The Granada Bistro in downtown San Luis Obispo recently updated their offerings and we wanted to get all the dirt on how they go about doing such a thing. Our friends over at Parker Sanpei gave us the intro and we threw down the questions. If you’ve not been to Granada, pretty sure this will get you in there! What’s better than great food, wine and cocktails to usher in Spring, 2017?
Kenny Bigwood, Executive Chef
Annie: Where are you originally from?
Annie: How did you come to be a Chef?
Kenny: I kind of fell into it… I moved to San Luis Obispo to go to Cal Poly, and after I graduated I didn’t want to leave. I ended up getting a job in a local bakery, and one of our regulars there was a chef in the area. One day I asked her for a job.
Annie: What was your approach to creating the Spring menu?
Kenny: To me, spring is all about light preparations of fresh ingredients. It’s a time when you are really able to let the food do the work of being delicious all on it’s own. My idea for the spring menu is to find some delicious fresh produce, and not screw it up.
Annie: What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
Kenny: It’s hard to pick just one, because one of the best things about the cooking and culinary world is that there is always so much to explore. However one of my favorite ingredients, and one that’s pretty exclusive to springtime, is pea greens, whether they are the baby shoots or the tendrils (the tops of a pea plant). They’re really versatile, good raw or lightly cooked, and they pack a ton of pea flavor. I’ll be using them in a few places on my spring menu.
Annie: Do you have a favorite food and wine/cocktail pairing?
Kenny: I do… but it’s not something we currently have at Granada. I could eat crispy fish tacos and drink spicy margaritas for hours on a warm afternoon and be happy as a clam.
Jenna Congdon, Wine Director
Annie: Where are you originally from?
Jenna: I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I came here in ’97 to go to Cal Poly and then I just couldn’t leave! I do miss the redwoods though.
Annie: How did you get into the wine/restaurant business?
Jenna: I waited tables and tended bar all through college, starting at Firestone Grill and then working in to fine dining at Café Roma, Buona Tavola and The Gardens of Avila. I also taught pre-school part time and one of the parents was the Tasting Room manager at Talley Vineyards. One day in 2003 at pick-up she asked me if I wanted to apply for a Tasting Room Attendant position. I went for it, and then after 6 months they were hiring in the sales office for a full time position so I went for that too. I still have a lot of love for Talley Vineyards… both the wines and the people there. After that, in 2008 I got a job in wholesale distribution for a local brokerage right before the economy went in to a tailspin… It was the worst possible time to be in a commission-based job… but I couldn’t leave the wine industry. I was totally hooked. I toughed it out and never looked back.
Annie: What were you trying to express with the current wine list?
Jenna: It’s so difficult to fit a world of wine in to our tiny wine cellar! I wanted to give a broad overview of Old World wines, while still giving homage to our fantastic local producers. I like wines that are food friendly, and that you can enjoy over the course of a meal, and then maybe even consider ordering a second bottle. To me that means wines that are lower in alcohol, with a little higher acidity… and of course they need to also be a great value! We feature a lot of organic and biodynamic wines… people spend so much time thinking about the foods we shop for and the products we use in our home, I think it’s just as important to consider those same standards for the wines that we drink. It’s Spring time, so I wanted to also feature some fun, lighter wines… red, white, and pink!
Annie: What do you think are some of the most unique wines on your list?
Jenna: Funny, I am usually most excited about white wines, but for this version of the list, I’m crushing hard on a few fun and funky red wines. I just added a section for Austrian + German Reds … Austrian reds in particular are some of my favorite red wines. They’re difficult to pronounce but they’re so easy to drink.
-Claus Priesinger’s “Puszta Libre!”, Burgenland Austria … This is a totally crushable blend of two of my favorite indigenous Austrian grapes: St. Laurent (it’s similar to Pinot Noir) and Zweigelt (think the weight and fruit of Pinot Noir with some of the spicier top notes of Syrah). This is basically Austria’s answer to Beaujolais… lighter bodied with crunchy ripe plum fruits and tart red berries.
-Amplify Wines Carignan, Santa Ynez, California … Cameron and Marlen Porter make this wine in tiny quantities and it is such a delicious expression of the Carignan grape. They use carbonic fermentation, so the wine is lighter bodied than other traditionally fermented carignans. It’s still super concentrated, brimming with fruit flavors and it’s just lip-smackingly beautiful, from the vibrant color to the nose to the palate.
-Filipa Pato “Post Quercus” Baga, Beiras … Filipa Pato is a genius, of that I am certain. I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with her after a trade tasting recently. I confessed to her that out of the 176 wines being poured that day, the moment I even SMELLED this wine, it was the only thing I wanted in my glass. Baga is an indigenous grape of the region, the grape her father Luis Pato (AKA Mr. Baga or ‘The Baga Rebel’) became famous for protecting and celebrating at a time when other growers in the area were ripping it out in favor of higher yielding and more commercially popular varieties. It’s usually a big and tannic beast of a wine. Here, she picked a little bit earlier than usual, and fermented it in Amphorae imported from Italy. The resulting wine is velvety and gorgeous with tons of floral notes and ripe red and blue fruits. Seriously, if I could bottle this wine as a fragrance, I would wear it every day. The only downside is she bottled it in a smaller 500 mL bottle… I feel like I could drink a magnum of it. And at 11% alcohol, this is the kind of bottle you’ll want to order two or more of.
Annie: What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
Jenna: Pierre Gimmonet Champagne and Kettle Chips ridged potato chips! I love the dichotomy of mixing the highbrow with the simple, like wearing Chanel with Converse… it totally works. The greasy saltiness of the chips pairs perfectly with the chalky acidity of the wine.
Dominique Gonzales, Mixologist
Annie: Where are you originally from?
Dominique: Arroyo Grande
Annie: How did you find yourself in the craft cocktail business?
Dominique: I started tending bar when I was 21 and fell in love with the creative outlet, learning the history behind spirits and cocktails.
Annie: What is your process for pairing cocktails with food?
I would say most of the pairings involve an aperitif and digestive cocktail. I have a special love for vermouths so we offer many delicious sipping liquors with complex flavors to complement a dish.
Annie: What is your favorite cocktail right now?
Dominique: No Thyme to say Hello. We created the cocktail for SLO Distillers competition which uses Re:find Gin and Kumquat Liquor. It has fresh carrot juice, passion fruit and cara cara oranges. It’s the perfect spring time refresher.
Annie: Do you have a favorite food and cocktail pairing?
Dominique: We have a great Mary’s chicken on our menu which pairs perfectly with our RIP cocktail. It has aged Bols Genever Gin, Amaro Nonino and cap rock pear brandy served with a baby pear.