Goshi Restaurant – Review (Japanese food in San Luis Obispo)

Goshi Restaurant in the heart of the newly renovated creamery area. Downtown San Luis Obispo

Located near downtown San Luis Obispo just inside the newly renovated Creamery area is a rare treat. Nestled in the corner lot off of Nipomo street is Goshi, an exceptional Japanese restaurant and experience. Along with its authentic and traditional food, Goshi serves the look and feel of Japan.

Here you will find much more than just sushi and a bento box. With a range of menu options from simple sashimi to creative rolls and a variety of hot dishes, Goshi dishes up oishii (delicious) meals.

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Something for Everyone

On this trip, the Great Flavors Flavor Team teamed up with fellow blogger and friend Michelle from EnjoySLO and her husband Ray. We were all excited about our taking a (virtual) trip to Japan to enjoy its culinary variety and explore what we all liked the best at this amazing restaurant.

Here’s how the trip unfolded and the tastes we all enjoyed.

Sukiyaki meal. A hearty taste of Japan

From Andrew, Great Flavors
Having traveled to Japan many times, Japanese food is one of my favorite types of food that I love to eat and enjoy. When you think of Japanese food, there are so many things that come to my mind like ramen, sushi, izakaya, curry, okonomiyaki, and so much more. With all these choices, it’s hard to categorize Japanese food into just one thing.

In my mind, why I love Goshi so much is its traditional feel—both in food and touches. This is why my usual go-to here is the Sukiyaki dinner. This is a meal served in a cast iron pot that combines beef, tofu, yam noodles, and a delicious soy-based sauce that is to die for.

A lot of restaurants tend to add some sugar and this sauce base can be a bit sweet. Goshi knows just how to balance that taste and brings the whole meal together. Served with a side of rice and pickled vegetables, it is a hearty meal in itself.

However, don’t miss out by not ordering my second favorite dish there: the Garlic Chip Albacore sushi. If you miss this, don’t say I did not let you know about it. It is amazing and oishii up (majorly delicious)!

I continue to love this Japanese restaurant each time I go. It just seems to get better with time. So next time, try some of our suggested favorites with a small glass of Onigoroshi (Demon Slayer) sake and take in the flavors of Japan. Kanpai (Cheers!)

Newly opened area and sushi bar.

From Kara, Great Flavors
I’ve had the wonderful experience of traveling twice through Japan, exploring different areas of the country and practicing Aikido in dojos from the smallest towns far north in Hokkaido to the headquarters and foundation school in Tokyo. Some of my favorite memories are the little local restaurants, the warm hospitality, and the variety of local vegetables and fish.

Goshi in downtown San Luis Obispo is a little gem outside of Japan, with the same feel, quality food, and attentive service.

Being gluten free, however, Japanese food has pretty limited choices for me. Sad face. Off limits are the yummy ramen, tempura, udon, sukiyaki, curry, okonomiyaki, and other delights that others enjoy.

But that’s ok. Because I can have all the sushi and sashimi I can devour. And do I ever!

Not only is Goshi one of the best places for authentic Japanese food on the Central Coast, it’s got some of the best sushi and sashimi around—and the servers and chefs truly understand about Celiac and gluten issues.

If you have to avoid gluten, you’ve found your Japanese restaurant. Just let your server know your food allergies and they will walk you through options and the chefs will omit the usual sauces and substitute gluten-free options. For example, they offer gluten-free tataki sauce, as well as tamari (gluten-free soy sauce).

So, when we planned a dinner to Goshi with Michelle and Ray, I was looking forward to a great dinner of sushi.

We arrived on a Wednesday night and had a very short wait. On Friday and weekend nights, the wait can be long, but the restaurant recently expanded the dining area downstairs, and added an upstairs waiting area where you can relax while you wait.

I ordered the Albacore Tataki and Teriyaki Chicken. Tataki is a method of cooking that quickly sears the fish (or meat) over high heat, leaving the center nicely rare. Then it’s sliced thinly and topped with a citrus-ginger sauce. Truly an amazing combination. Alongside was a tender cut of grilled chicken, since I opted out of the teriyaki sauce.

We shared a Rainbow Roll, eight pieces of sushi with a variety of the freshest fish.

And fine Japanese dining deserves a fine Sake to enjoy along with dinner. If you like Sake, be sure to check their list of options. There are many good ones to choose from, and a great accompaniment to their delicious Japanese cuisine.

I look forward to going to Goshi any time the opportunity arises. If you haven’t been, do try it out—gluten-free or not! It’s delicious and a great tribute to the cuisine and warm people of Japan.

Michele and Ray enjoying some albacore sushi with garlic chips.

From Michelle, EnjoySLO
Feeling sushi? Look no further! It’s time to take a trip to Goshi, located in the heart of downtown SLO’s Creamery Marketplace, on Higuera. Make sure to get there early or make reservations in advance, this place fills up quickly even after their new expansion. Even if you’re a walk-in and there is a line, you’ll find plenty of little boutique shops in the area to keep you busy or stop by The Cider Bar for a quick drink. After your sushi craving has been met, make sure to stop by Nite Cremery for some gourmet ice cream.

The entry way of Goshi is small and feels a bit confined, but as soon as you walk in the room opens up considerably and feels open and welcoming. Once we were settled into the restaurant we had a great time with the best company, Andrew and Kara from Great Flavors! With our group of four we all ordered something different so that we got to taste many things on the menu. Every dish was delicious, but the Sukiyaki and the Garlic Chip Albacore Sushi really stood out.

The Sukiyaki is filled with tender flavorful beef and vegetables that you can pour over rice….which I highly recommend you do because the broth from the Sukiyaki is deliciously unique with a silky rich buttery flavor. You gotta sop it all up! This is the perfect dish for the upcoming cool SLO nights. If you are looking for sushi and love spice order the Garlic Chip Albacore Roll. Enjoy fresh albacore topped with smelt egg, green onion, spicy sauce, Sriracha and perfectly crisped garlic chips. So many awesome flavors and textures in one bite.

Have a friend who’s eating light? Or perhaps someone who gets extra hungry? Add on their chicken curry bowl for just $5 —  a small meal in itself!

Go to Goshi Soon

If it’s been a while since you dined at Goshi, be sure to check out the new expanded space and updated décor. If you haven’t yet tried Goshi, you’re in for a treat.

We all had a great time at Goshi exploring the fun, flavors, and culture of Japan. With so many options to choose from, there really is something for everyone. Plus, the setting and service invite you to sit back and enjoy the experience.

What do you like best about Goshi? We’ll see you there soon!



Flour House: Review – Napoletana Pizza and More

Flour House in San Luis Obispo elevates pizza from mere crust, sauce, and toppings to the art form known as Napoletana pizza. Stop by this restaurant and taste for yourself why this pizza is the national treasure of Naples, and enjoy a side dish of its Italian history and culture.

Tucked into downtown San Luis Obispo along Higuera Street, Flour House takes the ordinary ingredient of flour and, through the alchemy of knowledge and spirit, creates a pizza that is delicious and unique while it honors culture and history.

Because at Flour House, pizza is much more than pizza.

What Makes Flour House Stand Out

As you walk into the modern yet inviting dining room, just past the cozy seating area with calming white tile walls, you see it.

The Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven.

An open seating area with a view into the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo.

Standing taller than the specially trained Pizzaioli staff bustling in the open prep area, this is no everyday pizza oven.

For nearly 100 years, the same family in Naples has hand-crafted each oven from hand-pressed bricks. The oven floor is formed from clay from the Sorrento coast. Designed to bake the hand-formed pizzas at 1,000 degrees F, this oven is key to creating Napoletana pizza.

In just a couple minutes, out comes your pizza. And it’s not the ubiquitous red-sauce-cheese-and-pepperoni pizza you may have expected.

This—soft, foldable, pillowy crust, with a blistered bottom, and topped with imported Italian tomato sauce and cheese—is Napoletana pizza.

And it’s the only authentic Napoletana pizza between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Bringing the Taste of Naples to the Central Coast

It’s a long way from Naples to San Luis Obispo, so how did owners Alberto and Gessica Russo bring traditional Napoletana pizza here?

Gessica and Alberto Russo in Ravello, Italy.

Gessica, who grew up in San Luis Obispo, has family in southern Italy and was teaching English classes in Salerno. Alberto, a Salerno native, had earned degrees in chemistry and food packaging and was working with a packaging company. He knew his career would be even stronger with more proficiency in English, so he took a language class. Gessica was his teacher.

