Special thanks to TravelPaso for hosting our stay and dining experiences.
During our recent visit to Paso Robles, we had the opportunity to dine at some of the area’s best restaurants–from fast casual to gourmet–and I’m here today to share an inside glimpse at Paso’s culinary scene. But rather than wax poetic about every last detail, I’m instead opting to share my picks for the five menu items you’ve simply got to try the next time you find yourself seated in one of Paso’s restaurants. Whether a sip or a small bite, these are five foodie favorites I won’t soon forget.
Artisan Cheese Board with Accoutrements – Thomas Hill Organics
Cheese–in it’s most rudimentary form–sets my heart aflutter. You can imagine, then, how this gorgeous cheese board won me over. Not only was it beautifully-presented, it was also generously-plated (or boarded, as the case may be) with exotic cheeses, crusty bread, thinly-sliced meats, well-paired fruits and even a helping of honeycomb. Cheeses ranged from mild to pungent and while the accoutrements were varied and plentiful, I discovered a hands-down favorite pairing for each yummy morsel on the board. While we were torn between beginning or ending our meal with the cheese course, I will say that I’m happy with our choice; this was the perfect beginning to a delicious meal.
I’d be remiss not to share a shot of the beautiful patio where we dined. It was one of those experiences in which exceptional wine, great food, top-notch service and magical ambiance came together to create one unforgettable meal.
Blackberry Mint Margarita – FISHGAUCHO
When I recommend a margarita to you, you can trust that it’s a good one. Why? I’m a total margarita snob. Before I order a margarita in any restaurant I ask if it’s made with real lime juice or with sweet and sour mix. If it’s the latter, I don’t bother. At FISHGAUCHO I didn’t even have to ask because every single margarita on their menu is made with fresh lime, organic agave nectar and 100% Blue Agave Tequila. Every one. The blackberry mint variety did not disappoint. The best way I can describe it is to say that each layer of flavor was transparent enough to let the next layer shine through so as to compliment the last. It was delicious and refreshing–the perfect companion to the plate of nachos we opened our meal with. Unfortunately, the lighting in the restaurant–while perfect for ambiance–was not so perfect for photographs. Please excuse the iPhone quality photo.
Mushroom Toast – Artisan
One thing we heard time and time again from the locals: Artisan is the perfect place to eat tapas style. Recognizing good advice when we heard it, we opted in and ordered several small plates to share for our Artisan dinner. Friends, I can assure you that we weren’t disappointed. From the oysters to the duck confit pizza, every last bite was savored. I did, though, come away with a favorite. The mushroom toast was both unique and perfectly-executed. Picture a thick slab of brioche, piled with crème fraiche, crumbled bacon and a poached egg. It was like a little pillow of creamy deliciousness. The choice of bread in this dish was brilliant; it held sturdy against the creamy gravy. The mushroom bits and bacon crumbles added just the right texture and balance of flavors to round this dish into a small plate well worth its calories. Sadly, we scraped the plate completely clean before I thought to take a photo. Instead, I can share a few photos to give you an idea of the ambiance at Artisan.
Butterscotch Pudding – Artisan
I just don’t even know where to begin with this one. The story goes something like this: Once upon a time we went to Artisan and ordered a couple of desserts to share but when they brought the butterscotch pudding I reverted to a three-year-old and would have thrown an eyebrow-raising hissy fit if someone had challenged me on equitable portions but thankfully they didn’t and I scraped the bowl. The end. Does that paint a picture for you? I hope so because oh. my. goodness. Artisan’s butterscotch pudding features salted caramel and pecan biscotti and I hereby declare it Paso’s perfect dessert. Worlds apart from the butterscotch pudding your mama used to make from the box, Artisan’s take results in a sublime concoction of creamy texture and rich flavor. It tiptoes across a fine line of sweetness, striking a perfect balance between too much and cue my stomach that the meal is complete. Truly I cannot imagine a more suitable dessert. That is all.
Pomegranate Chipotle Turkey Panini- Full Belly Deli
Inconspicuously tucked into a row of commercial buildings sits a cute little breakfast/lunch spot by he name of the Full Belly Deli. We heard great things and had to stop in for lunch one day. Let me start by saying we were not disappointed. Each sandwich that we ordered was made fresh on-demand and served with a smile. The Pomegranate Chipotle Turkey Panini, in particular, was a favorite. Creamy melted cheddar cozied up against tangy pomegranate and just a hint of heat from the chipotle to create a tasty supporting cast for the turkey breast. Served on focaccia with a bed of fresh arugula, this was one sandwich we all sunk our teeth into (and found ourselves craving for days).
And then, as if that weren’t enough, the Full Belly Deli offered us homemade cookies, fresh from the oven. It was totally love at first bite when I sunk my teeth into their Vanilla Sprinkle cookies. For real. Since I’ve returned home I’ve quite literally tried three times to duplicate the recipe but have been unsuccessful on every attempt. Drat!
Suffice it to say that I’m not giving up yet.
This post concludes my series on Paso Robles travel. For more information on travel to the region, check out: