Paso Robles Wine Tasting Trip

January 28th, 2009

Last week my brother and his wife were in town and we decided to take a trip up to Paso Robles to do some wine tasting.

We decided to take the scenic route there, going up PCH through Pacific Palisades and Malibu. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch. We parked on Stearn’s Wharf and ate at the Harbor Restaurant. I had Ahi Tuna Melt which were OK, but not really what we expected – they were not open faced. M had Mussels in Green Curry Broth, which she enjoyed. We had Hinano Beer, which is from Fiji. The waitress told us it was a Medium to Dark beer, but it turned out to be very light. It wasn’t bad, but I would probably not order it again.

After lunch we walked down the pier and along the beach for a little bit – before heading out again. We again chose the scenic route and took 154 towards Los Olivos. We decided to stop at a Vineyard and randomly ended up at Rusack Vineyards. We tried a wine flight and we all liked the Sangiovese, so we each bought a bottle.

After the wine tasting we headed back up 101 to Paso Robles and easily found our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Paso Robles. The hotel was nice, nothing special, but clean and comfortable. We were in the “new” building across the parking lot from the lobby. We made reservations for dinner at Artisan and opened up one of the bottles that we had bought earlier.

About 20 minutes before dinner we headed to the lobby of the hotel to get them to call us a cab. They warned us that the cab company stopped running at 9:00pm so we could be out of luck on the way home. The cab that showed up was North County Taxi. The fare was only $5.00 to the restaurant.

We got to Artisan at 7:00 and it was fairly busy – there were only 2 open tables, so we were glad we had made reservations. We weren’t expecting it to be so busy on a Wednesday. The food was very good all round. I had a crab cake for appetizer and pumpkin ravioli. M had a Gouda fondue for appetizer and the ravioli as well. I had the trio of creme brulees and M had the Chocolate Pave and Peanut Butter Ice Cream. I would definitely go back there if I was ever in Paso Robles for dinner again. We asked our waitress for a taxi and the same cab driver showed up again.

The next morning we woke up, had some free breakfast at the hotel and hit the wineries. Our first stop was Vina Robles where we had Cuvée Collection Tasting Paired with Artisan Cheeses. The cheeses were great. The Winery was new and very impressive looking. We asked about sparkling wines in the area so she suggested we try Robert Hall which was across the street. We went there, but unfortunately they no longer made the sparkling wine so we moved on.

Our next stop was Falcon Nest Winery. This was a much smaller winery compared to the last two we visited. The owner, Francesco, was pouring the wines in the tasting rooms and telling stories. We had a great time listening to him tell us about his adventures in the hotel and restaurant industries all over the world. We also had some good wines. We were the only ones there the whole time. I guess they don’t get much business on a rainy Thursday in January. After the regular four tastings (one which he poured twice by mistake), he also started giving us various “blends” by simply pouring wine from two different bottles. We ended up buying a Syrah and a Zinfandel from there. They also had lunch there that might be good for next time we are in the area.

Francesco recommended we go see his neighbor, Tom, at Rio Seco. When we got there we asked for just tastings of his red wine, but he insisted we try one white wine he was proud of, the Vio Rio – a Viognier and Orange Muscat blend. We were glad we tried this one, it was very good and we ended up buying 2 bottles. We didn’t like the reds there very much. Tom was an ex-baseball scout, and used to work for the Blue Jays so we talked about baseball and Toronto. There were also two very cute and friendly dogs there who greeted everyone when they heard a car pull up.

Next we headed to Cass Winery, where we knew that lunch was available. For lunch we had crab cakes and split a demi loaf. There was also a wine pairing, but I think our taste buds were shot by that time and we couldn’t really tell if the wine was good. We wanted dessert, but the regular chef was in Las Vegas, so they didn’t have any.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel where my brother and I went to the hot tub and had a few beers while the girls napped. That evening we decided to go to a place called Level 4 for dinner. Once again, we went to the lobby to get a taxi and the same cabbie from the night before showed up. We decided to go downtown a little earlier and see if we could find a place to have a drink before dinner. After wandering around a little bit, we couldn’t really see anything interesting.

We got to Level 4 a little early, so we had a drink at the bar. I had some Firestone DB on tap and everyone else had Algonquins. (Algonquins are 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce French vermouth and 3/4 ounce pineapple juice – everyone agreed that the drink were better after doubling the amount of pineapple juice.)

We were seated in the dining room which was empty except for one other table. For some reason the hostess decided to seat us right beside the other table. All four of us split an artisan cheese plate and champagne to start. The cheese was OK. For dinner I had garlic fries to start and then halibut on crispy rice. I really enjoyed everything. M had tempura shrimp, which was very good, a Caesar salad and a twice baked potato, which were OK.

As we were getting ready to pay the check the hostess came over and said someone was on the phone asking if we wanted to be picked up. It was our regular cab driver making sure we could get back to the hotel before her shift was over. That was very nice.

The next morning we checked out and drove through the rain and fog to Hearst Castle. We took Tour 2: The Casa Grande Tour. It went through many of the bedrooms, two libraries, the kitchen and the indoor pool. The castle was spectacular and the tour was pretty interesting. We were lucky that we had picked a tour that was mostly inside because it was raining most of the time.

After Hearst Castle drove a few miles up Highway One to go to the Elephant Seal viewing area. January was a great time to go because it is birthing season and there were lots of pups and their mothers on the beach. The pups were very noisy, trying to get attention from their mothers.

We headed back south and stopped in Cambria for lunch. We went to Robin’s Restaurant, which turned out to be a good choice. I had halibut tacos and M had salmon bisque and an avocado sandwich. We had carrot cake for desert. It was all good. After that we headed back to the 101 for the trip back to L.A.


Illustrated Guide to Coffee Drinks

August 29th, 2007

Ever wanted to know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?

