Kona's Deli SLO

The making of the perfect sandwich is an art form.  If you add to it the authentic Italian sensibility and innate knowledge of food, you are in for a “between the slices of bread” phenomenon. One that exists as Kona’s Deli in San Luis Obispo. 

Mattia Tedeschi and Filippo Giordano purchased Kona’s Deli in June 2014, heralding from Italy and starting a new life in San Luis Obispo.  They maintained the surf community atmosphere that Kona’s was known for, but sought out to get the best local ingredients to create their American masterpieces. 

Kona’s sandwiches are made from scratch with genuine ingredients that are delivered daily. They use no preservatives, no substitutes, nothing frozen, just premium meats combined with local ingredients for their own unique recipes.  The bread is delivered daily from Edna’s bakery, the avocados from Cal Poly, and the cookies made fresh right in the deli.

On my first visit I had the Beach Break that was on a Dutch Crunch Roll with turkey, sliced avocado, and provolone. I had the works and added pepperoncini.  The bread was that flawless combination of rough and soft that makes Dutch Crunch. The portions on the sandwich were impeccable. I really prefer the shredded lettuce, to leaf, which comes standard on each sandwich. You can also add jalapenos, pickles, olives, tomatoes, sauerkraut, sprouts, and spinach at no extra charge.

My friend has a gluten allergy. It was her idea to come to Kona’s as she had returned to her love of hoagies after trying their gluten free bread and not having anything go amiss in her tummy. Kona’s has developed a new “production line” dedicated to gluten free inside the deli that made all the difference.  The bread was a sliced white version and quite delicious. You can choose any sandwich have on gluten free bread and she choose the Full Boat that consisted of turkey, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, and Swiss
cheese. The chips from Taco Work were her choice of many to choose from, with both traditional to new fangled flavors. 

The second visit included my husband, the cookie monster.  He sampled every cookie first and deemed them all “grandmother” worthy. He was delighted by the The Swell a virtual thanksgiving feast between bread with sliced turkey, cranberry jam, cream cheese and any of the fixings you want. 

I tried the salad using the ingredients for the Vegetarian that had carrots, cucumbers, avocado, pepper jack cheese, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, cheese, pepperoncini, pickles, olives, tomatoes, sprouts, and spinach. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty. In fact, I loved them so, I hired Kona’s to do the catering for Saturday’s lunch at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference (September 29- October 1, 2016, www.centralcoastwritersconference.com).  I talked with Mattia and Filippo and they told me that Kona’s Deli is committed to the health of its customers. They desire to provide the perfect food experience. They pride themselves on “fresco e delizioso”, as this is what makes Kona’s homemade sandwiches unsurpassed. Kona’s Deli wants to offer to their customers the same that is offered in every Panini and Sandwich Shop in Italy. The Italian influence is bringing a new way enjoy lunch with a big variety of organic products, choice meats and delicious bread. Located at 977 East Foothill Boulevard, Suite 108 in San Luis Obispo. You can phone your order ahead at 805-546-0369.  They are open Monday through Sunday from 10:30am to 7:00pm. They also deliver. 

Puffer's of Pismo

Since the earliest civilization’s roamed the earth, a hardy glug of wine has been a dependable precursor to some history’s most brilliant food and conversation.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine makes daily living
easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” With that in mind, Charlie Puffer has arrived in Pismo Beach and opened a wine bar and eatery called Puffers of Pismo.  It resides in the space of Vino Versato used to host musical soirées, and Puffer’s is offering the same- yet more.  A wine and beer bar that has a full time executive chef, live music and a neighbor distinction, that is most welcome to our sandy shores. 

Our first night we sat outside on the joyful and reverent pews to enjoy a summer solstice.  We shared a bottle of Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon the yields from high above in the mountain area of Napa. This Estate Cabernet sings the beauty of a near perfect vintage after two warm years. Tightly wound and dark on the nose, it balanced our first and most exciting course, Liver Pâté.  Having my soul still residing in Paris where I ate pâté for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I was excited to finally find a chef creating this joy in a jar.  Referred to as a Terrine in France, this was chicken liver, with rendered pork and herbs, placed in a jar and finished in the sous vide. Plain and simple, pâté is a mixture of ground meat and fat that is cooked in a vessel called a terrine. Chef
Alex Yoka served this with house made pickled carrots, cornichons, local honey and torta bread grilled and mashed in Cuban press. It was outstanding and whisked my mind wistfully away to a French Café.  

