs with his pudgy hands and chews them down to the bone with his seven teeth.  He is a fan of Mo’s BBQ. This boy has style and loves the sweet cornbread with honey butter and I agree. 

Mo’s BBQ has been one of my favorite rib spots since I discovered we shared a love of the Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis Tennessee. They do ribs right; Mo's Memphis Pork Ribs is my favorite and the "The House Specialty.” They are tender and flavorful rack of ribs, smoked using real hickory and BBQ sauce, and then sprinkled with sweet vinegar and Memphis dry rub. They fall off the bone into your mouth. They are served with sweat cornbread muffin and honey butter, coleslaw and baked beans. It is the best ribs this side of the Mississippi.

Mo’s does BBQ chicken and beef ribs along with some great tri-tip sandwiches. They have big ole salads for people not wanting to eat half a pig. Their Chipotle Lime Tacos are perfectly made and mouth-watering. They contain tender chicken marinated in an incredible combination of pineapple juice, chipotle, oregano, and garlic then charbroiled, and served on two flour tortillas with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, and a sweet and spicy cream. My favorite is the Killer Garlic fries. A heap of small cut crispy French fries covered in garlic, parmesan cheese, and spices. They are so good, we fight over them.  

Mo’s was the brainchild of restaurant veteran, who decided to open a real barbecue restaurant. He traveled 3,500 miles across the country through the barbecue belt - visiting 10 states and over 80 barbecue restaurants. He got recipes, tips, techniques, advice, instructions, and one heck of a lot of inspiration. He came home with the greatest recipes for beans, onion rings, coleslaw, pork ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato pie. I love these people in this part of the country and would do that trip just for the culinary exploration.


On the walls at Mo’s they have unique photos of cooks, meat smokers, and BBQ joints along with stories of the owners. They have opened up locations in Huntington Beach and Chico along with their Central Coast locations and are looking to open more. 


Mo’s locations are in Pismo Beach on 221 Pomeroy and on 1005 Monterey in San Luis Obispo. Check out there menu, awards and BBQ sauce for sale on line at www.smokinmosbbq.com

Jocko's in Nipomo

                                 

When my father visits he wants two things when dining out; a respectable California steak and a full liquor bar. For him I chose Jocko’s in Nipomo, with its incredible steaks, ranch style atmosphere with branding implements on the walls and a full bar with requisite gruff bartenders. With its down-home atmosphere, surly waitresses and lines out the door everyday, this is a mystery to most. What is not a mystery is the quality of the meat. People come from all over the country to sample the world’s best steak and they are never disappointed.  My Dad is now one of the converts.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, this restaurant is always busy but is worth the wait with huge portions and savory flavors. When I say huge, I mean Fred Flintstone sized meat servings. We were a party of fifteen on a Wednesday night when the special is Roast Turkey with all the trimmings. This is my favorite meal, like a mini thanksgiving. The turkey is heaped on the plate including white and dark meat, delightful mash potatoes, stuffing, cranberry, green beans, and rolls. Every time I order this, 
I have leftovers to take home. If you want this special, you have to call 24 hours ahead and reserve it as they run out every week.  

The table is set with a relish tray remnant of a 1950’s meal. Olives, celery, banana peppers, green onions, celery, and carrot slices are served with a try of single wrapped crackers and salsa. The salads are simple iceberg lettuce, carrot shavings with a big beet on top (which I promptly give to my Dad) and a healthy portion of dressing. Each huge serving of meat (the pork chops were bigger than my head) is served with baked potato or rice pilaf. The steaks are all cooked over a big oak barbeque pit out behind the restaurant. They are magnificent, aged perfectly and seasoned for flavor. All steaks come medium rare, anything more requires extra cooking time according to the menu. (They post a nice warning about this for extra sized items and pork chops). A thick filet will always take longer than an equal sized New York steak. The Spencer was amazingly tender, and cooked to precision. The flavor was superb. As was the extra sized New York, also cooked flawlessly. The pork chops were remarkable. I have never had better, fully cooked yet juicy and a great barbeque flavor. The sweet breads are a dying delicacy that is hard to find anywhere else and the finest I have had. 

