When someone lives out their dreams and you can taste the essence of those dreams; that is what we call pure magic. Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery and Café is a vision come true for all of us. The Monroe family owns, operates and entertains at this fantastic bistro that is headed by Donnie as the lead bakery and originator of this aspiration. Leaving the suit world 13 years ago to find a hearth worthy of his baking dreams, he has carved out a community that is thrilled to daily partake and share his exceptional yeasty creations. Donnie starts each day around 2:30 am with ancient starters pounded and proofed, then baked in a specialty oven lined with bricks from Italy so the bread cooks up, not around. The result is a product served at all the finest restaurants in the area.
The staples are French Baguette, Multigrain Wheat, Rustic Italian and Ciabatta, but he adds a Klamato olive loaf and other specialty loafs on Saturdays. Open for lunch every day but Sunday, Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery and Café offers you a taste of this magnificent bread fresh out of the oven with inspired sandwiches, soups and salads.
I started with the Raspberry Chipotle Chicken salad that was raspberry and chipotle glazed chicken breast served with tomato, onion and cucumber atop a bed of mixed greens, tossed in honey mustard vinaigrette. Chef Ryan Tremble has created an amazing amalgamation of flavors on this delicious salad. The chicken was both sweet and hot, cooled by the greens and tossed dressing. It was delectable. I pushed on to my favorite sandwich in the world, a Cuban. I seek out this delectable combo of bread and meat, as when it is done correctly will make your taste buds weep with pleasure. This one consisted of a fresh ciabatta roll stacked with premium black forest ham, pork loin slices marinated in a Cuban mojo and cooked to perfection then added swiss cheese, dijon mustard, mayonnaise and sweet pickle chips. It is served hot and would make Ricky Ricardo moan with a remembered taste of his homeland.
My next visit, we were warmly greeted by stunning Morgan, Donnie’s daughter and front of the house director. She suggested I try the specials. Gary began with a tour of the pastry shelve. Key lime pie that oozed with tart perfection on a soft graham cracker crust and then the pecan browning that was a heavenly chocolate indulgence. I began with a bowl of the chef’s grandma’s Cheesy Potato Soup, it was a symphony of cubed potatoes and four different kinds of cheese, served with thin slices of the French baguette. The urge to dip over took my politeness. The Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich was served on the ciabatta bread with a marinated pork loin, pickled Dacron, radishes, carrots and onions and sliced jalapenos. Its spicy, tart, hot combination was outstanding. That wonderful bread stayed firm on the outside, while absorbing all the juices. Next we tried the Catfish Po’boy served only on Friday’s. The matriarch of the family hales from New Orleans, so this was a proper Po’boy. The catfish is flash fried and served with a spicy remoulade sauce. It was flawless and tasted of Louisiana.
Returning on Saturday for breakfast and to get some of the bread straight from the oven, I had Big D’s Benedict. This luscious split croissant covered with sliced ham, a poached egg, and a house-made hollandaise sauce. The secret to benedicts is the ratios and this was precision personified with a magnificent sauce. Gary tried the French toast and four other items from the pastry shelve including a cinnamon roll, muffin, apricot danish and another key lime pie. The French toast was made with fresh sourdough olive thyme bread served with scrambled eggs laced with bell peppers and onion and a savory sausage.
Located in the heart of Atascadero, Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery and Café has become an important part of the community, bringing love, joy and sustenance to all who enter their doors. Come and meet the family, and experience the best bread and pastries on the entire coast. The bakery hours are Monday and Tuesday 7 am to 4 pm, Wednesday from 7 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 7 am to 4 pm. Lunch starts daily at 11:00 am. They are open for breakfast on Saturdays only from 7 am to 10:30 am. They are closed on Sunday. Located at 5735 El Camino Real in Atascadero, you can call them at (805) 460-0541.
Some restaurateurs instinctively know how to create a culinary tapestry of success. From simple burgers that can cure any hangover to an upscale and fantastic sushi bar and ramen noddle empire, the genius behind Kuma Sushi Rolls and Bowls is Brain England. Brian had a sushi bar in 2004, but he has been focusing on Sylvester’s Burgers. For this new venture, he scanned the county and found two of the best sushi chefs that know fish and how to make a dish so pleasing to the eye it is a work of art. Sushi Chef’s Hidehiko Nogi and Jeff (Razor) Fujiwara have been featured in the best fish palaces and now have combined their talents to dazzle the entire patron’s at Kuma.
I revere sushi, it is my culinary utopia. And to have these masters offering an Omakase (special selection offered by the chef) got my palette watering.
A piece of raw fish is remarkably near the nexus where life suffers death so that it can feed another life. It’s where the circle of life stops and starts, the end beginning.
