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.


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


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


Nobu Las Vegas: Restaurant Review

September 13th, 2005

Michele and I ate at Nobu in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on September 5th.

I went there with high hopes that it would be a great sushi experience similar to Uchi in Austin or Roku in West Hollywood.

After starting with some Edamame and Vodka Tonics, we decided to have the Omakase – Chef’s Choice for $100 each. This came with 7 dishes.

Toro Tartare with Caviar. This was a pretty good dish. I likes the texture and the taste was good too. It came with some type of berry, which we cannot remember the name of right now.
Yellowtail with Salsa. This was OK. Yellowtail has recently become one of my favorite sushi’s, but this one was a little disappointing. Yellowtail with Salsa
Seared Tuna. The seared Tuna was a typical seared tuna you would find at any good restaurant. Seared Tuna
Black Cod with Miso. This was a fairly good black cod. Some black cod I’ve tried has been a little fishy, but this one was fairly tasty. Black Cod with Miso
Fish with Enoki Mushrooms and Asparagus. We could not remember what type of fish this was. Again it was a pretty good dish. The enoki mushrooms were a nice change, but not as tasty as the ones I had at Uchi last time. Fish with Enoki Mushrooms and Asparagus
Assorted Sushi. This included Yellowtail, Tuna, Salmon, Fluke and Shrimp. This was OK, but not anywhere close to some of the sushi I’ve had in other places. Assorted Sushi
Dessert. The desert was a chocolate lava cake, ice cream and some berries. Chocolate lava cake is one of my favorites, but this was nothing special. The ice cream and berries were OK.Dessert

Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed. Considering the cost of the meal and the reputation of the restaurant I was very disappointed. I was expecting to be blown away by many of the dishes, but none of them really lived up to my expectations.

The decor of the restaurant was nice. One large wall was made out of small smooth rocks, and I really liked the looks of it. One complaint I had was that you needed to go out of the restaurant and into the casino to go to the restroom. I know it’s like this at every hotel, but when you’re at a nice restaurant like this, it really takes you out of the mood.

Service was good. The food came out at a good pace, and empty dishes were cleared quickly. The servers and bus boys were very polite and we we never felt like we were rushed or waiting for anything. They even folded our napkins for us when we went to the restroom.

Food: 3.5/5
Atmosphere: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5


Kubo Radio: Restaurant Review

August 18th, 2005

When Michele and I were in Toronto last week, Krissy and Paul took us to Kubo Radio. Kubo is an Asian restaurant on Queen Street in Leslieville.

The decor was Asian-influenced but still modern. It looked nice, but not so fancy that you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable in shorts and t-shirt. The prices of entrees range from about $9 to $15, with a typical noodle dish being around $12. It had enough vegetarian entrees to provide all of us with a selection.

They had a good selection of different beers including some local brews from the Mill Street Brewery, but I went for the Asahi Black.

Paul and Krissy had been there before and recommended the Sweet Potato Dumplings for appetizers. These were really good, nice and crispy and sweet; you could taste the maple syrup in them. Yummy!

For an entree I had the Panang Curry. It was a good flavourful Thai curry with enough spice to make it interesting. The portions were on the large side, and there was plenty of liquid in the bowl to sop up with the rice. Paul had ordered this last time he was there and found it a little spicy, so be warned. I would definitely consider getting this again if we ever come back.

The rest of the table had the Kubo Noodles (without the chicken), Funga Noodles and Tofu You. I tried a bit of Michele’s Tofu You and it was good. It reminded me a little of Pad Thai. Since Pad Thai is my favorite dish of all time, I’d have to say that I would prefer a good Pad Thai over the Tofu You. Everyone was very happy with their meals. Krissy and Paul even took home the leftovers for the next day.

Unfortunately, we were all too full for dessert.

The service was pretty good too. The busboy (who’s first day of work was that night) forgot to bring us the condiments plate, but the manager came by and noticed this and brought us some. The waiter was prompt with everything he did.

Atmosphere: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 9/10

Kubo Radio
894 Queen Street
Toronto, On

Toivo Lainevool’s Random Thoughts is proudly powered by WordPress | Privacy Policy