Day 1 Paso Robles: La Cosecha
Photographs by Dawn Garcia
LA COSECHA | 835 12th Street, Suite A | Paso Robles, CA 93446
The city of Paso Robles can be described more as a town than the accustomed term, “city” I’m used to. Coming from Los Angeles where the sound of traffic, sirens, crowds, and ocean are my daily ambiance, when you begin on Highway 46 there is an entirely different feel. While this is wine country, it has a familiarity of a place where neighbors talk, people gather, and jeans are perfectly acceptable as “dressing up”. There is no stuffy “vibe”. In fact I’d venture to say Paso is a region that is more familial and easy going – though the wines and food being culminated here are anything but. Arranging my trip up to Central California, I reached out to the city’s tourism board because on this trip, while I am here for the Paso Robles CAB Collective, I wanted to get a true taste of everything it encompasses. Thankfully I was pleasantly obliged and on day 1, I am invited to dine at La Cosecha accompanied by local Winemaker, Matt Ortman.
On site is La Cosecha Owner, Carole MacDonal – wife to Executive Chef + Restaurateur Santos MacDonal (acclaimed for his culinary mastery at many of Los Angeles’ finest restaurants). Carole is, much like her yellow tunic suggests, bright and full of sunshine. Her demeanor is calm and friendly and it’s clear she’s no stranger to media (a Hollywood Producer of some of the biggest shows on television). She explains that there are a few must-try items including the signatory Honduras-inspired Pastelitos Catracho and a brand new cocktail Paso Italiano: made with in-house limoncello, aperol campari, lemon juice, traces of citrus and sugar, garnished with a fresh basil leaf. She talks with us briefly, on her way to their 1st Paso Restaurant, Il Cortile. Shortly after, we begin to dive into the menu and I attempt a relatively expansive look at the range and breadth it offers.
The IDEA behind LA Cosecha
Spanish for “the harvest,” La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant in Paso Robles is the second creation of celebrated Chef Santos MacDonal. Centering on the cuisine of Spain and South America, La Cosecha offers culture-specific, specialized Latin flavors by sourcing herbs and spices from each dish’s nation of origin, while taking advantage of the farmer’s market-fresh produce, meats, and cheeses of California’s abundant Central Coast. MacDonal’s Honduran heritage and fastidious commitment to fresh, locally-sourced cuisine play heavily into each menu, providing guests with an authentic and indulgent experience to remember. The restaurant also features a craft cocktail menu designed to make use of garden-fresh ingredients and locally-sourced artisanal spirits wherever possible.
This particular piece I am going to do a bit differently. Each portion of the menu ranges from cocktails to appetizers to entrees and each has its own design.
The cocktails utilize a local distillery called Re:FIND. It is an entire movement and one I hope takes root around the globe.
Re:Find Handcrafted Vodka and Re:Find Handcrafted Gin are spirits made with premium grapes from the celebrated Paso Robles wine region. This venture is distinct from other spirits currently on the market as they are the first to utilize premium Paso Robles-grown grapes as their base, a luxury too expensive for most distilleries producing spirits from potatoes or grains.
I Did it Rye Way
RE: FIND rye, St. Germaine, Cardamaro Amaro, Lemon Juice
*This was one of the most well done “Rye” Whiskey Cocktails I’ve had. The essence is crisp and fresh with traces of cardamom.
Made with in-house limoncello, aperol campari, lemon juice, traces of citrus and sugar, garnished with a fresh basil leaf.
*This would be good on a porch outside on a hot summer’s day but it was a tad too sweet for my taste. I would have liked a bit more of the tartness of lemon to come through.
RE: FIND gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, plum bitters and red wine.
*This is a colorful libation presented in stages that draw in the eye. It has a sense of both bitter and tame and while beautiful, I think a bit of plum as a garnish may send this one soaring to perfection.
Casamigos tequila, muddled jalapeno, triple sec, lime and a chile rim.
*I thoroughly enjoyed this margarita (a drink that can often be disappointing in spite of its seemingly simple approach). By far the standout was the chile rim dusted with salt, cayenne, and a trace of lime. Paying attention to my request for a little extra “kick” this drink delivered.
For a little playful fun, check out the Mixology Terminology everyone should know: Bartender Guide.
A Signature Honduras dish. Honduras style empanadas with beef, potato, native Honduran spices.
*This was a very interesting bite. Having had food in the region, the element that tends to throw a palate off is the use of potato. This tastes more like a potato pie but it is instrumental in bringing that sense of comfort to the taste buds. I enjoyed the bits of roughage and the slice of tomato to counter the starch and beef with a bit of citrus and crisp. The rojo sauce is a bit heavier and more chalky in texture so for those who look at it and may anticipate an “enchilada” type sauce, this is not that kind of sauce. It is distinct to Honduran culture and I do appreciate that Chef Santos implements it unapologetically.
*This was the soup of the day. This was a good follow-up to the Pastelitos because the texture of the soup is somewhat reminiscent of the empanada sauce. The soup was flavorful and well balanced with the in-house crisped tortillas on top – that was a notable finish.
Golden raisins, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
*I’m a sucker for a good kale salad and this one definitely impressed. I enjoyed the twist of raisins with gorgonzola. The dressing was mixed in with ease and every bite was bountiful in texture, taste, and ingredients.
Pan Seared Scallops
Sweet mashed potatoes, seasonal mushrooms
*I am a harsh critic of scallops mainly because they are either overcooked, undercooked, or lack imagination. These scallops were none of those things. In fact the scallops were pan seared just so with a wonderful blend of ingredients I would never have considered to pair so well. I am thrilled to say these scallops left me pleasantly surprised.
2010 Muga “Conde de Haro” CAVA
*At this point in the evening after having taken sips of the varying libations, it was high time for some Spanish bubbles. This was a crisp and refreshing palate cleanser and the apropos way to enter into the final stage of the meal.
Pork + baked potato, beef + mashed plantains, lamb + sweet white mashed potatoes.
*In theory this dish sounds like the ideal carnivorous adventure but unfortunately the flavors do not marry well together. On their own with the appropriate addition, these dishes would bode well individually but on the plate together, the flavors battle with one another leaving a bit of a lackluster finish. The pork was a bit overcooked so in spite of the beautiful bed of green sauce over potato, it didn’t get to flourish as I imagine it may have. The beef was moist, balanced, perfectly sweet and savory with the compliments of the unique mashed plantain. I found this to be the standout of the three. The lamb was another that was slightly overcooked so it didn’t fall off quite as nicely as I would have liked to see. The white mashed potato however was pure delight. It was authentic and original and I enjoyed the effort.
As the evening wound down and our stomachs begged for our surrender, we did manage to muster a bite of the desserts. Mixing it up as to give us one final flight of flavor, our server Quin suggests the Chocolate torte + Key Lime Pie.
The Chocolate Torte is definitely rich and defined. The Key Lime Pie has this smooth cheesecake-like feel to it and I do have to say it’s one of the better ones I’ve had. I enjoyed the twist on the classic “version” of something so familiar. All in all the blend of the rich of the chocolate and the tart of the key lime was the perfect way to end the evening.
Thanks to Carole and Santos MacDonal and the people at Travel Paso.
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