Some view cheese as only solid food made from milk; I see it as the perfect sustenance. When I do eat at home for dinner, I prefer a charcuterie platter to a full meal. I learned this from my grandmother who after cooking meals for everyone, was entirely content with a bit of cheese, sliced Italian meat, olives, pickles and nuts. While my children complained about this practice when they were small, they now request it when they come to visit for dinner.
When I discovered Vivant Fine Cheese shop in Paso Robles, I was over the moon excited, as my “cheese” habit is no longer satisfied with mild cheddar and Monterey Jack. I desire fancy cheeses, artisan cheeses and the accouterments that go with them to be extravagant.
Gary started with the dessert helping of DeVine cookies. These local handcrafted savory gourmet cookies are created by chef Kathleen of Paso Robles are a meant to be paired with wine. Their unique flavors enhance your wine tasting experience. Though more savory than sweet, he enjoyed them especially after he learned that the proceeds supports Damon Runyon cancer research.
The crew at Vivant was full of spirit and knowledge of the Vivant Fine Cheese Plate that was served with fresh local bread from La Migliore Bakery. Carrie and Kristy prepared an impressive dish including five cheeses and three meats as well as Lucques olives, Marcona almonds and dried cranberries. The cheeses were all impressive, so much so I bought a half-pound of each to take home for my nightly meal.
A bit about these rinds of wonder:
First taste was a soft brie type called Fromager d'Affinois, which is a French double-cream soft cheese made from cow's milk. The Fromagerie Guilloteau Company produces it. Similar to Brie in production, appearance and flavor, but this delectable cheese had a creamy consistency that was blissful.
Next was a favorite of mine, Five Year Gouda. The five-year old version of this Beemster classic is simply unrivaled for that perfect balance of salty and sweet flavors with a hint of butterscotch. Deep caramel in color, crunchy, flaky, and meltingly smooth on the tongue, a true cow's milk Dutch Gouda bursts with flavor. If there is a perfect cheese, this is it.
My favorite treat from Spain is Manchego; a sheep's milk cheese is made exclusively from the milk of sheep grazing upon the plains of La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote. Manchego is made from raw milk and aged for several months. The cheese is nutty, sweet, and tangy with a firm texture. I was delighted.
The Honey Bee Goat Gouda is imported from Holland and has a little bit of honey that makes this a most perfect goat cheese. A bit of sweetness, a bit of nutty flavor and the zing makes a wonderful cheese to snack on with the Busseto chorizo.
Finishing off with a Big Rock Blue, from Central Coast Creamery made with organic milk and matured for three to four months. This cheese is moist, dense, and almost fudgy, with an aroma that suggests buttermilk. It is neither sharp nor salty, about the flawless blue. We added Busseto Chorizo, salami and prosciutto. To round out this exceptional platter and enjoyed every last bit.
Danika Gordon, owner of Vivant Fine Cheese came to check on us and we chatted about her cheese knowledge. She majored at Cal Poly in Dairy Science with a minor in AG business and worked at the Cal Poly creamery for four years. She told me how Vivant Fine Cheese shop has long been the premier cheese shop and wholesale cheese expert to over 150 wineries, restaurants and finer stores. Due to their popularity, they had move to a bigger place to serve customers, but are still in the heart of Historic Downtown Paso Robles with over over 250 different cheeses to choose from. The new location has an expanded lunch menu for locals including soups, salads, and grab & go work week lunches.
We took sandwiches to-go on our wine tasting. They were delectable and the impeccable accompaniment to the wines. I had the Roasted Turkey with creamy Havarti, a pesto mayonnaise, with caramelized onions and roasted red peppers. The bread was thick and moist while the cheese and meat cut to precision and flavorful.
Gary had the Panini on ciabatta bread that was hot, sweet and savory. Inside the pressed and warmed bread was Busseto prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and fig spread.
Served with Kettle chips it was a sandwich to be celebrated.
