15c Wine Shop and Bar

There are many treasures existing in Templeton, and one of my favorites is 15c Wine Shop and Bar. They offer an amazing selection of small production Central Coast wines and over 500 from around the world. They also offer beer, sake, edibles and accessories in a contemporary wine bar ambiance. Why the name? 15c is the perfect temperature to store wine.
Owner, Ali Rush Carscaden has been working in the wine industry for over 10 years. She
has completed the Advanced Certification with Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) as well as the certified exam through the Court of Master. She teaches numerous classes for Cal Poly State University in addition to teaching the “Wine University” an intensive, multi-annual, 6 week long wine education courses offered at 15° C. This lady knows wine and food. I have always been impressed with the way she puts together subtle flavors to create edible masterpieces. She also always knows which wine to pair the food with and that is an art form in itself. 

We started with Warm Goat fresh Chevre cheese with honey and truffle salt, a perfect combination. We also tried the Hummus with white beans and garlic with crostini served with fresh cucumber and tomatoes. It was a nice palette arousal. I had a glass of J Lasalle Champagne NV from Champagne, France, while my friend had a Cava Cocktail that was Spanish Cava with a splash of Pink Port. The boys enjoyed the Reutberger Export Hell that the bartender told uswas made by Nuns. It tasted like a clean German lager.
We moved on to Tapa’s to share, a plate of Boquerones (Spanish anchovy) and Red Pepper, then another plate of Chorizo (Spanish sausage) and Manchego, and a Spanish cheese with a nutty flavor that I adore. We shared the Marcona almonds and the Castelvetrano olives. All were filled with unexpected flavors and went well with the beverages.
The Carnitas Salad was a hit with low roasted pork, black beans, roasted corn, onion, and heirloom tomatoes served with avocado cilantro dressing.

I really liked the Caprese Salad, featuring local heirloom tomatoes and fresh house made mozzarella, I added the avocado and this salad made me celebrate I live in California. I like that all their produce comes from Natures Touch and is local, organic and pairs them all perfectly with their wines.
We moved on to sandwiches and we all loved the Catalina, this oven roasted turkey with heirloom tomatoes, avocado cilantro lime spread, served on Hush Harbor multi-grain bread was a perfect balance of ingredients. I tried the Panini Croque-Monsieur, a classic French croque with Gruyere cheese and cured ham, and it was
I will be back for the Bubbles bar and oysters on Fridays. This is a night of fresh oysters from Pier 46 paired with a flight of bubbles. You need to pre-order, but this is the greatest deal presently. 15 degrees c Wine Shop and Bar also does catering, box lunches, and cheese and meat platters. They will deliver to any winery with 24-hour notice. They are located at 624 S. Main Street, Suite 101 in Templeton, call them at 805-434-1554. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11:00am to 9:00pm, and Friday and Saturday from 11:00am to 10:00pm. They are closed on Sundays.

Beda’s Biergarten

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A common German saying is "It never rains in a pub." The relaxed atmosphere, abundant food and wonderful libations represent a refuge from daily concerns. Beda's Beirgarten is a new old world sanctuary. Those that love genuine German food celebrate it, owned by Beda and Helga Schmidthues, who fell in love with California and moved their family to San Luis Obispo from Germany. I was lucky on my first trip to sit next to the enigmatic Beda and listen to tales with his deep, contagious laugh. This proud papa talked about his life’s dream of owning a neighborhood pub that represented “Gemütlichkeit”. Meaning a special place where people can come alone, with friends or meet new ones.
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Gary started with the Black Forest Cake which is house made. Six layers of cake, soaked cherries and frosting with a dusting of coco on top filled the dessert seeker with joy.  Looking thru the window, I was please to see a female chef and Beda told me how he imported a real German chef to train everyone in the kitchen for the first six weeks. I was impressed with the wine list, a few local, but excellent selections that go perfectly with this type of cuisine.  Many offerings from Wolff, a Dry Gewürztraminer from Claiborne & Churchill and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Ancient Peaks to name a few. But the hero’s of this bar is the beer.  Authentic German beers are imported to the delight of everyone around me. I started with an Erdinger Weisse that paired perfectly with my Bretzel, an outstanding soft pretzel made by Breaking Bread Bakery in San Luis that is served with an Obatzda. This is one of my favorite childhood dishes; it is prepared by mixing aged soft cheese and butter. Paprika powder, salt, pepper as well as a small amount of beer. Garnished with parsley and diced red onions. I was in heaven, and ordered another. 