             


Jocko’s also has an Italian favorites menu, seafood and sandwiches. But go there for the steaks. I have traveled the world over, ate my way through most of it and never tasted a steak this perfect. Call for reservation and be prepared to wait even with those, but it is worth it. Locals learn to sit in the breezeway, as it is a bevy of activity, but no waiting. Another trick is to have a drink and a Stall Barbeque steak at the bar. The chopped steak is cut for you and served with bread and salsa, making it a perfect quick meal. Jocko’s is steeped with tradition and family- a perfect place to celebrate. 

Located at the corner of Tefft and Thompson in Nipomo, call for reservations at (805) 929-3686. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. 

Goshi - San Luis Obispo

                                                  

Tucked deep in the Cannery building is the intimate sushi maven that draws me in when I want adventurous, fresh and full of flavor sushi. Goshi has offerings never seen in other sushi restaurants like sardine, local salmon and halibut. They have Ashi on draught, lychee sake and the Santa Barbara uni is the star of the show. 

We called ourselves dolphins and proceed to order nearly everything on the menu, especially if it is unusual. Gary started with his dessert first ordering Mochi ice cream balls (these require a bit of explanation). Mochi is a traditional Japanese New Year's dish made from soaked glutinous rice, which is pounded with mallets and formed into a sticky cake. Goshi has taken a pasta-thin sheet of mochi and molded it around a core of vanilla ice cream; the dish contains a half-dozen or so oval globes. We loved the textural play between the rich ice cream and the chewy, sticky rice.

The sushi menu has a full complement of sushi, sashimi, hand rolls, and maki, with all of the usual suspects well represented. I ordered the albacore tataki, six thick, buttery, and luscious slices served on a bed of slivers of white radishes, red onions, micro greens and a vinegar, sweet soy sauce (that we poured over a bowl of rice and demolished). 

We sampled the Juni Sushi plate that was composed of 12 pieces of succulent and fresh nigri including three different kinds of salmon, yellowtail, roe, striped sea bass, tako and tamago (Gary calls this nigri Japanese French toast). It also came with a spicy scallop roll that was filled with cut scallops and crab, served with a spicy pepper paste and Japanese mayo. It is then topped with masago and fish skin crinkles. 

                     

After that it was a nigri parade.  Nigri is a thumb size piece of vinegar rice (sushi means vinegar rice in Japanese) with a slice of raw fish resting on it. Some fish come with a dab of wasabi, a horseradish like root that is made into a paste to stimulate the palate. We ordered the local salmon first and there was only three pieces left, each tasted impeccable. On to the Santa Barbara uni, a sea urchin that challenges even the most advanced penchants, but this possessed the sweetest flavor. 

I always try something new and this time it was seared squid with a mint leaf drizzled with a fermented plum sauce. This dish defied my expectations and I dreamt about it that night. We begin to talk about how aquariums make us hungry as we devoured the octopus, ono, sardine and scallops as we watched the chef take the beak out of the squid to serve us. We finished with a Salmon skin roll and a Gobo treat (Gobo is pickled mini carrots and I love them).

For rolls we tried the spicy albacore with garlic chips, a crunchy exterior yielded to the succulent core, a nice combination of flavors. The peppered tuna roll is a blend of spicy tuna, peppercorn-seared tuna, and avocado, served with ponzu and sesame oil. Both are works of art on the plate and delicious.

