Those of us with a passion for food, remember our first inspirations. It was a taste or experience that opened up the culinary artist in your heart. I adore éclairs, it was my first French style bakery indulgence. But from the first, I was particular about this baked pleasure. No grocery store version of this for me. I want an éclair that is filled with a luscious, rich pastry cream and topped with a chocolaty glaze where chocolate, not sugar, is the star of the show. There are a lot of bakeries out there that completely butcher the gorgeous éclair. Too often they are filled with a horribly gloppy excuse for crème pâtissière and topped with a sugary sweet cake style chocolate frosting. Considering I am married to the Pastry King, I spend time each week selecting the impeccable pastries to bring home. I have found my wishes in one stop- The Éclair Bakery in The Village of Arroyo Grande. We had always been a fan of Jeremy Davenport, the owner and head baker, as he worked for a time at Farb’s bakery and even amongst the baguettes, rolls and buns, Jeremy stood out. Kathy at Farb’s having lived for years in France claims that Jeremy makes the best croissants. I will not dispute that claim.
Éclair serves traditional recipes with a flavorful twist including banana bread pudding, macaroons and cinnamon apple coffee cake. When I have to prepare a feast for guests, I turned to Éclair to furnish the dessert. Moist and perfectly chocolate brownies with a dusting of powered sugar, I plated them with chocolate sauce, white raspberries, and a vanilla Pirouette. They also create unusual, beautiful, and utterly delicious cupcakes. Gary would devour two there and take three to go. With flavors like S’mores, carrot and my personal favorite, the Chocolate dipped, they are akin to a celebration in your mouth.
We often sneak goodies into the movies, as there are only so many Goober’s one can ingest, so we get a variety of the Éclair cookies and smuggle them in my purse. I am a fan of the simple butter short bread, where Gary prefers the chocolate chip, peanut butter, and chocolate oatmeal. On Saturdays you can find Éclairs fresh baked bread at Farmer’s Market in the Village. Wonderful bread like blue cheese pecan, parmesan sourdough and spectacular baguettes, along with some astonishing cookies and treats. What a perfect way to start a Saturday.
The main thrust of Éclair bakery is wedding cakes. Jeremy creates gorgeous works of art that will make the most persnickety bride blush with joy. Being trained as a pastry chef by the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and apprenticing under some of the best pastry chefs in California, Jeremy has thrown in his special flair and talent to create matrimonial works of art.
The Éclair pastry display is socked full of treasures every day but Mondays. Their hours are Tuesday thru Friday from 8:00am to 8:00pm, Saturdays from 8:00am to 4:00pm and Sundays from 9:00am to 2:00pm.
Go grab a sweetie for your sweetie (or yourself) at 117 East Branch, The Village of Arroyo Grande, call them at 481-7654. See the masterpieces at www.eclairbakery.com
I try to eat at every new restaurant incognito. I think it is important that I get the same experience that everyone else will when dining. But sometimes, the owner, chef, even wait staff know who I am, so it is a challenge. Mr. Bayus and I were dying to try the new Ocean Grill in Avila Beach, as I am a fan of the owner and chef. We took a ride on the Seaweed Express in Avila (Seaweedexpress.com). A marvelous way to see the whole bay, learn the history and appreciate all the wild life from the water. Our thinking was that we would get wet and that would be our disguise. The wonderful Captain Lee, took us all the way out past the Breakwall to the Lighthouse, to Pirates Cove and even in some caves in his 6-seat skiff, but we did not get wet. I would recommend this tour to everyone and took my grandson the next day. After our ride, we body surfed in the waves and went to dine, salty, wet and hungry.
No one recognized us in this drippy state and we got a first taste of what would become one of our favorite ocean dining spots. First, there is not a bad seat, all have a magnificent view of the Avila shoreline and the food and service of Ocean Grill exceeded expectations.
This new beginning for Executive Chef Michael Reyes and Cabo San Luis founder Dan Harper who acts as the General Managing Partner, is astounding. With the financial partner of Forster-Gill and a handpicked wait staff including the marvelous Nicole and Login, Ocean Grill is an achievement in culinary perfection. I started with a Talley Trifecta to warm my salty hands with the crispy calamari that was a welcome delight with ginger and scallion, a delectable Yuzu remoulade (think tartar sauce on steroids) and a surprisingly delicious Vietnamese sauce with a vinegar touch and sweet essence from the diced carrots. It was so good Gary kept it to mop up his bread sticks that were long, thin and dreamily seasoned with crunchy sea salt.