Next we had a bit of their appetizer popcorn sprinkled with with agave and sea salt, it was the unflawed balance of sweet and salty.  We moved on to share a Cuban sandwich, signified on the island as "Middle of the night".  This was Caribbean flawlessness with sous vide pork shoulder, aioli mustard, dill pickle slices and Conte Swiss cheese.  Held together by torta bread and grilled on a Cuban panini press, this was a delight to my senses, and a fond memory to my taste buds. The intermezzo was a mixture of nuts seasoned with Turkish spices carried back from Turkey by Chef Alex.  We shared stories of culinary tourism and the creative palette of this remarkable chef as we devoured each bite.

I returned with my girl posse for a Thursday night unwind and Charlie greeted us with a smile, a story and
a perfect wine for each of us. Penny had a chardonnay from Treana and Suellen had a Rose of Pinot Noir from Naughty Boy Vineyards. I swirled and sipped the Lone Madrone Roja a blend of cinsault and counoise grapes, it was delectable.  We shared a Mushroom and Pistachio Pâté - a first for each of my friends, who deemed it delightful. Charlie, (Formally Chucky for Chicago) used to own a bar and restaurant with his brother, Puffers of Chicago. He has a big personality and is a celebrated wine aficionado.  He knows service and has a desire to welcome all in the area to come try his different approach to the wine bar venue.  He has live music every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, attracting an impressive array of musicians.  

I returned for an afternoon snack with Mr. Bayus who was happy to try the Sunny Daze beer.  We shared a cheese tray that was impressive and enchanting to nibble.  Hand picked cheeses including Ewephoria Gouda from Holland, Pt Reyes Thoma and a cone of Swiss cheese from Comte were accessorized with salami, house made pickles, carrots, spiced nuts and sliced apples. The delicious crusty bread was a new complement to the otherwise cracker offering. 

I loved the atmosphere, the gathering of neighbors, food, wine and beer at Puffers.  This is an impeccable addition to Pismo and you will find me there often. Puffers is open 3:00pm to 10:00pm every day but Monday and on weekends they are open late. The offer live music Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 7:00pm to 10:00pm and Sunday from 5:00 to 8:00pm.  You can reach them at (805) 773-6563.  They are located at 781 Price Street in Pismo Beach, next to the Cracked Crab. 

Cubanissimo Food Truck

The food truck phenomenon has hit the precipice of astonishing and inspiring food, and we have some of the finest examples right here on our coast.  I chase these culinary coaches of goodness around like I am searching for gold. For it is in the traveling kitchen that you find the master chefs doing something so veracious, and delightful that customers are willing to chase them down to sample their feasts. Food trucks do not have one address to hunt and find, but a different one each day.  It is a culinary scavenger hunt and I love it. My newest find came in a brightly colored one parked out in front of MindBody Company in San Luis Obispo. Cubanissimo Food Truck is the brainchild of Arqui Trenado who is living the American dream. He is a Cuban immigrant who along with his wife, Chrystal has brought some of the best regional cuisine of the forbidden Isle of Cuba to our shores. 

It was the Hubs birthday and in a quest to find good food in a new setting, I found the Cubanissimo Food Truck.  Cuban food has always been a favorite of mine, but this was his first try.  Arqui prepares everything from Cuban sandwiches to Ropa Vieja to Chuleta plates and serves only Cuban beverages. We ordered the Cuban sandwich, Tostones with
Black Beans over Rice and Yucca fries. Though the meal was consumed on a black top and served in a plastic tray, it was a birthday highlight (after 5-pounds of See’s Candy).  

For those who have not had Cuban food, a brief tutorial.  The Cuban sandwich is a rare treat and a star of the between two pieces of bread sect. It must be Cuban bread (which Arqui drives to Los Angeles to get), which has an element of lard added to it making it dense and good for soaking up juices. Inside the sandwich is sliced braised pork shoulder, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, a pickle and mustard.  It is pressed in a heat source (like a Panini maker) so the bread is crisp and the cheese melted. People will argue for hours over the kind of pickle and mustard, and the proper seasoning of the pork, (mojo is my favorite) so every chef’s version is unique.

They are served with Yucca Fries, a delicious break from potato fries.  Yucca (sometimes called Cassava) is a root vegetable similar to the potato, but richer in flavor.  These are fried and served with a garlicky mojo sauce. The Tostones are twice fried plantains, a Caribbean delicacy that I crave. Unlike its imposing cousin, the banana, plantains are savory and delicious. To make these, unripe plantains are sliced lengthwise, fried and then smashed flat, then fried again. Here black beans accompanied them, a simple yet tasty way to wake your taste buds. 