Check out this great illustrated guide.


Pinkberry’s Invasion

August 17th, 2007

I have to agree with Jason Calacanis’ observations about Pinkberry. They are getting closer and closer. For those of you who don’t know, Pinkberry is a natural frozen yogurt shop that is all the rage in L.A. right now.

Our closest Pinkberries is on Melrose, probably about a mile away. Recently another yogurt shop, very similar to PinkBerry, Cantaloop, opened up about a quarter of a mile from our place. Now they are building a new Pinkberry a few hundred feet down the street from our place. I expect one in our lobby early next year.

We have been to both PinkBerry and Cantaloop a few times, and have enjoyed it. And we like to think they are fairly guilt-free too (not that I’ve dared to look at the nutritional information yet, we’ll just take for granted that it’s healthy). Now that one is opening so close, I’m sure we’ll be having more fro-yo in the future.

It looks like there is definitely a new frozen yogurt invasion going on. Can’t anyone remember what happened to all those TCBYs that opened up in the nineties?


Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas: Restaurant Review

July 31st, 2006

In early October we ate at the Wynn Buffet. I started this posting but never finished it. Here it is anyway, just basically a list of what we had:

Crab Legs and Clarified Butter, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Shrimp Cocktail, Tofu & Veggie Salad, Tofu and Spinach, Tuna Ceviche, Smoked Whitefish, Cheeses, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Aloo Gobi, Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Seafood, Pizza

Sushi, Hawaiian Seafood Medley

Desserts: Pecan Pie (sugar-free), Carrot Cake, Cookies,

Lemon Bars, Eclair, Creme Brulee, Strawberry Tart

$31.95 + Tax

October 5th, 2005


Iron Chef: Souplantation

March 20th, 2006

This is a hilarious account of two people who had an Iron Chef battle in a Souplantation. (For those of you who don’t know, Souplantation is an all you can eat salad and soup restaurant.)

Iron Chef: Souplantation

Found via: la.foodblogging


Peeling Bananas from the Wrong End

January 23rd, 2006

I consider myself a little bit of a monkey, so it’s quite a shock that I’ve been peeling bananas from the wrong end all my life.

It seems monkeys peel bananas by pinching the non-stem end. I don’t have any bananas to test this on, but can’t wait to try out this technique.


Los Angeles Health Ratings

January 7th, 2006

The Los Angeles County Environmental Health Restaurant Rating site is a must visit site for an L.A. area diners. Here you can find out what inspection score any restaurant in the county got. L.A. rates restaurants on a 100 point score with ‘A’ being 90-100 , ‘B’ is 80-89, and ‘C’ is 70-79. We never go to any restaurant that didn’t get an ‘A’.


Locanda Veneta Restaurant Review

December 19th, 2005

We went to Locanda Veneta for Michele’s birthday.

The restaurant was small and dimly lit, which made it romantic, but the tables were a little too close together for my liking.

The wine list had a half decent number of wines on it, but was on the pricey side. We had a bottle of the Concannon Petite Syrah for $52.

Appetizer was Melanzana alla Parmiggiana (grilled eggplant stuffed with mozzarella in a tomato basil sauce, baked “au gratin”) and Burrata Caprese (Burrata Cheese and tomatoes, served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). The eggplant was good, but was overshadowed by the excellent Burrata. We will definitely be ordering that one again when we go back.

For main course I had a special: gnocchi with black cabbage and ricotta in a white bean sauce. The original white bean sauce had bacon in it, so I had them substitute it for another white bean sauce that they had. The gnocchi was good, but not great; I think I am still spoiled by the Gnocchi we had in Venice last year.

Michele was tempted by a special that night, a crab risotto with pomegranate seeds, but went with a regular menu item, the homemade black ravioli filled with fresh lobster served in a creamy saffron sauce. It was very good and Michele was very happy she ordered it.

Dessert was the Il “ Trio” Locanda: vanilla crème custard with caramel sauce, chocolate custard with fresh raspberry, and Panna Cotta with a fresh raspberry sauce. All three were very good and it was a great desert to split.

The service was good. The waiters and bus boys came with everything fairly quickly and cleared things well, but they never we needed to refill our wine glasses ourselves.

Food: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Service: 7/10

Locanda Veneta
8638 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 274-1893


Heirloom Tomatoes

November 12th, 2005

We buy heirloom tomatoes every now and then, especially when they are on sale. Rock n’ Roll Ralph’s usually has them on for $5.99/lb but yesterday they were only $3.39/lb, which was cheaper then the regular tomatoes, so of course we bought some. If you have never tried heirloom tomatoes before, you should. They really taste like real tomatoes instead of those mushy tasteless things that pass for tomatoes these days.

Heirloom Tomatoes

In case you are wondering, heirloom tomatoes are here is a good introduction.


Cheebo: Vegetarian Rating

October 10th, 2005

Cheebo has sandwiches, pizza, salad and other items available to eat at the restaurant, to go, or delivery.

Vegetarian Choices

Sandwiches Vegan Veggiewich(assorted veggies), Eggwich (egg salad), Capresewich (mozzarella, tomato, basil, avacado, olive tapenade, burrata), Garden Veggie Burger, Three Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato pressed sandwich.

Pizza They offer a large choice of veggies, herbs and other vegetarian toppings for their pizzas.

Salads Mixed Green, Mesquite Grilled Vegetable, Caesar, Greek, Artichoke and Arrugula, Living Salad, Baked Goat Cheese Salad, Gorgonzola Salad.

Other Items They always have a Vegan soup of the Day, and also have some pastas and sides to choose from.

Overall, I think Cheebo does a good job providing a good variety of vegetarian options. Even Vegans have several selection to choose from.

Vegetarian Rating: 4 out of 5

7533 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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