Friday, October 15, 2010

So There We Were . . .

at a wine tasting room outside of Paso Robles and the woman running the room sets out a small basket of bread and a small dish of their estate olive oil to accompany our tastings.

While Chuck’s cousin Tom and his wife Betty are savoring the reds, Chuck and I are knocking back piece after piece of the most wonderful French bread ever.

“Where did you get this?”

“From Hush-Harbor Artisan Bread Company in Atascadero (CA).”

Guess where we headed two days later. Atascadero.

[Photos of our visits to the restaurants noted below are locked in our film chip, so we have added photos from other stops in the area.]

Hush-Harbor is co-owned by Donnie Monroe and his wife, two former aerospace industry employees. Donnie is the master baker and his wife uses her background in contracting to run the business end of the operation. And in addition to selling their marvelous French baguettes, ciabatta rolls, and sourdough rounds, their product line includes such decadent pastries as chocolate éclairs, giant macaroons, lemon bars, and cheesecake. And an integral part of their bakery is a small but cozy restaurant.

On the day of our visit, we purchased two baguettes and two ciabatta rolls (photo, a product of a different camera). But we also stayed for lunch. The day’s soup was a spicy New Orleans inspired Jambalaya Soup loaded with sausage, chicken, tomato, onion, green pepper, and rice and seasoned with thyme and oregano. Mrs. Monroe warned us that the soup was spicy – and it was. But then, we really like spicy.

My choice was the soup and half sandwich combo and had my choice of either the Italian Grinder or the Turkey Grinder. I chose the Italian, and it resembled, but was not identical to, the Philadelphia Italian Hoagie. It contained ham, Italian salami and Swiss cheese with lettuce, tomato, roasted red pepper, red onion, pesto, Caesar sauce and a splash of Balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious but then a flip flop would be good on the crusty and airy baguette.

Chuck chose the Cuban Sandwich which contained black forest ham and pork loin marinated in a Cuban mojo (olive oil and garlic) with melted Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and sweet pickle chips and was served on a fresh ciabatta roll. This was a new take on the classic Cuban. It was not a pressed sandwich. Rather, the meat had been cooked on a grill and then placed on the roll. Also, it was much moister than most Cubans, probably from the mojo.

We will be leaving Paso Robles with our freezer filled with Hush-Harbor’s 5.0 Addie baguettes and ciabatta rolls.

A few days later we were walking around downtown Paso Robles (a charming town of about 30,000) and stopped for lunch at the Odyssey World Café. As the name suggests, the menu reflects foods from around the world—Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Oriental, plus a selection of classic American sandwiches.

I chose the ahi tuna rice bowl which came topped with a sliced six ounce portion of seared tuna crusted with white and black sesame seeds and drizzled with a soy-based sauce. This sat atop a variety of stir fried vegetables (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, snow peas, and red bell peppers) in a mild Asian sauce which, in turn, sat atop a bed of white steamed rice. The tuna was perfect with a rare and barely warm center. I could have easily eaten a double portion of the fish. The vegetables and rice, on the other hand, were kind of bland and no amount of salt could give them life.

Chuck chose the lamb gyro—a pita round filled with garlicky and tender lamb gyro meat, romaine lettuce, red onions, and tomatoes and dressed with a traditional tzatziki sauce. Chuck thought that the sauce was a bit heavy on the cucumber. I thought it was just right. And with his gyro, he had his choice of a cup of soup or a small salad. Since one of the soup options that day was clam chowder—the soup option it would be. This was a pretty good version of New England clam chowder and was full of clams and potatoes. And best of all, it came to the table steaming hot.

According to the web, the Odyssey World Café is one of the locals’ favorite restaurants in Paso Robles. And they do offer very good food at a very reasonable price and earns a 4.0 Addie rating.

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