This week I had the chance to spend some time in the Redwoods National Park near Big Sur and enjoyed every second of this short vacation. On the way down, I took the scenic route from Cambria to Palos Robles to stop at a restaurant for my girlfriend's birthday.
Paso Robles is like the mini "Napa Valley" of Southern California. It's somewhat of a small city but it's full of inviting wine tasting rooms and charming restaurants with local flavors. It was already late when we arrived there and most of the places were closed, but we ended up falling upon what ended up being one of the best culinary experiences I've ever had: "Thomas Hill Organics" Market Bistro.
When I went on their website to check the menu before walking in, I was delighted to learn that their menu changed every day depending on what the cook found at the local organic farms and markets. That was a good sign.
We walked in and I immediately apologized for wearing what I had been wearing at the campsite which consisted of black sweat pants, sandals and a "Smurf" T-shirt with firewood scent...but that's what I also loved about this restaurant: they didn't kick us out. We sat down in their outdoor patio that was simply but elegantly decorated and we started salivating at the menu that was full of creative dishes made with fresh local produce.
We started with some local white wine from the Paso Robles Bodegas Winery, and we ordered the appetizer that we were going to share: "Braised Beluga Lentil Tacos, Carrot Ginger Purée, Candied Jalapenos, Chews & coconut, Watermelon, Cilantro"
These Tacos were by far the most delicious and inventive tacos I had ever had. The mix of the flavorful organic vegetables and the sweet fruits was the best way to get a taste of this incomparable restaurant.
We then shared two entrées (I love to share all the dishes on the table to get a taste of everything). The first one was: "Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut Cheeks, Roasted Baby Beets, Macerated Strawberries Pickled Watermelon, Coconut Cream, Mint Leaves, Citrus Vinaigrette". Here's the thing, I'm usually not a fan of beets but this restaurant's chef changed my view on beets that night. Every bite out of this original dish was heavenly, the presentation was sophisticated and enticing, the fish was perfectly cooked, and the staff was incredibly friendly.
Our second Entrée was a thin crust pizza with THO apples, Bacon, Mon Brie Cheese, Roasted Red Onion and Cremini Mushrooms. We had ordered a glass of red wine from their fabulous wine list at this point and I had to take a picture of the wine list because this wine was one of the boldest and tastiest red wine I had drank in a long time. (Our incredible red wine was: "Thomas Hill Vineyards 10' Miscela Delle Colline"). Eating the pizza while munching on this crispy and savory pizza was a perfect way to finish the meal.....before dessert of course.
I tried to be sneaky and I pretended to go to the bathroom to ask our waiter to bring a dessert with thirty candles. That was the only time they manged to disappoint me because they had run out of candles, and I think our waiter was also a little shy so he didn't even try to sing "happy birthday", but the "Chocolate Fondant (flourless chocolate cake) with Dulce de Leche and Honey Frosting" made up for it. We cleaned off the plate and shared coffee brought to the table in a French press. They apparently create their coffee blend themselves by picking some of their favorite beans and mixing them together.
They had a few baskets full of fresh fruits from the farm by the front door and we bought a pound of a medley of fruits and headed back on the road to Los Angeles. At this point, you understand that I highly recommend this restaurant if you drive to San Francisco, from San francisco, or if you ever get remotely close to Paso Robles while you drive on the 101 freeway. Even if you're a little far from it, it is definitely worth the drive.