A PASO dining experience featuring Black Cat Bistro Too
A beautiful, cool summer evening called for a visit to one of the newest restaurants in downtown Paso Robles — Black Cat Bistro Too. Nic, Hayley and I were joined by Michael Bradley, CEO of the California Mid-State Fair and Paso Robles Event Center, and his talented
If the Black Cat name sounds familiar, it’s due to the stellar reputation of the original Black Cat Bistro in Cambria. Mauricio Lopez, his wife Sarah Verlangieri, sister Sandra Lopez, and brother-in-law, Joel Magana purchased the Cambria location five years ago and then opened the Paso Robles restaurant in April of 2018.
Mauricio, Chef Joel, and their talented staff, including our attentive server, Muriel, wowed us with food offerings as we chatted about the upcoming Mid-State Fair and enjoyed the ambiance of the intimate dining room. Each course was paired with local wines personally selected by Mauricio.
APPETIZERS & STARTERS
What a way to kick off a meal! Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Octopus, Lightly Seared Romaine, Indian Red Lentil Soup, and New England Clam Chowder; paired with Stella Rosa Prosecco (a lovely refreshing sparkling wine) and Robert Hall Viognier (a classic and local favorite).
Michael’s Favorite:New England Clam Chowder — This award-winning chowder adds flavor to the clams with bacon, onion, celery, garlic, tabasco, and more.
“Wow – this is my definitely my favorite! This chowder is worth the entire price of admission! It’s very fresh and creamy, with just a hint of spiciness.”
Meagan’s Favorite: Paso Robles Pork Belly — gigandes beans, date apple mustard glaze, thyme; Paso Robles through and through!
“The combination of flavors and tenderness of the pork make this a must-try. A simple dish that takes some prep time — the pork belly is braised for about six hours, then cut and pan seared to allow crispiness on the outside and tenderness inside. The dates with the Dijon mustard gives it a bit of a kick combined with sweetness.”
Next, we were served the Baked Polenta, Sea Scallops, Rare Seared Albacore Tuna, Rack of Lamb, and 12-ounce Rib Eye; paired with Niner Estates Pinot Noir (outstanding!).
Hayley’s Favorite: Sea Scallops — with corn pudding, tomatillo cream, mushrooms, cilantro, brown butter.
The sea scallops were pan seared to perfection and served on a bed of corn pudding, lending a slightly sweet flavor. The tomatillo cream and cilantro breaks the sweetness, and the soft buttery mushrooms blends everything together. I would order this again!
Nic & Meagan’s Favorite: Rare Seared Albacore Tuna — a house favorite, this is prepared with jasmine rice, Vietnamese cucumber slaw, shiitakes, ginger wasabi cream, shallots, peanuts, cilantro.
Nic: “This sushi-grade albacore was perfectly cooked and perfectly chosen. It was a well-prepared, healthy serving dressed on a bed of tasty jasmine rice.”
Meagan: “After one bite, I truly wanted this dish all to myself! The tuna is tender and delicious, the jasmine rice is light with a bit of ginger and cilantro, the sauce has a kick with ginger and wasabi, and the cucumber slaw is refreshing.”
Michael’s Favorite: Rack of Lamb — served with chevre carrot puree, heirloom cauliflower succotash, and a pomegranate reduction that blends well with the lamb.
“This was perfectly prepared at medium rare and paired well with the Pinot Noir. Each chop was presented beautifully and had a highly flavorful style, and the cauliflower- broccoli-corn succotash brings everything together.”
Kim’s Favorite: 12-ounce Ribeye — choice cut served with quinoa, corn, cilantro, green onion, black bean sambal butter; fat is an integral part of the flavor of this cut.
“Mauricio claimed this as his favorite dish and I agree! I am a beef lover and this ribeye was cooked to perfection. Each bite literally melted in my mouth; it’s very flavorful with just the right amount of fat.”
We somehow managed to save room for dessert — barely — and our perfect ending included Flourless Lava Cake, Sticky Toffee, fresh-brewed coffee from Cambria Coffee Roasting Company, and Hearst Ranch Winery Late Harvest Zinfandel.
Everyone’s Favorite: Flourless Lava Cake — served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate Grenache. This is more spectacular chocolate than one could ever need. This is rich, with a little mix of milk and dark chocolate, and it’s dense without being heavy. Save room for this!
Black Cat sources mainly from local vendors, including meat from J&R Meats and Maple Leaf Farms, produce from Cambria, Los Osos, and Morro Bay, and breads are baked in-house. The menu changes seasonally to reflect local produce, seafood, and meat offerings. Being a small, intimate restaurant, reservations are recommended for the ultimate dining experience.
“We try to make everything unique and offer something for everyone — seafood options, chicken, steak, vegetarian, and vegan upon request,” Mauricio said. “We have a lot of people dining here for special occasions but we want everyone to feel comfortable and casual when they visit us.”
Stop by and say hi to Mauricio, Joel, and the team at Black Cat Bistro Too, located at 1218 Pine St. in Paso Robles, and tell them you saw their story in Paso Robles Magazine!
For more info, hours and menu, see blackcatbistro.com, call 805-296-3353, and follow them on Facebook.
THE SIDE DISH
As we enjoyed dinner together at Black Cat Bistro Too in downtown Paso Robles, I caught up with Michael Bradley, CEO of the California Mid-State Fair and Paso Robles Event Center, and his wife, Kimberly, a talented journalist and director of the SLO Agricultural Education Committee.
In addition to the annual CMSF — “America’s Favorite Fair” — happening this year July 17-28 with a theme of “Let’s Have S’More Fun,” Michael oversees the interim events, facility rentals, and infrastructure of the Paso Robles Event Center.
Married for 34 years, Michael and Kimberly met while attending Cal Poly SLO and are the proud parents of three sons — Gabriel, Luke and Levi. Michael was appointed as the CMSF CEO back in May of 2016.
“We are both Poly people,” Kimberly said. “So when he took the position with the Mid-State Fair it was like coming home.”
Michael agreed, saying, “I did some work with the fair during college, helped produce a national livestock event here back in the ‘80s, and still serve on advisory committees at Cal Poly. Although we weren’t born here, coming back to the area was sort of a homecoming for us.”
So, what’s new at CMSF for 2019? Michael is most excited about: S’mores activities in the Mission MarketPlace demonstration kitchen, and the educational Camp Rattlesnake with its Indiana Jones element and laboratory environment in the Edna Valley Barn. Also, Hands-On Farming in Rancho Frontier, and a Chill Zone complete with ice saloon and plenty of food and bands nightly in Frontier Town.
“And a giant ice cube in that area with chances to guess when it will melt,” Michael said, “with local meteorologist Dave Hovde helping us keep track.”
He points to the concerts as setting our local fair apart from all others.
“We have an amazing livestock and equestrian program and a great cultural program, yet people on the outside looking in often remember the incredible entertainment line-up we have had since 1969.”
And just what makes the CMSF “America’s Favorite Fair?”
“It’s about people enjoying this experience,” he said. “Time and again, we hear, ‘this is my favorite fair!’ whether they are visiting from Texas, Colorado, Bakersfield, or right here on the Central Coast.”
For more on the 2019 California Mid-State Fair see midstatefair.com, stop by 2198 Riverside Ave. in Paso Robles, or call 805-239-0655.