There is always a dark force attempting to destroy date night.
The evil may show itself in the form of a busted dishwasher, unexpected fender bender, or a fresh root canal.
For my husband and me, that malice arose in a small, yet incredibly destructive form: a foxtail that had wedged inside our dog Mavis’ lady parts. Suddenly, that jar we had been saving for “a nice night out” was bone dry. After an expensive trip to the vet, Mavis was feeling much better, while we were back to eating leftovers on Saturday night.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
- MOTHER MAY I : Mother’s Tavern in SLO is offering up a prix fixe menu with three courses for $30 this January. Get your hands on this crisp sesame-crusted ahi salad with mixed greens, avocado, grilled pineapple, red onion, crispy wontons, and sweet sesame soy dressing with a complimentary 16-ounce beer or glass of wine as part of the deal.
This year, January Restaurant Month has arrived just in time to give us all a fresh culinary start. Even if you went big financing Christmas, chances are you too can throw down $30 or $40 for a killer, three-course prix fixe meal. Remember: That’s roughly the price of two movie tickets and some stale popcorn.
More than 30 restaurants and a dozen wineries across the county are offering downright delicious deals this month—meaning you can put that ancient box of Hamburger Helper back where it belongs: way back in the dusty nether reaches of your pantry.
Thanks to the blessed promotion, you might even be able to bring back date night, with its warm baskets of bread, clinking wine glasses, and “shared” desserts.
I mean, think about it. When is the last time you saw your significant other wearing something other than sweatpants? When was the last time you wore something other than sweatpants? That’s what I thought. Don’t worry, there is help for you yet. Now is the time to bring back a little swank into your life and onto your plate. Destination: Foremost Wine Company. Menu: winter greens salad with walnut vinaigrette and pears; risotto with Italian salsa verde, white truffle oil, and poached egg; and Tcho Chocolate Budino with crème fraiche, sea salt, and caramel for dessert (three courses for $30 with $15 wine pairing available; 570 Higuera St., SLO).
- PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
- DINE OUT: In a food rut? Allow January Restaurant Month to coax you out of culinary hibernation. Restaurants across SLO County are offering a feast of prix fixe menus for $30 to $40 this month.
Still feeling frumpy? Try Robin’s crispy fried Brussels sprouts with pine nuts, radish, and Big Rock blue cheese; seafood risotto bursting with mussels, sea bass, bok choy, snap peas, and kale all swimming in a seafood saffron broth; and a seductive house-made apple crumble with cool vanilla ice cream ($30 for three courses and other menu options are available; optional wine flight $15; 4095 Burton Drive, Cambria).
Looking for casual, no-strings-attached flavor? You don’t have to know what a salad fork looks like to get in on zesty eats at Fish Gaucho in Paso Robles. Grab a few famished friends and order everything off the prix fixe menu (that way, you can try it all). There’s plenty to choose from, but here’s what I would order: The ahi tostada salad; pineapple carnitas; and braised rib chile verde ($30 for three courses; 1244 Park St., Paso Robles). Of course, I’d wash it all down with an epic Tequila flight (always worth paying full price).
Speaking of libations, let’s talk local wine. There’s something truly magical about vineyards and tasting rooms in the off-season. There’s a luxurious quiet in the air. Get your fill of tourist-free sipping at Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery, which is offering free winemaking tours of its rustic-modern eco conscious facility (2825 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles). Brochelle Vineyards knows how to capture my heart. The eastside winery will be giving away two-for-one cheese tasting with a bottle purchase as well as discounted wines (2323 Tuley Court, Paso Robles). I don’t know about you, but I always have room for a brownie or five. Sextant Wines in Edna Valley is offering up a complimentary homemade brownie or signature “seven layer bar” to all tasters. That’s seven whole layers of flavor for free.
Of course, I understand if booze is the last thing you want after a raucous New Year’s Eve. If you’re trying to lighten your load this year, consider a tasty trip to Fig Good Food, known for eclectic, healthy concoctions that satisfy the soul without the bloat.
This month, Fig is offering a feel-good feast of: spread and bread topped with sun-dried tomato tapenade and Happy Acres goat cheese; spicy roasted veggies smeared with fig chutney; and local spaghetti squash tossed with house-made pesto sauce and Kitehawk olive oil ($30 for three courses; 5945 Traffic Way, Atascadero). The thin me inside of the not-so-thin me is rejoicing right now!
I know what you’re wondering: Is it weird to plan the following month’s meals in advance? Is it healthy to meticulously read through each Restaurant Month menu, fantasizing about bringing home a doggy bag or three? My answer to that is easy. I say: Let your foodie flag fly, Instagram your meals with pride, and always—always—order dessert. Just know that you aren’t obligated to share that dessert—regardless of how many small spoons come with it.
Hayley Thomas is scrounging for change in the couch cushions. She can be reached at email@example.com.