Monday, August 25, 2008

Love What You've Done With the Place

We were very excited to visit the new restaurant in the Wine Cottage Building, Uliveto Trattoria. We heard they had done some small changes that had BIG impact. Our Sous Chef Willie R was kept on by the new owners and was working the Pizza Bar out back. We decided that was where we were going to sit.

(Let me digress for just a moment. Although, at the beginning I use the word "excited", what I really meant to say was apprehensive, leary, sad, bummed, or curious. You see the Wine Cottage was a reflection on us, our families. The design by Danny and hospitality by Aimee and I so to think that all that meant so little that as soon as the opportunity came up the new owners would tear it out was a little weird. But since Aimee works there now and she said everything was just awesome we wanted to give it a try.)

The first thing that happened when we walked through the door was we were greeted with a hug and kiss from Jim and Mary Spallino. They were truly excited to see us in their new restaurant. I remember that feeling. You are overjoyed that when making a decision about where to eat "your restaurant" was the choice that won. We told them we really wanted to sit at the Pizza Bar and watch Willie making the pizzas. They showed us to the first big change they made. Out back they took out the disneyland ramp and extended the deck out so that 6 tables could fit there. The pizza oven is open with a black granite bar around it. That's where we sat. We were so proud to see Willie at work making pizza and salad. For a Sunday evening it was really busy too. Once we got settled and ordered a bottle of wine, Alfonso came over and greeted us too. They really made us feel special.

We ordered a caprise salad which was great. I hope to have some of the Bistro tomatoes when they are ripe but the fresh mozzarella was really nice. Then we had the 4 cheese pizza with chicken. Just watching someone prepare your food for you makes it extra special. We topped it off with a cappacino and a chocolate flourless cake which was to die for.

As we were sitting at the Bar Danny reminded me that this was my original idea. (That was the first time tears came to my eyes.) We had sat at the pizza bar in a restaurant in San Francisco a couple of years before the Wine Cottage and loved the idea so much that we wanted to incorporate it in our new venture but because we were new and trying to get county permits they wouldn't allow it. The second guy has more leniency. So now I can come and enjoy it here knowing this was my idea first!

As we left the beautiful building Danny built I turned to reflect on what just happened. We walked into a wonderful restaurant, were greeted with warmth and hospitality and we enjoyed fresh, fabulous food prepared right before our eyes. This was a wonderful evening. Uliveto is my new favorite restaurant.

In conclusion, what I can say is PLEASE, don't blow this one. Give the new restaurant more than one chance like some of you gave to the Wine Cottage Bistro. The small, family run restaurants are a difficult business. They need all the support you can give. Just say NO to the chain restaurants. The most romantic restaurant is not the Olive Garden. The best restaurant doesn't have to be the same one year after year just because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Change is healthy, change is good. You can get a great dinner under $30 even though the experience rates up there with places you would pay 4 times that. Don't let your expectations count you out of enjoying great food in a fabulous atmosphere. And when you come and you have to wait, don't leave and complain under your breath. All great restaurants require a wait.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Taste Through the Wine Country

The Wine Cottage Bistro Staff and friends went on a wine tasting tour of the Central Coast. We chose four wineries and asked Prestige Limo service to take us on our tour.

We started with Laetitia winery in Arroyo Grande. Laetitia, formerly known as Maison Duetz, was highly regarded as a champagne house with almost 80% of their production being sparkling wine. Now, they are big producers of Pinot Noir. We arrived at 11:45 and were greeted and then escorted into a private room for our tasting. We carry the Laetitia Brut Cuvee and their second label, Barnwood Cab splits, orange muscat and Sauvignon Blanc and our customers enjoy them very much. Next we drove up the coast to Avila Beach and tasted at Salisbury Vineyards on Avila Beach Road. Salisbury is an old school house that is owned by John Salisbury and family who has 75 acres of grapes in Avila Beach and Paso Robles. They have a bottling of Pinot Naturale that is absolutely amazing. It is Pinot without the skins so it is a nice summer white. Then on to Tolosa Estate Vineyards where John took care of us like royalty. Always stellar wines and a beautiful tasting room we had a great time in the Edna Valley winery. We were quickly running out of time so we didn't get to the last winery, Edna Valley.

