Well in San Luis Obispo County!
I suppose I owe Alice Waters of the famed "Chez Panisse" nothing less than my firstborn child (who happens to be quite spectacular, I might add)... for her groundbreaking work in spearheading the "Farm-to-Table" movement.
Farm-to-Table cuisine shortens the distance our food travels from where grown to where served and/or consumed. It's based on using local farmers, ranchers and producers where personal relationships ensure field fresh, high quality product. For us here in San Luis Obispo, it's about a community of family farmers who care about the food they grow to feed the friends and family around them.
The Restaurant: Thomas Hill Market Bistro and Wine Bar
One of my favorite "Farm-to-Table" stories (and Best of County eats) is Thomas Hill Market Bistro and Wine Bar located in Paso Robles. THO (Thomas Hill Organics) is almost too good to be true, but it is!
Owners Debbie and Joseph Thomas truly walk the talk: They operate a 10 acre organic farm from which much of the Bistro's garden's produce, fruits and nuts originate. The Bistro's menu changes, based on seasonable availability. The Thomas' supplement their farm's output by supporting other local producers, and purchasing local product several times weekly at our Farmers' Markets.
I've dined at THO many times, though never with my husband (Yule's a bit of a homebody (understatement of the Century)... and prefers to dine In.) Today, I surprised him with a trip to one of my favorite eateries, and I'll share the experience with you.
Off we head to Thomas Hill Market Bistro and Wine Bar.
I LOVE THIS PLACE! There is something about the "juju", aura, ambiance, or whatever you prefer to call it... it's just ‘right'. Always greeted by friendly and welcoming faces, we are led to our table on their heated outdoor patio. Yule's already starting to chill and warming to the welcoming vibe... Caitlin, our server, welcomes us and shares the seasonal fare menu and wine list (a nice selection of quality, reasonably priced local wines.)
I ordered a little bit from each section of the menu: Braised Lentil Tacos, a Roasted Beet Salad, the Vietnamese BBQ Pork Belly Sandwich and the PC Cattle Co. Beef Burger.
Hands down, both Yule and I agreed the Pork Belly Sandwich was Triple AAA+. The Pork Belly offered up a bold salty/savory sandwich base and was perfectly balanced by the fresh, crisp texture of the carrot sambal, a truly flavorful avocado, dressed with roasted garlic aioli, and finished off with fresh cilantro - served on the perfect roll for this sandwich - yielding, but lightly crunchy. The sandwich comes with a salad of fresh greens and sells for $14.
My next favorite was the Vegan Braised Lentil Tacos, which is served as an appetizer and includes three of these delicious wonders costing $12. The tacos are served open faced layered with a carrot ginger puree, tiny black lentils, sprinkled with cashews, anaheim peppers, cilantro and coconut cream. Eating these little puppies is like taking your palate on a wonderfully exciting rollercoaster ride - you'll find yourself experiencing each of these unique flavors, some overlapping, others singular and amazingly subtle.
How can we not mention the Roasted Beet Salad? This salad ($12) is truly beautiful to behold - a mélange of reds, pinks, orange, yellows, purple and greens. The bright earthy flavor comes about from the roasting of the red and yellow baby beets, delicate carrots and cauliflower. Add to this medallions of blood orange, dates, watercress, and harissa all brought into harmony with a lime-ginger vinaigrette. Delightful! THO... I guess you'll be seeing a lot more of us.
Restaurant Month gives all of us a chance to enjoy the best that SLO County has to offer. Thomas Hill Organics is generous. I like their true farm to table ideal, their ‘walk the talk' that makes the dining experience delicious and true. Did I mention that our server not only worked the restaurant...but also worked the farm? Caitlin...you're the best! The food we enjoyed was special ... and that spoken from a local!
Thomas Hill's Prix-Fixe $30 Menu for Restaurant Month
The Prix-fixe menu for Restaurant Month good through January 15th (though be assured THO will amend the menu based on the best of seasonal offerings from the 16th-31th)
Salad of Arugula, Shaved Celery Root, Pecorino & Chanterelles, Walnut Vinagrette
Beef Short Rib Daube
Parsnip Puree, Green Peppercorn, Crispy Onions
Meyer Lemon Curd & Chocolate Tartlette
Ssssh: Debbie gave me the low down, and this menu is one not to be missed. I can't wait to come back for this very special dinner. Now that I've got Yule in the groove, we'll be back soon - maybe we'll see you there...
One more thing, since this post is about restaurant month, let me share my other favorites in the Paso Robles area: (1) "Artisan" - the name says it all!; (2) "Bistro Laurent" - think very fine food, and romance galore (extensive wine list); (3) "il cortile" - relatively new to the Paso food scene, though quickly becoming a local favorite; and (4) Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse - great things are happening with their new chef!
Get out there and try some of these gems!
Laura Gurreau, Central Coast Food Tours