Restaurant News & Reviews

SLO's Foremost Wine Co. embraces farm-to-table philosophy

The Niman Ranch hanger steak at Foremost Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo comes with miso butter, asparagus and a fried egg.
The Niman Ranch hanger steak at Foremost Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo comes with miso butter, asparagus and a fried egg. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Fresh, local and seasonal are at the forefront of the dedicated farm-to-table philosophy at Foremost Wine Co.

The stylish restaurant and wine shop are the vision of owner Rob Murray, a farmer and winemaker who owns and manages vineyards from Santa Maria to Paso Robles. (Among his holdings is Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles.) He has a degree in agricultural management from Cal Poly.

To flesh out his Foremost concept, Murray first engaged the creative talents of Sarah Berger of local design firm Makers and Allies. Berger’s connections led to serendipitous collaborations with See Canyon farmer Johnny Kenny, chef Julie Simon and sommelier Robin Puricelli.

That trio now spearheads day-to-day operations at Foremost, which opened in San Luis Obispo’s historic Creamery in November 2014 after an extensive renovation. The project combined several suites in the building to create a flowing combination of restaurant, lounge, wine bar, wine shop and a horseshoe-shaped bar area serving several plates of burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream.

Overall, the Foremost vibe is at once urban and rustic, industrial and chic, upscale and welcoming.

Underlying design elements of wood, concrete and metal are punctuated with expressive touches such as overstuffed leather couches in the lounge, engaging chalkboard graphics in the wine bar and a striking chandelier in the reception area crafted from deer antlers.

Puricelli, the wine program director, has curated an intriguing list with extensive by-the-glass options that pairs wonderfully with Simon’s menus. Enjoy a local chardonnay, uncork a Bordeaux-style blend from South Africa or really expand your varietal horizons with a Lacrima di Morro D’Alba from Italy.

The draft and bottled beer selections are equally interesting. And, thanks to a recently acquired full liquor license, the team is rolling out some fun, seasonal cocktails.

Many of the restaurant’s ingredients — including several types of produce, eggs and even honey — come directly from Kenny’s organic gardening program.

“Because we want to foster a sense of community,” he added, Foremost also sources from quality local purveyors such as Rinconada Dairy in Santa Margarita, Pepper Creek Family Farms in Arroyo Grande and Adelaida Springs Ranch, Kiler Canyon Farm and Windrose Farm in Paso Robles. Morro Bay fishing operation South Bay Wild emails fresh catch options to the restaurant from the boat.

“We have an eclectic, global menu, but our whole concept is to get back to local, honest food,” said Kenny, who is also the restaurant’s general manager.

Enter Simon, who has championed a similar standpoint throughout several years of accomplished cooking on the Central Coast. She fully embraces the seasonal approach, so her menus change frequently.

Some recent offerings include chanterelle cassoulet made with local mushrooms, house-made pappardelle pasta with zucchini and chive blossoms, and wild local salmon with grilled stone fruit.

In addition to sourcing local products, Simon further pushes the sustainability aspect by purchasing whole animals and fish whenever possible.

This approach dictates using every part of the animal, which not only leads to great stocks and sauces, but has also allowed for such dishes as beef cheek sugo (a braised meat sauce) and lamb tartare, now one of the most popular items on the menu.

“When you start with fresh, awesome product, you can taste it in the food,” Simon said. “I don’t know why you would want to do it any other way.”

Kenny and Puricelli heartily agreed.

Although that approach requires a considerable commitment to educating both staff and customers, “It’s motivating and really rewarding,” Puricelli said.

Foremost Wine Co.

570 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo (in The Creamery) | 439-3410 | foremostwineco.com

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday dinner 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday dinner 5-10 p.m.; Wine shop Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-close; Closed Mondays.

The scene: This upscale yet rustic restaurant is the latest addition to the downtown San Luis Obispo restaurant scene; special events such as winemakers’ dinners and an upcoming Father’s Day brunch are publicized on social media.

The cuisine: An eclectic global menu showcases local and sustainable ingredients, all nicely complemented by the well-curated beverage program.

Expect to spend: Menu changes frequently; appetizers, charcuterie and burrata plates about $6-20; larger plates range from $25 to market price.

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