Granada Bistro in San Luis Obispo

                                                               

I am a December baby (Birthdate: 12/18) and fuss like a wet kitten every year if my husband and closest friends do not properly adulate me on that date. My loved ones know this and go out of their way to ensure I have a proper birthday dinner. I don’t envy them this task as my food critic profession makes me difficult to impress me with culinary delights. This year, everyone received gold stars as the food, atmosphere, wine and company exceeded all my expectations at the Granada Bistro in San Luis Obispo. 

The artsy lighted tree, opulent heaters and warm welcome from the staff, instantly dazzled us. This place looked like it stepped out of a Woody Allen film for its drama and elegance. Gary snagged our waiter, Matthew and ordered for the whole group. He also told him to give me a menu of what we ate so I could enjoy my meal and not be scribbling the whole time.  My friends brought epic magnums from Grey Wolf Winery (a Petite Sirah and a Tempranillo).  But we started with Matthews’s suggestion of a sparkling cava from Spain, which was wonderful. 

Our first course was the charcuterie platter, a bacchanal of house-cured meats including peppered salami, chorizo, and prosciutto with hard Gouda and two different kinds of Brie. This beautiful dish was sprinkled with gastronomic delights such as blue cheese and honeycomb, nut clusters, candied apples, cauliflower, red peppers and a Hush Harbor baguette. We all agreed this place and dish would be picture-perfect to come back and enjoy with a glass of wine after a long day at work. 

Kimberly, the owner strolled by and told us that the heart and inspiration was the pre-existing Granada Bistro. The space has been renovated and re-imagined in industrial chic design, adding outdoor and roof top seating.  Serving farm-to-table tapas and dishes inspired by Spanish, Cuban, and South American cuisine. The amazing charcuterie and local seafood are complemented by an eclectic wine list including Spanish and Latin American selections served in retro wine glasses (a very nice touch indeed).

Knowing my love for bacon and blue cheese, our next dish was Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates; this amazing amalgamation of flavors floored everyone. The apple smoked bacon was wrapped around the dreamily sweet dates and stuffed with Valdon blue cheese. This is my version of epicurean paradise. 

Matthew paced each passage flawlessly and our next course featured the Mike Caesar salad with stems of romaine lettuce peppered with shaved Parmesan, Boquerón’s (which is a small, tasty filleted fish preserved in olive oil) and “The Sauce” - a dreamily prepared dressing.  We also had The Wedge, an iceberg lettuce fourth with bacon lardons, smoky blue cheese, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. The house made croutons were of note on both salads and the remark was made that this was rabbit food worthy of men.

                           

On to a favorite of mine, Paella. I would swim to Spain for this dish done right. No need now, as Granada executive chef, Spencer Johnston has developed a refined and proper version. A swirling dish of risotto rice with house chorizo, prawns, organic chicken, mussels, clams and local halibut with a sprinkling of peppers and onions made this saucer a symphony of flawlessness and flavor. Each fish was stewed to excellence, and the melding of the savors, an enchantment. Thinking it couldn’t get any better – they brought us what I consider culinary fulfillment when done decorously, Carbonara Pasta. The Black Truffle Carbonara Linguine Pasta rocked my world. This dish when organized precise will make you see angels. And not only was this done right, it was completed with black truffles. This is how you make a carbonara (please take note other chefs offering a “version” of this truth). Start with house made linguine, cooked al dente. Add shavings of black truffles, snap peas, house bacon and Parmesan. When the pasta is done, place a raw duck egg a top of the noodles. The steam from the pasta pouches the egg to perfection and then you mix it all together. The dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti". It is now comfort food from our Roman roots and this was the best I have had in the states. 

Next we had the Hand Cut Local Beef Tartar with brioche toast, Meyer lemon, herbs and sea salt. This dish was a rare treat. Since we were dining with men, our next sample was the Granada Burger. With bacon onion jam, aged cheddar, arugula, house made pickle, ripe tomato, Dijon aioli and hand cut fries. We all agreed it was the best burger we had all had in a long time. 

