Thursday, July 8, 2010

Watermelon Gazpacho and Wino-ism: Los Olivos Cafe, Los Olivos

It was getting kind of late on a school night and after the third winery (or was it the fourth?) it was time to sop up all that fermented juice with something substantial. Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe was recommended to us by our Lion's Peak awesomely dazed and confused pourer so the Cretan Mathlete and I took the short drive up the hill from Solvang to downtown Los Olivos. We almost missed the joint covered in all that green foliage.

The story of how Los Olivos Cafe came to be is a corporate wino/foodie's fairytale come true: Owner Sam, former Los Angeles stockbroker, quit his job, cashed in his chips and started a good wine - good food - good comfort cafe. He later met his wife Shwanda (former real estate agent) at the cafe and they expanded the place. The Cafe blew up after being showcased in pivotal scenes in the movie Sideways.

Which explains the "Sideways" menu: a $35 tasting menu including glass of wine, soup/salad, choice of entree and dessert. The Mathlete and I both decided on the tasting menu, starting off with a glass of the house Chardonnay, a cool, subtly creamy juice. Along with our wine came a basket of fresh foccacia bread and our waiter turning the photographing tides on me (at the end!).

Fresh Foccacia

We both selected the Watermelon Gazpacho as our first course which seemed all very intriguing. Unfortunately, the cloying factor got the best of me and I could not finish my soup - maybe if I had saved it for dessert or maybe if it had a chunk of salty feta to cut the sweetness? The Mathlete agreed, but managed to finish his watermelon soup.

Feta would make it beta

Our main entrees more than overcame the soup's delinquencies. The Florentine Ravioli, fresh pasta wrapped up in spinach and ricotta smothered in a roasted shallot cream sauce with crispy onions and fresh chives, was perfectly luxurious without being overly heavy.

The Grilled Salmon with a warm spinach - red onion - shaved fennel salad, tomato, crispy red potatoes drizzled with a citrus emulsion had all the right flaky bites that every hunk of salmon should have. The citrus sauce played up the dish nicely - melding the fish with the other components.

We finished off with helpings of Los Olivos Cafe's famous Chocolate Scream: a brownie like house-made flourless chocolate cake, house-made vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. The cake was fabulously dense with a deep chocolate flavor and ice cream, super fresh. I am not a caramel fan so I was regretting not asking mine without the stuff, because it was very much present and powerful. They were very, very generous with their dessert portion size and neither of us could get through half of our desserts. 

Live Chocolate Screaming

And there is our waiter in the mirror reflection who turned the tides on me by insisting to take some pics, don't mind the Merlot teef :)

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe
2879 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A lovely meal. Sure that feta would make it better ;-P!



Banana Wonder said...

Rosa - you know it, sista!

Anonymous said...

did you guys go during the 4th? specifically, Saturday? If so, I might've ridden by while you were grubbin that meal...

this place is SUPER cute, but suuuper pricey..

Banana Wonder said...

Sinosoul - We went 3 weeks ago - yes the place is expensive - a major reason we got the Sideways menu.

Esi said...

I have a serious urge to go to Los Olivos again. Although the last time I went was in the middle of summer and you could have fried an egg on my arm, it was so hot!!

Banana Wonder said...

Esi - yeah I love Los Olivos! Next time I want to check out the olive oils.

Christie Bishop said...

We head up to Solvang every Christmas and often have lunch at Los Olivos Cafe. It's been hit and miss over the years, especially since the Sideways phenomenon made it a bit of a tourist trap. But the ravioli looks fab; I'll have to try it next time we're there!