I asked Arqui where he learned to cook and he told me it was his father who was his inspiration and maestro in the kitchen. He is planning to expand Cubanissimo's menu in the near future by adding sweet Cuban coffees. I tried the Jupina Pineapple soda, which was sweet and a refreshing change from soda. 

One my next trip I followed them to Santa Maria newest Farmer’s Market on Friday night. Located in the Town Center West across from the mall, I was lucky enough to catch Imperial Rice on the menu. A creamy, seasoned rice with shredded chicken and cheese, simply delectable. Gary had the Ropa Vieja de Pollo, Tropical Fruit Salad and Plantain Chips and then we shared the Cuban Chorizo over Rice with Tostones. It was too much food for one setting, but as leftovers, it was scrumptious. 

The Cubanissimo food truck is easy to spot on the street, with its brightly colored images of all things Cuban, such as music, dance and dreams. But following the business on its social media is the best way to know when and where the truck will be and what eats will be featured. Truck locations and daily menus can be found by following Cubanissimo on Facebook or on Instagram @cubanissimofoodtruck.

For those not in the social realm, call toll-free 844-4CUBANO (844-428-2266) or email cubanissimofoodtruck@gmail.com.

MerSea's- Avila Beach

Mersea’s, if heard first audibly, you think of the French for thank you, if witnessed first visually, it is an oasis at the end of the Hanford pier in Avila.  Mersea is the newest tenant at Port San Luis and the latest offering from the Dorn’s family. This bastion of seafood and fantastic views opened a few months ago to rave reviews and now I am going to add mine. 

We first visited on a Sunday. While most folks watch sports and yell at TV’s, we are culinary explorers, which makes for open space and attentive servers.  We saddled up to the full bar where Ron was the stalwart mixologist who had a heavy hand, a quick wit and a firm personality. Just the kind of person I want making my drinks and we became fast friends. I started with Myers Rum over ice with a twist, a classic pirate drink. I tried the local crab cocktail with diced celery on the bottom and house made cocktail sauce resting on big chucks of Dungeness crab. Gary had the Clam Chowder (that is offered in both red and white, so he tried a cup of both). The New England was full of clams, potatoes and creamy goodness. It was a contender for best of.  The Red Manhattan was made Nolan’ Style by adding bacon bits and croutons. I preferred the white, especially when you add oyster crackers and a couple tosses of Tabasco. 

Next I had the fish tacos, with the fish sautéed, served with shredded cabbage Jack and Cheddar cheese and a pico de gallo.  The fish was seasoned and cooked perfectly, I inhaled every bite.  Gary had the Crab Melt Sandwich with large lumps of rock crab, cheese and toasty sourdough bread.  While we ate, Rob shared stories of the salty happenings and people of the pier as we watched the sailboats rock on the water. I was in heaven 
   Our next visit the windows were open so we sat at the bar again for a pristine view of breaching whales and swooping pelicans.  I noticed the portholes in the floor for viewing the ocean below and the amazing light fixtures of octopus and squid.  Our bartender this time was Linda, a saucy tart with a hint of a Norwegian accent, so she fit in well with the ocean dwellers.  Mersea’s is a place where you can pretend to be a pirate, eat your fill of fresh off the boat seafood, drink strong rum or excellent wine (served smartly in a tumbler glass so the sea breeze doesn’t carry your prize away).
I ordered the crab special, a two-pound Dungeness crab steamed and served with melted butter, lemon and the tools to break that bug open.  We dug in and although it is so dirty work, the payoff is some of the most delicious subsistence you will ever put in your mouth.  The GM, Mike Hoffman was our relief bartender who was kind enough to offer me a fresh wet bar towel to clean my salty, buttery hands after devouring the crustacean. In the past, we used to steam and eat the crabs on a couple of sheets of newspapers while the wind whipped around us. I can tell you it is so much better from a bar stool with a glass of George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila.  As we watched the sunset slip into the horizon, a pod of whales breached in front of Mersea’s and we all agreed this was the finest dinner show we had ever witnessed.

Mersea’s is a fast casual restaurant with stunning views and a spellbinding location at the end of the pier. It has comfortable places to eat inside or outside that are clean. From every table you can see the ocean, as the whole restaurant is right above the sea. The inside has portholes in the floor so you can watch the sea critters below. The menu has fried seafood, salads, basic and fish sandwiches, oysters and chowders. Mersea’s is located at the end of the Hanford pier in Port San Luis, Avila; you can reach them at (805) 548-2290. They are open every day from 11:00am-8:00pm.