Almost everyone likes roadtrips. Cathy and Kirk both travel, but today ed (from Yuma) wants to tell you about a dinner he and Tina enjoyed on their roadtrip north.
Tina and I returned to Artisan on a Monday night after having thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday night dinner. In some ways, we might as well have come back a year later as most of the kitchen staff and waitstaff seemed different. Only the attentive manager and our hard working busser seemed familiar from the night before.
On this evening, we had decided to build a meal around a local red wine, a J Dusi Zinfandel ($40): The Dusi Vineyards have been growing some of the best Zinfandel grapes in the Paso Robles area for many years. These family Vineyards have supplied premium grapes for such outstanding wineries as Ridge. Today, Janell Dusi produces her own wines from the vineyards planted by her grandfather, Dante Dusi, over 60 years ago.
This bottle lived up to its pedigree, and both Tina and I thought it was superb -- fruity, deeply flavorful, and incredibly smooth with spicy and earthy notes. It matched the meal well.
For her first course, Tina deecided to try a California Burrata ($13). This type of cheese, based upon Italian custom, is like a combination of fresh mozzarella and cream. It is rich and barely cheesy. In her appetizer, it had been drizzled with olive oil and dominated one side of her plate:
As you can see, it was accompanied by French bread toast, smoked almonds, microgreens, and fresh slices of both white and yellow peaches. Scrumptious and beautiful.
I opted for the herbed meatballs ($12), which were served with ricotta gnocchi, heirloom tomato ragout, cooked nettles, and grated hard Italian cheese: This appetizer was more focused than Tina's. The herby meatballs were a delight, nicely complemented by the tomatoey ragout, the sautéed greens, and the mellow grated cheese. The gnocchi were light as cumulus clouds in a summer sky and matched perfectly with the other ingredients.
When it arrived, Tina's entrée, from one side, looked like a mushroom and vegetable stirfry: The chard, king trumpet mushrooms, and various pole beans contributed a range of flavors and textures. In particular, the beans were still crunchy and the trumpet mushrooms gave the palate a firm chewy mouth feel.
The main attraction on her plate, however, was the sliced Niman Ranch hanger steak ($26), cooked perfectly -- seared but left rare in the center:
It was very tender and flavorful. The bordelaise sauce was a bit salty for my taste, but it was clearly a background note on her plate.
Her entrée was accompanied by a ramekin of what I would call scalloped potatoes, described on the menu as onoway potato gratin: As good as her entrée was, I liked mine even more: This was a pasture raised veal striploin lying on a bed of creamy rich asparagus risotto, topped with asparagus spears, hen of the woods mushrooms, Madeira sauce, gremolata (garlic/parsley oil), and pea shoots ($28) . This tasted so wonderful, that it deserves a second photo: The veal loin was, like Tina's steak, perfectly cooked. The exterior had been seared, but the flesh was still richly pink. The abundant Madeira sauce was sweeter and less salty than the bordelaise. I was blown away!
For dessert, we chose the three chocolate crèmes brûlées ($9): Under the crunchy caramelized skin, each brûlée featured a different flavor of chocolate. The one on the right was white chocolate, in the center Mexican chocolate with notes of cinnamon, and on the left deep dark rich chocolate. The last one was my favorite, but we used our spoons to scrape out every bit of creamy goodness from all of them.
Both Tina and I had thought that our second dinner could not possibly live up to the first. We were wrong.
Artisan, 1401 Park Street, Paso Robles, California 93446, 805-237-8084