Curious Epicurean

Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Downtown Paso Robles has managed to maintain its historic feeling with a beautiful park and brick buildings, while embracing very modern culinary trends. Midway between San Francisco and LA, Paso Robles is a perfect weekend escape. On a recent visit, we stopped in for a dinner at Artisan. The restaurant is decidedly urban in the midst of the small town setting.

One of the things I truly admire about Paso Robles restaurants, is their commitment to local, seasonal ingredients and an abundance of local wine. If you visit Paso Robles in search of fabulous food and wine pairings, a stop at Artisan will not leave you disappointed. We opted for a Vina Robles, Verdelho “Huerhuero Estate”, 2010. It’s wonderfully balanced with creamy notes and a bright aroma of melon and pear.

Jalapeño cornbread, served with honey butter

Jalapeño cornbread, served with honey butter.

Diving into the seasonal menu at Artisan is a treat. We started with the Jalapeño cornbread. There is something so fun about finger food appetizers–even at a restaurant! The spicy cornbread is perfectly complimented by the delicate honey butter it is served with.

Scallops, prawns, mussels, clams and Spanish chorizo.

Scallops, prawns, mussels, clams and Spanish chorizo.

For entrees, we were tempted with fresh seafood. We tried the scallops, prawns mussels, clams and Spanish Chorizo. The scallops were buttery and tender. The spicy chorizo and saffron were perfect compliments to jazz up the seafood. We also had the swordfish, garnished with kalamata olives and local olive oil. The swordfish had beautiful grill marks that provided a crunchy outer layer and locking in the savory flavors.

Swordfish with kalamata olives.

Swordfish with kalamata olives.

Chickpeas provided a bright, green compliment to the rich swordfish.

Artisan is open daily for lunch and dinner. We’re looking forward to stopping in for brunch during our next weekend visit to Paso Robles.

Waterbar in San Francisco.

While it may be very tempting to make a beeline straight for MoMo’s or Pete’s Tavern before a Giants game, every once in a while it pays off to resist the urge to enjoy all things frat-tastic. For our last Giants game happy hour pre-game, we took a detour from the mob scene that is the bars surrounding the park. It certainly paid off.

On a beautiful, sunny San Francisco afternoon, we ventured to Waterbar, located on the Embarcadero South. The restaurant has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows, a sunny patio and inviting bar, all with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.Oysters and sparkling wine. That’s what I call happy hour.

Waterbar has an awesome happy hour! This isn’t your normal half-off apps and pitchers happy hour. We’re talking $1 oysters and $5 glasses of champagne. This is a whole new happy hour, offered Monday- Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm.

Pro tip: Everyday from 11:30 am- 6pm, the featured oysters are $1 each.

View from the bar at .

On our visit to Waterbar we sat at the bar, which was full by 4 pm. Business people from the Financial District mixed with tourists. We were the only Giants fans pre-gaming, but everyone was more than interested in the night’s game.

Oysters are shucked and cleaned right in front of you at the bar.

We enjoyed the featured oyster, the Hammersley Inlet from Washington and a couple glasses of sparkling wine each.

We’ll definitely be back to Waterbar for happy hour. It’s certainly worth it to venture from the normal Giant’s pre-game bars.

It took exactly one trip to Paso Robles for me to fall in love.  With a sprawling wine country featuring more than 200 wineries, cute boutiques and inspired dining in downtown, Paso Robles is perfect for a weekend trip from the Bay Area. Arriving on a busy holiday weekend armed with a few recommendations from a journalist friend, we eagerly set out for wine tasting. We spent the weekend navigating throughout the AVA, which varies greatly between the west and east sides of 101. The steep hills and canyons on the west side of the AVA get a heavy marine influence. There was fog and moss hung from the large oak trees. The east side wineries are mostly flat.

The inviting patio overlooking the lake at Bianchi.

One of our stops on the east side, was Bianchi Winery & Tasting Room. The beautiful grounds and tasting room at Bianchi are worth the visit by itself. The spacious, open tasting room features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a sunny patio, serene lake,vineyards and the coastal mountains in the distance.

