Paso Robles, California is one of my favorite wine regions. Its distinctive terroir, one that is optimal for the cultivation of a variety of grapes, and fascinating people who are stretching the boundaries of winemaking with their “going rogue” mindset help make this area unique and enticing. But along with grape growers and producers of some of the most notable wines in the state are talented chefs and restaurateurs responsible for satisfying some of our other wants: delicious food!
During a recent trip to the region, I dined at two restaurants, each with its own character and specialized menu, that are just as alluring as the regional wines they serve.
Two Great Farm-To-Table Restaurants to Visit in Paso Robles
Located in bustling downtown Paso Robles is Black Cat Bistro Too, the sister of Black Cat Bistro in Cambria, a coastal town 30 miles to the west. Mauricio Lopez, seasoned chef and owner of several restaurants, opened Black Cat Bistro Too in December 2017. A true family team, Sarah, his wife, manages the Cambria location and handles bookkeeping while his brother-in-law is the executive chef (with input from Mauricio, of course).
The menu focuses on seasonal foods with as many farm-to-table choices as possible. Fresh fish from Morro Bay and local meats that are organic and grass fed are just a few of the options. One warm night, our group of three wine lovers and foodies dined at Black Cat Bistro Too, opting to sit in the spacious sun-filled dining room instead of at the sidewalk tables. With refreshing pours of Stolo Rosé 2017, an award-winning winery in nearby Cambria, we were enticed with the varied menu choices. Ultimately, we opted for creamy Baked Polenta with eggplant, red chard, chevre, asiago, mozzarella, tomato coulis, pine nuts, shitake, and sage, a flavorful Gnocchi with shiitake, cremini, martini cream, radicchio, asiago, and sage and the evening’s specials: lightly breaded then perfectly baked seabass surrounded by roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and haricots verts followed by crab claws atop a savory corn pudding. Although the menu mirrors Black Cat Bistro, Mauricio Lopez has a few innovative plans for the Paso Robles restaurant and I’m looking forward to visiting once again to see (and taste) what he has in mind.
Black Cat Bistro Too can be found at 1218 Pine Street (805-296-3353), is open daily from 5pm – 9pm (closed on Wednesdays).
Get a sense of their delicious food offerings below =P:
If you’ve visited Paso Robles, most likely you’ve had brunch, lunch, or dinner at Thomas Hill Organics or at least have heard the buzz about this outstanding restaurant. Our group was fortunate to have not only an exceptional dinner there but to have a chat with Debbie Thomas, Owner, and Kurt Metzger, Executive Chef, as both took time out of their busy schedule to share some thoughts.
Thomas Hill Organics was founded in 2008 soon after Debbie Thomas moved to Paso Robles from Los Angeles to start a 10-acre organic farm and supposedly, take a break from her high-powered career in marketing. Although that career demanded that she move from the area, Debbie opted to stay in Paso Robles where she ultimately opened a restaurant, Thomas Hill Organics, with a menu that included organic fruits and vegetables from her own farm. Ten years later, Thomas Hill Organics showcases an array of fresh, seasonal ingredients from regional purveyors such as Olea Farms, Pepper Creek Family Farm, Bautista Farms, Loo Loo Farms, Windrose Farms, Rocking Chair Farms, and those from local farmer’s markets. Executive Chef Kurt Metzger is thrilled. His creative, ingredient-driven dishes have received well deserved recognition and, from the likes of it, this talented chef has found his home in Paso Robles.
Dinner that evening, on a candlelit table on the covered patio, was mouthwatering from beginning to end. Our starters of lightly battered Squash Blossoms, Cantaloupe Soup with crispy prosciutto sprinkles, and Dungeness Crab soup with curry, sweet corn, lemon oil, microgreens, and amaranth were expressive and “ahhh”-inducing. What followed, gluten-free, vegetarian Black Lentil Tacos with carrot puree, candied jalapenos, cashews, candied watermelon, cilantro, and coconut then Red Oak Braised Short Ribs with crispy polenta, heirloom blistered tomatoes, mushroom demi, and shoyu were not only tasty but picked-from-the-farm fresh. Dessert? A scoop of Leo Leo Gelato, a thriving Paso Robles business that provides world-class, artisan gelato to national accounts, was just as invigorating as you can imagine.
The large wine list offered a wide range of international choices, many by the glass and all by the bottle. To complement the innovative dishes, we enjoyed swirls and refreshing sips of white wines from Paso Robles: Lone Madrone “Oveja” Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc 2016, Barton, Clairette Blanche 2017, and Paix Sur Terre, Ugni Blanc 2017.
Thomas Hill Organics is located at 1313 Park Street (805-226-5888) and is open Monday through Thursday from 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am-3pm and 5pm-10pm, and Sunday for Brunch from 10am-2pm then 5pm-9pm for dinner.
Not convinced? Here’s a visual lineup of what Thomas Hill Organics has to offer.