In the few short months since its November 2013 opening, Second Press Wine Bar & Eatery has become one of the first places people think about for “wine country cuisine.”
Located on the park in downtown Paso Robles, Second Press presents a casual yet stylish dining experience. Formerly a cooperative wine-tasting room, the space now offers sleek eating areas ranging from the contemporary main dining room to the wine bar, from the welcoming lobby area to the private room that can seat up to 14 for special events.
“(Owner) John (Clarizio) and I met a few years ago and always thought about doing a project together,” said executive chef/general manager Ryan Swarthout, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy whose name locals may remember from Robert’s and Justin Winery. “We looked at a couple different places, but I’d always thought this would be a great restaurant space.”
In developing the menu, the team chose the “wine country” concept because “it doesn’t specify a particular region or type of cooking,” said Swarthout. That approach obviously leaves a lot of room for creativity in the kitchen, but you can always expect that “we’re using a lot of local products, staying very seasonal and changing the menu quarterly.”
All those local food purveyors such as Windrose Farm, Alla-Pia Salami, and Vivant Cheese are listed on the menus. Swarthout also noted that Second Press has a full-circle relationship with Swan Family Angus in Templeton. Not only does the menu showcase the beef in certain dishes, but the “fertilizer” from the cattle is used in the restaurant’s off-site gardens.
Among the favorites on the Second Press lunch menu are the fried Brussels sprouts drizzled with goat cheese fondue and apple cider glaze, endive and miso salmon salad with blistered cherry tomatoes, and the chipotle, corn and crab chowder. Heartier appetites can check out the prosciutto and figs pizza, the slow-braised pulled pork sandwich with housemade barbecue sauce, or the Press burger, which is that’s topped with roasted garlic aioli and all the usual fixings, and served with hand-cut fries.
The pizzas and many of the starters are also available at dinner, and that menu really ups the entrée ante as well. Choose from maple/miso/Dijon salmon or pan roasted scallops, apricot chili chicken or pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin, spring green risotto or a New York steak. Another popular item is the herb-infused rack of lamb served with smoked maple roasted yam, a wild mushroom duxelle (finely chopped mushrooms) and pomegranate reduction.
Indeed, many of the accompaniments are as creative as the main dish. Depending on what you order, your entrée might come paired with a sweet potato gnocchi, crispy Lotus root chips or even a savory chorizo corn bread pudding.
Recently, Second Press began serving Sunday brunch as well. That menu currently includes vanilla bean Belgian waffles, prosciutto eggs Benedict and a Mediterranean omelette with roasted fingerling potatoes.
In addition to their regular dining hours, Second Press also presents special wine/beer and food pairing events in its lobby area. On Wednesdays are “Flight Nights” with local winemakers, and the restaurant also hosts regular live music events and “Pop Up Tastings,” which feature the local wineries and craft breweries that are available on the wine and draft beer list.
“The Pop Ups are an idea we just brainstormed, and they’ve turned out to be a great opportunity for our guests to try what’s on our list,” Swarthout. “We really want to create those kind of fun, unique dining experiences for people.”