- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Nothing beats comfort foods for lifting your spirits when you’re feeling down. In fact, soulful foods can take you back in time to that cozy kitchen where your grandma cooked your favorite chicken pot pie or macaroni and cheese. According to the Food Network, comfort food is regional: It’s pizza in Brooklyn, fried chicken in Georgia, and burritos in San Francisco’s Mission District. When my mother and I cooked our favorites, like mayonnaise chocolate cake, we always described it as soul food. It’s anything but gourmet, and that’s OK as long as the quality shines through. You’ll typically find the best comfort foods at little mom-and-pop places. That’s why I recommend Rosie’s Restaurant, a quintessential Americana-style restaurant in Nipomo.
I first heard about Rosie’s because of her chicken and waffle dish. A California native, I doubted I’d like it, yet I had to try it. When I dug into that thick, crispy exterior to the moist chicken inside, I thought, “Who needs a waffle and maple syrup to enjoy this delicious chicken?” Dining there with friends on two occasions, we discussed the fact that this dish is classic Southern America cuisine. While it’s traditional in the Deep South, if I ordered Rosie’s fried chicken with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and slender green beans again, I’ll tell them to hold the waffle. And at this price, $12.50, I’ll still be getting a value-priced dinner.
Upon meeting Larson, I was instantly charmed by her Earth Mother persona. She’s vivacious, quick to laugh, isn’t inclined to self-importance, and works hard to create foods that make people happy. Her quaint restaurant is just like her: charming and relaxed. Don’t come here looking for lobster thermidor—this is American comfort food, and Rosie’s proud of it.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- HOLD THE LOBSTER : Rose Larson serves up lip-smacking comfort food.
Chef Rosie never attended culinary school, but she has enjoyed cooking for large groups all of her life. She puts her heart and soul into it and genuinely enjoys cooking and creating dishes that will satisfy your soul. And that trumps any diploma on the wall. I loved the fact that Larson and her husband Greg still enjoy their day jobs; she’s a Realtor and he’s a lawyer, and they work hard all evening to make their guests happy.
“We talked about having a restaurant for many years, and when this house went on the market, it spurred us to finally do this,” Rosie explained. “It’s been a long, slow process over the four years since we bought it, and we finally made the push this last year.”
They hired the experienced Michael Tucker as lead line cook, and Rosie creates the menus.
“It’s been a learning experience trying to keep things the same as our customers remember when they return. But I’m usually thinking of changes that would improve our food,” she laughed. “That’s the fun of having your own place: I can always add new ideas as specials.”
Join Rosie’s Facebook page, and you’re entitled to a special treat: a hamburger, fries, and a beer for $9.95.
“Greg and I wanted to take this old place and create a restaurant that was homey and a nice place to relax over dinner,” Rosie recalled. “Our customers are mostly locals who pop their head into the kitchen window to say how much they enjoyed dinner. It really lifts your spirits.”
Two events offer delicious attractions to support local charities
The fourth annual Vodka Martini Shakedown at Rosa’s Ristorante: Chef Doug and Shannon MacMillan of Rosa’s Ristorante in Pismo Beach began this charitable event in 2008 to benefit local schools. Last year, they raised $5,000, with $1,000 of it providing a scholarship for an aspiring young chef in the Culinary Arts Program at Arroyo Grande High School. Sponsored by Absolut Vodka, talented bartenders from our finest local restaurants will complete in hope of winning the honor of creating the best martini. The competing restaurants include Alex’s BBQ, Ciopinot, F. McLintocks, Gardens of Avila, MoTav, Novo, Steamers, Quarterdeck, and Ventana Grill.
The martinis will be judged by a panel of local politicians, chefs, and media (including me), who will rate them for first, second, and third place in a blind tasting. Guests also get to sample the martinis at stations placed throughout the restaurant and vote for their favorites. The competition takes place at Rosa’s Ristorante at 491 Price. St. in Pismo Beach, from noon until 3 p.m. on June 5. Tickets cost $60 each and provide martini sampling and plentiful hors d’oeuvres; there’s a raffle for excellent prizes (an iPad2, among other treasures), and live music. For information or tickets, contact Rosa’s at 773-0551 or go to rosasrestaurant.com. I’ve attended the shakedown from its beginning and have always been impressed by the beautiful and delicious concoctions the bartenders create.
An Afternoon of Epicurean Delights at Chapman House in Shell Beach: Many noteworthy wine and food events happen monthly on the Central Coast, like this festival that showcases art, from original paintings and jewelry to gourmet foods and collectible wines. The historic home has stunningly beautiful gardens along the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. Celebrating its 24th year, Epicurean Delights features locally made products to raise much-needed funds for Community Action Partnership Health Services.
The silent auction features a bit of everything from collectible wines to original art pieces. Guests enjoy an array of outstanding wines from 28 San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County wineries and breweries, and 20 restaurants and caterers will keep appetites sated. Eight musicians, including Louie Ortega, will perform. It takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 5. Tickets cost $85 each and can be purchased in advance at the Crushed Grape in SLO, the SLO or Arroyo Grande chambers of commerce, or by calling Health Services at 544-2498. Parking is limited near Chapman House, so take advantage of the shuttle service located at the Shell Beach Elementary School beginning at 11 a.m. All of these treats offered in this extraordinary coastal setting promise a good time for all.
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at email@example.com.