Goshi Japanese Restaurant is located at 570 Higuera Street #211:30am to 1:45pm and 5:00pm to 9:45pm every 0 in San Luis Obispo or call them at (805) 543-8942. They are open for lunch from 

Julia's Juice Bar - Grover Beach

                                                                      

Juicing has been apart of my life for years now.  We purchased a Jack La Lane power machine and each Saturday bought a basket full of greens at farmer’s market.  Adding apples, Meyers lemons, carrots, beets and oranges, the greens were almost palatable. The practice made us healthy, provided abundant scraps for our chickens, but completing a 12-ounce cup of juice was a marathon of washing, squashing and washing some more. When we first met Julia Gomez at Saturday Farmer’s Market in Arroyo Grande, I nearly hugged her. She was doing all the heavy lifting and offering us a cold pressed juice that only required the exchanged of money.  I call it superb green fast food. 

Julia now has a storefront bistro in Grover Beach called Julia’s Juice Bar. Providing tasty combinations of vegetable and fruit juice along with coffee, tea and inspiring edibles.  I started with the Veggie Blast that is Kale, carrots, fennel, celery, arugula, cilantro, apple and lemon. Gary went for the sweeter Tropic Fusion that had strawberries, carrots and pineapple and guava. They were both refreshing and delicious along with being good for you.  They offer different combinations of red or green veggies that are super detoxifying. They range in price for 12-ounce cup of fresh juice for $7.00 to 32 ounce Mason jar of fresh juice for $16.00.

Julia told us some of the benefits of drinking cold pressed juices. They promote digestion, are anti-inflammatory, detoxes the body, strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, prevents arthritis, it’s good for autoimmune disorders and asthma. All the juices she serves are high in antioxidants, strengthens blood vessels, lowers blood sugar, balances PH, they’re good for kidneys and the nervous system. And with Julia’s deft hand, they taste delightful. 




Most of the produce comes from the Red Barn farms in Husana Arroyo Grande. Julia and Javier live on the farm. Javier and Rogelio work hard to rotate 20 acres without the use of pesticide or fertilizer. Javier creates his own emulsion of raw garlic, peppermint oil and chili that he uses to to rid the plants of pests. A passionate farmer, Javier also runs the City farm in San Luis Obispo. This family comprehends food from the source and delivers it in the most natural and wholesome fashion.  I am a big fan. 


Julia’s Juice Bar is located at 960 W Grand Avenue in Grover Beach, you can call them at (805) 481-4100.
They are open Monday, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Tuesday, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Wednesday, Closed, Thursday, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Friday, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Saturday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday, Closed.

Koberl at Blue - SLO

                         

Chef Erich Koberl
As a food writer, I feel the need to celebrate special occasions at only the best of food establishments. I leave nothing to chance and try the businesses several times before settling on them to spend my distinctive events. My favorite is Koberl at Blue in San Luis Obispo which features wine country cuisine with a European aptitude. Each menu item has been created to pair nicely with a fine glass of wine.  As a group of four, celebrating a milestone birthday, we drank and ate our way through this inventive and exquisite menu. This culinary shrine to perfection gets my vote every time I need to share in a momentous occasion. They have never disappointed.

First, we ordered oysters on the half shell with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reims from France. The oysters were freshly shucked and served with red chili mignonette and a tangy tomato horseradish sauce. Impeccable in every way, and so virtuous we ordered another round. I coveted the Seared Sea Scallops with artichoke duxelle, bacon brown butter and radish sprouts. The scallops were perfectly prepared and the subtle flavors came shining through. 

Koberl at Blue is true California fine dining for those who want to spoil themselves with epicurean delights. Erik the chef and owner follows the local, fresh produce and proteins to create traditional yet inventive masterpieces. Be confident that this is a sophisticated choice for dinner where you will never be disappointed. We moved on to a bottle of Grgich Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next, we ordered two preparations of the snow crab chinois, a treat of three crab claws stuffed with crispy crab and swimming in a cream of ginger, garlic, and cilantro. Everyone was very impressed I was smart enough to make sure we all had a claw.

