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Paso Robles

Culinary couple Cheryl and Bill Jamison visit Paso Robles Wineries and other Calfornia restaurants.

The first day of our visit to California’s beautiful Central Coast wine area we felt like characters in Sideways, the popular 2004 film.

We stayed in the same motel as Jack and Miles, the main characters, ate dinner at their local hangout, the Hitching Post II, and stopped by the Los Olivos Café where they took Maya and Stephanie on dates. Unfortunately, no one except ourselves mistook us for movie stars.

So we bailed out of the cinema scene and went to Paso Robles, a less celebrated, lower-key part of the same region. Bon Appétit magazine convinced us to visit the town in a recent article on the best small cities in America for food.

Paso Robles was one of the runners-up to top-ranked Raleigh-Durham, making it a place we definitely wanted to check out.

True to the advance billing, we had three good meals, each quite different from the other. Breakfast at Vic’s Café featured hearty home cooking, dinner at Villa Creek offered an international array of dishes to complement its own line of wines, and another dinner at Artisan showcased the sophisticated talents of the young Chef-Owner, Chris Kobayashi.

Chef Koby, as he is known, didn’t bowl us over with our first dishes, fried abalone and crab cakes, but the following courses got progressively better.

A smoked Gouda fondue with porter warmed the spirit and taste buds on a cool March evening. Bloomsdale spinach salad with winter chicory, rustic croutons and bacon vinaigrette offered a symphony of contrasting flavors and textures.

Then the kitchen delivered a knockout punch, agnolotti pasta bathed in black truffles and highlighted with ricotta, chanterelles, broccoli romanesco, rapini, and dried red chile. We left Artisan dizzy with delight.

Paso Robles remains off the beaten tourist path for now, a slow-paced town comfortable in its own skin. That probably won’t last. If you have an inclination to go, this is a prime time.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jamisons’ newest book, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.

Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at cookingwiththejamisons.com. You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”

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