The tasting room at Bianchi

The winemaker at Bianchi focuses on two collections of wine: the Heritage Selection, which are all estate-grown, and the Signature Selection, with grapes sourced from select small-lot vineyards from across the Central Coast.

The tasting at Bianchi did not disappoint. Here are some of my favorites from our visit to Bianchi:

  • 2007 Zen Ranch Zinfandel, Paso Robles- Berry aroma, with honeysuckle and anise flavors. We paired our bottle with a zesty red pasta.
  • 2006 Barbera, San Juan Vineyards, Paso Robles-  Aroma of vanilla, bold plum and berry flavors. This is a bold wine that needs the right dish to compliment. We paired ours with spicy carne asada.

Bianchi is definitely worth a stop on a Paso Robles weekend trip. The tasting room is open daily and tours are offered.

Downtown Pleasanton certainly doesn’t have a lack of quality outdoor dining options. Perfect for people watching during a busy weekday lunch or lounging on a warm summer evening, sidewalk cafes are much of the charm of the historic downtown. One of the newest additions, Nonni’s Bistro, opened in late-summer 2010 and happens to be one of my favorites.  

Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Nonni's Bistro)

The latest venture of Chef  Jon Magnusson, who also launched Carmel’s Bistro 211, offers an inventive menu with distinctive European flair. Much of the charm of Nonni’s Bistro is in the details. The lunch menu and daily specials are delicately assembled with seasonal produce. Dainty vases of fresh flower cheerily greet diners. Water carafes are accented with slices of citrus and mint, and the fresh warm rolls are too tempting to pass up.

Onion Soup at Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Yelp)

The decor inside Nonni’s is inviting, yet unassuming. Remarkably refreshing, and honestly lacking in many area restaurants, is that Chef Jon always greets diners and checks on tables throughout the meal. He is friendly and always quick to strike up conversation. Nonni’s Bistro is a perfect example of how an involved and visible chef can enhance the dining experience.

I’ve been to Nonni’s Bistro three times so far. I recommend the french onion soup ($5.95),  flat bread topped with red bell peppers, olive tapenade and fontina cheese, which comes with a house salad ($10) and the petit grilled chicken sandwich, served with white bean and chicken soup ($12).

The wine list at Nonni’s Bistro includes many labels from the neighboring Livermore Valley Wine Country, including Wente Vineyards and Darcie Kent. Nonni’s Bistro is also open for brunch and dinner. I’m looking forward to coming back during the Saturday morning Pleasanton Farmers Market or after enjoying Pleasanton Downtown’s seasonal 1st Wednesday Street Parties.

I learned long ago that an important part of PR is managing expectations, whether it’s from a client or company executives. In my very first client meeting at my internship with a fabulous student-managed PR agency, my client let me know (in all seriousness) they wanted to be on Oprah. I immediately thought to myself, “sure, everyone wants Oprah.”

Times Square from my iPhone

In the years since that first meeting, I’ve had other clients with the same request. Of course I’d love to get every client, product or cool story idea on Oprah, but so does every other PR pro. Part of our job is to help our clients, supervisors and stakeholders understand realistic, achievable PR goals and plans. Oprah is not be realistic or appropriate for every pitch, product or idea.

Being on the West Coast makes it additionally challenging to make connections with writers and editors on the East Coast. Being in New York for a California Tourism media event presented a great opportunity to make new connections. Yesterday, I had the chance to pitch the Food Editor at O, The Oprah Magazine for my organization and our destination. This was by far the biggest opportunity in my PR career.

Our team spent two weeks researching and preparing for this meeting that lasted about 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes. To describe the agriculture, culinary trends and wine scene in our area in 15 minutes is not an easy task. 150 years of wine history, award-winning restaurants and inventive restaurateurs made for a jam-packed 15 minutes!

It was a great learning moment for me as a young professional. These editors get countless e-mails and dozens of pitches everyday. It is important to be concise but descriptive.  Our job is not only to showcase the attractions of our region, but also the character and vibe a visitor would experience. Being able to set our area apart from so many other wine regions can only be done by demonstrating the charm and character.


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