I moved on to the Köstritzer Schwarzbier, a dark beer with coffee and malt flavors by the suggestion of bartender Adam who was a delightful host and filled with the life, knowledge and vivaciousness you look for in a tavern artist.  We moved on the Reibekuchen Mit Apfelmus, (three Potato Pancakes) served with house made applesauce that tasted like my Nana was in the kitchen.  Gary tried the Frikadellen Spiced Meatball with Mustard and we all stole bites. 

We came back the next night and I inhaled another Bretzel (and took one to go) and then moved on to the Jägerschnitzel. Thinly tenderized breaded pork pan fired and covered with brown gravy with mushrooms, served with with Spätzle red cabbage salad. The Spatzle is pasta made with potatoes. It was beyond comfort food and every bite delectable.  Our companion had the Wurstplatte Sausage Plate, that was so delicious and huge we took the remaining home and they completed our scrambled egg dish the next morning. Gary started with Apple Strudel that was a perfect combination of tart apples, sweet cinnamon and flaky crust. His favorite dish from his youth is Gulasch, and Beda’s took him back to the memory of his grandma’s kitchen. The marinated beef in spiced brown gravy with mashed potatoes warmed his bones and soul.

I asked Beda how he liked being in the restaurant business; he smiled wide, a twinkle in his blue eyes, as he told me he doesn't want to wake up from this dream. Beda's and Helga's favorite place to go to in Germany was Käte’s, a neighborhood pub where they met with friends or make new ones as they shared tables in the busy establishment. Beda's Biergarten has emulated that and succeeded. It is a family owned and run pub, with the staff attentive and knowledgeable about the food. Beda's is a true community supported neighborhood pub, and I am working on getting my own bar stool. 

Beda’s Biergarten is located at 3230 Broad street #130 in San Luis Obispo, call them at 805.439.2729.  They are open every day from 11:00am-9:00pm (10:00pm on Friday and Saturdays.  Happy Hour is 2-6 daily except on Mondays, then it is all day!

Thomas Hill Organics

After a busy and dizzy day of wine tasting there is nothing I want more than good chow. After stuffing my trunk with amazing wines from Grey Wolf and Turley, we were ready for a culinary spectacle. One of the best cuisine samples in North County is served at Thomas Hill Organics and our lively party of four got to try some of the usual and unusual fare they have to offer. We were about to confirm that drinking good wine with spectacular food is one of lives most treasured experiences. 

We started with a plate to share of Stuffed Peppadews, small red sweet and hot peppers stuffed with Alcea Rose Farms Goat Cheese, Provençal olives that all lay on a bed of micro greens and mint oil. We were off to a good start with the sweet, hot and savory taste buds tantalized. Gary started with the Olive Oil Cake, which blew everyone’s mind. It is spectacular in its simplicity, with a dash of orange zest in the frosting. This large slice of cake that was absolutely moist and tender, with a cream cheese style frosting topped with fresh strawberry slices.  I had to try the Chicken Wing Confit, as this simple food done with a flare can bring me bliss. The chicken wings are boiled in olive oil than seared with a Sriracha glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds. To say these where the best wings I have tried would be an understatement. 

The salads were equally impressive and tasted as fresh as my garden. The Roasted Stone Fruit salad was a hit with the menfolk with Fairview Farms white peaches and nectarines, pickled summer berries all resting atop succulent butter lettuce with smidgeons of sesame brittle. The Farmgirl honey-sea salt fromage blanc (super sweet fancy cheese) brought the savory and the apricot vinaigrette brought the tangy. The Braised Duck salad was as complicated as it was impressive. It was filled with luscious duck breast as well as Maria’s squash noodles, shizo leafs, pickled plums, peanuts, snap peas and there tendrils, mint, basil, cilantro, with the green onion and ginger relish and fried ginger and chili vinaigrette.

