A day of eating and drinking with Teri

We ventured down to Santa Maria to explore her first estate sale. It’s a weird event when someone has passed, and all of their things are intact and for sale. The food in the cupboard, the clothes in the closet, the things she held most dear, now have a price tag on them. 
We found some treasures and then moved to Las Comadres. This Salvadorian restaurant is one of my favorites, as Pupusas is my favorite street food. 

Trying new food is like being kissed for the first time. The anticipation is giddy, with the hope that the taste on the lips will be satisfying. Pupusas Are made with ancient maize and formed into pockets that hold delectable ingredients. Loroco is a seed found on and plant and mixed with cojeta cheese. It’s fried on the grill and served with a cabbage and carrot vinegar salad. Then topped with salsa roja which is made from tomato sauce, water, cilantro, green bell pepper, onion, crushed garlic, and a bouillon cube. 
We had 4 different pupusas including, bean, pork skin, and cheese. They were accompanied by fried Plaintain‘s and croquettes stuffed with beans.
I watched with pleasure as her face lit up at the taste of exotic in yet simple. Everyone must try this. Las Comadres is on Main Street in Santa Maria.

Then we did grownup stuff like County Clerk and Banking.  We felt we needed a reward so we ventured to Pismo Beach. 

Hospitality when done correctly, is an art form. Charlie Puffer personifies that the ancient art of marking everyone feels at home and comfortable in his unique wine bar/bistro/cabaret. This welcome den of pleasure features the best wines, amazing tapas menu and live music every night. 

At first glance, you see the erotic mermaids on the wall and the Bone-In Jamón Serrano in the kitchen with Andy. Then the always welcoming arms of Charlie- the genius behind Puffers of Pismo, welcomes you. One sweep of the bar and you realize that all the diners are foodies, influencers and Chefs. You know you found Nirvana. 

We sat outside to watch the Pismo traffic flow by. Our first wine was an Italian Albarino, It’s a cold tart snap, paired perfectly with our cheese plate of preternatural tastes-of house-made honey brie, pecorino, truffle manchego, Marconi almonds, and grilled bread. A trio of delicious olives, a plate of gossamer cut ham completed the meal. 
Charlie chooses our next succulent wine, a Tempranillo which sated us all. As the bossa nova begin to swing, we reveled in this exquisite place.

 #Tastebuds #TryNewFoods #GonzoGidget

House of Bagels

I had my first bagel in college. A nice couple in Berkley had a quaint bagel shop and started baking at 3:00am every day. I was usually wandering back to the dorm at this time. I loved the doughy goodness of these rings of love but found my real nirvana when they made me try a nova lox bagel. To the younger version of me, smoked salmon, crème cheese and capers seemed like a ridiculous combination. My first bite, I heard angels sing. Thus started a life long search for that authentic taste again.  Imagine my surprise at finding this perfect combination at a wonderful local bagel shop. 
The House of Bagels owner Mike moved to the Central Coast with the idea of starting a boil and bake bagel shop in San Luis Obispo and getting out of the high tech world creating a more fulfilling business with better work/life balance. He is making bagels correctly. Many bagel shops have moved to a steam and bake way of producing more bagels in a shorter time and at a substantially lower cost. Steaming is just not the same as boiling a bagel.  Boiled bagels have a more defined and chewy crust, are smaller in size, but not weight. because they are handled more in the process the bagel is not uniform in size and shape. This adds to the uniqueness of the bagel and allows the baker to adjust each batch depending on temperature, humidity, and density of the dough. House of Bagels offers a large selection of breakfast bagels available with scrambled eggs, cheese, and a variety of meats or lox with different flavor Schmears (flavored cream cheeses such as garlic-herb, chive, veggie, Lox, etc.).  

My first stop there, I ordered the Eggs & Hotties as the cutie behind the counter told me it was their best seller. On a Sesame flavored traditional water boiled bagel they added scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, hot sauce, and sausage. I was so impressed, I took a dozen bagels to go to make sure I wasn’t imagining the authentic way these orbs of goodness were prepared. Everyone agreed these were the best bagels they had in the area, so we all returned the next day.

