On the Town – Paso Robles, CA

hammerskyLocated on California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is surrounded by over 200 wineries and vineyards and is quickly becoming one of the country’s premier wine regions.  Dubbed ‘The Next Napa’ by Forbes a few years ago, as well as being named the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, Paso Robles has grown into a great food and wine destination.

La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant – Afternoon Cocktails

La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant was our first stop, conveniently located on the square in downtown Paso Robles. The weather was perfect, so we grabbed patio seat overlooking the park.

Embracing the craft cocktail movement, each libation featured a masterful blend of top-shelf spirits, fresh juices and several lesser-known ingredients.  Our server was very knowledgable; she shared how the cocktails are made and noted many of the more unique components along with their influence on the palette.

  • Beat Around the Bush (Jen): a mixture of Bols Genever, Calisaya, orgeat, and lemon juice
  • Treuse & Lies (Eric): rye, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino Liqueur, lemon juice, and simple syrup

Both cocktails impressed from a presentation and taste perspective with the creativity and execution rivaling many preeminent city bars we’ve visited.  Cheers to La Cosecha for bringing the craft to Paso Robles.

Note: We complemented our cocktails with the chef’s delicious take on the classic Tortilla Soup which was pureed to perfection.  A Calamari dish was added which was surprisingly light and flavorful.  We will return for dinner soon.

Cookies and Cheese – Pre-Dinner Stroll

The selection of restaurants, shops, art galleries, pubs, and bars, combine to deliver an experience reminiscent of the Sonoma Square in Northern California.  Among our personal favorites were the Brown Butter Cookie Company (try one of each) and Di Raimondos, which was perfect for selecting a little cheese and charcuterie for our wine tasting adventure the following day.

Artisan – Dinner

Arguably the best restaurant on the Central Coast, Artisan focuses on supporting local farmers and purveyors.  Brothers Chris and Michael Kobayashi have single-handedly brought world-class cuisine to this once sleepy little town.  The menu boasts ingredients with a flair and sophistication that sets the tone for this emerging food scene and the decision to bring on sister Shandi as Farm Director acts to ensure that the restaurant will continue to source fresh local ingredients.  Their efforts have led to undeniable success – by 7:00, every seat in the house was filled with eager, hungry patrons.

Cocktails First:  Artisan has a great selection of classics as well as some out-of-the-box libations.  We both opted for a twist on a classic, the Nu Fashioned.  A perfect blend of Templeton Rye, Carpano Antica, orange-barrel-aged bitters, Luxardo Cherry and demerara, stirred and served up with a brandied cherry.

Starter Coarse: we ordered the much publicized goat cheese fondue served with pretzel bread, house-made chorizo and roasted broccoli.  The fondue was served in a small cast iron pot complete with a warming flame to keep the cheese melty.  At first we though the broccoli was an odd choice, but it was delicious – think broccoli and cheddar stepped up a few notches. After the fondue, we split another appetizer from the small plates selection: meatballs with ricotta gnocchi, piave, and ragu – some may say this little firecracker stole the show.  A very rich and filling dish that really got our appetites going.

Main Coarse: the wild boar tenderloin was pure culinary joy served medium rare.  The paired fennel risotto brought a creamy and seasonal element to the dish, while flavors of feta, roasted apple, and mostarda introduced just enough sweetness and balance. A very bold and warm comfort dish not to be missed.  The venison wellington was served “deconstructed” which helped showcase the meat which was paired with an earthy chanterelle mushroom sauce, root vegetables and a celery root puree.

The Service: Our server was very adept at sensing we were in no rush and paced the courses perfectly.  A dining experience is dependent not just on the quality of the food, but the service and atmosphere also play a key role – Artisan handles all three with true elegance.

The Pony Club – Night Cap

After dinner we took a stroll around the square and found the perfect place for a little nightcap to complete the perfect visit to Paso Robles.  The Pony Club in the Hotel Cheval has a nice little patio where we enjoyed two glasses of port while listening to some local jazz before turning in for the night.

The Pony Club

Jazz and Port at the Pony Club

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