They dated, and then got married in Ravello, Italy.

Around the same time, Gessica’s parents, Giuseppe and Debra Silvestre, were starting to consider retirement from Vieni Vai Trattoria, the downtown San Luis Obispo restaurant they had owned and operated since 1998.

Gessica and Alberto decided to move to SLO and run Vieni Vai for two years during her parent’s transition to retirement.

When her parents offered them the opportunity to rent the building, they jumped at the chance. They also knew they wanted to change the concept to their vision: a local restaurant that features the authentic foods from their Naples roots with a focus on the traditional Napoletana pizza, combined with the desire to innovate.

After five months to completely renovate the interior, Flour House opened in June 2016.

“We wanted to create a place that’s fresh and modern,” said Gessica, “and has the feeling of inviting friends into our home.”

“We also want Flour House to share the feeling of Campania, Salerno, the Amalfi Coast—light, bright and open,” said Alberto.

The name Flour House was chosen as intentionally as the new décor.

“We purposely gave our restaurant an English name rather than an Italian one,” said Alberto. “While our families are from the Campania area, we wanted to reflect that flour is an international ingredient and the foundation for a wide range of creative foods.” As he explained, flour can be made from more than wheat, and it can be used in more than bread.

In June 2016, Flour House opened its doors and began creating authentic Napoletana pizza in San Luis Obispo.

So Flour House is more than exceptional pizza and pasta made on the in-house machine; its focus is on a great overall experience. “We want people to know us through the food we share and the service we provide,” said Gessica.

Napoletana pizza: its trademark pillowy crust is part of its historic and cultural appeal.

More About the Pizza

The Russos wanted to bring Napoletana pizza here for two reasons: it’s not common, and it’s an integral part of their families and heritage.

In Italy, pizza is the centerpiece of a social meal instead of getting a cardboard box on the way home. “It’s a time to get together with friends and family, relax with a glass of wine or a drink with dinner, and take time to enjoy it all,” said Gessica.

True Napoletana pizza is so revered in Italy that its creation is protected by law, and it must be made only with certain ingredients. And becoming a true Pizzaioli (Napoletana pizza maker) is earned through a licensing process.

Flour House upholds these traditional criteria, first by importing the Stefano Ferrara oven and using traditional ingredients.

“We use the same ingredients as those used in Naples, such as imported ‘double zero’ Italian flour and sauce from San Marzano tomatoes from the Campania area,” said Alberto.

These tomatoes and other traditional products are designated DOP—Denominazione di Origine Protetta—which certifies they are locally grown and packaged according to traditional quality methods. Italian and French wines have similar designations (DOC and DOCG for Italian, and AOC and Cru for French).

They also let the dough rise for 24 hours before it’s baked, compared to a more typical shorter rising time, which allows the pizza to be baked the same day.

With the San Marzano tomato base, you can choose from nearly a dozen carefully crafted combinations, such as Siciliana, with sautéed eggplant, parmigiano Reggiano, fior di latte, and basil. Flour House also has a few white pizza variations, like its Vesuvio, with broccoli rapini, fennel sausage, and pecorino.

Flour House creates its own house-made pasta.

Pizza Is Just the Beginning

While Flour House is about traditional Napoletana pizza, that’s just the beginning.

“We believe in staying fresh and innovating,” said Alberto. “Alongside our traditional pizza and house-made pasta, we offer Signature Pizzas that are a bit different.” One is the Norcina, with porcini mushroom sauce, guanciale, fontina, flor di latte, and black truffle cheese.

Alberto continues to evolve in his culinary offerings. On Fridays and Saturdays, they offer a special meal, based on what’s fresh and local. “It might be meat, fish, maybe a burger,” he shared. They post the menu on their Instagram feed, and these special dinner items regularly sell out.

In addition to entrees, Flour House offers appetizers, soups, salads, and panuozzi—sandwiches made from their pizza dough and baked in the wood-fired oven.

A gluten-free chocolate torte and gelato round out a fine Italian dining experience at Flour House.

Gluten-Free Friendly

Other restaurants often use pre-made frozen gluten-free pizza crusts. Flour House uses imported gluten-free flour for its house-made pizza dough and pasta. If you’re curious, just ask Alberto; he’s happy to show you the bag.

Like their regular dough, this one rises for 24 hours and results in a light, chewy pizza. Gluten-free diners can experience the taste of a traditional Napoletana pizza instead of the typical crisp, flat, rice-flour crusts found in many other places.

While Flour House uses gluten-free ingredients, its facility is not a gluten-free environment. For those without the need to avoid cross-contamination completely, however, Flour House is a delight of gluten-free-friendly options.

Meter Monday

If you head into Flour House on Monday, you’re lucky. It’s Meter Monday!

This isn’t about the parking meters in downtown San Luis Obispo, but about a full meter—nearly 40 inches—of pizza, to share with friends and family. You can also order a ½ meter pizza.

Luigi Dell’Amura is credited with this idea—offering different sizes of pizza and a number of toppings based on how many people would be sharing—in the 1930s in Vico Equense Sorrento.

Because of the large size of these pizzas, a different mixing process results in a firmer consistency than the Napoletana crust, while still being light.

From a dozen available tastings (or toppings), you can choose three for the ½ meter, which serves about 4 people, and six tastings for the full meter pizza, which serves about 8 people.

While the Meter Pizza is not available with gluten-free dough, you can get a gluten-free pizza to enjoy along with your friends.

The full bar offers a range of Italian and domestic beverages.

Tips for Your Visit

Flour House has Happy Hour every day from 4:00 – 6:00 pm. The full bar provides everything from classic Italian wines, Negroni and other Italian apertifs, to select local beer and wines on tap. Wednesday is industry night.

While they don’t take reservations, you won’t have much of a wait if you stop by around 5:00. Weekend late afternoons are a great time to visit before the dinner crowd arrives.

The back patio is quiet and can be reserved for larger private parties, along with different menu options.

Authentic and Innovative

“Through Flour House, we love to share the authentic southern Italian food that is meaningful to us,” said Gessica, “while also offering an innovative and fresh approach to other items.”

When’s the last time you got to taste one of Italy’s national treasures?

When you walk into Flour House with an open mind and a traveler’s spirit, in just a few minutes, you’ll experience the pizza that is revered in Naples.

It won’t be your usual take-out pizza, and that’s a very good thing.


What Makes Napoletana Pizza  

True Napoletana pizza must be made with specific imported flour, tomatoes, and cheese from designated suppliers. The dough is made is a specific way, and baked in a wood-fired oven at a temperature of 900 to 1,000 degrees.
The result is the signature light, soft, chewy, foldable pizza from Naples.

Here are a few traditional ingredients you may see on the menu:

  • Mozzarella di Bufala (DOP): fresh mozzarella made from the milk of Italian water buffalo
  • Fior di Latte: fresh cow’s milk mozzarella from Campania
  • Burrata: Cow’s milk mozzarella mixed with cream from Puglia
  • Pecorino: Hard-textured sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany
  • Pancetta: Pork belly that cured in salt and spices from Emilia-Romagna
  • Prosciutto Crudo di Parma: Pork leg that is salted and dried from Emilia-Romagna
  • Prosciutto Cotto: Italian version of cooked ham with seasonings
  • Speck: Smoked prosciutto from Alto Adige

For More Information
Flour House

Hungry for more food articles? Here are a few:
The Spoon Trade Review – Grover Beach: Exceptional Dining, Unexpected Place
Beda’s Biergarten: SLO’s Home for Gemütlichkeit
Divine Thai: Explore the Savory Treasures of Thailand (without leaving the Central Coast)
Fromagerie Sophie: A World of Taste in San Luis Obispo


Who doesn’t love pizza? We’d love to hear your comments on our Facebook page!

The Spoon Trade Review – Grover Beach: Exceptional Dining, Unexpected Place

When Brooke and Chef Jacob Town opened The Spoon Trade in 2015, their New American Eatery restaurant just a block from the ocean in Grover Beach, it culminated nearly 20 years of continually honing their culinary and hospitality talents.

But the spark first ignited many years ago in a most unexpected place: a badly lit dressing room while Brooke endured the annual agony of school clothes shopping with her mother.

“Here, I found this,” says her Mom outside the door.

She stands in front of the trio of mirrors wrapping around the five-foot-square dressing room as the dwindling hangers of Possible move to the ever-growing hook of Nope.

