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Restaurants & Bars 1

road trip, day one: Arroyo Grande

moto | Jan 1, 200604:02 AM

Went south for holiday and anniversary celebrations via 101. Made it to the Avila Valley Barn (just south of S.L.Obispo) as they were selling their last goods for the season(they close for the entire winter) at half price. We grabbed one each of apple, cherry, plum and pumpkin pies from virtually empty shelves. We gave most of them to our hosts but the cherry and plum we tried the next day were excellent, not too sweet, not over thickened, the cherries pleasantly tart (why sour cherries during the early summer season are so hard to find--the bakeries and processors grab 'em all).For dinner we went "up"(564 Mesa View Dr., a little higher and outside the "downtown" part of Arroyo Gr.)to the Rusty Pig, a no frills joint with oak grilled meats, a la carte sandwiches, we chose one each of the tri-tip and pork. Per order the meat is sliced thin from the respective roasts and warmed over the embers to reinfuse the mild smokiness. A little peppper jack cheese is melted over the meat and at least an inch's thickness of the sliced meat,lightly sauced, gets stuffed between an oversized burger type bun,overflowing the edges. My error was to neglect to get the buns grilled, as they got doughy from the juices.The meats were perfectly cooked, just chewy enough to maximize the savouring of the rich yet understated flavours. Cost was $8-8.50 per sand., but there was so much meat we only finished one, and the one left over had plenty enough to fill another 1/2 sand.For dessert we went back downtown to Doc Burnstein's ice cream laboratory (114 W.Branch St). In the super premium category, I would probably place Doc B's a little below Laffert's Hawaiian or Grater's(Cinncinati/Louisville) in terms of the mouthfeel of rich creaminess, but they are close enough that I think each individual flavour can be judged on its own merits. Doc B's coffee with little chocolate covered toffee dots had the best pure coffee taste I've found(Kahlua, or espresso or cappuccino gelatos are separate species), like it was made by someone who truly likes the taste of fresh,strong, black brew made from freshly roasted and ground arabica, with that pleasant near-bitter edge. Laffert's Kona might use more expensive coffee, but lacks the commitment to true (good-)bitter coffeeness.Doc B's flavours change seasonally, so I couldn't compare his coconut almond fudge to my favorite Grater's (with the Hawaiian affinity to coconut, Laffert's coconut variations are on their own pinnacle).We'll need to visit at a different time of year, and also snag an ollalieberry pie from the Barn, which surpasses any other we've found.Thanks to 'hounds who've posted rec.'s for the Avila V.B., Rusty Pig, and Doc Burnstein's.

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