Thursday, October 14, 2010

Would You Believe . . .

that across the street from this very large grain elevator lies a wonderful restaurant?

Oh. That’s right. You can’t see the grain elevator. Nor will you be able to see any of the wonderful food photos from either our dinner or lunch at McPhee’s Grill in Templeton, CA. Yes, it’s still that dreaded corrupted chip problem.

We were introduced to McPhee’s by Tom and Betty Miller during our weekend get together in Paso Robles, CA. Named by Gayot as one of their Top 10 Central Coast (CA) Food Rating Restau-rants, McPhee’s Grill is also the number one rated Templeton restaurant on

There are places where one feels comfortable upon entering, and so is the case here. The first thing you notice is the magnificent copper toned pressed tin ceiling – a reminder of the building’s use as a mercantile store in the 1880’s. Then, as you look around the room, you notice that representa-tions of barnyard animals predominate the décor. There is a large metal pig over the pass-through to the kitchen and there are three metal chickens guarding the door to the back dining room. Then you notice the farm animal stencils along the walls and the posters and prints of cows, chickens, and pigs.

Then you look at the menu and wonder how you are going to select from the plethora of interesting choices. Tom started his meal with the Kung Fu Baby Back Ribs appetizer that came with a small side of a very spicy Asian slaw. I took a small taste of the slaw and guess – and this is just a guess – that the heat came from wasabi. Betty’s starter of choice was the Original “Ian's” Salad with baby greens tossed with goat cheese, bleu cheese, bacon, bay shrimp, and balsamic vinaigrette.

I briefly considered ordering the Grilled Goat Cheese stuffed Poblano Chile appetizer which came with a tomatillo chipotle salsa. But Chuck and I finally decided to split the Chopped Caesar Salad which came with a non-traditional Caesar dressing that was light on the parmesan cheese and anchovies. The latter suited Chuck just fine.

The Point Reyes Blue Cream & Chicken Fettuccine with bacon, caramelized onions, and fresh tarragon sounded interesting even though tarragon is not my herb of choice. But then I noticed the Jambalaya Pasta - chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage with green onions, red bell peppers, and garlic in a spicy Cajun cream sauce. This was marvelous. The chicken pieces were tender and moist, the shrimp were sweet and crisp, and the sausage was appropriately spicy and smoky. And the cream sauce had just enough Cajun seasoning to give the dish bite but not searing heat.

When it was Chuck’s turn to order, he asked our server which she would recommend, the chicken (described on the menu as “Temple-ton’s Own ‘B & B Country Chicken’ boned and roasted with roasted garlic and porcini mushroom sauce on sweet corn buttermilk mashed potatoes) or the pork chop. With no hesitation, she responded “The pork chop.” And so Chuck ate the best pork chop either of us had ever tasted. This was a double cut chop, oak grilled, and glossed with an ancho chile apricot jam glaze. This came with a side of shoestring sweet potato fries. The pork chop was at least two inches thick and glistened from the sweet and smoky glaze. And the chop’s center was still a faint pink.

Both Tom and Betty (incidentally they shared a medium rare steak with garlic mashed as their entrée) and Chuck and I shared the apple tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert. It was very good, but by that time I was so full that I couldn’t fully appreciate it.

We enjoyed dinner so much that we returned to McPhee’s later in the week for lunch. While the double cut chop wasn’t on the lunch menu, they could grill two single cut chops with the same glaze and regular shoestring fries and warm red cabbage as sides. That worked.

I started with the No Nonsense Green Salad with a sun-dried tomato ranch dressing and then ate the better part of one chop and small portions of the cabbage and fries. Both of us had room to share a dish (and a chilled dish at that) of three golf-ball-sized portions of their house-made lemon sorbet with house-made raspberry sauce and a crisp dark chocolate cookie. Light, tart, and refreshing, this was the perfect end to the meal.

After we ate, we were talking with our server about the quality of McPhee’s food. She explained that Ian McPhee had run a restaurant in Cambria, CA (along the coast), and when he moved to Templeton, his Cambria chefs, most of whom had worked with Chef McPhee for years, moved with him. I do so like continuity in a good restaurant.

We really liked this place and are determined to route ourselves in this direction sometime in the future to dine again at this 5.0 Addie restaurant—opposite the grain elevator.

[Since we lost photos relating to this entry, we have included photos from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve south of Carmel, CA.]

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