Bliss Cafe - San Luis Obispo

I tried the Bliss Café, because of their mantra “United through a shared yearning to practice selflessness and to engage in serving others”. They offer a delicious Yogi style, karma free vegan menu to provide healthy options for those seeking a conscious and compassionate life style. I was intrigued, as I had been juicing everyday from my own organic garden. Owner Paulaka told me by embracing simplicity, patience, and compassion, Bliss Café strives to provide recipes, a “blissful” state of mind.

I started with the Happy Shiva a cold press combination of carrot, cucumber, beet, ginger, and lemon. It was refreshing and clearly designed by a culinary mind. My friend has the Omega Shakti smoothie that was a combination of coconut milk, banana, strawberry, chia, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and dates. This smoothie was unique in that it contained both blended and whole fruit. Small bite size pieces of Apple were added to the puréed mixture of banana and strawberries. The small apple chunks infused with the smoothie flavor were fun to crunch in between sips.  The cardamom was a surprise taste that infused and enhanced the fruit flavors. 

For my main course I had the Farmers’ Market Salad with mixed greens with shredded carrots, beets, purple cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, sauerkraut, and=d Almond Nutritional Yeast dressing. It was clearly local ingredients and the dressing was a delight.  My friend tried the Baked Samosas with Hummus and Chutney that was three Indian samosas.  Which is a baked pastry filled with spiced potatoes and seasonal vegetables, wrapped in a whole wheat crust. It was served with house made hummus and chutney and garnished with cucumbers. 

Then I tried the Baja Chipotle Bowl with rice, grilled protein strips of Tempeh (Which is is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form) with black beans, green cabbage, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, and chipotle dressing. Paulaka told me they are dedicated and devoted to serving food and creating a space in the mood of goodness, love, and compassion that is delicious, energizing, and empowering in order to create an optimal and joyful experience that elevates the individual and community. 

  My next visit I tried the Kombucha on tap – the jasmine/rose flavored. I have been a fan of Kombucha for years and excited to see it one tap. Kombucha is a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened green tea that is used a functional food. It is produced by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  It is delicious and good for you. I tried the Peace Plate, while my companion had the delectable lemonade and Classic Bliss Burrito, that was a flour tortilla with rice, pinto beans, hummus, green cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and chutney. It was served with a small green salad with the cilantro jalapeno dressing. My plate was a combination of saffron rice, curry vegetables, black beans and a sautéed kale and a green salad. 

The Bliss café has wonderful seating out by the creek and many pleasing choices for the vegan in your life. Located in The Network, 778 Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, you 
can call them at (805) 547-0108. They are open every day from 11:00am to 9:00pm (except Sundays and Mondays when they close at 6:00pm). 

Buffalo Pub and Grill - San Luis Obispo

Sometimes bar food will surprise you, and this time it delighted me. I found that day or night, a visit to Buffalo Pub and Grill is always a refreshing and pleasant experience.  It gently takes you back in time with its antique, western decor, and the food was excellent at each visit. I first visited with my daughter for lunch and was thoroughly enjoyed the Buffalo Nachos, though she told me I didn’t have to order bar food. The Nachos were heaped high with grilled chicken, chili beans, diced tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños grilled with melted cheese and then dolloped with sour cream and fresh guacamole. My daughter had the pan seared fish tacos. They were layered with local cod, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeño, red onion and shredded cabbage. Served on two corn tortillas (you know why you get two? So you can use the bottom on to catch all that falls out of your taco when eating it). The side of green salsa was hot and tasty I love tomatillo sauce. 

We came back for an after show bite and found that Buffalo’s casual atmosphere, friendly staff, beautiful décor made us all feel at home. The service is impeccable, friendly and prompt. We all tried one of their icy hand crafted martinis, except my daughter who ordered the Bloody Mary. It was a drink entirely handcrafted with a huge slab of bacon and a ton of vegetables. It was an outstanding Bloody Mary.

I talked with owner Myriam Olaizola and she told me that the Pub used to be Le Fandango Bistro serving Basque and French food. They switched to the Buffalo in 2008, with a more bar atmosphere but the same great food. 

We started by sharing the Charbroiled Fresh Artichoke, that was steamed and grilled and served with a house made garlic aioli. We all dug in and fought for the heart. Gary started with the Sweet Buffalo Balls with decadent vanilla and chocolate ice cream topped with whipped cream, roasted almond and a special buffalo trace bourbon/Kahlua chocolate sauce.  Defiantly a dessert for grown children. 

