One of the most amazing things about living in a vacation destination in California, is all the beautiful restaurants and resorts located on the coast over looking the ocean, beach, or cliffs above the Pacific. It never gets boring to turn to Doug at the spur of the moment and say “Which one of the incredibly beautiful places would you like to go for dinner?”
Last night we decided on dinner at Lido Restaurant and lounge located at the Dolphin Bay resort in Pismo Beach/ Shell Beach adjacent. This happens to be one of our favorite California coastal style restaurants. The view and setting has always been spectacular but with the arrival of Executive Chef Brian Collins, the place has truly turned into something special. Since he’s arrived, he’s created seasonal menus that are exciting, fresh, and sustainable. Paired with a local wine list to boot. The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, we’ve never had a bad server there, even when there has been a snafu they are always on top of it.
Our server was Bella a charming girl, who still has her Polish accent and a ready smile. We’ve had her before and Doug requested her since we hadn’t seen her in a while. Prior to ordering from the food menu, I ordered the 07 Zaca Mesa Roussane from Santa Ynez to start. I like Zaca Mesa, they have several wines I’ve really enjoyed over the years. The Roussanne was very crisp and dry, with very light fruit notes and an oaky nose, and on the palate it was highly acidic. It tasted of apricot, nectarines and minerals with a long butterscotch finish that seemed to overpower the light fruits. It was a bit too acidic for my palate on it’s own but paired with the amuse bouche of a carrot round topped with crispy trout, chervil aioli, a fried caper, lemon zest and cilantro, my hopes began to spring. However the old saying “hope springs eternal” was relevant here, my original appetizer choice of the oysters (which are to DIE for at Lido) was unavailable so I chose the Hickory smoked Foie gras with strawberry and rhubarb compote on brioche toast points instead, thinking it might add some interesting layers to the wine. I was wrong. This pairing for me did not work, because the Foie gras as delicious as it was, was so rich the wine was over powered and became too light to appreciate as a pairing. The upside is Bella brought me a lovely glass of Non Vintage Laetitia sparkling Brut Cuvee which was just GORGEOUS paired with the Foie gras. Between the rich buttery texture of the pate and the bubbles from the sparkling it truly was a symphony in the mouth.The sparkling wine enhanced all the best parts of the Foie gras from the hickory smoke to the essence of black pepper and the sweetness of the compote, the Laetitia stood up to the rich fattiness of the pate but didn’t overwhelm or shy away.
For dinner I ordered the Ricotta Ravioli with fava beans, rosemary and green garlic. And even though Bella offered to trade out my Roussanne, I was stubborn willing to give it 1 more try with the ravioli. I shoulda quit when I was ahead and let her trade it out. It did NOT work with the red pepper flakes that dotted my ravioli, and in fact enhanced the red pepper into what felt like a long, lingering, acid burn on my tongue. This pairing was a disaster, but as with all things- live and learn. The Roussanne did have another shining moment though with Doug’s flatbread topped with smoked blue cheese, pasillas, figs and bacon. It picked up beautifully on the sweetness of the fig even though it was still very acidic and it jacked up the bacon flavor, which is never a bad thing I mean it’s BACON! So I surrendered gracefully and slid the Roussanne over to Doug.
Bella came over and recommended I try the 2009 Baileyana Chardonnay out of Edna Valley. I was resistant at first though because of my changing palate over the years with Baileyana’s wine making style, but I relented to Bella’s expertise. It was a good call. The Chard had a big, buttery nose but was not over the top nor was it over oaked, in fact seemed like it might have spent some time in a neutral oak barrel. It was acidic but balanced with mineral, honeydew and cantaloupe flavors in the mouth. Paired with the ravioli it laid along side nicely. It picked up heat from the red pepper flakes but it wasn’t close to the experience I got with the Roussanne. The ravioli itself was good, but personally I think the red pepper flakes made the dish too spicy. Had I known that was going to be part of the dish I would have asked for it to be made mild.
As usual the service at Lido was spectacular and the food, aside from the red pepper issue, was very good. This was just another lesson in not all wine and food pairings work, and some times you just need to experiment to find the right one. But I am a patient woman and I’m willing to sacrifice myself; nose and palate to learn, and pass those lessons on to you dear reader. 🙂
“If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul.” Clifton Fadiman