She cracks the door open and pokes her head out. Her Mom holds up a dress that drapes shapelessly from the hanger.

“Eww, no way,” she says. “I don’t like that at all.”

“Just try it on,” her Mom says.

She knows one thing: the torture of trying on clothes for the new school year won’t end until the dress is tried on and Mom is appeased. One way or another.

So she grabs the hanger of the certain-to-be-a-failure dress and pulls it on. She zips the back and looks up, ready to tell her Mom she hates it.

But she doesn’t. Even in the harsh light and reflected in the mirrors that add 10 pounds, she loves it. The shapeless yard of fabric has transformed into the best fitting, most flattering, soon to be best-loved dress in her closet.

“Just try it on,” her Mom said. And she was right.


Just Try It On

When Brooke was growing up in Durango, Colorado, this shopping experience opened her eyes.

She began to wonder: What else can happen when we Just Try it On—and say yes to the unexpected, keep our mind open, and welcome new experiences?

The Spoon Trade is one shining example.

Brooke and Jacob Town outside of Grover Beach Sourdough, their retail bakery that also supplies bread for The Spoon Trade.

An Order of Delight with a Side of the Unexpected

At the artfully created space just half a mile from the ocean, Brooke and Chef Town share their passion for feeding the people of the Central Coast in ways that meld exceptional food and service in sometimes unexpected ways.

Here are just a few ways The Spoon Trade dishes up the goodness.

The Location

When asked why they chose the space at the corner of 3rd and Grand in Grover Beach, just down the street from a convenience store and next to a nail spa, Brooke answered: “Grover Beach chose us.”

After spending several years working in San Francisco and other cities, they had moved back to the Central Coast.

As they settled into life in Grover Beach, where friends and family also live, they walked by the closed restaurant space for a year as they continued to formulate their dream of opening their own restaurant.

They loved the location, the proximity to the ocean, and they could see its potential. They also knew that Grover Beach was an unexpected place for the quality restaurant they envisioned because it wasn’t considered the typical location.

So they kept walking by the space as they explored other options.

The Spoon Trade front building photo

“One afternoon, I got a call from Brian Collins,” shared Chef Town. Collins, who is Chef and owner of Ember in Arroyo Grande, and Town had both graduated from the California Culinary Academy. Chef Collins and his wife and Brooke and Chef Town had become good friends when they all worked at different restaurants in San Francisco. And way before that, they’d been friends since high school.

Chef Collins knew that Brooke and Chef Town were looking for space and had stopped by the vacant building one more time.

“Brian was calling from the parking lot of the vacant restaurant space,” said Chef Town, “where he’d just met the new property manager.”

“Brian introduced us, we set up a meeting, and the ball starting rolling,” said Brooke.

About the Name
Spoon – good food. Trade – good stories and sharing time with the community. For the great story of how The Spoon Trade was named, check out their website.

Challenges and Benefits

They’d soon find out that their biggest challenge—and biggest benefit—would be creating their restaurant in Grover Beach.

“It’s an up and coming place full of potential, yet some people have a preconception that there can’t possibly be a restaurant like The Spoon Trade in Grover Beach,” said Brooke.

Grover Beach is also a bit gritty—it’s a real place, with real people. “That’s one of the best things about opening here,” said Chef Town. “We’re genuine, real people and we wanted to be part of a community that fosters this idea.”

As they worked on renovating the space and opening the doors about six months later, Brooke and Chef Town were ready to change the perception of Grover Beach into a dining destination.

TST Meatloaf photo
The Spoon Trade’s delicious take on the (TST) Meatloaf.

The Food

The Spoon Trade embraces the American Diner philosophy—approachable, wholesome, nourishing food—but the renditions created by Chef Town are anything but old-school.

“We love Grover Beach and use our location to shape, inform, and inspire what we create in the kitchen,” he said.

“Our interpretations of chicken and waffles and meatloaf are two examples,” said Brooke. “These are two of our most popular items, and we think that’s because they reflect the spirit and energy of this area.”

The thick, meaty slab of meatloaf sits with butter crushed potatoes, baby broccoli, and garlic-dijon gravy. Not quite the meatloaf drowning in brown gravy you might expect.

Their fried chicken and sourdough waffle (the batter comes from their adjacent Grover Beach Sourdough retail bakery) gets an unexpected twist from rosemary, spiced honey, and kimchi.

And their bologna sandwich is no plastic-encircled round of mystery meat on squishy white bread. At The Spoon Trade, they start with their house-made bologna, fried to heighten the flavor, add house-made American cheese, dijonaise, and pickles, and present it on their signature Grover Beach Sourdough bun, emblazoned with a brand.

Fresh sourdough and a taste of the Soup of the Moment.

“These dishes and others have come about to reflect the place we are in,” said Brooke. “With a fresh approach, unexpected twists, and inspired by San Francisco and the world, they have become some of our trademarks.”

Happy Hour
Not to be missed is The Spoon Trade’s daily happy snack hour from 4:00 to 4:59 pm. Mini options from the menu and drink specials make for a very happy 59 minutes.

And like their motto—We Reserve the Right to Change Things Up and Have Fun Doing It!—the team doesn’t rest on the tried and true.

Staying Fresh

“We’re always trying something new, changing the menu to reflect the seasons and what’s fresh, and also exploring new interpretations,” said Chef Town.

To achieve this quality, they thoughtfully and seasonally source the best food (and drink) from the best sources, including many local farmers, fishermen, ranchers, wineries, breweries, and distilleries. And they opened their own bakery to provide the best quality bread at the restaurant.

As a whole, Chef Town enjoys showcasing what is in season and exploring different interpretations to share new flavors and combinations.

In addition, Chef Town and the entire staff is well-versed in food intolerances and they happily adjust to work with customers who need to avoid certain ingredients.

A peek into The Spoon Trade during dinner service.

The Approach

The feeling at The Spoon Trade—welcoming, casual yet graceful, with an unmistakable attention to detail and service—reflects the couple’s shared passion for providing an exceptional dining experience honed over more than 20 years.

Their shared passion for this industry started when they worked at different area restaurants on the Central Coast. But when they met at the Cracked Crab in 1999, one of Pismo Beach’s iconic restaurants, their path became clear.

“The owner Mike Lee was an incredible mentor to us both,” said Brooke. “He set very high expectations for every element of his restaurant, even though it has a casual feel.”

Brooke eventually became the manager at Cracked Crab and Chef Town was the kitchen manager.

From there, they made their way to San Francisco, where Brooke completed her Art degree and Chef Town received his degree from California Culinary Academy. As they both gained more experience in several top San Francisco restaurants, they started to formulate the idea to open their own restaurant on the Central Coast.

An Expression of Experience

“For us, it’s all about service” said Brooke. “We want The Spoon Trade to reflect that feeling of gratitude we have to be doing what we do.”

“And we knew we wanted our restaurant to be a gathering place where people could be at ease and enjoy great food served with attention to detail,” added Chef Town. “We believe in cooking and sharing what we would want to enjoy at different occasions.”

Brown Sugar Pot de Crème with crème fraîche and butter cookie.

That might be a celebration dinner for a birthday, graduation, or anniversary, or a quiet drink at the bar after work. Lunch with friends or a bite on the way home from the beach. Sunday brunch or dinner. Whatever the occasion, they want the experience to be about quality, attention to details, and enjoyable from beginning to end.

They also pay attention to who comes in, and they really want to be the place of choice for locals.

“We’re real, honest, straight-up people,” said Chef Town, “and we want our customers to feel that honesty and integrity in everything we do.”

As a testament to their commitment to quality, many chefs, winemakers, restaurant owners, and others in the hospitality industry are regular customers.

“We’re honored by the trust they have in us to do a good job,” said Brooke.

beer and wine tap photo
Rotating taps of local (and beyond) wine and beer.

In addition, they consciously created an atmosphere that welcomes everyone. From the communal table where anyone can sit and meet new people to the quiet heated patio seating, they want singles, couples, families, and groups to find their place.

The menu also reflects this inviting approach.

“Customers have told us they love The Spoon Trade because people with very different tastes can happily eat and drink at the same place,” said Brooke. A great burger and a beer for one person and pan-seared halibut and local Chardonnay for the other. Win win win.

While The Spoon Trade, like any great restaurant, gets busy during prime evening hours, the wait’s never too long. Or stop by for lunch weekdays and Sunday afternoons or for dinner on Monday evenings when the place is a little quieter.

Vermouth mixed drinks add a twist to the traditional cocktail.

