Portobello Burger and Eggplant Salad

Robin’s Restaurant

The next time you’re on the 101 freeway, around the city of San Luis Obispo, take a 30 minute detour off the beaten path to the quaint enclave of Cambria, where you’ll find plenty of pines, a plethora of painters, and a place that brings the woodsy and artsy together: Robin’s Restaurant.
Robin’s has three dining areas, an indoor dining room, a big beautiful outdoor garden where you can eat under a gazebo warmed by the sun or large patio heaters,

and a commodious sundeck with many windows, which gives it a bright and airy feel. The sundeck feels like a cross between a mess hall at camp and an artist’s retreat space.
Adding to that artsy homespun feel are the many bird houses, flying-insect art, a couple of Thai statues, and colorful mosaic-tiled tables.

If the decor isn’t enough to make you feel that you are in a yoga-retreat, have Kimberly, the world’s friendliest waitress, wait on you. She encapsulates the spirit of Namaste with phrases like, “Are you pleased with your lunches?” and “Have a beautiful day.” Slices of refreshing cucumber in your water round out the vibe that they care about your well-being here.

The only thing better than cucumber in my water is beer in my glass, especially when it’s from one of my favorite breweries, the Central Coast’s own Firestone. I ordered their Firestone DBA which is an English Style Bitter Amber Ale with 30 IBU’s, and is hoppy enough to make me happy.

Robin’s describes their food as handcrafted global cuisine and with dishes such as Vietnamese Banh Mi, Curried Chicken Salad Melt, and Cumin Black Bean Nachos, you can see why. I decided to go Mediterranean with a portobello sandwich topped with fresh tomato and sauteed red onions on a bed of basil, and substituted the included side for a delicious-sounding eggplant salad with red bell peppers, tomatoes, parsley and feta.

I appreciated they were accommodating with my substitution without a charge; I only wish the food was as pleasant as their attitude. The eggplant was too large, too firm and someone in the kitchen added too much vinegar. Also with the Lilliputian portobello on the Brobdingnagian bun they should have called this a porto-bun-o sandwich.
Something’s wrong when the bun tastes better than what’s between it. While the bun was fresh, homemade, and flavorful, the mushroom was dry and in desperate need of a marinade such as a balsamic vinegar. The mozzarella on top would have been better too if it were melted or if a buffalo mozzarella had been used. If this was all I had for lunch, I would have been disappointed with Robin’s; fortunately Gail ordered the Halibut Fish Tacos – Corona beer battered fish with lime crema and fresh mango salsa served with a jicama slaw, tortilla chips and salsa for $14.

I prefer my fish tacos grilled rather than battered and fried, and even though the halibut was a little fishy, with the mango salsa, shredded cabbage, and red onion, I still enjoyed every bite Gail would let me steal. She also had to guard the fresh tasting corn chips and jicama slaw, topped with a very tasty cilantro lime and jalapeño dressing, that came with her tacos.

The well tended garden outside was blooming with fresh flowers when we were there and would have been an excellent place to have lunch if it had been a little warmer.

Robin’s restaurant defines themselves as “creative meets local where international inspiration collides with the season’s bounty. Authentic. Sustainable. Wholesome. Surprising.” I agree but unfortunately with their dedication to Authentic, Sustainable, Wholesome and Surprising, it’s Surprising the food isn’t better. It’s worth checking out if you’re in Cambria but expect more of that Namaste spirit from the vibe and servers than from your meal. Oh well, we were drinking beer on vacation on a beautiful day in a beautiful place so Kimberly, you got your wish, we did indeed “have a beautiful day.”

Robin’s Restaurant
4095 Burton Drive  Cambria, CA 93428
(805) 927-5007

For more about me, check out my About page.

Read More

Fava Beans and beet greens salad

Peter Lowell’s

On a recent trip to Napa/Sonoma, Gail, my partner in wine, and I were on a hunt for the perfect pinot in the Russian River Valley. While we were excited to find beaucoup of Burgundy’s famous red grape in this fog shrouded area of Sonoma, we were equally happy to discover, with a search for “organic restaurants Sonoma” on the iPhone, organic Nirvana at Peter Lowell’s in the town of Sebastapol.

We had the option to wait for a table on the quaint and popular outside patio in the back of the restaurant surrounded by trees, a fountain, and unfortunately cars in the adjacent parking lot.

But since there were pinots waiting and our hunger wouldn’t, we opted for an available table inside which, with tan wooden chairs and tables, a red cement floor, and hanging industrial lighting and exposed ducts, sports a look of country chic meets urban industrial.

It also feels a bit like a European bistro, especially from the chalkboard over the kitchen which communicates the restaurants organic and seasonal convictions including what they are currently harvesting from their own farm.

Many years ago, on a Bay Area Backroads television shoot in Sebastapol, a local jokingly told me that the town was named as a mispronunciation of Zeebestapple because of the area’s storied history as an apple growing region. While many of those apple trees have been replaced by more lucrative vineyards and tract houses, the area still churns out some great organic eats as evidenced by the deli case overflowing with fixin’s for the perfect wine country picnic.

We started our lunch, as every good one should, with a delicious beer such as Gail’s Scrimshaw Pilsner from North Coast Brewing Co. and my hoppy muse: an IPA from Moonlight Brewery Co. in Sonoma. Both were $6 on draft.
The IPA had a great caramel color, a hoppy-rich-full-bodied mouth feel, a sparkling/effervescence, and a lingering earthy bitterness with a looooong finish. To sum up: It was delicious.

Peter Lowell’s menu states they have a “…slightly off-kilter attitude towards business – one where people, animals and the environment come before profits, where organic is a way of life, and where the highest quality cuisine is a top priority…” To paraphrase the Beach Boys, “I wish they all could be California Peter Lowell’s”

A great mantra was just the start of a menu chalked full of tempting dishes but the beans and greens salad sounded especially appetizing: braised beet greens, bread crumbs, garlic, chili flakes, Parmigiano Reggiano and fava beans.

The dish was an explosion of soul-satisfying-melt-in-your-mouth flavors with a nice ratio of creamy and chalky fava beans to crunchy, earthy, and bitter beet greens, with a pleasing background heat, nice garlic flavor and subtle saltiness. I almost wish it wasn’t so perfectly seasoned so I would have had an excuse to use the Himalayan sea salt and peppercorn dispensers on on our table.

After our salad, we ordered the pizza panna off the lunch specials menu: Roasted Spring Onions, Melted Leeks, Green Garlic, Cream, Calabrian Chiles, Fava Leaf Pesto and Parmigianno Reggianno for $16.

Typically I’m not a huge fan of cream sauces on my pizza however it was the perfect base for each Spring-garden-flavor-packed bite of: sweet and succulent leek, green onion, piquant Calabrian pepper oil and earthy green pesto.

Unlike some pizzas that suffer from cheese and dough overload, this pizza had just a highlight of cheese and a thin, charred, biscuity crust which was a great base for each flavorful bite.

I only have two complaints about Peter Lowell’s. The first is that we didn’t return for dinner to sample more of their menu and try their wines.

The second is that more restaurants don’t share Peter Lowell’s philosophy “…where people, animals and the environment come before profits, where organic is a way of life, and where the highest quality cuisine is a top priority…” It would be a tastier world if they did.

Peter Lowell’s
7385 Healdsburg Avenue
Sebastopol, CA
(707) 829-1077

Read More