Vivant Fine Cheese offers cheese boards, charcuterie platters, picnic baskets and boxed lunch sandwiches, they can also cater your next party. Vivant Fine Cheese is now located at 821 Pine Street, Suite B, in Downtown Paso Robles. They are open everyday from 11:00am to 6:00pm, call them at (805) 226-5530 or order cheese on line www.vivantfinecheese.com. I just joined their cheese club and looking forward to my next cheese shipment.
There is a revolution in cuisine going on today and I couldn’t be more tickled about this trend. TV shows with Chef’s as stars, foodie groups and online reviewing has caused people to try new eateries and for the owners and chefs to get more creative. In this area there is nothing more creative than Chef Lori Nunes of KunFusion. She is a food truck owner and restaurateur that is taking the county by storm with a Korean/ Portuguese fusion flare and I love every bite.
I first meant Lori thru the Wok n Roll truck trying her unique style of quick dining. Having a Portuguese grandma, I loved Arepas (flatbread made of ground maize dough) and the Bamboo cone of beer battered shishito peepers that are served with a spicy garlic aioli. I instantly saw that this was no ordinary taco truck (or chef) and became a fan. So when Chef Lolo (what her fan’s call her) decided to settle down and have a brick and mortar eatery, I was thrilled.
KunFusion moved into the California Fresh center on Five Cities drive and the same creative quality that led me to chase her truck around, now makes my car swerve there for tacos, bowls and salads. Chef Lolo came to say hi and she told us that after attending culinary school, working in several restaurants, then the truck being so successful, she had a toolbox of culinary skills and brain full of ideas, the new permanent location had to be opened. The truck is still running, so for those who revel in that are still in luck.
She told us “The most gratifying thing for a chef is to create something with passion and in return, watch as others appreciate it. It is not about the money, the glory or the ego it is about love for this food. KunFusion was born in this thought and operates based upon these simple principles. We love what we do and hope you will too”.
The wonder of KunFusion is that they are very dietary forward and offer more on the menu for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diners than anywhere else. If you are looking for something new, and because of dietary restriction have been regulated to eating mostly cardboard food, KunFusion is your Shangri-La. They offer fresh, cooked-to-order food; housemaid sauces and can accommodate any dietary restriction. Just let them know and they will satisfy your belly.
We brought some new friends that are trying their hands at this crazy new California cuisine and they were so impressed. We shared the Ahi-tada that was seared Ahi tuna slices on won-ton chips over avocado pico de gallo and green onion. The fish was fresh and cold and the avocado mellowed the spice of the pico de gallo. This was our friend’s first time trying Ahi and they instantly became fans. One of Lolo's most requested and coveted dishes is her Sweet Potato fries that are hand cut daily and served with a wasabi arugula aioli and an outstanding guacamole hummus. Surprising and delightful was the consensuses.
For our main courses we tried the Kun Fu Bowls that is a combination of savory and delectable served on jasmine rice infused with coconut and lime. I had the Portagie Fu with grilled chicken breasts, red onions, bok choy all tossed with a Portuguese Churrasco sauce and garnished with daikon radish sprouts. Gary had the Fu Kun Tacos that were so good I ended up stealing one. The Ahi tuna is cubed and then stuffed into a crispy egg roll taco shell with a zesty marinade, wakame seaweed slaw, sesame seeds and mandarin oranges. They were so good; I have been back three times just for this dish. Our friends had the Fried Rice with a savory stir-fry of bok choy, red and yellow onions, chicken and jasmine rice. They flavor was different and amazing. The best of the meal was the KSB a meat eater’s paradise of bone-in Korean short ribs grilled and tossed in a spicy original KunFusion sauce and served with shaved and fried Brussels sprouts.
KunFusion Pismo Beach is located at 561 Five Cities Drive (next door to California Fresh Market) or call (805) 556-3003; they offer an extensive wine and beer collection, so drip in for Happy hour Tuesday thru Thursday from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.
Hours of operation are closed Mondays, Tuesday thru Thursday from 11:00am to 8:00pm, Friday from 11:00am to 9:00pm, Saturday from 11:00am to 11:00pm and Sunday from 11:00am to 8:00pm. Follow them at Kunfusion Pismo
As Lori says, "A journey of a thousand smiles begins with a single belly."