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Upscale dining at bargain prices

Check out these special Monday and Tuesday night offers in Paso Robles and Morro Bay

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PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER

I enjoyed an amazing food and wine pairing at Artisan in Paso Robles last week during their new dinner series: “Monday Night Suppers.” Chef Chris Kobayashi prepared a marvelous combination of mussels, clams, Spanish chorizo, calamari, and chickpeas stewed in crushed tomatoes and paired it with RN Estate 2005 Mourvedre ($32 retail). While that’s certainly not your typical pairing for this flavorful red Rhone variety, it paired deliciously with the cioppino-like dish.

RN owner and winemaker Roger Nicolas, that night’s featured vintner who attended the tasting himself, stopped by my table and explained the pairing.

“My Mourvedre is similar in texture to Pinot Noir so it’s much more versatile with food. There are two clones of Mourvedre and I chose the lighter clone because it’s more versatile than the darker clone,” said Nicolas, who made only 122 cases of his 2005 Mourvedre. This delicious wine tastes of ripe plums and cherries with nuances of smoke and earth. He pointed out, “If you drank it with your eyes closed while tasting it, you’d expect it to be darker (hued).”

That was just the first course. Next we savored a slow-cooked Berkshire pork roast with fennel seed, dried chile and green garlic salsa verde, served with cavelo nero, baby carrots, and crispy sweet potatoes paired with RN 2005 Cuvee des Artistes ($38 retail). It was a comfort-food dish expertly paired with the Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel blend, a spicy red with black fruit aromas and flavors that was also quite good.

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
The delicious dinner concluded with the best bread pudding I’ve ever tasted, served warm with dried winter fruits, calamansi (a Philippine lemon that looks like a lime) ice cream and pecan sandies. It paired perfectly with the sweet, fruity flavors of the RN Late Harvest Viognier ($32/375ml retail). All of the winemakers’ dinners are served family style with three courses paired with fine wines from a Paso winery. It’s quite reasonably priced considering the quality at just $49 per person, or you can enjoy the meal without wines for $34. On these nights Artisan also has their current menu available too.

Brothers Mike Kobayashi and chef Chris Kobayashi, who own the popular North County eatery, said the series was inspired by one of Chris’ favorite chefs, Suzanne Goin, owner of the famed A.O.C., Hungry Cat, and Lucques restaurants in Los Angeles. Of course, they didn’t want to copy her special dinner outright, so the Kobayashis gave it a unique twist. They invited Paso Robles winemakers to participate. Chris tastes the wines with the winemaker to create a menu that complements his or her wines. 

“Lucques does an amazing Sunday night supper that is very similar to what we are trying to do. We didn’t want to completely poach the idea without bringing something new and different to the table,” Mike explained. “Given our proximity to what we think are some of the best wineries in California and beyond, we decided to approach some of Paso’s finest to see if we could showcase what we do food wise with what they do wine wise.  So far, the challenge has been a lot of fun and we’re getting a great local response.”

BEAUTIFULLY PAIRED :  Artisan’s special Monday Night Supper is created just for pairing with local wines. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BEAUTIFULLY PAIRED : Artisan’s special Monday Night Supper is created just for pairing with local wines.
Monday Night Suppers began Jan. 5 with Halter Ranch, followed by Booker, RN Estate, and Tablas Creek. In February they’ve booked Edward Sellers, Adelaida, Anglim, and Justin, respectively, with Calcareous and L’Aventure in March. Dinners begin at 6 p.m., when my spouse Dan and I arrived. After driving past dark restaurants and a few open but empty eateries, I was surprised to find Artisan half-full and by 7 p.m. most tables were filled. People are willing to dine out, it appears—even on a Monday, if the enticements are right. And after dining on chef Chris’ special wine-focused dinner, I understood why he’s drawing a crowd.

Every Monday the talented chef creates a supper menu that is as unique as the featured wines. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins will be accepted if there are tables available. I highly recommend the Kobayashi family’s upscale dining any time, and their value-priced theme dinners make it a good deal for everyone.

For details about the Monday Night Suppers—which they plan to continue throughout the year—the menu, address, and/or phone number, or online reservations visit artisanpasorobles.com. For information about Roger Nicolas’ impressive Rhone wines visit rnestate.com.

The Galley in Morro Bay

When I received an e-mail from the Galley restaurant about their new Tuesday night wine special I was eager to share the news of their latest offering for the budget-minded. Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 3, they’re taking 50 percent off the price of any wine on their main wine list, which has over 100 fine selections and includes half-bottles. Should you prefer a collectible wine from the “Captain’s List,” it will be marked down 25 percent.

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Because owner David Peter doesn’t mark up his wines as high as most restaurants, this is an excellent opportunity to buy wines you might not have been able to afford at restaurant prices (some wines will be priced lower than the retail price!). This bargain offering will go on every Tuesday until March 31. I called to ask how it all came about.

“We decided to create something educational for people about wines and offer them at special prices during February and March,” said Peter, who’s particularly fond of French Burgundies and Central Coast wines. Throughout the day on Tuesdays, according to Peter, he and his sommelier Tim Gabriel will be on duty to help their customers select the perfect wine for their meal at the Galley. At these prices, it’s a wonderful opportunity to order pricier French wines like Piper Heidsieck Champagne or Domaine Caillot Meursault. And you might want to try local gems like Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir or Terry Hoage Vineyards “The 46” blend of Syrah and Grenache. 

Check out their wine list, menu of fresh local fish, hours, and contact information at galleymorrobay.com. If you live within the city limits of Morro Bay, they can schedule your reservation and a ride to the Galley in Peter’s very cool, turquoise 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Tin Woodie. After dinner they’ll drive you safely back home. A seafood lover myself, I was happy to see his current catch includes local swordfish, seabass, and snapper. Now you have several good reasons to take advantage of the Galley’s Tuesday night special.

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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