Dinner was Lobster Tacos with popcorn lobster pieces grilled with butter and served with cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeño, red onion and shredded cabbage. It was the special that night and was mouthwatering. I had the Carnita’s Tacos, with succulent slow cocked pork shoulder meat with cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeño, red onion and shredded cabbage and that amazing green salsa. I would drive to SLO just for these tacos, they were that virtuous. Gary had the Buffalo Meat Burger that is made from 100% buffalo meat, which is much leaner than cow. It was served with the usual fixings on a toasted bun. 

Acclaimed by locals and tourists alike as the new “hot spot” in downtown San Luis Obispo, Buffalo Pub and Grill has fast become a downtown SLO landmark. Whether you need to take a short break during or after a long day at work, have a business lunch, just crave a quick bite or cocktail, Buffalo is the place to go. Buffalo Pub and Grill is located at 717 Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, call them at (805) 544-5515. 

Brown Butter Cookie Company - Cayucos

It is not a secret that I am married to the Cookie Monster. This man eats dessert first at every meal and will buy a whole pie if one slice satisfies him (then he devours that whole pie). Even our wedding meal began with dessert first for the entire bridal party at the sit down dinner and our French chef nearly lost his mind at the request. 

While eating one of my favorite fish tacos in Cayucos, I was not surprised when he said, “Follow my nose” and forced me to leave my delectable tacos from Ruddell's Smokehouse. He lured me across the street into the Brown Butter Cookie Company. Nor was I surprised when the bill was as much as a new IPhone. When he is in the presence of impeccable, delicious and original baked goods, there is not a bag big enough to hoist his purchases home. He ate cookies in the store, on the beach, before dinner and for breakfast. Then he froze the rest in case of cookie emergencies. 

Owners Traci and Christa Hazie
At the Brown Butter Cookie Company, the smell of brown butter delights your nose and draws you into this Wonka-esque factory. A couple of large steal table graced the center of the factory. Happy “Dough Rollers” were seated on bright stools and all meticulously rolling a sphere of dough into the perfect cookie. No mass machine production here, all the cookies are hand trundled with love. We were offered a taste of their new Citrus creation that they produced for Sunset Magazine. This surprising cookie has fresh orange and lemon zest with a little heat in cayenne pepper. It was wonderful.

The basis for the cookies and the nexus of this successful venture is the original Brown Butter Cookie. This sweet and salty treat that is simply butter that is browned on the stove top to bring out the nut flavor and touch of sea salt.  They can drive a sweet tooth crazy. Started in 2009 by sister team Traci and Christa Hazie, this humble cookie has gone worldwide, opened a novel factory and a new retail shop in Paso Robles. It is now my Cookie Monsters favorite indulgence and if I can find a pack to smuggle into the movies with me, he will watch romantic comedies without insolent comments or eye rolling. 
After satisfying his craving for the original brown butter cookie by devouring three, Gary moved on to try some new brown butter flavors and other baked goods. The Cocoa was a hit with the fresh taste of raw cocoa with the sweetness of the brown butter. He loved the Coconut Lime, while I went for the Cocoa Mint which is also gluten free. I really liked the Granola and was happy to have a new breakfast cereal that I knew was healthy and made with intense tenderness. The Brown Butter Company will create and ship your specialty made cookies or you can stroll into the cookie factory and try all the new and original flavors.

On we went to try the traditional cookies. I loved the Peanut Butter (with the fork pressing design on the top like Grandma did) while he adored the Chocolate Chunk and Lemon Sugar. Gary bought a dozen of the sugar cookies and later made his own ice cream sandwiches using his house made lavender ice cream. The traditional cookies must be enjoyed immediately, so they do not ship them. 

This is one of those exemplary small business success stories. The sisters started with just one impeccable product, marketed it correctly and never took short cuts on ingredients or love. You can see that in the happy face of the Dough Rollers. This love is infused into every cookie and item they make. I rarely indulge in sweet treats, but when I do it is a Brown Butter Cookie, they are that good. 

For the freshest of cookies, I would suggest a day trip to Cayucos to witness the delightful Hand Rollers, sample all the amazing and new cookies and buy cookie swag. I got the sweetest onesie for my grand daughter and Grandpa is sporting a Brown Butter shirt. You can special order your cookies by going to their website, or calling them at (805) 239-5894. The factory is located at 98 North Ocean Avenue in Cayucos and the new retail shop is at 801 12th street in the iconic Acorn Building in Paso Robles. They also can provide cookies for weddings and special events. 

Kona's Deli - San Luis Obispo

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,  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