All in all our day flew by and we had an amazing time. In the wine country with family and friends is an incredible way to spend the day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another Great Wine Education

If we brag enough about what a great time we have at our Wine Education nights on Monday's at 5:30 PM we just might get more to participate.

So here it goes, last night's Wine Education with Zaca Mesa Wines was AWESOME! Not only were we treated to the entire line up of Rhone styled wines we experienced the Chef's wonderful pairings with the wines too. We had puff pastry squares topped with carmelized onions & olive mixture and goat cheese. This paired great with the Viognier, Roussan AND the Chardonnay. Then we were served proscuitto wrapped melon and fresh mozzarella dusted with fennel dust. This paired with the Z Cuvee perfectly. Lastly we nibbled on flatbreads topped with duck proscuitto, blue cheese and fig. This was prepared to paired with Syrah.
For an added treat, Bill & Gwen Chatfield shared 2 bottles of 1978 Zaca Mesa Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Both wines were made when Ken Brown was the winemaker and when Zaca Mesa did wines with these grapes. They have since stopped making them and instead focus on the Rhone styled wines.

Next week we will enjoy the artfully crafted wines of Herman Story's winemaker, Russell From. Russell is a young, exciting winemaker with a passion for creating distinctive wines. He also focuses on Rhone styled wines, as this area is proving to produce in high quality lots. Russell's viognier is one of the best in the area. Isn't it exciting to look forward to the Wine Education lineup and not only what wines we will be tasting but also what appetizers we will be pairing with the wines. Oh, I can't wait.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Aimee and Rebecca's SMV Wine Tasting Tour Continues

Well, last week we started our tour of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country. Because the Bistro is in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country we feel a strong connection between our place and the wineries that make having a local wine list possible. We wanted to get back to connecting to the people that make it happen whether the winemaker pouring his own wine or a glance at the vineyard manager looking over his grapes or a chat with the tasting room personnel all of it makes the wine come alive in the glass.

Aimee and I have designated Friday afternoon as our time to do this winery tour. So our first visit last week was Cottonwood Canyon where Victoria welcomed us and poured all the wines that Norm produces. Norm's philosophy is to produces Chardonnay and Pinot that are worthy of aging and in fact demonstrates this philosphy by holding onto his wines for at least 5 years before releasing them to taste. His wines are ageworthy and distintive, and that is more than just his tag line on his business cards. We purchased the 2001 Pinot and the 2000 Chardonnay and included these two wines in our Monday, Wine Education night, a focus on the SMV. Moving on the Cambria next we were taken care of by Jan. As happens quite often on Fridays in the SMV tasting rooms there were just 2 other people when we walked in and had Jan's attention all to ourselves and then within 5 minutes the entire concrete bar filled up with eager tasters. Many of the tasters come from Orange County and LA but we also met a few from the Bay area. We were able to pull double duty and invite them for a meal at the WCB. John and Sharon actually left Cambria and went to the WCB where Jen was able to serve them. They were so excited to find a gem, hidden in the heart of the SMV winecountry. At Cambria Aimee picked out the Pinot Gris to share at our tasting and as it turned out it was the favorite of all our selections. On to Ken Volk Vineyards at the base of the Tepesquet Mountain. Lori tasted us on some of the unique wines that Ken is making these days like the Negrette, a black grape which originated in the South of France. Very few winemakers make a full Negrette but OH, what a great wine. This was my choice to share at our tasting and was definately the most interesting and the Red Wine fav. That was all we had time for this day but now it brings us to today, August 31.

