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Thomas Hill Organics keeps it fresh and fun with new executive chef, dessert bar

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Thomas Hill Organics remains one of the first authentic farm-to-table restaurants in SLO County and certainly ranks among the top restaurants in the nation for locally minded ethos—always true to its real, organic, local ingredients and community-sourced gourmet fare, always pushing the boundaries with food artistry and design.

Executive Chef Libry Darusman recently joined the team at Thomas Hill. His staff was delighted with his ability to jump right in.

GONE TO HEAVEN? The bone marrow crusted rib-eye is a 12-ounce Niman Ranch rib-eye, served with baked potato puree, mustard and green peppercorn jus, and roasted seasonal vegetables, garnished with herb leaves. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS HILL ORGANICS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Thomas Hill Organics
  • GONE TO HEAVEN? The bone marrow crusted rib-eye is a 12-ounce Niman Ranch rib-eye, served with baked potato puree, mustard and green peppercorn jus, and roasted seasonal vegetables, garnished with herb leaves.

The staff, many of whom have been with Thomas Hill for years (and one for a decade) were well-versed in explaining the subtleties of Darusman's style. He is a master duster and sauce virtuoso: As he magically positions the organic, local ingredients on the plate, he finishes most dishes with the softest, most ethereal flakes of flavor. While some chefs finish with Himilayan salt, Darusman will compliment the dish with just a textural tease of its most delicious cousin, including the beautiful green snowflakes on top of the kale "kabbouleh." The effect is gallery-worthy and delicious.

PATIO HAVEN At Thomas Hill Organics, the feel is modern, clean, crisp, and inviting. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS HILL ORGANICS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Thomas Hill Organics
  • PATIO HAVEN At Thomas Hill Organics, the feel is modern, clean, crisp, and inviting.

Thomas Hill owner Debbie Thomas said she appreciates Darusman's experience living and working around the world. Darusman was born in Indonesia and spent his early years living throughout Europe, exposing his culinary repertoire to French and German cultures.

"Chef Libry has extensive experience working in high-profile restaurants," Thomas says, "but he also has a worldly palate and a willingness to get creative in the kitchen."

LUNCH FAVORITE One of the most popular lunch dishes on the menu is the warm grain chicken salad, served here with a lovely Thacher Working Holiday wine from Paso. - PHOTO BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photo By Beth Giuffre
  • LUNCH FAVORITE One of the most popular lunch dishes on the menu is the warm grain chicken salad, served here with a lovely Thacher Working Holiday wine from Paso.

Darusman trained with the California Art Institute in Orange County, and continued his culinary training by working with chef Theo Schoenegger of Sinatra's Restaurant in Las Vegas. He also worked alongside chef Mark Gold at Eva Restaurant in LA, but his most recent position was working as executive chef for Roomforty ultra-premium catering in LA and Orange County.

Darusman's citrus coriander vinaigrette perfectly married the finely chopped kale kabbouleh salad. Kabbouleh is kale plus tabbouleh, FYI. Thinly sliced grilled cauliflower was mixed in with puffed grains, seasonal veggies, and herb powder.

The roasted baby beet salad is on every menu, so Christine Tweedie—our server and also the wine buyer for Thomas Hill—recommended trying it. Chunks of colorful baby beets, tossed in a light and elegant charred ginger vinaigrette, were accompanied with crumblings of pumpkin seed granola and broken goat cheese. Garnished with dollops of golden beet gel and a mysterious dusting, it was divine.

EAT YOUR GREENS Thomas Hill Organics' delicious dairy-free, gluten-free kale "kabbouleh" (kale plus tabbouleh) salad is available on all menus: brunch, lunch, and dinner. - PHOTO BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photo By Beth Giuffre
  • EAT YOUR GREENS Thomas Hill Organics' delicious dairy-free, gluten-free kale "kabbouleh" (kale plus tabbouleh) salad is available on all menus: brunch, lunch, and dinner.

We got Darusman's signature chicken and biscuits, which came layered on the plate, with crunchy, herbaceous fried chicken pieces, biscuits, and micro cabbage. What made this dish for me was the spicy orange remoulade. I asked to have some in jug form to take home, and Assistant Manager Cameron Cairney said I'm not the only one who's made that request.

The warm grain chicken salad is a popular lunch entree at Thomas Hill. A meal in itself, simply delicious bites of grilled herb chicken and warm barley top a sunchoke puree, greens, fennel, radishes, herbs, and heirloom cauliflower. I can't forget the lemon garlic dressing that made the dish and really celebrates the root vegetable.

GOURMET CHICKEN 'N' BISCUITS The spicy remoulade and pickled celery slaw makes chef Libry Darusman's chicken and biscuits extra special. - PHOTO BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photo By Beth Giuffre
  • GOURMET CHICKEN 'N' BISCUITS The spicy remoulade and pickled celery slaw makes chef Libry Darusman's chicken and biscuits extra special.

Thomas Hill's dinner menu holds even more gems: Sweet corn ravioli in a beurre fondue. A vegan shepherd's pie. A bone marrow encrusted rib-eye.

There's also the Sunday brunch. You can get a stuffed French toast served with sweet cream cheese, farm fresh berries, vanilla whipped cream, and bacon. Or you could order a pork belly Benedict in a bearnaise sauce, with a poached egg on levain.

The Dessert Bar in front, which just opened on Nov. 4, serves up a selection of treats crafted both in-house and by local purveyors, paired with local coffee, tea, beer, and wine. It will feature Darusman's version of s'mores stuffed in a Mason jar, with brown butter graham cracker soil, dark chocolate mousse, and smoked marshmallow meringue. He had me at chocolate mousse, and watching him make this dish is extraordinary. Using a torch and a wooden round, he heats it up, opens the jar with a puff of steam, and the s'more is revealed!

Angela's Pastries, Leo Leo Gelato, and Negranti Creamery sheep's milk ice cream will all make appearances. Cairney said there will also be Tres Leches cake. Adding to the experience are pairing recommendations, such as a Deschutes Black Butte Porter with the flourless chocolate torte or the Halter Ranch Vin de Paille with Angela's lemon tart. Pairings can include coffee from Joebella Coffee Roasters, Spearhead Espresso, and tea from Secret Garden.

DESSERT BAR SEATING Don't you just love this darling banquette seating? Thomas Hill Organics' new Dessert Bar looks out on downtown Paso Robles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS HILL ORGANICS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Thomas Hill Organics
  • DESSERT BAR SEATING Don't you just love this darling banquette seating? Thomas Hill Organics' new Dessert Bar looks out on downtown Paso Robles.

With Darusman at the helm, we will be seeing more fun at Thomas Hill. He has resurrected the pizza oven on the patio, and soon we will look forward to moving the tables together for a long, community family-style meal for family-style nights. Δ

Flavor writer Beth Giuffre would want to be stranded on a dessert island. Send favorite survival treats to bgiuffre@newtimesslo.com.

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