Our main courses came with a bottle of Graffigna Reserve from Argentina as the waitress explained the specialty is the extremely fresh and creatively prepared seafood. Chef Michael skillfully prepares the seafood each evening that mostly comes straight from the fishing boats in the harbor. I had the Diver Scallops that tasted divinely good. Big luscious scallops flawlessly cooked sitting on a bed of couscous, dates, sliced almonds with a lemon and honey cream sauce. Gary had the plucked from the sea Opah that was grilled to excellence and served with our local Windrose farm vegetables. It was topped with an Aji Rocoto sauce that added an exotic touch to this mild fish. After we were done, Dan came by to see how our meal was and recognized us for the first time (sea rat disguise was successful) and I was glad to say that everything was perfect even not knowing I was there to review the restaurant. Chef Michael then came to say hello and we thanked him for his culinary artistry and promised to visit often.
My next visit consisted of a group of ten friends. It was a random bunch of women who fielded my call on Facebook to join me for lunch and to try everything on the menu. Strangers almost immediately became compatriots as we traded stories on husband, children and grandkids. We passed around each dish so all could get a nibble of everything. Our first was the Peruvian Ceviche using fresh halibut, a dish that originated in Peru with lime and orange citrus juice “cooking” the fish. Seasoned with a mild Peruvian spice called Aji Amarillo and Andean corn, this was a perfect dish on a hot day with a glass of Tolosa chardonnay. Then we shared my favorite, the Ahi Avila with nice thick slices of seared Ahi laid on a crispy wonton with a Peruvian salsa (like a chimichurri), cilantro creama sitting on spicy arugula sprigs. Next we passed around the Baja Shrimp Cocktail that was more like a cold gazpacho than a traditional cocktail with a spicy tomato and shrimp broth swimming with shrimp, clams and Hass avocado slices and cucumbers.
Another round of wine came and we dug into the salads. I was very impressed with Caesar as it was done correctly with Spanish white anchovy and a house made Parmesan dressing and croutons. The best, most creative and tasty dish was the Tricolor Quinoa with a rainbow of grains all complemented with sweet corn, green beans, piquillo peppers and marcona almonds. The mint highlights really brought out the earthiness without sacrificing flavor.
Next came the wood fried flat breads, baked in the authentic hearth toward the back of the restaurant. We tried the Margarita with its house made mozzarella, fresh from the vine heirloom tomatoes and basil. The cracker bread like crust with the crisp ingredients made this a dish to be coveted. The Normand with its sliced See Canyon cinnamoned apples, caramelized onions and creamy Brie were sweet and savory.
The couple of entrees we shared consisted of the Cabo San Luis Fish Tacos with Corona battered cod, aioli white sauce, mild salsa and fresh cabbage. A squeeze of lime brought out the flavors of Mexico. The Fish & Chips was a combination of delicately flavored Halibut with fresh cut and twice fried fries.
Ocean Grill is open from 11:00am to 3:00 pm every day for lunch, 5:00pm to 9:00pm every day for dinner. They are open for pizza, beer and wine from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Chef Michael Reyes uses only local produce and fish so the menus changes daily and look for fall menu coming out next month. Ocean Grill is located at 268 Front Street in Avila Beach; call them at (805) 595-4050 for reservations and information.
The following article is in memorial in honor of the best restaurateur the Central Coast has ever had the pleasure of dining with. Bill MacMillian of Rosa’s passed away on September 19, 2013, but his legacy goes on with his family and notably his son, Chef Doug MacMillian.
Those of us lucky enough to know and call Bill a friend were truly blessed. No more knowledgeable or giving soul graced this earth. He gave to every charity that asked and was a kind patriarch to all that worked for him. His warm presence enlightened and welcomed all that dined at Rosa’s. This kind of Renaissance man does not come along often and he will be missed greatly. I adored him, for his quick laughter, funny stories and the twinkle in his eye. No kinder heart will ever grace my reviews and I wanted to honor him again by reposting one of the many articles I wrote about him and his restaurant.