The Drinks

The drink menu at The Spoon Trade covers a good selection of wine and beer, plus a hard cider, with many local choices. And while they don’t have a full liquor license, that doesn’t mean you can’t get an amazing mixed drink.

Brooke is a master with artisanal sherry and vermouth (which starts as wine, is fortified, then flavored with botanicals—flowers, herbs, spices, etc.). If you think you don’t care for vermouth and sherry, take off the blinders and try her renditions of traditional cocktails. You may well find a new favorite.

From a range of the best global and local spirits, Brooke creates unexpectedly good drinks. Smoke & Fire is her spin on the Bloody Mary. A Spanish Old Fashioned, with Amontillado sherry, makes for a spicy, nutty, deeply flavorful cocktail. Her trademark Dizzy Bee combines Vya extra dry vermouth, lavender honey, and lemon, reminiscent of a lemon drop martini. And she creates seasonal drinks, like the refreshing Grapefruit Frost, with grapefruit vermouth, grapefruit shrub, and dry sherry.

In another welcoming and unexpected touch, Monday is industry night at The Spoon Trade. Not only do industry people enjoy free corkage, but everyone does.

Trying new dishes and familiar favorites with a modern twist. Grilled Spanish Octopus is a great way to start.

Mom Knows Best

“Just try it on,” Brooke’s wise Mom suggested many years ago.

It’s a great philosophy… not just for dining, but for life.

“We love learning and sharing new things,” said Chef Town, and he and Brooke enjoy sharing this spirit both with their team at The Spoon Trade and with their customers.

Today, this philosophy infuses The Spoon Trade and it shows in their shared passion for feeding the community, sharing stories, and supporting the local industry.

Award Winning
The Spoon Trade was voted Best South Coast Restaurant for 2018 in the highly competitive New Times SLO annual competition.

“We know we won’t win over every new customer, but we appreciate the opportunity to do our best and continue to learn and grow, and provide the level of service we believe in,” said Brooke. “We’re proud of what The Spoon Trade is bringing to the area, and it’s a great example of what can happen when we stay open to new things and get a bit out of our comfort zone.”

For fortunate diners who decide to just try it on and come in to The Spoon Trade, they discover a restaurant with exceptional food, service, and drinks with unexpected twists in the unexpected place of Grover Beach.

Embrace the unexpected. You just may love what happens next.


For More Information
The Spoon Trade

Hungry for more food articles? Here are a few:
Beda’s Biergarten: SLO’s Home for Gemütlichkeit
Bristols Cider House and Fromagerie Sophie Pairing Event
Divine Thai: Explore the Savory Treasures of Thailand (without leaving the Central Coast)
Fromagerie Sophie: A World of Taste in San Luis Obispo
Old San Luis BBQ Review – BBQ and Taproom Downtown San Luis Obispo
8575 Perfetto Caffe: Blending coffee, food, and the warmth of Italy on the Central Coast


Fromagerie Sophie: A World of Taste in San Luis Obispo

Feature Video: Fromagerie Sophie

Fromagerie Sophie building photo
Walk into Fromagerie Sophie, and you’ll be transported from San Luis Obispo to a neighborhood Paris cheese shop.

Once you step over the threshold and into Fromagerie Sophie, a little shop on tree-lined Garden Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, you enter another world: your neighborhood fromagerie in your hometown of Paris.

Along with Époisses de Bourgogne, Langres, Tome des Pictons, and more from France, your eyes take in the rows of Gorwydd Caerphilly, Chiriboga Obre Mu Blue, Fior Di Noce Stagionato, and Schnebelhorn from England, Germany, Italy, and Switzlerland, plus dozens more cheeses that fill the cases.

cheese case photo
Between 60 to 80 cheeses from around the world fill the cases.

But there’s so much more than cheese inside this shop. Beautifully displayed throughout the store you’ll find accoutrements—the jams, quince paste, dried fruits, nuts, crackers and other foils that increase the enjoyment of cheese—plus tasteful gifts.

The most satisfying ingredient, however, doesn’t come in a wrapper or container.

The best part is the warm feeling of welcome that envelopes the store and everyone in it like the carefully wrapped packages of cheese that Sophie, Paul,  and her staff tuck into customers’ hands as they make their way home to later share this cheese with friends and family during quiet moments and simply enjoying time together.

While it may look like Fromagerie Sophie is in the business of selling cheese, it uses cheese as the perfect backdrop to offer something more special: the reminder of the important things in life.
Slow down, enjoy time with people you enjoy, savor the moment.

The Making of Fromagerie Sophie

Like a good cheese, Fromagerie Sophie took time to create.

In fact, “cheese shop owner” wasn’t originally on the short list of career options for Sophie Boban-Doering.

She grew up in the Bay Area and attended college in Austin, Texas. There, she worked in a software company and pursued her training as an amateur triathlete.

“A lot of my friends were fire-fighters,” said Sophie, “The more I learned about their work, the more it intrigued me.” She loved the idea of helping people and being of service. Plus, as a triathlete, the physical aspects of fire-fighting appealed to her.

blackboard events photo
A variety of clubs and special events encourage clients to explore the world of taste found at Fromagerie Sophie.

While exploring how to get involved with fire-fighting, she learned that Austin had age limits for new enrollees to the fire academy. She was just outside the range; for now, this dream would have to wait.

In the meantime, her job at the software company ended. When a friend casually mentioned she was moving to San Luis Obispo and asked if Sophie like to go with her, the answer was a quick and simple yes.

“Why not?” she said. “I wanted to move back to California to be closer to family, and exploring a new city was perfect.”

In 2003, Sophie and her friend packed up and headed west to settle in San Luis Obispo.

“I loved it from the start,” she said. “The town was small, easy to get around, friendly. Even so, I only planned to stay a couple years.”

After she arrived, she enrolled in the Allan Hancock College fire academy. After graduation, she spent two years as a reserve firefighter with Atascadero Fire.

Sophie was also a buyer with a frozen fruit company. “I learned about import laws, logistics, operations, and other key pieces of sourcing, buying, and selling a perishable product.”

Classic Wine and Cheese Pairings
Époisses de Bourgogne (believed to be one of Napoleon’s favorite cheeses) with Pinot Noir
Parmigiano-Reggiano (aged at least 20 months) with Chianti
Brie or triple creams with Champagne
Aged gouda with Cabernet Sauvignon
Manchego with Rioja

Work, triathlon training, and being a fire-fighter reservist filled most of her time. “I was happy, but my friends kept telling me I needed to get out and date more,” she laughed. “They suggested I try online dating.” One experience stands out as particularly bad, and she vowed never to do that again.

While she loved being a reserve firefighter, Sophie began to realize that it likely was not going to become a long-term career. Instead, she began a nursing program, where she met fellow student Paul Doering.

Originally from San Diego, Paul had majored in Applied Math at Cal Poly. “I knew I wanted to stay in San Luis Obispo,” said Paul, and he found a great job using his math expertise.

“After nursing classes, Sophie and I would talk a lot. We discovered we both love to travel and expand our world view,” he said. “We also laughed a lot.”

It wasn’t long before their long conversations and laughter led to marriage.

One Fateful Trip

While the opening of Fromagerie Sophie was still a few years off, a trip to Paris to celebrate Paul’s birthday over Christmas and New Year’s started the idea percolating.

“During our walks, we saw locals doing their daily shopping at the bread, meat, flower, and cheese stores in the neighborhood,” said Paul “We realized how much we loved this lifestyle.”

“Every day, you walk in your neighborhood and do your shopping, rather than buying in bulk like we do in the United States,” added Sophie. “You know your neighbors, and your neighbors are also shop owners. Life revolves around meals and making them special.”

Accoutrements photo
Accoutrements—jams, quince paste, dried fruits, nuts, crackers and other foils that increase the enjoyment of cheese—are beautifully displayed throughout the store.

Each neighborhood has its own shops. “In France, people love food so much that you can make a living having a shop. All the small bread, cheese, meat shops do well, because everything is very neighborhood oriented.”

After they returned to San Luis Obispo, Sophie and Paul walked the downtown streets, reminiscing about their trip. What was it they missed most? What did they wish their own town had that was like Paris?

At the time, Sophie and Paul were considering moving to Austin or Petaluma to be closer to family.

“What would it take for us to not leave for five years?” they asked themselves. They valued interesting things to do, cultural activities, and special places to eat, like the Utopia Bakery. Now closed after the original owner sold it, it created an atmosphere that drew scores of customers based on top-quality ingredients, freshness, and a welcoming feel. It also brought in local musicians and entertainment, providing more than great German family recipes for baked goods.