For my main course I had the Ahi Tuna Tataki Style with large pieces of seared Ahi served with avocado, sesame cucumbers, sunflower sprouts, wakame, green onion, Fairview Farms pickled apricot and drizzles with a ponzu sauce, all sitting upon a ginger relish. It was good and did two loops around the table. Our friends each ordered the Grilled Filet Mignon, a perfectly cut and cooked piece of meat served with Spanish chorizo and potato hash, asparagus, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Italian frying peppers and a red pepper coulis. It was topped with a fried egg, which makes everything taste better. 

We finished with a chocolate mousse and a chocolate cake and decided it was time to roll on home to Pismo. Our guests were impressed and filled with wonder at the eclectic and eccentric organic treats. They were awestruck with a restaurant that believed in the significance of organic, regionally produced food. It is nice to hear that nearby farmers provide all fruits and vegetables, which are always straight from the earth fresh. 

Thomas Hill Organics Bistro and Wine Lounge source a vivid array of fresh ingredients to concoct bold, imaginative dishes. Thomas Hill Organics is located at 1313 Park Street in Paso Robles; call them at (805) 226-5888.

Ten Top Picks for 2015

It is time for reflection and to access the value we left on the world this year. I had a fantastic year that I was elated to share with you.  New eateries dazzled me and old favorites came back to my view.  Here are my top ten picks for best restaurants this year: 

10. Atari-Ya - I reassessed the first sushi bar I found when I moved here in the 1990’s and was pleased that Atari-Ya still offered the freshest fish, traditional sushi and owned by Keiko Hongo. Sit at the sushi bar and asked what is fresh, they are honest and have the best Albacore anywhere. I like everything, but especially the Temaki sushi of spicy scallops with topiko, radish sprouts and Sriracha mix. Nigiris of Yellow Tail, Salmon, and Tuna, and Snapper are followed by Tamago as Atari-Ya is one of the only Sushi bars that make its own Tamago (egg cake).  It is all outstanding, don’t let the neighborhood scare you, magic is waiting behind those doors. Located at 1551 Stowell Center Plaza in Santa Maria, (805) 922-0025. 

9. Fig Good Food- Food should serve the soul as well as the body.  When a culinary master creates an establishment with the one goal of providing the best nutrition and taste, we are blessed in flavors. Fig good food is such a haven. Run by Chris Dillow, part of the gastronomic royalty of our area. Fig offers the best of a Mediterranean style diet with roasted meats, house made pasta, chutneys, salads and sandwiches that are large in flavor while served in a tiny efficient galley. Fig is small inside with only 14 seats, so take out is their specialty.  Fig Good food is at 5945 Traffic Way, Atascadero, (805) 460-9900. 

8. Fish Gaucho - This distinct eatery in Paso Robles has captured my Mexican food loving palate. Executive Chef Chris Beckett whose jacket reads “El Jefe”, is a gentle giant who recognizes his stellar staff and wonderful heritage coming together to make Fish Gaucho successful.  This restaurant and Tequila Bar offers fresh, healthy twist to traditional Mexican food, with an authentic atmosphere, Latin inspired music and a tequila selection made up of the finest tequilas. Located at 1244 Park Street, Paso Robles, (805) 239-3333. 

7. Sea Venture - While the bar boasts the most stunning sunset viewing and a full menu and to enjoy at the bar, the restaurant has at its helm one of the best and brightest chefs in the area, Casey Walcott. Casey changes the menu with the seasons, but my favorite dish is the delectable Lobster Vol-en-Vent. This amazing multi layered tartlet is swollen with sautéed lobster, shrimp, grilled asparagus and cubes of fingerling potatoes, it sits upon a cloud of lobster cream sauce. Every bite is perfect a harmonious experience. Located at 100 Ocean View Avenue in Pismo Beach, (805) 773-4994. 