Consistency, romance, culinary delights, and perfect service. It is always so good to go home to Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano. This restaurant is a élite keepsake on the Central Coast. The staff is phenomenal, so well trained they compliment the choice to dine here. We came with friends and everything about the meal was impressive. Rosa’s is tucked away at the entrance to Price Street, but it is the go-to spot when you want to impress visiting guests or business acquaintances.
We were greeted at the front door by the most distinguished restaurateur in the area, Bill MacMillian. He promised to join us once the crowd settled down for a glass of Pinot Grigio. Gary started with the specialty desert a Chocolate Tangelo. Two scoops of chocolate/tangelo gelato served in a frosted dish with a cannelloni with mascarpone and candied bird nest decoration with an accompanying orange soaked in plum wine so it was so sweet he ate the rind. He was kind and offered to share, a feat I think only happened because we were with guests.
The rest of us started with the calamari appetizer. Fried crisp, these tubes and tentacles were perfectly cooked and dunked in a house made cocktail sauce and a cilantro cream dipping green sauce that brought out the essence of the ocean when combined.
We settled in with pomegranate martinis served by the beautiful Italian staff and ordered appetizers. My favorite is the Tune Capriccio, a dish with thinly sliced smoked tuna lining the plate heaped with arugula salad and finished with capers, balsamic vinegar, and sweet red onions. This is a dish I dream of eating every night. Gary started with Portobello Con Granchio, a real crab filled Portobello mushroom baked perfectly and full of flavor.
The man I consider the most handsome man in Pismo Beach, Bill MacMillan, owner of Rosa’s, joined us. He is a funny, sweet, and gracious man that has created a superb restaurant space with illustrious food and a magnificent staff. He showed us the mural of the fig tree that was specially made in honor of his late wife, Ada, whose warm spirit still glows within the walls of this fine establishment. He told hilarious stories and made us feel so welcome, it seemed like we were in his own kitchen.
Then I had an appetizer as an entrée, as the special menu beckoned to my senses. This mastermind dish consisted of large scallops wrapped in prosciutto resting on a bed of sautéed spinach and caramelized Parmesan cheese crisp. It was a symphony of flavors, and I inhaled it as if it was my last meal.
Gary had the Brianna Platter Special, which is named after the chef’s daughter and always a hit. It is a huge manicotti with a spinach ricotta covered in flavorful tomatoes sauce and beef cannelloni. He was awed at the shear size of the dishes and the remarkable flavor.
Even though it is an Italian restaurant, our friend had heard they have the best steak filets. Confirmed by Chef Doug McMillan to be the finest from Creekside Farm, where the flavor of free-range beef is outstanding, and the benefits many. He devoured every inch of this medium-rare hunk of beef, we tried a bite, and it astounded us. Accompanied by the chef’s famous saffron risotto, this was a mouth-watering repast. Not many chefs’ can make a flawless risotto, and this one is perfection.
Our friend ordered the four cheeses and red potato Pizza, done on a cracker bread crust with Gorgonzola, Fontina, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheese. This is a pure Italian pizza better than anything this side of the Vatican.
We finished with a visit from the chef, Doug as he told proud family stories and the reason why this is the best restaurant on the Central Coast. “Passion, love and family”, it is their mantra and I agree whole-heartedly. The decorations are simple and elegant with meeting rooms for large groups and an enclosed patio for outside dining. With two generations in the kitchen, Rosa's combines the best of old and new world cooking, to create a wonderful full-flavored and astoundingly good menu.
Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano is located at 491 Price Street in Pismo Beach, CA and are open from 11:30-2:00 for lunch everyday but Sunday and 4:00-Close every night for dinners, call for reservations for big groups (805) 773-0551.
To Bill’s family I give you this poem:
As much as it hurts, it was time for you to leave.
God saw you getting tired
So, He put his arms around you
And whispered, "Come to Me".
Although we loved you dearly,
We could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
It was time to rest`
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best.
To the world, please read this review and visit Rosa’s often to honor this fantastic man as his son Chef Doug and the rest of his family carry on Bill’s tradition in offering an unsurpassed meal experience.