As Sophie and Paul walked and talked, the topic eventually centered on cheese—those fabulous French cheeses. They missed them; they yearned for both the taste and the experience of trying new French cheeses while sitting outside neighborhood fromageries.

“We realized it was more than just the product of fine cheeses that we wanted to bring to SLO,” said Sophie.

Paul added, “We wanted to share the spirit of slowing down, appreciating life, taking the time, and being with people you enjoy. That’s what we wanted to share with our city.”

They wondered… could we open a fromagerie here? Would it work? Would people find it as enjoyable as we enjoyed the Paris fromageries?

Their answer? “Let’s find out.”

Once they found the shop space, they started designing Fromagerie Sophie from the ground up.

Sophie’s experience in the frozen fruit industry was perfectly aligned. She used that knowledge to contact cheese makers around the world and being importing cheese.

assortment of cheeses photo
Sample cheeses from England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, the United States, and other countries, with new selections added regularly.

“When we opened in 2013, we had a few dozen cheeses,” said Sophie. “Today, we have around 80 on a daily basis and we’re always bringing in new products to try.”

The Childhood Foundation

It’s not just the quality cheeses and other products that have created such a strong following for Fromagerie Sophie.

The intangible quality that infuses the shop was formed during Sophie’s childhood.

“My mother is French and my father is Croatian,” she said. “Food was (and still is) a huge and wonderful aspect of our cultures, and my parents entertained all the time. Everything centered around food,” she said, “and the way it brings together family and friends to enjoy each other’s company.”

Fromagerie Sophie’s Guiding Philosophy
Take time. Enjoy the experience of sharing with family and friends.
Slow down. Enjoy life. Really talk to people, listen, and discover their needs and wants.

Sophie’s mother was a master at creating beautiful experiences. “She paid attention to the details. Presentation was everything,” said Sophie. “But the most important reason people loved her parties was her genuine caring and ability to put everyone at ease and make them feel welcome.”

“I knew this is the feel we wanted to have in our shop,” she added.

Sophie inherited this ability, and it’s shared by Paul and team members Danielle and Faeth.

Attend any event where Fromagerie Sophie is serving or participating, and you’ll see a long line of people waiting to get a taste of this welcoming feel along with the fine cheeses.

Building Relationships

If you go wine tasting at many Central Coast wineries, from San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles, you may well be offered a cheese-pairing plate created by Fromagerie Sophie to elevate your tasting experience from merely sampling wine to creating a memorable event.

While this is now a large, and visible, part of their business, it came about from a chance phone call.

“Erin, the tasting room manager at Kenneth Volk, called one day and asked if we could create cheese plates,” recalls Sophie.

“I said, ‘of course.’ And then I called Paul with the news, and we said ‘holy crap!’”

“But we knew we’d figure out the details,” said Paul. “We met with Kenneth and Tricia Volk and together put together a selection of cheeses that complemented their wines.”

Barrels in the Plaza photo
Fromagerie Sophie regularly attends the SLO Wine Country “Barrels in the Plaza” event at the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission.

That lead to more opportunities, and they continued to look for ways to connect with more people, from the Sunset Savor the Central Coast event to the SLO Wine Association’s popular annual Roll Out the Barrels event, including the kick-off Barrels in the Plaza tasting event at the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, and more.

Over time, more wineries inquired about offering cheese plates. Today, Fromagerie Sophie provides cheese pairings to more than 30 wineries. Like at the shop, the success of the program is grounded in personal service and setting high expectations of quality.

“When we meet with a winery, we enjoy the mutual benefit of sharing and learning with them,” said Sophie. “We love partnering with each winery to provide an increased level of service to their guests.”

Fromagerie Sophie also works with wedding organizers and caterers. One of their new items is their signature Cheese Cake, rounds of cheese plated and decorated to look like a luscious buttercream-iced wedding cake, but made of different cheeses.

They also co-host cheese-pairing events, such as the hard cider and cheese pairing event with Bristols Cider House in Atascadero and a wine and cheese pairing event at WineSneak in San Luis Obispo.


Cheese Passport program photo
The Fromagerie Sophie Cheese Passport program leads you on a tour of the world’s great cheeses.

Your Personal Guide to the World of Cheese

“There are about 2,000 cheeses made around the world,” said Paul, “and we carry about 60 to 80 cheeses in the shop. That can still feel a bit overwhelming, so we want to help you explore and discover cheeses you love without the intimidation factor.”

He added, “You need to know nothing about cheese. Just stop in, and we’ll help you narrow down options based on what you like. There are no right answers with cheese—just enjoy what tastes good to you.”

To help clients discover even more, they created the Fromagerie Sophie Passport Program. Each time you buy a new cheese, your passport is stamped. When it’s full, you’ll garner a gift and recognition as a global cheese expert.

They also have several clubs (Cheese of the Month, Charcuterie, and Gourmet Goodies) to satisfy a range of tastes.

Continuing to Evolve

Just like good cheese takes time to ripen, Sophie and Paul continue to evolve the shop.

Sophie and Paul continue to evolve and explore ways to share Fromagerie Sophie with the community, such as this hard cider and cheese pairing event at Bristols Ciderhouse in Atascadero.

“We’re always looking for new ideas and ways to engage with our clients and help them explore the world of cheese,” said Sophie. “Part of that is bringing in new items every week, so there’s always something new to experience.”

It’s all part of the adventure, the growth, and their commitment to never be complacent.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done over the past five years,” said Sophie, “and we’re so thankful to have our team Danielle and Faeth who share our vision and passion.”

Their goal is for Fromagerie Sophie to be a destination for the best cheeses, as well as the experience and the learning that go along with it.

“We want to give people who visit the same level of experience they’d find in a great French restaurant—amazing service, no pressure to rush, and taking the time to talk with people and hear them,” said Sophie.

When you visit Fromagerie Sophie, you’ll likely come out with a few lovingly wrapped packages of cheese. Inside each package, you’ll find a bit more than just great cheese.

Because cheese isn’t just milk—aged and wrapped up in a rind or a wax or a coating of mustard seed. Cheese represents the opportunity to slow down, enjoy special times, create memories, and let go of hurry and worry.  Like life, it’s often circular, meant to be savored, enjoyed, and relished along with the company of those who share it.

wrapped package photo
Inside each hand-wrapped package, you’ll find a bit more than just great cheese….


Cheese Enjoyment 101
Fromagerie Sophie offers some of the best cheeses in the world. Here are a few tips to get the most enjoyment from your tour of the world’s tastes.
Temperature. A rule of thumb is that quality cheeses are best at room temperature. Leave the cheese out for about 30 minutes if possible before enjoying.
Go solo. We don’t mean eat only one cheese at a sitting, but rather to enjoy the cheeses on their own instead of melted over a dish, sandwiched between hearty bread, or stacked on a savory cracker. Instead, try a bite of cheese and savor it. Bread and crackers are good palate cleaners and sometimes necessary for eating gooey cheeses. But overall, let the cheese be the centerpiece instead of the condiment.
To rind or not to rind? Unless the rind is made of plastic or heavy wax, try it! The flavor, and sometimes consistency, of a cheese can differ the closer it is to the rind. The rind is made to be eaten and enjoyed.
Pairings. Quality cheeses are not usually paired with food, but they may paired with accoutrements – a jam, quince paste, a bit of salami, to bring out the best of the cheese.
Wine pairing. Pairing cheese with the right wine can result in delicious discoveries. Ask for recommendations, or consider pairing a wine and cheese from the same region. See the related sidebar for a few classic wine and cheese pairings.
Order. Like a wine tasting, it’s helpful to enjoy the lighter or more subtly flavored cheeses before moving to the robust and strong cheeses.
Etiquette. There’s a human temptation to eat just the middle from an Oreo cookie and the middle from a soft cheese, leaving the outside untouched. Paul calls this “tunneling,” so do your best to not make this cheese faux pas.
Explore. With about 2,000 cheese made around the world, have fun trying new tastes and textures. You may just discover a new favorite.
Enjoy. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to choosing cheese. Let taste be your guide and enjoy the experience.

For more information:
Fromagerie Sophie
1129 Garden Street, San Luis Obispo, CA

Hungry for more about Fromagerie Sophie? Sample these articles:
Taste the World (of Cheese) with this Passport
Some Ciders and Cheeses Meet in a Pub, and Here’s What Happened [Bristols Cider House and Fromagerie Sophie Pairing Event]

The Flavor Team wants to thank Sophie and Paul and the team at Fromagerie Sophie for sharing your time and your passion for all you do.