We visited our Old Orcutt neighbor at the Loading Dock, Karrie Farro who is now looking past the loading dock and is selling wine, now that the LD has changed ownership. She tasted us on John Paul's wines from Paso Robles. He has a solid Sangiovese and is Sangio, Cab, Merlot blend was outstanding. I will be visiting his winery in person next week and we may be bringing some of his wine down for a wine education in the near future. Next we visited our other neighbor, Addamo Estate Vineyards on Clark Ave and were taken care of by the new tasting room manager herself, Lindsey. We absolutely loved the White Reisling and the Big Boy Syrah both of which has garnished multiple awards over the past year. Addamo tasting room itself has always won awards from the Sun for best tasting room. The is pretty good considering it is new to the SMV wine trail, only being open for a couple of years.

Now to our last winery for the day, Rancho Sisquoc. There is not a more beautiful setting in all the Valley better than the grounds at Ranch Sisquoc. The lineup of wines was amazing also. The Red wines at RS are out of this world. After tasting through the wines we settled on the Meritage (Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc) and the Reserve Merlot. The Merlot was a tad expensive but it was worth it. Sometimes I wish people would just taste a Merlot without a label or expectation and taste it for what it is, a wonderful, full bodied, supple and lush red wine that has put up with a lot of CRAP but doesn't deserve it. I predict that the are will get over its infatuation with Pinot and discover, again, how versital the Merlot grape can be. This is Alice and Becky that took care of us in the RS tasting room. On our way back to the Bistro we tried to stop by the newest tasting room on the trail, Riverbench, but it wasn't open yet. I think in December it will be opened. Take our word for it, spending time in your own back yard is so refreshing. Be proud of where you live and the great wine country you live in. Tell you friends, not the ones from OC that just drink wine, the ones that truly love the quality of the wines we produce and will taste them with the goal of choosing a great bottle of wine to share with friends. Remember Tuesday at the WCB is NO CORKAGE so bring some of your SMV wines and pop the cork with a great plate of food.
Thanks for reading the tour,
Rebecca & Aimee

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Your Feedback is Requested

In the life of any restaurant the owners/managers have to take a step back and ask what sort of tweeks are necessary to gain an even greater hold of the market.

And so, we appeal to you, our loyal customers, friends and supporters. What "tweeks" could the wine cottage bistro do to make an even greater impact on the culinary scene here on the Central Coast?

You can comment on this blog. Come on, let's start the dialog that will lead to an even better Wine Cottage Bistro.

Thanks for your support,
Rebecca & Aimee

Monday, June 25, 2007

OCAF Fundraiser 2007

A great big thank you to everyone that helped make the OCAF Fundraiser, A Walk Through the Arts 2007 a huge success. We had hundreds of attendees not to mention the 27 artists, 14 winemakers, 2 brewers and 50 VWs including Herbie the Love Bug.
As I was just reminded the money, although for which purpose the fundraiser took place, is secondary to the community support, good times and recognition the event generated for OCAF.
My sister Aimee and I are so happy to be part of a group of people that absolutely appreciate every little show of support. To think that a new business in its formative years can still make a difference in the lives of the children in our community thrill us beyond words.
The board members that attended the event were awesome and we couldn't have had a smoother event without them. Victor Tognazzini is an amazing worker with such a nice pleasant way about him. He was a calming influence when I suspected I might loose it. Denice Cora was there for me when I needed her to help setup all the wine tasting as she always is for me. Janette Wesch was a great organizer and she was able to read my map and set up the wine and beer garden with Denice. Brenda Sullens was amazing as usual. She took control and made sure that all the artists were in position and their cars were moved out for the Bugs. Mark got the hang of the EZ-ups so that they were truly easy to get up. He kept telling me not to help and with him around it made it almost that easy. Sal Tolentino was the runner for the winemakers getting them ice and taking care of their needs. Ken Parker was a great supporter and helper. He was able to spend some time helping us then had his family obligations to take care of. Julianne Hemmill was awesome with the tickets and money and kept all the finances straight. That was such a big relief for me not to worry about. She said the preliminary numbers look like it will be over 5000 in funds donated to OCAF from the Walk Through the Arts 2007.
Thank yous also go to my sister Aimee who took over the restaurant operations while I played around and organized this event. I couldn't have contacted the sponsors and made it as successful without her support. Also, our staff worked so hard to make sure the appetizers were always on hand, the beer was poured, and everyone had what they needed. Alicia, the Bistro Mom worked her tail off making sure the food was always on the table and no one wanted for anything. She finally had to be told to go home and rest by the Chef and Chef de Cuisine, Troy and Ty.
An event like this just doesn't happen. It takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people. I know I may have missed someone but please forgive me. My brain isn't quite back in one piece yet.
See this week's Santa Maria Sun for more thank yous and kudos.