I am lucky that my job includes indulging in a special event sometimes. Even luckier that many celebrity chefs love to come and whip up dinner for 125 people because of our proximity to quality proteins and farm cuisine. My latest adventure happened as part of the Morro Bay Oyster Festival with celebrity Chef Bradley Ogden who came to prepare a meal featuring abalone from our own Abalone Farm. Our magical meeting began at the Inn at Morro Bay, where a luxury shuttle transported us to the beautiful Abalone Farm in Cayucos for sunset cocktail hour. The feast was Morro Bay Oyster Company’s Raw Oyster Bar and Castro sparkling wine, my idea of a perfect sunset meal. I heard the magic words, “take as many as you want” and proceeded to slurp six delightful oysters. A squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of a mignonette sauce complemented these gems of the ocean. I would have been happy with only this first course and could have filled up on freshly shucked oysters, but we had more magic coming from the Inn at Morro Bay.
With a private tour of the abalone farm where Brad Buckley told us how they grow this blossom of the sea, we watched the sunset over the water. We hopped back on our magic bus that transported to the Inn at Morro Bay where an elegant dining experience awaited us with chic table settings and the full moon rising over the picturesque bay. Our eyes drank in the beautiful ocean views and the famous Morro Rock as we sat down anticipating our four-course meal and wine pairing created exclusively by Star Chef Bradley Ogden.
We had Bradley the Abalone Cultivator , Neil the Oyster Officer, Eric the Wine Wrangler, a teacher, a bakery and yours truly, scary food reviewer at our long elegant table. We had a lively table with iridescent conversation that was food centric but enlivened with funny antidotes. We started with the Bodegas M- 2011 Albarino-Querida wine, and the wine maker explained how God and soil made this an outstanding selection.
Chef came out of the kitchen, was introduced and the meal began. Abalone Bisque with an arugula puree offered pure essences of the ocean served in an espresso cup it was high on richness. The salad that accompanied it featured charred abalone salad with persimmons and Asian Pears, a dusting of almonds, and a spicy roasted dacron sliced thinly. This was a complex salad, with multi layers of flavor, all surprising and prepared impeccably.
Between courses we toured the Inn at Morro Bay and talked with General Manager, Anna Olson, who specializes in fixing up special properties like this one. With its lush gardens, fantastical views of the bay and ocean, this has always been a favorite spot of mine. New owners, Pacifica Host Hotels are remodeling and updating the property to include more sea views and fireplaces for warmth on those dew point heavy nights. We walked out to the expansive patio and took in one of the lovely rooms. The restaurant (when not taking over by celebrity chefs and foodies) is an elegant affair that offers fine coastal dining and local wines.
Our next course to enjoy was a Cioppino style abalone stew with corn soufflé stuffed baked cannelloni. The broth was light with a spice on the end and the seafood inside was impeccably cooked scallops, shrimp, octopus, with a fried and pounded abalone steak resting on top. Swimming in the stew was Andouille sausage and red kale. This was my favorite dish. The wine pairing of Wild Horse Pinot Noir brought the strong, subtle flavors to the palate.
Our next course to savor was the Braised Beef Short Rib with roasted butternut squash puree, roasted brussels sprouts, heirloom carrots and quince jam. The meat was bursting with flavor and fell off the bones, the combination of sweet and savory went dreamily with the wine pairing a Hearst Ranch Winery 2011 Three Sisters Cuvee. Our last plate came with the instructions to indulge and we did on a four-layered Devil’s Food chocolate cake with hot fudge drizzles and vanilla crème anglaise . This was flawless, not too sweet and brilliant with the Roxo Port Cellars 2008 Magia Preta.
Chef Ogden came out to a standing ovation and we toasted a miraculous meal in a stunning facility and planned to come back and eat again. The Bay View Restaurant at Inn at Morro Bay overlooks the panoramic setting of the bay as well as ancient Morro rock. This is a restaurant and property you can always count on, just across from the golf course and looking out on the back bay estuary. The dining room features the freshest seafood directly from Morro Bay’s fishing boats, Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef and the best produce from local growers all prepared with California Cuisine flair. They are open for special events like weddings, Christmas and celebratory parties. Dinner is served Friday and Saturday only. Full Breakfast is served daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The Inn at Morro Bay is located at 60 State Park Road in Morro Bay or call 805-772-5651 for reservations.