They skipped the singing, but not the desserts, and I was glad for this blessing. From my favorite farm (Windrose Farm) came the ingredients for the Apple Galette. Small tarts with a dolce de leche crème faiche, with a flaky buttery crust, and the apples have a hint of rosemary (which is planted around the orchard and seeps into the fruit) served with house made vanilla ice cream. Simply angelic. The Chocolate Pot Du Crème with a lavender Pinion cookie and a bullet Chantilly made this birthday girl sigh with exultant satisfaction.


Granada Bistro is attached to the first and only luxury boutique hotel in downtown San Luis Obispo, an astounding 5 million dollar renovation. It was completed in October 2012 with the goal of maintaining the unique elements of the property while modernizing the design, plumbing and electrical. Housed within an original 1920′s exposed-brick hotel building, the hotel offers 17 accommodations, a full-serviced restaurant, spa, and the city’s first rooftop lounge. 

Granada Bistro is located at 1126 Morro Street in San Luis Obispo. Call for reservations at 805-544-9100.


Frankie and Lola's Front Street Cafe - Morro Bay

                                      

My husband says you can sense the love of a restaurateur the minute you walk into their domain. Something about the smiles on the faces of the waitresses, the squeaky-clean floors, and the happy chef in back cooking with a happy grin on his mug turns on the hopeful diner in our hearts. Then the menu jumps out at you with creativity and bravado, you just know this meal is going to be good. I had heard many good things about Frankie and Lola’s (and being a Parrot head myself, was instantly intrigued), but this little café surprised even me with just how good the whole experience was to be. 

French Toast Souffle'
We took friends and all were very pleased with their selections, so much so, we came back for lunch the next day. Gary found the sweetest thing on the menu to jump-start his day. They called it French toast, but it was actually a Brulée, Soufflé, and Flambé. It was French bread soaked in cinnamon crème Brulée, baked in the oven (soufflé) and topped with a caramelized pecan praline topping (flambé). He was so pleased with the flavor and inventive nature of the dish; we had a hard time getting a taste.

I ordered the Chilaquiles scramble, one of my much-loved dishes. This came with tortillas sautéed with chorizo and tomatillo salsa. It was topped with scrambled eggs, queso Oaxaca, guajillo, avocado and sour cream. It was a fantastic version of this recipe. Our friends tried the Dungeness crab cake omelet with fresh Dungeness crab meat tossed with green onions, garlic, brioche and parsley, which is then folded into a three egg omelets and topped with an amazing hollandaise sauce. This is a dish worth returning for a second round. A friend who cannot eat eggs loved the Potato Zucchini pancake--a delicious and healthy alternative. The PZP is thin sliced potatoes and zucchini layered, browned, and smeared with herbed cream cheese. It is then topped with red and yellow bell peppers, soybean pesto, and fresh mozzarella. What a great alternative to eggs and pancakes.

                            

We returned the next day for a grilled Reuben sandwich with house cured corned beef served with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing completed with
grilled rye bread. I had the grilled pear salad with baby spinach, candied pecans, blood orange sections, prosciutto, chevre, and house balsamic dressing. They were both superb. 

We heard a rumor that Jimmy Buffett was in town and going to try the bistro (It is named after his song, Fankie and Lola). We missed the famous crooner, but Owner and Chef Kirk, was shocked to see the illustrious Jimmy Buffett waltz in his door one recent day. He thought Mr. Buffett might take exception to his use of his song title as the theme for his restaurant. Kirk said Buffett was tickled stating, “No problem, I think it is an honor and I loved the food.” Kirk is a passionate chef who loves to dabble and explore in the kitchen, so be prepared for innovative and tasty dishes.


Between the beautiful ocean breeze, wonderful customer service, and food that is made with love and a focus on detail, you can't go wrong with Frankie and Lola’s. It's definitely worth seeking out this little gem located just due south of the smokestacks in Morro Bay. 

Frankie and Lola’s Front Street Café is located at 1154 Front Street in Morro Bay. Call them at 771-9306 they are open for breakfast and lunch.

