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The Tourist Life

Paso Robles, California: Another day of food and wine, and no one tried to run me off the road. You just know that is going to be a good day.

Everyone told us to not miss dinner at JUSTIN, but at JUSTIN dinner a set course meal and the price is $135 without wine. Wine is $45-$95 extra. For two hundred bucks, I would definitely want to choose my own food and would want a bottle of icy Veuve Clicquot served to me by a smiling George Clooney. (In this fantasy, George is wearing a tuxedo.) There is always a solution to these dilemmas - lunch at JUSTIN. A $16 sandwich, a server named Bob, and a glass of wine. I'm good.

With a noon luncheon reservation, we left the motorhome at 11:15a for a very long drive up a very rough and twisting road. Again, a very pretty drive, but 40 minutes later, we decided we were lost. We saw no other cars for miles, and were so relieved to come around a corner to find a JUSTIN sign and a parking lot full of cars. Whew! I kept asking DT, "Who would think to open a restaurant all the way out here???"


We were seated on the pretty outdoor patio, complete with ceiling heaters, which were set to "high". It was chilly!

Here is the view from the patio:

The building houses two restaurants, a tasting room, gift shop, offices, and a hotel - the JUST INN. Behind the restaurant is a kitchen garden. During our lunch, a gardener was planting lettuces and several times someone came out of the kitchen to snip herbs.

Reuben close-up

We split truffle fries - which were topped with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, tarragon and chives from the garden. Dave had their signature burger and I had house-cured pastrami - served with house-made kimchi and a side of Japanese sumonomo salad. To accompany my meal, I had a glass of their Justification red (which I had quite enjoyed at the tasting dinner last evening), but this sandwich really needed a beer. Again, I did not eat the bread - but may have polished-off many of the fries.

After lunch we had a stroll around the garden and chatted with the gardener. (She is jealous of my Indio tomato harvest, her tomato plants are about one foot tall.)

Bee, with Borage - the blue petals will be served on a salad at the restaurant tonight.

JUSTIN tasting room

JUSTIN gift shop

Did not do a tasting. Did not buy a bottle of wine.

On the way back to Paso Robles, My Driver stopped several times so I could snap photographs. For two days, I have commented about how beautiful it is in the area, yet have shown practically nothing but food on this website. Proof:

Pretty hillside at Tablas Creek Vineyard - they poured a white with the salmon course at dinner last night.

The pretty Adelaida District - pronounced ADD-ah-lee-dah

Oaks on a hill

Deer and oaks on a hill

We passed another of the vineyards pouring last night at the tasting dinner, Halter Ranch, so popped-in to have a look at their just-opened new tasting facility... but we could not access the massive building because I'd say someone is probably getting married tomorrow (or maybe a tasting dinner coinciding with the wine festival) and the bridge was "closed":

Wouldn't this be a beautiful setting for a wedding dinner? I was able to snap just a glimpse of the new facility through the grape vines:

Next up was a visit to Kiler Ridge Olive Farm, the stop we did not get to make yesterday due to car trouble. (By the way, the Honda is acting mostly normal today!)

Marcus Aurelius greeted us at our car and escorted us to the front door (Oh My Goodness - aren't the barn doors just stunning?) where we had a tasting and I asked 547 questions about Kiler Ridge olive oil.

The view from Kiler Ridge Olive Farm

All these vineyards and the only thing we tasted again today was olive oil.

My (Mom's side) cousin, Randy, used to live in Paso Robles, so has been giving us advice on where to go and where to eat and where to drink... so before our dinner reservations tonight we went to Villa Creek, as Randy suggested, for a cocktail before dinner across the street at Artisan. Paso Robles is crazy tonight! The quiet park square is now fenced-off and a gazillion winery tents have filled the pastoral spot for the weekend wine festival. We could hardly find a place to park. We enjoyed our cocktail at Villa Creek because we hijacked a table of old dudes (i.e. people our age) having drinks with their daughters. They visited the area often so gave us a few tips. Thank you, Cousin Randy, for suggesting Villa Creek.

We walked across the street to find our reserved table at Artisan.

Artisan - Paso Robles

Our server had lived near our home in Oregon for quite a while, so we became instant friends. She brought us the special mini pizza of the night - crust baked with creme fraiche, and topped with pickled ramps, smoked salmon and arugula when pulled from the oven.

Claiming our entrees were taking too long, our new friend also delivered (free) sweet potato fries with an avocado/garbanzo/garlic/tahini hummus. Wow. We did notice this free appetizer being delivered to a wholotta tables... so maybe it's their thang.

A large group at a table next to us were staying at the (mentioned above) Halter Ranch and had done a bit of catch-and-release bass fishing in the lake at the vineyard today. David Bancroft introduced himself to us and described his newly-opened restaurant in Auburn, Alabama. (Okay, a little football trash-talk did ensue.) His one acre restaurant,acre, not far from the Auburn campus and completely surrounded by a garden/orchard for the restaurant kitchens, sounds like a place I would like to visit. Just when I think this garden-to-table trend is only a west coast and New England thing... to learn parking lot garden-to-table is happening in southern urban areas makes me smile. Real big.

You go, America!

I ordered my dinner only because it included potato risotto as a side. I asked if the dish was Arborio rice with potatoes, but was told the "risotto" was made with potatoes diced so fine as to resemble rice. Well, who could resist trying potato risotto? Not me. The fact the potato risotto was topped with half a local Rinconada Dairy crispy chicken and served with roasted asparagus spears sealed the deal.

A very fun evening in Paso Robles and we have more excitement planned tomorrow!

Until my next update, I remain, your well-fed correspondent.

RV PARK: Vines RV Resort - a fairly new establishment with long pull-through and back-in sites. Full hook-ups, cable and free wifi. Bathhouse, laundry, two pools and a hot tub (all pools have handicap-accessible lifts), on-site lounge with happy hour prices, ball room, outdoor gathering area with tables and fire pits. Pet friendly. Sites are somewhat close together and there is some noise from Highway 101. Nice landscaping. Picnic tables. We paid $87 per night (up-charged Wine Festival weekend pricing).