Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Tasting at Pasolivo Olive Oil Ranch

During my visit to Paso Robles, I didn't just taste wine, I also went for a tour and tasting at Pasolivo Olive Oil Ranch. Located in the heart of Paso Robles' western hills, the scenic 45 acre ranch has 6,000 trees planted, mostly Tuscan varieties.

I was interested to learn more about olive oil production. I've read numerous articles in recent years about mislabeled and counterfeit oils that are imported and sold in America. I had not realized that neither the FDA nor the USDA enforces labeling rules for extra virgin olive oil. Since learning this, I have been purchasing California olive oil that has the California Olive Oil Council or COOC seal on it. Pasolivo Olive Oil Ranch carries that seal and is in the process of becoming certified organic.

After the tour of the orchards, the mill and the production line, I went into the shop for a full tasting of their oils, vinegars and seasoning. The olive oils were all big and bold, some were more peppery, some fruitier and some a bit more bitter. It was interesting to taste the naturally occurring differences in the assorted oils, these variations are based on the type of olives used, the time of the harvest and, like with wine, how the weather was that year.

I purchased the Mini California gift set for myself which is a combo of three oils and three vinegars. All are fresh, fragrant and delicious.

I have used the tangerine oil for grilled pork chops and the lime oil for both grilled shrimp and as a dressing for a tomato and avocado salad. I've used the fig vinegar in a fig jam dip with grilled cheese sandwiches and the raspberry vinegar in a spinach and berry salad. These are all easy dishes that I routinely make, I just substituted the new ingredient and in each of these instances, the flavor was definitely punched up.

I'm keeping their website in mind for holiday shopping for my foodie friends, I am really pleased with all the products that I have tried.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Thomas Hill Organics Bistro and Wine Lounge in Paso Robles, a farm-to-table restaurant dedicated to showcasing the bounty of California's Central Coast. Thomas Hill Organics opened in 2009 and quickly became the must-do restaurant when visiting in the region. Eight years later, they are still at the top of the hip dining scene that they helped to create in the small friendly town.

I highly recommend that you add it to your itinerary if you are traveling to Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo. The menu changes regularly as new ingredients come in and go out of season, you can check out the current menus on-line to have an idea of what to expect. I was there for a four course dinner that was paired with local wines, here are some highlights from that meal.

The Rosé de Pomar 2016 from Pomar Junction Vineyards made from 100% Syrah provided a refreshing start and was a perfect complement to the strawberry gazpacho.

The Niner Marsanne Reserve 2014 was a worthy salad companion in the second course. Fresh tropical fruit flavors and a light honeyed note contrasted beautifully against the beets, macerated onions and goat cheese while the citrus dressing and citrus finish of the wine sang in unison.

The third course began with the Wheelhouse Zinfandel from Sextant Wines, smooth and spicy with ripe red berries and a light earthy note, this red wine was delicious with the duck confit served with spinach, lentils and orange gastrique, a rustic yet rich pairing.

Our final course was a delicious grilled ribeye with rainbow swiss chard and potato confit. I, unfortunately, did not take a photo, I dived right into that plate.

I did get a photo of two local winemakers who poured two big reds to accompany this dish. On the left, Geoff Barr showing off his Barr Estate Malbec 2011 and on the right, Matt Merrill with his Pomar Junction Winery Cab Forward 2014, both were excellent with the beef and are wines worth seeking for your next steak night at home.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Egelhoff Wine Dinner at Brandani's

Brandani's Restaurant and Wine Bar hosted a dinner last week featuring Egelhoff Wines. It was my first time to attend a multi-course wine dinner here but that did not seem to be true for most in attendance. The house was full and the guests were meeting and greeting over passed hors d'oeuvres paired with a private label Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc when we arrived. The mini crab cakes and the lobster mango tostada bites were fresh and delicious and perfect with the wine.

While Brandani's is a small Missouri City restaurant, the crowd was a mix from Houston and the
neighboring suburbs and most that I spoke with talked of faithfully attending every special dinner that Claire and Ron Brandani present. Once we were seated in the main dining room, we were served a ricotta ravioli with morels, ramps and spring peas with the Egelhoff Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013. This was a winning combination and plates were scraped clean.

Next up, Durac pork cheeks with pork belly risotto paired with the Walton Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Our final savory course was a smoked buffalo ribeye with crispy tobacco onions and hand cut Kennebec potatoes served alongside two vintages of
the Egelhoff Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 and 2010. My husband has continued to talk about this course for the last week. Both wines were delicious and very similar though the 2009 was a bit smoother and fruitier.

We ended the night with Bananas Foster bread pudding with dulce de leche ice-cream paired with Walton California Tawny Style Port, a sweet ending for an incredibly tasty evening. The dessert is not pictured because I got overexcited and spooned into it before taking a good photo.

In the last six month, Brandani's has quickly become our favorite restaurant on the southwest side of town. We've eaten dinner here too many times to count in that short time period. Although this was my first and only wine dinner here so far, I am highly recommending anyone that enjoys wining and dining to get on their email list to learn about their future events. As I was repeatedly told by returning guests that night, you don't want to miss out on any of these!