Foremost Wine Company - SLO




                           



When a renowned chef gets a new bistro where she can experiment and give us the freshest and most tasty renditions of French countryside inspired dishes, I am the first one in the door and come back daily until I have tried every item on the the menu. That is the case with Foremost Wine Company. This hip space feels and looks like something we find in San Francisco. It has an industrial feel with cool decorating touches, two bars, a lounge and a wine shop that stopped me in my tracts with its creativeness and hand selected varietals. 

Owner Rob Murray has got a home run on his hands with Wine Director, Robin Puricelli selecting the wines for sale and paired with the food. I loved the velum overlay on the menu that suggested the pairings with each dish. We tried the Malvasia Blanca by Clesi, a Chateau Guibot from Bordeaux and a Pinot Noir from Stasis to go with our first round that was from the Burrata Bar. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. The first one we tried was the Lemon and Garlic, with lemon crème fraiche, garlic chips, Bagna Cauda (an Italian dipping sauce) and Boquerones (small fish like anchovies).  Our second one was the Chanterelle with and egg yolk vinaigrette and earthy chanterelle conserva. The menu read, Cheese – Milks leap to Eternity and we all agreed with this amazing amalgamation of flavors and textures.  

We moved on to the Starters that were all unique and prepared flawlessly. The Smoked Duck Crostinis came with large slices of levain bread cooked until crisp. On them, laid thinly sliced smoked duck breast with an orange marmalade and Pozo Tome (a raw sheep cheese from Santa Margarita Ranch). We moved on to a salad of Smoked Trout Lyonnaise with winter greens from Windrose Farms, king trumpet mushrooms, fresh crotons and a perfectly poached egg. Then came my favorite dish, Rabbit Mole Tacos. An unbelievable combination of flavors that was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. With a chocolate essence the Oaxacan mole, Mexican crèma, orange slices, avocado, and spectacular rabbit breast meat, this blew my taste buds away. 

Chef Julie Simon
This executive chef, Julie Simon is a rare and wondrous delight in the kitchen. She is brave and understands the complexity of flavors better than most, and insists on using the best ingredients. With a chef this talented, I will try anything she prepares. We ordered 12 different dishes that night, shared them all and not one disappointed or failed to impress. The menu changes with Chef’s culinary finds and I vow to try everyone offering. 

   

We moved on to our favorite new find in wine, a 2013 Lo-Fi Cabernet Franc. This wine is astounding by itself, but harmonized flawlessly with our next round of dishes. We also bought bottles to take home, which is a rare treat. Usually you can only consume the wine at the restaurant, but Foremost is set up like a wine shop, so you can take your remarkable finds home.


I had the Pan Roasted Skate. This is a dish I love, but very few chefs are able to prepare it. I knew that Chef Julie was going to wow me with this surprising combination of skate wing, coconut, fried peanuts and lychee. Everyone should try this delectable gift from the sea.  The Quail and Cocoa Maltagliati Pasta mesmerized us with a hand cut chocolate infused pasta served with celery root, orange brown butter and pecorino (an Italian hard cheese like parmesan).  The Pavè Au Poivre was an impeccable 6-ounce Wagyu fillet with wild mushrooms and a brandy cream. 

We moved on to desserts and ports. Each dessert was served in a small mason jar and each captivated our already full bellies. There was a Lemon with an olive oil cake (Chef Julie is famous for this cake) layered with meyer lemon curd and crème fraiche. My favorite was the Tcho Chocolate Tourt with macerated strawberries, rose petal jam and a black pepper anglaise. They all tasted extraordinary. 

The service was impeccable and everyone seems to have the goal to make sure each diner had a magnificent experience. The check came with a packet of seasonal seeds to plant and grow your own organic Toscano Kale. I loved this little gift and planted by the light of the moon. You will see me often at Foremost Wine Company, as feast creations this virtuous are a dream come true and the menu changes with the seasons.


Foremost Wine Company is at 570 Higuera Street (in the creamery) in San Luis Obispo; call them at (805) 439-3410. 

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.