When I walk past SLO County restaurants that once were packed and lively and are now quiet, I empathize with the restaurateurs and their employees. Rapidly rising interest rates and diminishing 401K accounts have everyone worried. It’s a lousy economy we’re not used to dealing with—so naturally we cut spending, particularly when it comes to entertainment. Unfortunately restaurants seem to rank among the top of the list in that category.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF WORLD OF PINOT NOIR
- WELCOME : The Iron Sommelier Challenge at the Lido Restaurant in Dolphin Bay Resort allows guests to taste pairings of food and Pinot Noir suggested by the nation’s top wine experts.
But please don’t forget that most of our cozy cafes and upscale restaurants are mom-and-pop businesses. These eateries are owned by our neighbors and friends and could fail if they continue to lose customers. They need our support. We all love dining out, although many working stiffs are now brown-bagging it, understandably. But we can still afford to eat out if we budget carefully. A local media consultant told me he dines out with his wife as frequently as they did before, but rather than order a bottle of wine they order wine-by-the-glass to cut the price of the tab.
My husband Dan and I cut the cost of dining out in many ways: we might share the salad or appetizer, then order two entrees or order one appetizer, salad, and entree, then share everything or we order less expensive wines. I’ve developed an eye for spotting the great deals on a wine list no matter how expensive the restaurant we’ve chosen—and you can too.
Bargains on wine lists include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. In the red wine section, try wines that are often overlooked: Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah. These choices are rarely overpriced because restaurants earn more from the crowd-pleasing categories, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Don’t forget the half-bottle (375-ml) list, which provides slightly over two glasses of wine for less than the price it would cost to order two glasses. No matter how you choose to budget your cost of dining out, every little bit you can do makes a difference for our restaurants that are struggling to survive.
Friday, December 5
Eat Out, Save Lives
You can help the AIDS Support Network of San Luis Obispo County (ASN) simply by dining out. Stop in at any of these terrific restaurants, whether they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and they’ll donate ten percent of their profits that day to ASN. I commend these restaurateurs for their generosity during these difficult economic times. Please remember every little bit helps, even if your budget is tight. The purchase of just a salad or a sandwich to go makes a world of difference to these restaurateurs and ASN.
This year’s Eat Out Save Lives, in honor of World Aids Day, is supported by restaurants across SLO County. The proceeds provided to ASN will be used to stock their pantry with food and toiletries for people in SLO County who live with HIV or AIDS. They also accept non-perishable food and toiletry donations at their office at 1320 Nipomo (between Pacific and Pismo streets), 781-3660. Check out the list of high-demand foods they need to replenish their supplies at www.asn.org.
Eat Out Save Lives participating restaurants include: Berryhill Bistro, Big Sky, Buffalo Pub & Grill, Buona Tavola, Cal Poly Campus Dining, Chino’s Mexican Bistro, Corner View, Crushed Grape Deli, Et Voila, Fat Cats, Jaffa Cafe, Jimmy Bump’s Pasta House, Koberl at Blue, Level Four, Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort, Linnaea’s Cafe, Louisa’s Place, Mama’s Meatball, Nardonnes Pizzeria, Novo (patio only, weather permitting), Orchid, Robin’s Restaurant, the Rock Espresso, Spirit of San Luis, Splash Cafe, Taj Palace, the Park Restaurant, and West End Espresso & Tea. Like these charitable restaurants, you can join the fight against AIDs in our community by remembering to dine with them on Friday, Dec. 5.
Friday-Saturday, March 6-7, 2009
The World of Pinot Noir
Each year the annual World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) draws experts and aficionados from every great wine-producing region around the world. They travel here, no matter how great the distance, for two days of educational seminars, grand tastings, and outstanding Pinot Noir-inspired dinners by celebrity chefs.
Now in its ninth year of celebrating the beauty and intricacies of this noble red wine, it’s apparent the torpid economy hasn’t deterred Pinot Noir advocates. According to WOPN event coordinator Felicia Montemayor, ticket sales are brisk and she asked me to note: “If you’ve usually waited until January to buy tickets, you’ll find everything already sold out this year.” That’s no faux warning about getting into these amazing tastings, dinners, or the numerous seminars during this world-class event.
The majority of tickets sold out almost immediately when tickets went on sale in October. However, tickets are still available for every tasting, seminar, and dinner—so act fast. While it may seem strictly for Pinot Noir experts, its educational value won’t be lost on novices. Attending this event is like being the fly-on-the-wall listening in on the conversations of insiders. You’ll walk away having learned lessons that, otherwise, you might never be privy to. There’s no better way to get on the fast track to understanding wine.
Each year the seminars provide interesting new lessons. Among the seminar highlights, check out these: discover Austrian Pinot Noir organic, biodynamic, sustainable—what’s the difference is color the barometer of quality? There’s much more to discover on the WOPN website.
Among WOPN’s most popular seminars annually is the Pinot Noir primer by author John Winthrop Haeger. He explained that he started teaching basics but found the same people returned every year. “I invented a hybrid approach to help people doing their first wine event to those who are knowledgeable about wine by providing good basics about the scheduled seminars.” A copy of Haeger’s new book Pacific Pinot Noir is included in this year’s seminar, with $20 admission (less than the retail price of the book). For WOPN’s full schedule and tickets visit www.wopn.com or call Felicia Montemayor and her team at 489-1758.
You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at email@example.com.