6. Oki Momo - There is a preconception that food that is good for you lacks flavor. That is rarely true. In the hands of a masterful chef, even the healthiest meal can become a symphony of flavor and texture. I pleased we have nourishing cuisine at Oki Momo Asian Grill. The menu includes dishes with Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese influences. Every offering is delightful, but my beloved is Pho, an enchanted street food from Vietnam. It is comfort in a bowl. It sustains and cheers you. I travel to San Francisco for a bowl of this delight, but now (for the first time) it is done correctly in San Luis Obispo. My other favorites there are Korean BBQ chicken wings and the Thai Chopped Salad. Find them at 2256 Broad Street, Suite 120 in San Luis Obispo, (805) 439-4198. 

5. Kuma - Kuma Sushi Rolls and Bowls is headed by two of the best sushi chefs that turn fish into a work of art. Sushi Chef’s Hidehiko Nogi and Jeff (Razor) Fujiwara have created a menu that is my culinary utopia. From the Tuna Poke with raw tuna served with a mango salsa with a bit of cayenne and macadamia nuts. To the Kuma Omakase with scallops, salmon roe, fresh local halibut and tobiko.  As tasty as beautiful with the lemon carved into a swan and the celery whittled into a bonsai tree.  The bowls of noodles are prepared in house daily. Add all the extras, garlic chip, shoyu egg, nori, sweet corn and spicy kimchi to receive the full ramen sensation. But the most unusual and favorite item is the Loco Moco, a Hawaiian influenced dish with white rice, resting under 2 slices of Spam, savory gravy, sliced pineapple and a poached egg. Kuma is located at 2011 10th Street in Los Osos,
(805) 528-6767. 

4. Rosa’s - Consistency, romance, culinary delights and perfect service. It is always so good to go home to Rosa’s. This is the one restaurant I frequent more than any for all occasions. A business lunch to celebratory meals, Chef and Owner Doug MacMillian is perfection in putting together an impeccable staff, menu and atmosphere.  My favorite is the Tuna Capriccio with a thin layer of smoked Ahi tune covered with arugula leaves, onions and capers. They are famous for their Cioppino, Ossobuco and Steaks. If you need to satisfy many, Rosa’s is a sure bet every time. Located at 491 Price Street in Pismo Beach, (805) 773-0551. 

3. Ember - They have established themselves as the best of the best in national, regional and local press. They continue to be the first restaurant that locals recommend, and they deserve every accolade.  The love and devotion that goes into preparation is stupendous, the heart of each employee is felt in this flawless dinning experience. Brian Collins is the heart of this gastronomic enchantment and a wonderful host 
The menu changes monthly on the first, but some of my favorites is the Prosciutto Wrapped Artichoke that stuffed with burrata mozzarella, the Cayucos Abalone made with crispy pork belly, and The Rib Eye Steak.  I usually order as many appetizers as we have quests so we can try everything. Gary always has all the desserts. Ember is located at 1200 East Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande, (805) 474-7700. 

2. Mistura - The ah-ha moment of an idea, the touch of a loved one, the taste of a new food that opens your senses, these are the fabric of a life well lived.  Chef Nicola Allegretta is one of those rare artists, and his new offering, Mistura, a Peruvian restaurant is his best canvas to date. I love everything, but my favorite is Habla Causita, a Trio of Causas that is a distinctly Peruvian dish. Seasoned whipped cold potatoes crowned with wild shrimp, king crab and Ahi tuna tartare. My other love is Anticuchos de Carretilla, grilled natural beef heart marinated with aji panca The Alpaca Carpaccio is so good, I nearly fainted with joy.  Thinly sliced served with an aji amarillo, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, avocado with a swirl of aji verde. They have a “fajita’s” type dish and empanada’s for the less adventurous, but everything is superb. Mistura is located at 700 Clubhouse Drive in Paso Robles, (805) 238-3333.   

1. The Spoon Trade - Rarely has a new restaurant so captured this writer’s soul like this one. It is a special place and I find myself dining here once a week. I can say I have successfully eaten every item on the menu and each one superior to the next.  

Coming home after years in the big city dining game is a gift that Brooke and Jason Town has bestowed on us in the venue of The Spoon Trader. With their partner Patrick Bergseid, they have built a culinary oasis 

Comfort food is our first pleasure, representing the memory and flavors of our youth. When we revisit the sensory effect it is more than taste buds and fullness, it’s literally a remembrance of grandma, our childhood, and our life. This is a restaurant with a palette and imagination to combine comfort and haute cuisineFavorites are Chicken and Waffles, the TriTip Tartare, Pepper Crusted New York Steak and everything on the menu. Find them at 295 Grand Avenue in Grover Beach, (805) 904-6773.

