5.24.2014

A little wine in Paso Robles

I need to get back on a regular blogging schedule. I blog once a week. It used to be on Fridays. Then my schedule got shifted and I tried to blog on Mondays. But here it is a week later and I am still trying to get my post in..... So here it is!

A little wine in Paso Robles.

Last weekend the Little Sister and I headed up to Paso Robles for a one night stay. We left Southern California at 6am and stopped in Santa Barbara at Crush Cafe for breakfast (thanks Yelp!).
Crush Cafe was so cute! It had Intelligentsia Coffee and a great breakfast burrito. We actually found them by Yelping "breakfast burrito". If in the area, I would eat there again. Cute inside, little patio, and attached to a cake bakery (Crush Cakes). The cupcakes looked amazing.
I have done a few wine trips with the sisters, but this one was a little different. First, it was only the Little Sister and I. Second, we only had one winery to go to each day. It might have been because California was having a crazy heat wave and I wasn't very hungry, or maybe I just wanted to try the wines I wanted to try and not dilute them with too many other wines. If you have gone wine tasting at multiple places, you probably understand what I am talking about.....

The winery for Saturday was Denner Vineyards. The Little Sister had tried their Ditch Digger and it was fabulous, so we decided to taste there. (You need a reservation and a gate code, so contact them ahead of time if you are interested in tasting there).

Denner was a pretty happening place with a big patio with tables and live music. Stations were set up were you could go get your tastings and then enjoy them at your table. The Little Sister and I purchased a cheese plate to go with our wine!
So now a little confession. I had tried the Ditch Digger when the Little Sister purchased it and it was amazing. Like Jack Creek (our only winery where we belong to the "club") amazing. I thought that Denner might be the next place we join the "club" but the wine, the exact same wine, was not as good. It was hot out and the sister and I thought maybe the wine was too warm. Or the bottle opened up too long? We weren't sure. But when we left Denner (with a few bottles of wine) we wished it had blown us away like Jack Creek had done. It was good, just not amazing.

That was okay because for dinner we had reservations at Thomas Hill Organics!
The sisters and I, (well the Middle Sister) found this on our first Paso trip. It was so good we ate dinner there two nights in a row so I was excited to eat there again.
The Little Sister and I decided to split thngs and started with a server recommended bottle of pinot from Thorne (excellent). Then tried the Corn-Coconut Thai soup (flavors didn't really work), the Pizza (Yum) and a duck and glass noodle salad (Yum again!).

The wait staff is fun there and I really enjoyed the outside covered patio. For dessert we tried the Olive Oil cake, Caramel Boudino, and Tres Leche Cake. We didn't finish them, but each bite was delicious.
The next morning I started the day with a run and then the Little Sister and I had smoothies and a few games of Uno at the Amsterdam Coffee House before we headed to Jack Creek for a "Wine Member Family" event.
The Jack Creek event was the whole reason we went on this Paso trip. The winery had raised a cow and was having a burger event for "wine family members. We also got to try some Library Wines and enjoy the day before hitting traffic on the way home.

Our special "Wine Family Member" glasses.

The two of us with our allergy eyes. It was hot and breezy in Paso and my allerigies knew it!


At one point, everyone in the room was wearing stripes but me!

The Little Sister and I had a great weekend in Paso. Next time we want to bring our bikes so we can bike some of the back country wine roads we discovered on this trip! Until then, Cheers!

5.12.2014

Eating at The Lark in Santa Barbara

Recently I had a chance to attend another Unconference in Santa Barbara. The Little Sister drove up with me last year and we had another epic dinner at Wine Cask. You can read about that here. The plan was to do the same this year with Library AC (no longer working at my college because she found an AWESOME job close to her house (sad for me, great for her)) of 2 Nights in the Bay Area fame and the Little Sister. When I called Wine Cask they told me they would be closed that evening for a private party. I ask the hostess for some recommendations, and of the two she mentioned, The Lark, won.