Old San Luis BBQ Review – BBQ and Taproom Downtown San Luis Obispo

The Old San Luis BBQ Company, located at 670 Higuera Street just off Nipomo Street, is easy to spot from the street and has a large metered parking lot to make it easy to visit this downtown San Luis Obispo eatery. Just look for the walk-up order window and get started.

Why We Like It: The Old San Luis BBQ is a nice surprise, combining the convenience of ordering at the window and quick service (great if you need some BBQ for take-out) with the option of sitting inside one of two dining areas and enjoying the unique self-serve taps with dinner. The taproom is also a nice, easy place to grab a beverage of choice—dozens of beers plus a few wines and hard ciders (including local brands)—and just relax or create your own happy hour with friends.

Self-Serve Taproom

Old SLO BBQ’s cutting-edge taproom, with beer, wine, and cider

This is one of the cool features of this restaurant, and it’s one of only two places in SLO county with this new technology. At first it’s a bit confusing, and potentially overwhelming. But when you get the hang of it, it’s great fun to explore all the options.

Old San Luis BBQ’s cutting-edge taproom has 46 taps lining the long, white-tiled wall that serve dozens of craft beers plus between four and six wines and two to four hard ciders, including options from local companies.  During one visit, local wineries on tap included Castoro Cellars, Chamisal, and Troublemaker.

Here’s how the taproom works. Walk up to the order window and ask to open a tab for the taproom. They’ll take your credit card (don’t worry; you’ll get it back) and give you a microchipped tap card. Just insert the card in the slot above each tap, pull the lever, and watch your glass fill as the pennies count up—just like at the gas pump. In teeny type on each sign, you’ll see the price per ounce for each selection.

The self-serve taproom uses an easy-to-use card to unlock your full beverage-enjoyment potential.

The taps for beer are self-explanatory, as there’s just one lever per beer. The wine and cider taps have four options per sign and four different taps, so it can be a little challenging to know what which tap is connected which of the four choices when you pull a lever. But that’s part of the fun. Just channel your inner Forrest Gump (you never know what you’re gonna get) and go for it.

Another great thing about the tap room is that you can try tastes of a bunch of things. You don’t have buy a whole glass of anything (unless you want to). Think of it as your own private tasting flight. 

If you’ve ordered food along with the tap card, when you’re finished you can pay for everything at the same time. It’s a fun system with such a wide range of beer, wine, and hard cider choices.

Solid BBQ at a Good Price

The Pit Plate with pulled pork and Santa Maria pinquinto beans.

Owner Matt Pearce graduated from Cal Poly and his goal has always been to give back to the community by serving classic Central Coast barbeque at fair prices. He also gives discounts to downtown employees, students, and clubs.

The menu is small but on point to feature Old SLO BBQ’s focus on Santa Maria-style barbequed tri tip, chicken, linquica sausage, and tender pulled pork. Sandwiches can be ordered with any of the meats, and the Pit Plate includes choice of meat, bread, and a side. Sides range from  fresh-cut french fries and sweet potato fries to Santa Maria pinquinto beans made with ham, bacon, and spices, and a deliciously different cole slaw with apple, cucumber, and a little kick from jalapenos. Another side we haven’t tried is the Cowboy Corn Pie, a family recipe with cheddar cheese and jalapenos. They also offer two salads: chef salad and strawberry fields. Those are on the list to try during our next visit.

Nonalcoholic drinks include fresh strawberry lemonade. And dessert? Hand-scooped milkshakes. 

The staff is knowledgeable about gluten-free options and offers alternatives—like a second side with the Pit Plate as a substitute for the bread.

By the way, smiles are free (it even says so on the menu).

Secret Menu

Ask for The Mark (click to see the goodness) and you’ll get this secret treasure of sweet potato fries topped with grilled onions and peppers, plus your choice of 3 or 6 ounces of tri tip. Blue cheese crumbles and barbeque sauce on the side let you create the perfect taste for you.

A Bevvy of Beverages and BBQ in One Cool Place

The order window is conveniently located at the front entrance just off Higuera Street.

All in all, we like this BBQ restaurant where we can quickly put in an order for take-out or relax for a while in the taproom to enjoy some good food and company.

They’re open every day at 11:00 am. The taproom stays open until 10:00 pm, and the restaurant is open late Friday and Saturday nights.

Old San Luis BBQ Company
670 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo


Explore more destinations on our Central Coast Map!

Looking for more places to explore in the Central Coast and San Luis Obispo? Use our interactive map to read our articles from in around the city. Click the map icons and then the article link!

Do you have a flavorite place we haven’t listed? Please email your suggestions so we can check it out and add a pin in the future, and shoot us your comments and any eagle-eyed error spotting to engage@gr8flavors.com.

Want to scratch “make awesome dessert” off your Thanksgiving to-do list?

And share a dessert that everyone can enjoy?
Great Flavors Bakery is here to help! 

We load our artisan cakes with fresh, local, often organic ingredients and they are brimming with amazing flavor (and magically, no gluten–but  you’d never, ever know by their award-winning* taste).

Carrot cake photo
Carrot Cake: Fresh carrots and warm spices combine to create a tender, moist cake finished with a buttercream frosting. Double-layer 9-inch cake.

Order by Friday 11/17 and your cake  (brown-butter pumpkin or carrot) will be created and ready Wednesday 11/22 for pickup or delivery in Five Cities and SLO city limits.

Each 9″ double-layer cake is frosted with genuine buttercream frosting (no shortening, lard, or margarine here). Our cakes are hand-crafted and made to order, so quantities are limited.

$45 each.

Brown-butter pumpkin cake photo
Brown-butter Pumpkin Cake: Pumpkin. Brown sugar. Sweet spices. Browned butter. Deeply flavorful, light-textured cake with a cinnamon-touched buttercream frosting. Double-layer 9-inch cake.

*Our carrot cake won top prize in the Cake category at the 2017 Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival competition. Even more exciting? We won in the taste-test of all cakes entered, not a gluten-free category. Sweet.

Taste the World (of Cheese) with this Passport

Fromagerie Sophie store photo
Fromagerie Sophie brings the world’s best cheeses to San Luis Obispo

When owners Sophie Boban-Doering and Paul Doering opened Fromagerie Sophie, the cute European-inspired cheese shop in downtown San Luis Obispo, in 2013, they wanted to share their love of cheese and travel.

Now four years later, Fromagerie Sophie has earned its reputation as the SLO County launch point for tasting great cheeses (plus specialty meats, pâtés, and accompaniments) from around the world.

Not only do they stock some of the best cheeses from many countries, but they share them in a warm-hearted and inviting way. There is nothing pretentious about this shop; instead, it’s like stepping into a friend’s home.

Nurturing an Idea

While their business continues to grow as more people discover the joys of great cheeses, Sophie and Paul have been nurturing an idea they had since they first opened the shop.

Sophie Boban-Doering and Paul Doering waited four years to unveil their exciting Passport to the cheeses of the world.

“What if,” they wondered, “we could help others explore, learn, and taste why cheese-making dates back centuries? What if we created a program that was fun and rewarding, educational and flavorful?”

They knew what they what they wanted to do, but the time wasn’t right in the early years. Others pieces of the business took priority. So they kept working… and waiting for the right time.

Lucky for cheese lovers (and those who simply don’t yet know they love good cheese), that time has now come.

A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins with a Single… Bite!

The new Fromagerie Sophie Passport is your ticket to exploring the world of cheese.

Fromagerie Sophie Passport photo
The Fromagerie Sophie Passport rewards travelers with the tastes of the world (and a gift at the end of their journey).

Simply drop by the shop and put your name on your free Fromagerie Sophie Passport. Then, let your globe-trotting tour of the world’s great cheeses begin.

With nearly 50 cheeses to explore, you’ll gain an education as you taste cheeses from England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, the United States and a few other places.

Your Passport will be kept safely at the store between visits. Then, each time you shop, you can choose a new cheese from the Passport and have it stamped. You can begin any time, with any cheese or country, and you pick your route.

Marrie and Andrew Brown picked up their Passports during the launch party on November 8 (and shared a few travel tips of their own).

Finish all the cheeses in one country at a time, or pick and choose among the different cheeses. There is no time limit to complete your journey around the world of cheese.

