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Planted ourselves at the very lovely CARLTON HOTEL in downtown Atascadero for two days to explore the surrounding area and attend their 2nd Annual Cider Fest and Pig Roast on Saturday night at the Lake Atascadero Pavillon . Delicious in room coffee.
Road trip from Santa Barbara first went out to POZO to see if they were open for their "famous" Pozo Saloon burgers - no luck but it is still a wonderful road trip both coming and going. Wandered through Templeton on the way back only to find we missed the lunch hour at Fig and Kitchenette.
So we took Melanie's next suggestion to try PIER 46 SEAFOOD on the other side of the freeway in TEMPLETON in the Trader Joe shopping center. Was that ever a great choice. I had the battered fish taco for $6 which was a large lunch including chips and salsa with copious shredded cabbage - delicious. DH had the fried clams and was equally happy. This is a surprising winner in a surprising location but makes an easy freeway off ramp stop at Vineyard Road.
Full from our late lunch, we went to the newly opened BYBLOS Greek-Mediterranean restaurant a few doors away from the Carlton Hotel on Traffic Way, ATASCADERO. The city chamber of commerces was having an art and wine tour going on that same night so happy people were wandering around town glasses in hand visiting various businesses and sampling local wines - all for $15 each and a free tour of the dazzling Atascadero court house as well. Sorry we did not know about their earlier.
Byblos is a tiny, mainly carryout operations but already very popular with the locals and the wandering wine crowds. Well earned. Only a few tables but we were able to snag two seats and service is on styrofoam plates with plastic fork and knife. I had a sample appetizer plate - tabbouleh, baba ganush and hummus with small triangles of tender pita - all well prepared, tasty and hit the right note for me.
Creamy smooth hummus and smoky rich eggplant with a well seasoned, highly herbed parsley and mint with a smattering of quinoa instead of bulgar tabbouleh. DH had the lamb kabob which was tender and juicy with rice and also some hummus. Baklava was the only dessert but it was fresh and homemade, not swimming in cloying syrup but all the flavors right and a less sticky filo layering.
Saturday breakfast took us to FIG in TEMPLETON , which is the same day they have a very extensive farmers market at the park right next to Fig which is located in a lovely restored manses on the park. This is far more than a restaurants, it is also a training organization and social center for those with physical disabilities who get skills training and work behind the scenes to put out some very creative dishes. I had the bacon- fig compote-blue cheese strata that came with a small spinach salad, a fresh fruit cup and potatoes with a chimmichurri aioli. Is that winning combination of flavors or what? DH stuck with the eggs and ham also with potatoes and fruit cup- a classic well presented. We loved this place and its homey interior decor as well as tables outside on the wide covered porch.
The TEMPLETON FARMERS MARKET had both fruit and vegetables but meat and other prepared items as well - we picked up cherries, a gorgeous round of sour dough bread and the Atascadero salami operation ALLE PIA had a stall serving up samples of everything they offer so we also picked up a jar of the Nudja salami spread as well as one of their dried salamis. This is the place to find them on the weekends and they were more than happy to let you sample everything.
Saturday night -finally the reason we came the CIDER FEST AND PIG ROAST- the Atascadero Lake Park is a treat- beautiful rolling hill, grass and oak setting, lots of families and the small animal zoo was worth a visit too - a surprise to find in this little town but quite a history of the original founder who found shelter for other now domestically sourced zoo animals who do deserve a place to call home since they have never lived in the wild.
At the cider fest the crowed had already gathered, limited to 500, and the room was full of cider purveyors and great snacks - bacon wrapped dates and other munchies, happy people, popular live music and almost too many cider options to explore in this new beverage for us - each cider purveyor had several different offerings under different labels so it was hard to sort it all out since it was so new to us. But one favorite did emerge - JEAN MARIE and their Mommy's Best - which is honey sweetened. But also a shout-out to GOPHER GLEN and TIN CITY. Many more to explore but we simply could not do the event or ourselves justice to try them all.
Others were very dry, sparkling and sometimes a hint of flavor but mainly offered a dry, nice crisp fresh taste that can pair with a lot of seasoned foods. Not sure cider will ever be a stand alone nuanced beverage like wine, but we liked it a lot as a change of pace when one wants just a fresh, crisp chaser that can still offer a little bit of a gentle buzz. Not filling like beer, not an event by itself like wine, but a quaffing beverage of decent appeal. (ha, ha pun not intended)
The pig roast was a buffet, everything chopped into small pieces to allow stand up dining with fork in hand. Pork was delicious, along with an unusual and non-creamy cabbage slaw and rice and black eyed peas.
Slices of the best bread with whipped butter also came with the dinner, but alas no one could tell me where they sourced the bread. It was heavenly - darker, crusty, full of holes and stretchy gluten. Yum. No desserts so we grabbed some display apples and headed back to town. Not much available on a Saturday night except our now good old standby Byblos so we snatched the last two pieces of their delicious baklava and called it a night.
Continental breakfast offerings at the Carlton Hotel in the adjoining bakery and cafe, but no real sit down or hot breakfast items.
A Sunday picnic wth our Templeton farmers market sour dough smeared with the Nudja salami spread and our purloined (store) Gala apple in Baywood Park made a nice end to our culinary exploration of the always surprising Central Coast.
Atascadero is a small town winner and very good home base for several trips to explore what we missed on this trip and renew some new favorites.
Stopped in LOS ALAMOS on the way back home to try WELL-BRED and picked up a very heavy 5 seed loaf and a croissant - very popular place on Sunday. The bread is good, but not better than what one can now easily find in any number of "artisanal" bakeries.
So worthy of a stop, but not a special trip if you have a really good bakery near home. Prefer the Renaud's croissant in Santa Barbara, but only by a hair. And the 5 seed bread is nice, but again not spectacular. The bread at the Cider Fest was spectacular, so if anyone has clues to that origin I would love to know.
Thanks always to Melanie for heading us in the right direction. A very, very enjoyable weekend in our own back yard.
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