The Little Sister decided not to go at the last minute and I had invited another colleague who was attending the conference to join us for dinner when I was in San Jose. The Lark was within walking distance of where we were, and after a day of working (but good, fun, working!) Library AC, Dan, and myself walked along the Santa Barbara boardwalk to the "Funk Zone" and The Lark.

I didn't really know what to expect. The reviews on Yelp had been good, and when I called that day to see about increasing the number for our reservation, the hostess told me they were full. Our reservation was at 5pm when they opened, and the restuarant did fill up pretty quickly. I think reservations are a must! We sat outside and had Michelle as our server and Ben (one of the bartenders) as our server in training. The menu and specials sounded amazing and we decided to share everything. They started us out with some orange zest and sea salt popcorn and a few drinks.

Here is what we decided to order:

Deviled Eggs (3): crispy pancetta, jalapeno, smoked paprika, chive.
These were amazing! The hint of jalapeno at the end of the bite blended amazingly well with the creamy texture of the egg and the smoke in the paprika. If we didn't have all the other food coming, I would have ordered another.

Little Gems 'Wedge': rogue smoked blue cheese, warm chicory glazed bacon, radish, spicy pecans, fine herb vinaigrette.
Another great dish. The "fine herb vinaigrette" coated the little wedges of romaine. Radish was cut paper thin for the red color and a slight addtion of flavor. The glazed bacon and blue cheese complimented eachother so well. The flavors in this salad sang!

This dish isn't on the menu right now, so I will try to remember it the best I can. Citrus Cured Salmon: house made creme fraiche, dill herb medley, toasted brioche.
We had started eating this one before I remembered to take a picture. This is the bite I had. The creme fraiche and dill added to this plate, but the citrus was a bit lost. It was still very good, but I am not sure if I would order it again. This was one of the plates Library AC and Dan wanted. I think they are bigger salmon fans than I am because they both loved it.

Grilled Spanish Octopus: israeli couscous, guajilo chile, preserved blood orange, avocado, charred scallion, spiced peanuts.
This was one of the specials that night and the blood oranges is what sold me on it. It sounded so interesting. When the dish came out, everything was cooked perfectly (read, had the perfect texture) but the flavors did seem like they were cooperating with each other. And in hindsight, I like my seafood to not be covered in spices. Note to self.

Marinated & Grilled Hanger Steak: charred broccoli, calabrian chile, crispy shallots, mint
I am a fan of the hanger steak and have fond memories of them in Paris. This steak was cooked perfectly, and the flavors worked together. I liked the crispy shallots with the mint.

For dessert we had a Smore's Pot de Creme (sorry, no picture). Considering I had something simular in Denver the week before, I think there is a Smore's trend going on. The dessert was good, but I would order something else next time.

The three of us had a great meal at The Lark, and I only wish I could have eaten more. The menu had so many things I wanted to try. I would recommend this restaurant in a heartbeat, just make sure you have reservation. This place is popular and I am not sure if you would get a table without one.

5.05.2014

Brunch at the Getty Center

A few weeks ago I had brunch at the Getty Center. It was in celebration of a special birthday and I had a great time. T and I had our second date there right after it opened and it is always cool to go back. Brunch was good and I would do it again. The Getty Center seems SO far away (an hour) but once you get there it is nice to be able to linger. The whole center incourages lingering and brunch was just icing on the cake.
We ordered champagne and then had some starters and mains for brunch. I might have gone for dessert if T hadn't ordered the donuts for his starter! Lucky for the table, we all got a bite.
The weather was fairly nice and after brunch we vivited the Ansel Adams (photo) show, a Jackson Pollock Mural (painting), and Hiroshi Sugimoto (photo). T and I met when we were photo majors and really liked the photo shows.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the day:
It makes me smile that they are both looking at things that are not my camera...
Who knew they still had pay-phones?

You can see downtown LA in the background here.
This is a combination of my favorite photos. The restaurant had a wall of plates with words on them. When they were setting up our table I took a photo of the middle sister next to one and then got each person (except me and T) standing next to which ever plate was next in the row. I wish T and I had gotten one becuase I think they are fun. Brunch at the Getty Center is recommended! We had a great time.