When your Passport is fully stamped from qualifying purchases, you will have earned recognition as a cheese expert and receive a gift to celebrate your accomplishment.

Your tasting journey beckons. Where will you begin?

For more information
Fromagerie Sophie
(805) 503-0805
1129 Garden St, San Luis Obispo, CA

8575 Perfetto Caffe: Blending coffee, food, and the warmth of Italy on the Central Coast

When opportunity knocks, if you don’t say “why not,” you will always wonder “what if….”

Feature Video

Hot water streams through the finely ground coffee and into the ceramic cup waiting below. When the whir of the espresso machine stops, Gennaro places the doppio (double shot) on the counter and turns the cup just so.

Making great coffee is part of daily life for Gennaro Daffuso and Laura Zuffi, the husband-and-wife team and owners of Perfetto Caffe near Arroyo Grande.

But just as there are many hidden steps needed to make a great espresso (selecting the best beans, roasting to perfection, grinding correctly to bring out the most flavor), there’s more to the story of Perfetto Caffe than just two people opening a café that serves Italian coffee, sweets, and savory dishes.

It Starts at a Coffee Shop

Laura was working at a coffee shop in her hometown of Bologna, Italy, while she was in college. During her shift, a man frequently came in for dinner and watched the soccer matches on the big-screen TV. Since he always came alone and not with a group of friends, she started saving him a good seat.

Not being completely focused on the match, this man eventually asked Laura out for coffee.

Bologna 2014 sharing crescentina con la mortadella photo
Sharing life and crescentina con la mortadella in Bologna.

Gennaro and Laura started dating. When Gennaro got a promotion and moved back to his hometown of Milan, Laura finished her engineering degree at the University of Bologna.

Love of Travel

After they met in 2005, Laura and Gennaro discovered their shared passion for traveling. They took many trips through Italy and Europe, as well as three vacations to the US.

On one trip, they drove from Washington DC to the Florida Keys. Another trip took them through Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada.

And in 2012, they got their first taste of California and the Central Coast.

“We landed at LAX, and then drove through San Diego to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, then on to Yosemite and Sequoia.” From there, they headed south through San Francisco and made their way down the coast: San Simeon, Cayucos, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, and Pismo Beach.

“We loved the Central Coast,” recalls Laura. “The people were friendly, the towns were not too big, there was not much traffic. It was an easy place to be.”

Why Not?

Laura and Gennaro were happily living and working in Milan and foresaw a good, comfortable future with their careers, family, and friends.

But they both share the core belief of “why not?” If you don’t try something, you’ll never know what might have happened.

Throughout their careers, this belief opened doors to new opportunities and adventures.

Laura and Gennaro in Milan photo
Enjoying life in Milan, with the Dome in the background.

Laura’s first engineering position was with a coating company. When the company decided to open an office in Ireland, they asked her to manage setting up the new office and connecting the new general manager in Ireland with the Italian team.

“I thought, ‘why not’?” she said.

The project went very well, and the experience showed her that you can create something from nothing. You simply make the right plans and take it one step at a time.

Gennaro was a senior sales manager in the food industry. After 10 years with Cadbury, Gennaro’s boss was going to a new company and asked if he wanted to join him there. Why not?

He joined his boss at Yakult, the Japanese probiotic drink manufacturer, and for the next seven years established operations in Italy. Then, another new opportunity arose, this time with a German dairy products company that wanted to expand its presence in northern Italy.

“I love to challenge myself and continue growing,” said Gennaro. “This company had about 200 products that I would need to learn about, and again, I thought ‘why not’?”

Winning the Lottery

Then, life opened the door to their biggest opportunity so far to say “why not.”

Because they love traveling, exploring, and seeking new adventures wherever they go, they began applying for the “Green Card Lottery.”

Each year, the United States selects 50,000 people to come to the US with a work visa and a green card. The odds of being “extracted” from the huge pool of applicants are very low—millions of citizens around the world apply.
In 2015, Gennaro was extracted as one of the 10 million people who applied that year.

Why Not, Part 2

“As soon as we heard the news, we knew our decision was yes,” said Gennaro. “We said ‘why not’? Because if we didn’t try, we would have always wondered ‘what if.’”

They knew immediately two things:
• they would do something new rather than their previous careers
• they would be living in the San Luis Obispo area

We said ‘why not’? Because if we didn’t try, we would have always wondered ‘what if.’”

Next Step: Central Coast, USA

Even with all the places in the US they had visited previously, they knew there was only one place they wanted to live: the California Central Coast.

Morro Rock photo
Laura and Gennaro captured this shot of the iconic Morro Rock on their first trip to the Central Coast in 2012. Little did they know a few years later, they would make a new life nearby.

“When we visited the San Luis Obispo area in 2012, we loved it,” recalls Laura. “The size is perfect—big enough to have all the services you need but small enough to be relaxed and easy going.”

Searching for the Perfetto Place

As the move date got closer, they discussed what type of business to start. With their shared experience working in coffee shops and their love of coffee and the good experiences it brings to people, opening a coffee shop and cafe made perfect sense.

After they arrived in California in September 2016, they began looking for a business location.
Their options were to find an empty space to convert into a coffee shop, or take over an existing location.
The coffee shop at the corner of Highway 101 and Camino Real (it shares the parking lot with AJ Spurs) came on the market. They took over in April 2017, made a few changes, and opened a few weeks later.

About the Name

The back patio of Perfetto Caffe is a perfect place to enjoy great coffee, a sweet or savory treat, or a fresh salad. And most importantly, time with cherished people.

“When we cook at home and something is good, we say ‘it’s perfetto’—perfect,” explained Laura.
“Caffe in Italian means both the physical establishment of a café as well as coffee, so we knew Perfetto Caffe would be the perfect name for our business.”

Laura and Generro photo
Laura Zuffi and Gennaro Daffuso share their love of food, coffee, and a welcoming hello at Perfetto Caffe near Arroyo Grande.

And what about the 8575 in the name? “Come in and ask us,” said Laura, smiling. “We’ll happily share.”

Recipes for Success

From the start, their business recipe is to share what they love and to be who they are.

“We always want to welcome people who come into Perfetto Caffe the same way we would like to be welcomed when we visit a place,” said Gennaro.

“If you go to a store and the owner or people working there give you a smile and are happy, you are happy and you want to come back,” Laura explained. “But if they are not, even if the product is great, you won’t have a great experience because the basics of happiness are not in place.”

savory food photo
Laura makes a variety of savory Italian dishes, including Erbazzone, pizza, and more.

Judged by the many happy and repeat customers, Laura and Gennaro have got it right.

Sharing the Tastes of Italy

The coffee they use for espresso is the same coffee they enjoyed in Italy: Vergnano, a company founded near Torino in 1882. “We wanted to share this coffee because we love it,” said Laura.

The coffee used for the drip coffee comes from Dark Nektar in Templeton. “Their roaster is a craftsman who takes his work very seriously,” she said, “and they are always looking for better blends and sharing ideas, which helps both of our companies.”

“With both our coffee suppliers, it was important to us that we like the product and we like the people,” added Gennaro.

The selection of sweets, all from family recipes, changes with the seasons.

All the food is handmade from their family recipes. “It would be easier to buy pre-made food, but we want to share our authentic and favorite foods from Italy.”

Flavors and smells have deep connections to memories, and Laura and Gennaro knew they wanted to provide food they would like: fresh, tasty, authentic.

Laura and Gennaro take a rare coffee break on the back patio of Perfetto Caffe.

“In Italy, we have cookies and cakes for breakfast,” shared Laura, “but here, our customers also like our Italian lunch items for breakfast. We make Rustica, which is like a frittata, pizza, and other savory dishes. Our salads and sandwiches are made to order. Our cookie selection changes with the seasons, such as fresh coconut cookies or butter cookies.”

If you’re going wine tasting, be sure to pick up a box lunch from Perfetto Caffe.

What’s Next?

wine tasting snack box photo
If you’re going wine tasting, be sure to pick up a box lunch from Perfetto Caffe.

Using their combined business experience, they are doing what they know makes sense.

So far, things are going very well. “Opening our business has been even better than we hoped. Everyone has been so welcoming,” she said.

As fall transitions to winter, they’ll keep the same approach. “One step at a time. Nothing is impossible; just keep at it.”

It’s Perfetto

It’s midmorning and a couple walks in to the bright and cheery Perfetto Caffe.

