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Paso Robles Road Trip

JT | Jun 3, 200308:46 AM

I spent the weekend in Paso Robles for the annual Hospice du Rhône wine festival, and had a few good dining experiences.

Friday night, we had dinner at Alloro.....kind of loud and frenzied, but the service was terrific. This place has a great wine list, with some real values. The food was very good, and an appetizer of steamed clams in a white wine broth was a standout.

Everyone has been told at least once in his life to "eat at Joe's" so we took that advice Saturday morning. This little 22 seat hole in the wall had folks stacked up outside waiting, so we figured it would be good. We were right. I had a chile verde burrito the size of my forearm, which was properly spicy, with the meat still moist and packed with flavor. It was inexpensive to boot, definitely a local hangout.

Saturday night, after tasting scores of big brawny Rhône style wines, we took our dinner at Bistro Laurent, choosing to sit on the patio. While it was a bit breezy, the night was still warm, and it provided a very pleasant setting. The service here was top notch, extraordinary, really. The food kept its part of the bargain as well. We started with a bistro salad, followed by a crispy mozzarella and basil tart. The tart crust was so thin and crispy, I could have made a meal of just that. I followed this up with a roast duck breast served atop a rich, flavorful cassoulet. My wife ordered the filet with peppercorn sauce, which arrived perfectly crusted, with a tender, juicy and rare interior. The sauce was divine.
With our entrees, we enjoyed a fairly priced 97 Lafon Rochet. Though the 97 vintage is dismissed by the experts, some are actually drinking very well right now, and providing a lot of pleasure for the money. The list is populated with plenty of other well aged examples of Bordeaux, as well as Rhônes, Burgundies, and local wines.
Dessert was a peach melba, peaches, sliced and fanned out around a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, draped in a delicious berry melba sauce, and topped with toasted almonds. And it tasted every bit as good as it sounds.
This was the best meal I have had in a very long time, and I highly recommend Bistro Laurent.

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