Hard to believe sitting here on a cold, wet, wintry day that two weeks ago we were tasting our tongues off under the sun drenched tents in Shell Beach at the World of Pinot Noir festival.
Saturday evening after the WOPN tasting and some more wine and hors d'oeuvres back at the beach house, 18 of us descended on Hoppe's Garden Bistro in Cayucos for dinner. I'd originally reserved a room inside for 15 people, but that morning had to call and add three more. They had told me previously that the inside room is maxed out with 16 so asked if we could be moved to the outdoor garden area. I was told there was already another party (larger than ours) already booked there but left my number for the manager to call back when he returned. An hour later we were informed there would be no problem and we'd be seated on the patio.
Our server Cathy was most gracious and maintained her sense of humor throughout the evening which couldn't have been easy considering the animated non-stop conversations and amount of fun we were having.
The Winter dinner menu is divided into Salads, Main Courses, Shellfish Bar, Pizza Oven, and Appetizers. There are also prix fix choices I'll mention later.
I started with Fresh Scallops on the 1/2 shell w/spicy Thai marinade (5/8.00). While the smallish scallops served cold were fresh enough it was disappointing due to the lack of fire and flavor in the marinade. This was the only miss of the evening in the entire group. A couple of friends had the Cream of Wild Mushroom soup and thought it excellent.
My first choice for an entree was the Tower of Power (24.00), a stack of Ahi, Scallops, and Foie Gras. I really appreciated the candor of our server Cathy when I asked about the dish and was told normally she would highly recommend it but they had been unable to get sashimi grade tuna that day and therefore wouldn't be up to the level it should. Armed with that info I opted for the Roasted Rack of Lamb w/Garlic Potatoes, Mustard, and Chives (34.00). Simply unbelievable, four double cut chops about 2 inches thick, cooked perfectly medium rare, tender and very flavorful. There was so much meat I sent a whole one down to my lovely wife at the other end of the table (we all split up according to our comfort levels under the outdoor heaters). Our friend that had the bad experience last year when we ate at Gardens of Avila, had the Grilled Organic Filet Mignon w/Caramelized Garlic and Roasted Tomato (28.00). He was so pleased with this I later discovered, that he refused to share with his wife. She on the other hand was so in love with her Cayucos Red Abalone Appetizer (14.00) that perhaps there was no reciprocal offer.
Lady PB had the Hand-made Fettucine with Smoked chicken, Tomato, Asparagus and Mascarpone (14.00) and was very pleased. BIL ordered the Crisp Roast Duck (My Father's Style) with Green Peppercorns and Roasted Mango (26.00) and was at first disappointed when a leg and thigh appeared instead of the expected breast. One bite and he was all smiles. SIL had the Fresh Linguine Tossed with Prawns, Scallops, Tomatoes, and Saffrom (22.00) and declared it to be excellent.
All the above was washed down with some amazing Pinor Noir from Loring provided by one of our most generous friends from the house wine list. We also shared the two desserts on that evening's menu but that memory is shrouded in a burgundy tinted haze at this point.
Bottom line: 18 happy campers that continue to mention what a great meal and enjoyable time they had whenever we run into each other.
Notes on the prix fixe menus:
Philosopher's Menu (lunch and dinner) 25.00/ea
Ass't of Hand-made cheeses w/Country Pate and three 1/2 glasses of reserve wines - 01 Gregory Graham Viognier, 03 Cambria Chardonnay, 01 Swanson Merlot
Gourmet Menu (dinner only) 60.00/ea
Warm Goat Cheese Salad w/Citrus Vinaigrette - Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
Seared King Salmon, Wasabi Mashed Potatoes adn Sake-Miso Beurre Blanc - 01 Baileyana "Firepeak" Pinot Noir
Grilled Organic Filet Mignon w/Caramelized Garlic, Roasted Tomato and Foie Gras - 01 Swanson Merlot
Choice from Dessert Menu - Grahams "Six Grapes" Porto
Chef's Dinner (dinner only) 90.00/ea
Cayucos Red Abalone - Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
Seared Foie Gras w/Figs and 10-yr Balsamic Vinegar - 02 Chappellet Chenin Blanc
Roasted Seafood Ass't
- 01 Gregory Graham Viognier
Roasted Pheasant Breast w/champagne and Wild Mushrooms - 01 Baileyana "Firepeak" Pinot Noir
Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese
Choice from Dessert Menu - 97 Ferreira Vintage