Villa Creek, Paso Robles

Friday, August 24, 2012

Kismet: Destiny; fate.

Back in late June, my husband and I bid farewell to our littles in Los Angeles and headed North on the 1, then veered off into Atascadero/Paso Robles for the night.

Our travel day was peculiar because we didn’t get as early of a start as we had intended. We also made an impromptu stop over at Venice Beach before checking Grandma and the girls into the hotel. My parents, Nana and Grandfather, were flying in later that day. We decided to linger until their arrival. When they did make it, we loaded up into our rented Crown Victoria and headed out of town. Except, before we left, I asked my Beloved if he minded delaying just 10 minutes longer so I could see family. It would be a shame if we were all the way out there and I didn’t at least get to say hi. He agreed, I fired up the navigation, just in time to make the turn. They were less than 3 miles from the hotel! I knew we were close because I remembered the oldest McDonald’s (Downey, CA) from previous visits.

We pulled in and I was able to see my second cousins and my great aunt and uncle. I fought tears. The last time I’d seen them was at my grandfather’s funeral in December. Oh my how the family traits run strong. When I heard their voices, I heard his voice. I was so very grateful he agreed to the quick visit. I needed to see them.

Well, we got on the highway and headed north. When Don has something on his mind, he gets this look where he goes in his head. Different times, there are different looks. This particular look, as we sat in traffic, had me wondering something. I inquired and he confessed that while he was ok with our delayed departures, because it meant we weren’t going to be able to hit up any of the wineries in the area, it also meant that we weren’t going to make it to a very special restaurant that he’d researched for us. He wanted it to be a surprise for me, and only told me about it because he still wanted me to know about the surprise. I was crestfallen, but did some quick math in my head and very determined said, “We’re gonna make it!”
As we neared closer to our final destination, he too was getting nervously excited at the thought that we might possibly make it. He was in charge of planning our Northern California outings. I was in charge of finding lodging in California.

…let’s take an aside…I was supposed to find lodging in California. ha! As we were driving to the airport the morning before we got to LA (at 6AM), I was on my phone booking a hotel! We stayed with friends in San Diego. We booked a hotwire deal in Atascadero. And San Fran…well, I actually phoned a friend who opened his beautiful home to us, but more on that later. Procrastinator much? yep…

Anyway, on that drive over, after hanging up the phone with my friend (now our friend), I looked out the window as we drove through Los Alamos and my breath was taken away. There was overcast, the clouds were hanging low, and the colors popped. That magic light was a photographers dream. Had we had more time, I would’ve insisted we stop, but no, I was hellbent on making dinner.

We were near enough that it was hit or miss. So I suggest Don call and order in advance. I’d browsed through their menu so I wouldn’t take my usual time needing to read every single item on the menu twice before deciding. Yes, I’m that girl. Don’t judge. Anyway, I knew what I wanted, I was ready. But he didn’t want to place the order because there was no guarantee that we would be there before close.

Villa Creek: Fresh. Local. Organic. Fine Dining in Paso Robles.

Hours from 5:30-10. We arrived in Atascadero at 9:43. Paso Robles is 12.3 miles away. We quickly checked in to the hotel. Threw off our travel clothes and were on the road by 9:48. And because I sometimes don’t type things correctly into the navigation system, we took a wrong turn. We arrived at Villa Creek at 10:01. !Santo Merda! We still walked in for hope against hope. The hostess kindly said that we were too late. And because I am not one to be ok with accepting the first offer, I inquired, would we still have been able to eat had we ordered our food on the phone when we originally called you? She looked at me with a bit of familiarity, I suppose, and said, “I’m sorry, no. Buuut…you are welcome to go to the bar for a drink. They might still have a couple of items on their bar menu before they close out the system.”
We’d come all that way, so we went to the bar. It was lively, full of locals indulging in libations. Our gorgeous bartender was so friendly and struck up a conversation. We told her our story and ordered a flight of wines. She said, “We have a rehearsal dinner in the main dining area. I know the kitchen is still cooking. I haven’t closed my register for food, so if you wanna eat, here’s the menu. I can get it in the system before it shuts me out.”

Thank you, Universe!

Without really looking at the menu, we ordered quickly, and browsed over the Wine Flight notes until it arrived. She said, “You weren’t kidding when you said you knew what you wanted!”

We started with the Escabeche Misto (boquerones, marinated mushrooms, marinated baby artichokes, grilled bread) and the Hatch Green Chilies, Pork, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco soup/chili. I didn’t get a photo of the Escabeche Misto, but here’s the hatch soup. Holy eff…it had animals in it, but we’d traveled all that way and I needed a taste. That was hands down some of the best stuff I’ve put in my mouth. Wow! It gave me happies. It brought out memories. It made me think of cold nights from my childhood.

And then something magical happened that made all of our delays make sense. This outing went from amazing to spectacular times a thousand. The chef, Tom Fundaro, sat at the edge of the bar right next to Don. He saw us inhaling the first course and struck up a conversation. We told him our story. We talked to him about our love of food. We talked to him about our children. He told us about his. We discussed our love affair with hatch chilies. We talked about so very much and were regretting that we only had mere hours in this fine place. But then he did us one better. He treated us to an order of his chicken and waffles and wanted us to let him know what we thought. Humbled. Magic. Kismet.

My main entrĂ©e was the Torchio & Mushroom Bolognese with wild mushrooms and parmesan. Ok, if that soup wasn’t delicious enough, this made me want to find a stranger to slap because really? No really? I didn’t even share with Don. There wasn’t time. I’d inhaled it. All of it. Used my finger to clean the plate, even, without apologies or shame. That was amazing! Ok, I gave him a tiny sliver of a taste, but that was it. I’m not completely selfish.

Don had the Salmon with quinoa lilac and a kumquat slaw. He liked it fine. I tasted the quinoa and was impressed with the use of lilac in it. Very subtle, very delicate. It went well with our wine.

And then the chicken and waffles…here they are in their glory

Gluttony at its finest. We thought the chicken was well cooked and paired well with the waffles. It was nice to taste another variation of the chicken and waffles!

While we were beyond gluttonous for that meal, we were overflowing with love and incredible conversation. The date that probably wouldn’t have happened, was born out of thin air and from it, was born one of our greatest dates ever.

If you happen to find yourself out that way or near the area, do yourself a solid and go check them out. Villa Creek in Paso Robles is divine, heart warming, and that food will satisfy your soul. The service is outstanding, the atmosphere familiar, and above all, just a darn good feel-good for your soul!

Thank you chef Tom and to the bartender who made the surprise date night (that nearly didn’t happen) possible. Thank you, Don, for not giving up and for believing in the impossible to be possible.

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Sarah Greenman said...

OMG OMG OMG... I was born and raised in Paso Robles and went to the opening night of Villa Creek a long long time ago. I've gone back MANY a time for their amazing food. So glad you loved my hometown!

rebecca @ older and wisor said...

We always went through Paso Robles on the way to Pismo Beach growing up, but never stopped anywhere that fancy to eat (unless Carls Jr counts). YUM!!

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