           

We shared the Hoisin marinated chicken lettuce wrap, with several fresh butter lettuce leafs are used as a taco that you stuff with chicken, toasted peanuts and soy wasabi. Amazing and something I always look forward too. We also shared a shredded pork cohiba wrap with black beans, soaked with Cuban flavor

Banana Foster
The special was petrole sole done picatta style with lemon cream sauce and capers, baby broccoli and fingerling potatoes. It was like swimming in a warm sea of pleasure for my taste buds. Gary ordered the sautéed duck breast and confit of duck with
spring vegetable and yukon gold hash with apple wood smoked bacon, goat cheese,
rainbow chard, and a port blackberry sauce.  Our friends both had the Herb Roasted Halibut with wild 
mushroom ravioli, sautéed spinach, a basil vermouth sauce and melted tomatoes they were very pleased.

Chocolate Lava Cake
After the chef made a dessert of Chocolate Lava Cake with raspberry coulis, and crème anglaise, it was creamy, sweet precision. Gary went crazy for the Bananas Foster Napoleon with vanilla bean ice cream. Overall a spectacular meal you can count on when it is a special occasion (even if that occasion is that you are hungry).


Koberl at Blue is located in the historic J.P. Andrews Building at 998 Monterey in downtown San Luis Obispo call them at (805) 783-1135. Dinner is served
7 days a week from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.




Garland's Hamburgers - Grover Beach

                                         

I had an adult fun sized weekend. The recycled bin is rattling with empty bottles and the dishwasher is overfilled with wine glasses. These friend filled debaucheries are so much fun, until the next day. Then it is time for some serious substance that has restorative powers. I am not talking a green juice or soup, I am talking Hamburgers. I always cure my sluggish after-drink carcass with a trip to Garlands Hamburgers. They make a perfect burger and an impeccable burger, can cure anything.

Gary goes into this milkshake maven at least once a week, for he treats himself with handmade strawberry/banana malt. Most men have a beer; mine mixes strange flavors with ice cream and sucks them down until his temple throbs. He also favors chocolate/peanut butter, pineapple, chocolate/banana, but butterscotch was his favorite until he over did it and his taste buds rebelled. He also claims that maraschino cherry is surprisingly good. The shakes are made with real ice cream, scooped into a stainless steel mug, milk and flavor added and then blended. (Yeah, he has a shake problem).

On this shaky-lunch date he started with a caramel shake, I ordered a 805 beer, using the hair-of-the-dog strategy. We started with an order of Kicken’ Fries, with thick steak fries smothered in pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, and a jalapeño ranch sauce. We added jalapenos and jump-started our appetites. I ordered the Kobe beef burger and added avocado. This burger is priced higher than the others are, but the quality and quantity of meat make it worthwhile. It is served on a French roll and is superb. Gary had the pastrami sandwich, which he loved. They make the pastrami on site and it is flavorful and delicious (they leave the marbling in, which is the way to do a pastrami sandwich correctly, but sometimes it is not eye appealing). Gary inhaled it and complimented the mustard and pickle garnish that made this sandwich an accomplishment. The secret to this hamburger paradise is that the owners are always on premise. They make sure all the food is prepared right, fresh, and hot. It is a sure thing and I love that about this restaurant.


Our friends (who were also recovering) had the Garlands basket with a double cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and a soda. The onion rings were huge and we all tugged at them while dipping them in ranch dressing. To stop the bickering, Gary ordered a Sampler, which included fries, onion rings, and freshly breaded zucchini. They threw in some sweet potato fries for us to try and we all swore we would be back just for those. The rib eye steak sandwich was an ideal blend of flavors with a tender cut of meat that needed no knife. We sat inside and waited for a food, while the boys enjoyed the 1962 surf film, but moved onto the shaded patio when the food came. We giggled and thoroughly enjoyed our transformation from sluggish to happy full people ready to take on the half over day. Thank God for Garlands, they serve a real public service.

 Garlands Hamburgers is located at 701 W Grand Avenue in Grover Beach, or call them at (805) 481-6512. They are open everyday from 10:30 to 8:30. 

