Restaurant News & Reviews

Paso Robles chef Brian Stein on boosting barbecue with wine

Paso Robles chef Brian Stein’s version of a classic Santa Maria-style barbecue plate features tri-tip drizzled with a zinfandel demi-glace, barbecue pinto beans and a salad.
Paso Robles chef Brian Stein’s version of a classic Santa Maria-style barbecue plate features tri-tip drizzled with a zinfandel demi-glace, barbecue pinto beans and a salad.

A native of the New York City borough of Queens, Brian Stein is a classically trained graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He and his wife, Nancy, own and run Stein’s BBQ & Catering Co. , which operates out of the commercial kitchen of EOS Estate Winery in Paso Robles.

In 1981, Stein opened the Circle B Bagelery Restaurant in Atascadero, which featured the hand-rolled bagels that his uncle taught him to make at age 10. In 1986, Stein shifted the operation to wholesale under the name Big Apple Bagels, and in 1993, the Otis Spunkmeyer Co. bought him out and took the bagels nationwide.

Three years later, in June 1996, Stein was catering an event at which Nancy was the event coordinator. He had forgotten to bring all the linens; she did not and saved the day.

They married a year later and blended their families into one, with five kids and, now, four grandchildren.

In 2003, the couple started Stein’s Deli and Bagels, also in Atascadero. They ran that popular eatery for three years, and then launched their catering company in 2010.

Q: What is your favorite local/seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menu, and why is it your favorite?

A: With Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend coming up, we’re planning a lot of tri-tip menus.

It’s a very unique cut of meat that’s not found in a whole lot of places outside of this area, but here it’s a signature ingredient.

Tri-tip is often called the butcher’s cut because it was often considered just trim for hamburger, but butchers would take it home to barbecue for themselves. They knew the good stuff! It’s second in tenderness only to tenderloin, but it’s got so much more flavor, and is much more versatile.

Q: How are you currently using tri-tip?

A: Here, I’ve prepared a version of a classic Santa Maria-style barbecue plate and highlighted it with zinfandel.

I rubbed the tri-tip with my Pitmaster’s Choice California Seasoning (one in a line of all-natural, MSG-free seasonings the Steins are releasing in the next couple of weeks) about a half an hour before grilling — not much longer than that or the meat will dry out. I also made a zinfandel demi-glace sauce to drizzle over the tri-tip.

For sides, we’ve got our barbecue pinto beans with zinfandel, tomatoes and some brown sugar, and a salad with a balsamic zinfandel dressing. With this plate, you’ve got your savory, a little bit of sweet with the beans, some fresh bites with the salad — and the zinfandel ties all the flavors together.

Q: How does this particular dish represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?

A: I want to prepare food that people love to eat.

I’m classically trained in French (food), in Italian (food), but I just love barbecue. You can do so many things to dress it up so that it’s not just throwing meat on a plate.

Think about your appetizers, your side dishes. One of our favorite sides to do is a smoky Gouda mac-and-cheese with candied bacon. You don’t want to be stuffy — have fun with it! Everything should be full of flavor, but the flavors should all work together.

Q: How would home cooks approach this ingredient in their own kitchens?

A: With this, or anything, buy great local ingredients and take care in their preparation.

I always buy choice grade, but if you find select on sale, just leave it in the (plastic wrap) in the refrigerator for about a week; you’ll be essentially wet-aging it and improving the flavor a bit.

It’s important to trim tri-tip carefully; you’ll want to take off most of the fat. When cooking, sear both sides about five minutes, then keep turning about every five minutes so that all the sides cook evenly. It should be 140 degrees Farenheit in the center when you pull it off. Don’t overcook it, or it will be dry and tough.

After letting the tri-tip rest uncovered for about 15 minutes, always cut against the grain. Think of the meat as the shape of New Jersey, and orient it like that — you want to start carving from the northeast corner, not the southwest.

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook at home and why?

A: One of the things I like to make at home is great deli sandwiches.

Something like a Godfather, an Italian sub with prosciutto and salami.

Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing and why?

A: Because of all the time I’ve spent in Italy, any really good red wine with some pasta or a nice steak — any of our local zins, cabs, pinots.

That’s the beauty of this area. There are just so many good wines here, it’s actually hard to find a bad one!

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at

Stein’s BBQ & Catering Co.

For more information about Stein’s BBQ & Catering Co., call 975-5520 or visit The Steins will soon be releasing their line of all-natural, MSG-free Pitmaster’s Choice Seasonings; information about retail locations will be available at

Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend

Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend, which is presented by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, will feature several events Friday through Sunday. Enjoy zinfandel tasting and a screening of the documentary “Somm: Into the Bottle” on Friday night. On Saturday and Sunday, participating Paso Robles wineries will host special events.

For more information, visit