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A foodie in paradise

Savor a sumptuous seaside barbecue, a culinary extravaganza, and a sublime wine benefit



Whenever I start stressing out, I head to the nearest beach for solace, just as I did when I lived in San Francisco. Recently I made a sojourn in paradise even more serene, thanks to a sun-drenched Friday afternoon in Shell Beach at the Lido Restaurant’s new “fireside grill.”

FIND SERENITY:  at the Lido Restaurant’s fireside grill by the pool by the sea - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • FIND SERENITY: at the Lido Restaurant’s fireside grill by the pool by the sea
What’s the fireside grill, you ask? It’s the Dolphin Bay Resort’s casual dining option for the summer. It’s even more of a treat for locals than it is for the tourists staying there. It takes place every Friday and Saturday afternoon through early evening and provides tasty barbecue treats at reasonable prices. They’ve added a new fire pit and grilling area between the pool and the ocean for chef Evan Treadwell and his team of cooks. And these pros are grilling up tasty dishes featuring fresh fish, Hearst Ranch beef, chicken, corn-on-the-cob, vegetable kabobs, and more, even desserts, including house-made lemon bars and brownies. It’s barbecue heaven, like the proverbial gilded lily, offering fine treats al fresco at fair prices.

The feast at Lido’s fireside grill is downright value-priced with a la carte fries, sandwiches or entrees ranging from only $3 to $15. I thoroughly enjoyed the barbecued half chicken, generous in size, with Santa Maria-style pinquito beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. There are sodas, fine wines, beers, cocktails, specialty mojitos, and tequilas.

Considering the astronomical price of gas and record food prices, the grill is as rewarding as finding a blowout deal on the Internet for a gorgeous Hawaiian island vacation. Check out the hotel Web site at for details on another new treat, Cinema Under the Stars, with concession stands and free lawn seating, or dinner featuring a three-course menu. Whatever the reason for your visit, you can afford to bring the entire family at these prices.

Robin’s Eclectic Cuisine
There’s one thing that’s a sure thing at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria; the dining experience is consistently enjoyable, from start to finish. But I was inspired to revisit it recently when I heard about the specials that are held on the second Friday of each month. Although these specials usually have an ethnic theme, they are simply called “Prix Fixe Dinners.”

The June dinner featured a four-course African menu paired with four South African wines. Before we began the meal, owner Shanny Covey confided: “I almost cancelled this dinner due to an unexpected change of chefs. I just hired Shaun Behrens, who was taking on the previous chef’s menu, but when I asked if he wanted to cancel he said, ‘No, I can do it.’” Admittedly, the task would be daunting for most chefs, but Behrens handled it with style and I walked away totally impressed. His grilled prawn piri piri with red rice, kumquats, and butter leaf lettuce was delicious and paired well with a Graham Beck Viognier. The entr»es were even better: His perfectly cooked whole trout stuffed with almond cous cous, spring vegetable tagine, and preserved lemon chutney was delicious from head to tail. My lamb loin rubbed with chili peppers and spices had a perfect kick of heat without burning out my taste buds. And his sweet potato mash with braised Swiss chard and tomato date jam were excellent complements to the spicy, medium-rare meat. All the wine-and-food pairings were all expertly done, but the latter was the most delightful. The Graham Beck Gamekeepers Red had ripe black fruit with earth and game characters that paired beautifully with the spicy lamb.

Behrens, a fellow alumnus of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, is only 33 but has a great deal of experience working in restaurants in San Francisco, Pebble Beach, Mendocino, and Los Olivos. His next Prix Fixe Dinner, Modern American on July 11, features such dishes as heirloom tomato bisque, potato-wrapped scallop with spiced plum, cucumber-melon sorbet, and choice of flat-iron steak, wild Alaskan halibut, or grilled summer vegetable tian with sauce vert. His grand conclusion is Philadelphia-style peaches and cream. The meals are a great value at only $46 per person with wine or $37 per person without wines. Check out future dinners, including a vegan and Spanish tapas dinner, at

The 24th Annual Central Coast Wine Classic
If there’s one name that’s synonymous with Hearst Castle it has to be the Central Coast Wine Classic. It’s a renowned charitable event that features a black-tie, multi-course dinner beside the castle’s Greco-Roman swimming pool. The event has long been fully subscribed at 250 guests (there’s a long waiting list), but you needn’t attend the prestigious dinner to appreciate the fabulous treats. It was created by local wine guru, Archie McLaren, who’s been building on a dream that he had 24 years ago.

“One of the visions I had was that the wine classic would sustain the arts and organizations it’s sustaining now,” McLaren said proudly. The beneficiaries include the French Hospital Medical Center’s Hearst Cancer Resource Center, Atascadero Loaves & Fishes, the San Luis Obispos YMCA, Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and the San Luis Obispos Wind Orchestra, plus many others. They change annually. “The arts have had a stunningly, beneficial impact on the lives of people in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. To continue that impact is extremely important, whether it’s for a symphony or for a small playhouse.”

There’s no denying its impact on the food and wine society here. While you hear many Central Coast wineries bemoan Napa’s number one status in the country, this is one event that has the amazing ability to bring these wineries all together—here.

“The original concept was to create an event that proved Central Coast wines could equal wines anywhere. Occasionally people criticized me for it. But we did it by bringing wineries from France, Italy, Napa, and this year from Australia, to prove our wines were the equal of wines anywhere.”

McLaren invites you to come and taste the proof during the wine classic: “Come and see just how incredible our local wines taste.” The celebration takes place on Thursday, July 10, through Sunday, July 13, with most events to be held at the gorgeous Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach. For detailed information, tickets and/or reservations visit


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