Razor wanted to make sure I received a full sampling of the menu so I let him pick our menu. We started with a sample of the Ramen Noodles, both pork and chicken. The ramen is cooked in house daily with pure pork. They use all the highest grade, fresh ingredients. The Ramen broth is traditional Japanese broth that is reduced for 24 hours in order to achieve maximum flavor. The Shoyu is the staple pork stock with a soy addition served with egg noodles. I had them add all the extras, garlic chip, shoyu egg, nori, sweet corn and spicy kimchi. The chicken was a flavorful comfort food. Razor presented us with colorful dish of Tuna Poke. Raw tuna is cut and shaped like a rose. Pokē is the Hawaiian verb for "to slice or cut". This was served with a mango salsa with a bit of cayenne and macadamia nuts, resting on a seaweed salad. It was a delectable combination of flavors. The next dish the Loco Moco was Hawaiian in its influences with a large mound of white rice, resting under 2 slices of Spam, savory gravy, sliced pineapple and a poached egg. My dining companion had never had Spam before and loved this combination of salty, savory, sweet and comfort dish. I would drive here from Pismo just for this delectable grouping.
Out came the next offering, a plate of sushi called the Kuma Omakase that was a work of art. On the huge platter were Nigri’s, Scallops on rice with lemon, salmon roe and tobiko. The lemon was carved into a swan and the wasabi snowman was displaced as most dramatic by celery whittled into a tree. There were two fish favors crafted into a rose was Seared Albacore with onions and raw Ahi Tuna. A roll with local fresh out of the bay halibut and the top had avocado, spicy Sriracha sauce, and pomegranate seeds. Each portion of this blew our minds are we devoured this objet d'art.
I brought back my husband the next night and Razor presented him with the Kuma Cake as he sat down. This large and equally beautiful dish consisted of chocolate and vanilla ice cream in between a pound cake that is then deep-fried and covered with chocolate, raspberry syrup and topped with powdered sugar. This trip we dipped into the vast sake supply. Sho Chilly Bai served cold and is a 16th century sake, botanical and smooth it paired well with the Shishito Peppers. This time our Kuma Omakase contained a perfect rose constructed out of Hamachi tuna, seared albacore With polar bear roll that had smoked salmon and cream cheese inside and crab and jalapeno slices on the outside. The accruements were a carved radish and statuesque celery.
At Kuma, the service was outstanding and attentive, the sushi chefs both talented, funny and know fish, the food was as picturesque as it was delicious. I am a devotee. Kuma is located at 2011 10th Street in Los Osos, you can call them at (805) 528-6767, they are open everyday from 11:00am until 9:00pm.
Since I am a connoisseur of things put in your mouth for subsistence, I decided try some unusual meals. I have a dear friend that has been deployed to sand ridden places multiple times (over ten) and told me about MRE’s. The Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as the MRE, is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States Military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available.
Our soldier brought over some MRE’s for us to try and to say it was the most interesting meal of my life is an understatement. He started the meal by placing a traditional Afghan quilt as a tablecloth. He also made me a present of a Bunker Bracelet, a quilted parachute cord adornment made in the tedium amid combat. I respected that soldiers are making jewelry in between shots being fired at them. He also had Gary put on the Shemagh, the tradition cloth used to keep the dust off while in Afghanistan.
He had us try two different MRE’s. These prepackaged meals are dense with calories and sugar, as that is what is needed in a combat situation. The MRE’s have a 5-6 year shelf life, expect in the heat. He told us of the 130-degree heat that is a daily challenge. He said that they adjusted too the heat so much that when they were in an air-conditioned hanger, 90 degrees felt cold to them. With the laying out of the meal, the extreme conditions, I was awed with the sacrifices these men give to our country.
He produced a big knife, to open the contents and we laid them out. There was toilet paper, gum and instant coffee on top. A hot beverage bag came out next, which uses chemicals to warm up the coffee or tea. A bag marked peanut butter came next and I was instructed to knead it. We spread it on a dense cracker (that was like tack bread). The spoon was a treasure and he said most the soldiers save them for coffee later. The drink was a carbo-loaded electrolyte grape flavor you poured into a bottle of water.
The applesauce and the fruit flavored snack were the next bites, they were loaded with sugar and I asked him what his first impression of these meals was. “I was glad to have it when I needed it,” was his pragmatic answer.
The main dish is warmed up with a salt heater. You drop the food in a bag, add water and close it, then shake to activate the heat. The instruction said to lay it on a rock or other hard surface. The box of the food comes apart and makes a free postcard; in fact there was little waste in these MRE’s.
We shared the wheat bread and cheese spread; both were dense and full of the familiar sense of food at home. Each meal has over 1250 calories to help soldiers keep moving. The grape flavored drink reminded me of Kool-Aid when I was six. The coffee was Nescafe and came with sugar and creamer.
Our main meal was Spicy Penne Pasta and after 5 minutes in the Flameless ration heater or warmer, it was ready to eat. It had a faint familiarity of an Italian Grandma’s cooking and was hot, so a bonus. Our other main meal was Beef Brisket with biscuits and mashed potatoes. Each pack came with warm reminders of home, if not in taste, at least in name.
My hero told me that hot sauce and chocolate peanut butter packs are coveted by our soldiers. MRE’s are mostly used when soldiers are on assignment and away from the base; they serve a nutritional value to the brave men and woman risking their lives for our freedom.
I dare you all to try one and then not to lobby congress for better food for our troops. I am glad I tried the meals and delighted I am lucky enough to call this brave man my friend.