I saw the huge slab of fresh smoked salmon in the case and knew what I was ordering. The Lox Bagel is cold-smoked salmon (8 generous ounces of fresh Nova Lox) served with a plain schmear of crème cheese, wonderfully salty capers, large slices of garden fresh tomatoes, and red onions. It is served open-faced and was a masterpiece. My Hunny went for the Everything Bagel with nova lox shmear, which although a hint of what I ordered, he was pleased. Our son in law had the toasted Onion Bagel with sliced turkey breast, cream cheese, fresh avocado slices, and lemon pepper seasoning. This was large and flavorful enough to satisfy him (a feat not often accomplished). My daughter went for the Red Hat combination with scrambled eggs, crème cheese, and a large beefsteak tomato slice. We were all delighted with the breakfast sandwiches and the delicious coffee. 

We discuss if bagels were just donuts without the sugar coating. I explained that with the combination of proteins, nothing gets your day balanced like a breakfast bagel sandwich.  It is the right blend of carbs and protein to help you power through your morning. I lectured them to respect the bagel done correctly and don’t even compare it to the deep-fried cousin.

While we discussed, the owner came to show us his creation, a Bagel Crust Pizza. He explained that House of Bagels has done the impossible and gone beyond the ordinary bagel by created an enchanting pizza crust made from wholesome bagel dough. You can choose from many bagel dough crusts including Everything (with onion, salt, sesame and poppy seeds), Sun-Dried Tomato, Jalapeno or Wheat. We ordered the Seven Cheese Combination. The seven kinds of cheese include two Mozzarellas, Romano, Parmesan, Cheddar and two kinds of Provolone, sprinkled with a 2-year-old Parmesan Reggiano. Added to that are fresh tomatoes, black olives, green, yellow and red peppers, artichoke hearts, red onions, and white mushrooms.  It is a Take and Bake affair and we all were in pizza heaven that night for dinner.

House of Bagels is one of the last bagel shops that bake fresh water bagels daily. They use a traditional process and ingredients that never compromises on quality and authenticity.  It is located in San Luis Obispo at 158A Higuera Street  (between South and Madonna) or you can call them at 805-594-1818. They are open Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Somerset at Vespera on Ocean

Last week (we visited 3 times) I had a surprising and delightful meal at a NEW restaurant.  This doesn’t happen often. Most properties need to get their “sea legs” adjusted when everything is shining and new. But...Vesper on Ocean’s new restaurant Somerset succeeded where many have failed and blew this Gonzo Gidget’s mind. 

Upon entering the space was stunning and the entire staff trained correctly in hospitality. 
Somerset contained the compulsory open kitchen and a plethora of smiling faces all there to make the guest feel “waited on”.  But they went a step further with exceptional food, great service, and stunning scenery. 

Executive Chef James King has the look of a Rock Star and the palate of a king.  The menu seemed pedestrian (as most hotels are wont to do), but the execution was beyond respectable. The dining area is open with a bit of the ocean breeze sneaking in, with a stunning view of the beach and fireside pits.  There are two bars, both stunning and well-stocked, but the outdoor one called me in to linger and enjoy our stunning November weather. 

I started with the Smoked Salmon Toast Points. This was perfection in flavor and impeccable accouterments including fried capers, crème fraîche, grated hard eggs, red onions, and scallions. 

Gary's dessert was a trio of chocolates. He went nuts for them.  I ordered a bottle of 2014 Labyrinth Tempranillo, that is one of my favorite juices.  We moved on to Crab Cakes which were dense with crab.  I would have liked a remoulade sauce with them, I found the sauce too mild.  

You have to admire a chef that bakes potatoes the “Girl Scout” way by throwing them into the embers of an open fire for hours.  There is no better way to bake a spud.  This was served Loaded with cheese, bacon, green onions and sour creme.  Perfect in its simplicity. 

We had to try the Lobster Roll which was packed full of tail meat on a soft white bun.  The fries were the standout in this pairing.  

We strolled after the meal to the fire pits and finished off the bottle of wine in the dazzling sound of the ocean breaking on the shore only 20 feet from the stunning property.

We returned and tried the Spicy Tuna Poke, Seafood Chowder, Strawberry Shortcake, Succotash, and Short Ribs. Every dish outdid the next for flavor and excellence.  

They showed us a room, and everything was stunning. Energy-saving and luscious rarely go together in a sentence, but these rooms accomplished that and more.  

My goal is to spend a weekend at the outside bar, noshing on the charcuterie board and drinking Mai Tais. Who’s in?

Somerset is located inside Vespera at Ocean Hotel in Pismo Beach, CA.  https://www.vesperapismobeach.com or call 805-773-1011