Greetings From Needles

Hello from Needles!
Hi guys! Just got done reading my good friend Dawn's blog from her last trip the her "happy place." I have to agree, only good things happen at the wine cottage. I didn't hang out nearly as much as she did that weekend, but when we all got together, it was a great time.

Just wanted to invite you all down to come hear me play guitar and sing Saturday July 14th. I will be making the trek all the way from Needles just to play for you guys, so hopefully you can get out and support me after my 6 hour drive:) I will have not one, but two awesome guitarists playing with me that night, so expect great music to be filling up that back patio. My brother Bob Haskins, and good friend Dennis Reese will be playing for the first time in a public outing. Both are amazing musicians and I am priveledged to have them accompany on my songs. So show your support for Dennis by coming out and listening. As usual I have a few familiar covers I'll be doing, Robert Earl Keen, Reckless Kelly & Cross Canadian Ragweed. If you haven't heard them, check em' out. You won't be disappointed, I promise.

Also, my brother Bob and I will be making a cd the morning after we play at th Wine Cottage, and coming up in July, I am entering about seven of my original songs in the ISC (International Songwriting Competition). As you would suspect, none of this stuff comes cheap, so if you want to contribute to the starving artist fund, there will be a sizable tip jar for those feeling generous to their favorite California Blonde:)

I look forward to my visit down to the Wine Cottage, as usual. Rebecca and Aimee are always wonderful hosts, and took a chance on letting me entertain their valuable guests that stop by to enjoy a great meal. I look forward to seeing you all there, and strumming my old guitar for you! Head on down to the Wine Cottage Saturday July 14th. Thanks all, I'll see you soon!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Happy Place

Although I haven't blogged in quite some time now, know that my visits to the Wine Cottage Bistro have not diminished. In fact, I have been several times, often for lunch and dinner in the same day. We were visiting the central coast for a wedding on June 2nd. While heading up the 101 all I was able to think about was WINE. Well, that and cheese. My cousins have been saying for a couple months now, if you liked our old cheese plate, WAIT UNTIL YOU TRY THE NEW ONE. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. It is absolutely mouth watering. Its a perfect balance of strong and mild. The special on Monday was a Walu(fish) wrapped in ham served over a bed of a beet risotto. YUM. I told Chef Troy that he needs to add it to the menu as a regular dinner. I just can't even tell you how spectactular it was. I also tried something new, Peringa, a sparkling shiraz. The "wine mom" (my aunt) said its an experience, and let me tell you it was a complete and total experience. When its poured into the champagne glass the purplish bubbles just mesmorize your eyes. Than you take a sip and its all about the dancing and happiness of your tastebuds.

Enough about the food, I could go on and on.
Family from all over was up for the wedding; Monrovia, El Monte, Needles, Bakersfield and Mojave Valley Arizona. The Bistro was the HUB, if you will. A centralized location for us all to come visit and drink wine. We may have kept the Chef on his toes as we all filtered in and out at different times but at no point were we ever disappointed with the food or service. My family laughs because I call the Bistro my "Happy Place." Its a place where enjoyment abounds, love surrounds, and laughter ensues.

I hope to see you there one day, whether its on June 23rd with all the VW guys, or on July 14th watching Natalie Haskins strum her old guitar, I want you to have the same kind of Happy Place I do when Im at the Bistro.