Madeline's Restaurant - Cambria

                                             

I spent a superb two day “Staycation” in Cambria at the 9 Iron Inn (www.9ironinn.com), were innkeeper Michelle guided me to new culinary finds in this city of pines and seaside beaches. I would encourage everyone to do the same as this brief time away energized my soul and cemented my passion at finding new brasseries. 

Michelle came to dine with us at the recommended Madeline’s Restaurant on the main strip of Cambria. The quaintness of this bistro was instantly apparent with the herb and vegetable garden growing in the flower boxes out front.  Tuffs of basil, chive, rosemary, parsley, cilantro and a variety of vegetables sprouted as a welcome greenery of smell and visual delight. I knew that the chef would be a connoisseur when his herb garden is also a decoration. Owner David greeted us, and we settled in to taste some of his fantastic local boutique wines.  First I noticed a bottle of Brian Benson, one of my favorite young wine makers and a rare find in a wine shop. The artwork adoring the walls, by Nadezhda (“Nadja”) Tselikova gave a sense of sensuality that was a common thread through all the wines and food.

Madeline’s Restaurant specializes in intimate American/French influenced dinner. David told us the menu is based upon locally sourced and seasonably available products. We all know that the best organic food is what is grown closest to you. Gary started with the Lime and Raspberry Pie, which delighted our host and companions. The sweet raspberries even out this local tart lime custard. It is filled on to a graham cracker crust and garnished with fresh limes and raspberries.


         

We started with the 2014 Pinot Grigio, made by Andrew Adam of Edna Valley, a rare find that startled my taste buds with its honey notes. We settled in and ordered the Chef Tasting, which is always the best way to order when a restaurant offers this choice. It would be five courses and we would share to make sure we tasted it all. The first dish was the Crab And Lobster Cakes that was served over wilted leeks with lemon thyme aioli. The richness of the crab claw and lobster meat was complemented with the complex sauce.  Next we tried the Diver Scallops, with large hand picked scallops lightly seared and served over a mushroom duxelle with a beurre blanc sauce. This was shaping up to be a meal of epic proportions. 

We moved on to a “Wild” bottle from Locatelli in Paso Robles. It was a Meritage Blend that alone could have been the rest of my meal. Our first entrée was fresh Halibut with a beurre blanc sauce, roasted summer squash, zucchini, and carrots. The fish was cooked flawlessly and complemented the sauce and rice. But those carrots caught my attention. I usually only like my carrots raw, but these were sweet and crispy.  I asked David about them and he told us they were simmered in a sauce all night adding more carrots, reducing the sugars and bringing out an outstanding flavor. Rarely have I been so taken with a root vegetable.  Next we had the Stuffed Breast Of Chicken with candied walnuts, Brie, and spinach rolled into the breast permeating the meat with flavor and a wonderful texture. It is sitting on a sage brown butter sauce and served with delectable scalloped potatoes and those amazing vegetables. Another entrée that was fought for was the Long Island Duck Breast. It was pan seared, topped with dried cherry and brandy reduction, served with scalloped potatoes and vegetables. Duck done right is glorious and this was. The vegetarian selection surprised us all at being chock full of flavor. It was called a Polenta Madeline. The polenta was topped with seasonal vegetables, a pumpkin seed pesto and roasted tomato sauce.

One to desserts, a mountainous Chocolate Truffle Mousse Cake arrived and its layers of dark chocolate truffle, milk chocolate mousse cooked over a buttery walnut crust was heavenly. The rest had the Crème Brulee with sliced strawberries. As we were leaving we purchased a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy in our room. Full and very happy we strolled down the quaint Cambria village and them toasted a fantastic meal on the seaside bench. 


Madeline’s Restaurant is located at 788 Main Street in Cambria.  They are open everyday from 5:00pm to 9:00pm, you can call them at (805) 927-4175.