Enjoy Euro Deli & Market

Enjoy Euro Deli & Market

Having just returned from the culinary wonder that is Europe, I was longing for a place to enjoy my lunch at a leisurely “France like” pace enjoying a Turkish coffee. I found my slice of European delight right here in Arroyo Grande. Now they are having a hard time getting me to leave. Enjoy Euro Deli & Market is a multi-ethnic endeavor, a Mom and Pop shop like the ones that litter every corner in France and England. Offering of a plethora of amazing foodstuffs from the homelands and fresh made dishes and soups.

My first trip I met the engaging owner Lana who served remarkable Turkish coffee. Served in a china cup with a saucer, and I knew that this was my nirvana. She knew most of the people coming in the door, and offered suggestions to those with new smiling faces. She is a delightful Ukrainian lady, taking care to help all of us through the unusual, but comforting food. She had a plethora of open items for us to sample.

Her Russian Chef, Tolya brought me the first items we ordered a Smoked Salmon sandwich that had both smoked and salted salmon on buttered white bread with capers, havarti cheese, lettuce and onions. It was delectable; it reminded me of sandwiches my Nana made with the touch of love.  I had it with the Borscht soup. I hadn’t had since I was in my Great grandma’s kitchen.  Hearty and chock full of cabbage, potato, onions, carrots, beets, and garlic, a memory in my taste buds. Gary started with six offerings from the dessert case. None too sweet, all very authentic.  He tried Baklava, Cheesecake covered with sour cherry preserves, Tiramisu, Bureka, Tajik and a Bird’s Milk cake.  He was astonished at the freshness and different flavors that made our earlier donut run feel like a culinary crime.  Then he had the Estonia Salami sandwich, served on dense rye bread with Lithuanian cheese, a subtle vegetable spread, and mustard and fresh greens, he loved every bite.

My next visit I took a chef. She was blown away at the authenticity of this Euro Deli.  We started with the Bureka that are bite sized filo dough stuffed with feta cheese.  I grabbed a Russian soda from the fridge and adored the salty goodness. I ordered the Schnitzel and Pilaf. Served on fine china this deep fried pork steak was pounded and breaded with rye bread crumbs and covered in delectable gravy. Served with wild rice pilaf and a fresh salad, this was a flawless comfort food (and there was enough to have some for dinner too).  My friend had the Mortadella sandwich and a bowl of Portuguese soup called Cale Verde. The Mortadella pork hash with pistachios cut thick and served on rye bread, it was intense and enjoyable.  The soup was a vegetarian with kale, potato, turnips, carrots, tomatoes and kidney beans, again a symphony of flavors.

The daily specials abound including homemade Borscht on Saturdays and a diversity of soups and foods including Stuffed Cabbages, Sausages, Spaetzie, Schnitzel, and sides of fresh salads, mashed potatoes and more. You can gather any of the amazing variety of sausages from the display and have a custom made sandwich or wrap. They have many to choose from including Bratwurst, German, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak sausages, Russian salami, Blood sausage, Liverwurst, and more East European meats.

Other items in the “grocery” section include Kielbasa, Summer sausage, smoked fish, Ukrainian cheese, Russian yogurts and all kinds of candies. They offer all kinds of exotic flavors, teas, and syrups (my chef friend found a pomegranate syrup she had been hunting for years).

But the breads are my favorite grocery find. These are dense German and Russian breads, filled with pumpkin seeds and real wheat among other things. I’m here to tell you once you sample these breads you will never call Wonder anything except cardboard.

Lana and her husband with their Russian chef clearly take real pride in providing a rare treat along with foods that our in most of our histories and should be part of our table today. Enjoy Euro Deli & Market, a true Mom and Pop endeavor where a scrumptious array of foods from Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and Greece all offered at sensible prices.  They are located at 1436 E Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande; call them at  (805) 481-1998. Open 9:00am to 7:00pm every day.