“Good morning!” they say. Based on their smiles and genuine warmth, you might assume these customers are locals who come every day. But you’re not sure. They might be just passing through.

And that’s just the way it should be.

Perfetto Caffe building photo
Laura Zuffi and Gennaro Daffuso share the best of their Italian roots in their quaint 8575 Perfetto Caffe.

Lucky for all of us, Laura and Gennaro decided to take their winning lottery ticket and share what they love from their home country.

Stop by soon for a perfetto caffe at Perfetto Caffe and you’ll experience firsthand the welcoming spirit of these special people and the warmth of Italy.

For more information
8575 Perfetto Caffe
1750 El Camino Real, Grover Beach, CA 93433

Sweet News: Great Flavors Bakery Wins Bake-Off

Super excited, humbled, and pleased to share that two of our Great Flavors Bakery products were winners in the recent 2017 Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival Bake-Off Contest.

Pismo Sunshine Lemon Cookies from Great Flavors Bakery
Pismo Sunshine Lemon Cookies: fresh lemon juice and zest combine with just enough sweet to make these sweet-tart yummy.

Our sunshiny lemon cookies won 2nd place in the Cookie category.

And our spiced carrot cake won 1st place in the competitive Harvest Gone Wild category: bakers choice to creatively use the sugar and spice of the fall season. Wow!

Even more satisfying is that we entered these alongside regular, wheat-flour entries and made no mention they are gluten-free. That’s always our goal at the Great Flavors Bakery: to create the best baked goods, period. We’re honored by the awards and thrilled the judges loved them.

You can read more about the Great Flavors Bakery and our mission to fill the world with great flavors and fresh, local ingredients in products that happen to be gluten free. www.gr8flavors.com/bakery

Spiced Carrot Cake from Great Flavors Bakery
Spiced carrot cupcakes filled with buttercream






























Some Ciders and Cheeses Meet in a Pub, and Here’s What Happened [Bristols Cider House and Fromagerie Sophie Pairing Event]

Ever wondered if hard ciders play well with cheeses from the around the world? Learn the outcomes of this uncommon pairing. Spoiler alert: deliciousness ahead.

Event Recap: Cider and Cheese Pairing, June 3, 2017

Hand-crafted ciders made true to English standards? Hand-crafted cheeses from around the world? Both in one place overflowing with the friendly energy of a British pub? As one of our favorite Brits, Austin Powers, would say, “Yeah, baby!”

We’re there!

Five ciders from Bristols Cider House and five cheeses from Fromagerie Sophie. Let the tasting begin.

Last Saturday, June 3, Bristols Cider House in Atascadero hosted the first of what the Flavor Team hopes is many cider and cheese pairing events with Fromagerie Sophie, the delightful cheese shop in San Luis Obispo.

Meeting the (Cider) Maker

Bristols Cider House owners Neil and Marcy Collins and Jackie bring England’s best cidermaking methods to the Central Coast. Lucky for all of us.

When we attended last month’s 2nd Annual Central Coast Cider Festival in Atascadero, we met Erich Fleck, cider maker at Bristols. As we chatted over tastings of Anne Bonny and Black Beard, we asked about doing a more in-depth story on Bristols Cider House and the cider-making process. Erich was all in, and we were, too. (Stay tuned for our Bristols article – coming soon.)

As we arranged the interview with Erich, he mentioned the cider and cheese pairing. Maybe we’d like to do the interview and then stay for the pairing? When we heard about this match up – thinking of that simple yet sublime pairing of crisp apple slices circling the plate with wedges of cheese – we signed up right away. Good thing, too, because the 20 seats available for this inaugural event sold out quickly.

Five Ciders and Cheeses Await

The Flavor Team has enjoyed hard cider for a long time, appreciating how a quality cider reflects the talents of the cider maker as it’s crafted to match the creator’s vision.

While we know a little bit about cider making, we know close to nothing about cheese making (we do know that cows are often involved), so we were excited for the opportunity to experience and learn more about both.

The sellout crowd of 20 happy pairing participants mingles before the tasting begins.

We took our seats around one of three wooden farm tables. Our fellow cider and cheese explorers were equally excited to see what the afternoon would bring.

The Bristols Cider House owners Neil and Marci Collins and Jackie Meisinger (Neil and Jackie are siblings) founded Bristols in 1994 to bring English cidermaking to the Central Coast. As participants took their seats, Neil, Jackie, and Erich welcomed all of us and introduced Fromagerie Sophie co-owner Paul Doering. Sophie Boban-Doering arrived a bit later to walk us through the last cheeses in the pairing.

Fromagerie Sophie cheese selections for the pairing (from left): Kirkham’s Lancashire Mature, Montgomery Cheddar, Langres, Celilio, Soumaintrain.

Paul placed gleaming porcelain plates in front of each participant, with five cheeses artfully arranged from left to right, while Erich and Jackie poured the first cider of the pairing. The excitement in the room was thick. We all couldn’t wait to begin.

Here are the five pairings and a few of our thoughts.

Pairing 1

  • Cider: Bristols Original (The OG). A fresh and classically styled English dry cider.
  • Cheese: Kirkham’s Lancashire Mature. Unpasteurized cow, traditional rennet. Neal’s Yard Dairy, Lower Beesley Fram, near Goosnargh, Lancashire, England.
  • Flavor Team notes: We both really like the OG cider. You can’t go wrong with this quality, traditional cider. The hard cheese, like cheddar, we learn is made from raw milk from happy cows. Strong taste but very good. The pairing tones down the sharpness of the cheese.
Flavor Team member Andrew and others at our table are excited to taste great cider and great cheeses.

Pairing 2

  • Cider: Bristols Skimmington. A still farmhouse scrumpy with brettanomycus funk (from two strains) going on.
  • Cheese: Montgomery Cheddar. Unpasteurized British Friesian cow’s milk, traditional rennet. Neal’s Yard Dairy, Manor Farm, North Cadbury, Somerset, England.
  • Flavor Team notes: Skimmington is murky and still, rather than carbonated. The brett brings out a sweet, yeasty flavor and rich aromatics. The cheese is a traditional hard cheddar, with a snappy but subtle horseradish finish (yummy). We can see why Paul says it’s“England’s best cheddar.” Darn good cheese, both alone and in the pairing.
Fromagerie Sophie co-owner Paul Doering shares more about the cheese-making process.

Pairing 3

  • Cider: Bristols Granata. Named after the Latin word for pomegranate, this pretty pink and tart cider blends Newtown Pippin cider with 30% pomegranate cider.
  • Cheese: Langres. Pasteurized cow, traditional rennet. Aged five weeks. Tribalat Germain, Langres de Champenois region of France.
  • Flavor Team Notes:  Lactic fermentation keeps the PH lower and results in “Shar Pei-like folds,” explains Paul. Very delicate, almost cakelike, yet with a strong flavor. The rind is washed in champagne and annato as it ages, and the finished cheese has two distinctly different textures: goo-like near the rind and firmer toward the center. The Granata is a lovely garnet-hued cider that has a bit of a bite. It toned down the Langres and made for a very nice combination.

Pairing 4

  • Cider: Bristols Barti Ddu. Please don’t ask us how to pronounce it (we just like drinking it) but we do learn the name is Welsh for “Black Bart,” and that Bristols names its ciders after British pirates and noteworthy national figures. It’s a 100% Granny Smith apple cider that is dry hopped using English hops.
  • Cheese: Celilio. Organic unpasteurized cow’s milk, washed in Heritage Douglas Fir Gin, aged 75 days. Cascadia Creamery, Trout Lake, Washington.
  • Flavor Team Notes:  Sophie shares this cheese is from really happy cows (we wonder if the Doug Fir Gin has anything to do with that) from a farm with the highest animal-husbandry practices. It’s creamy, almost like a Brie, and has floral hints (also tastes of fresh-cuts boards from the gin wash) that pair really well with the hopped cider. For the cider, generally neither of us likes hoppy cider, but this is one that may change our minds.


Sophie Boban-Doering, co-owner and namesake of Fromagerie Sophie, discusses how the cheeses reflect the country, culture, and environment in which they’re made.

Pairing 5

  • Cider: Bristols Black Beard. This cider, from a variety of applies like Arkansas Black, Black Twig, Honey Crisp, and Newtown Pippen, is aged 18 months in bourbon barrels. The result is the masculine side of bourbon (not the sweet vanilla side), and is slightly yeasty and definitely complex. Good stuff.
  • Cheese: Soumaintrain. Pasteurized cow, traditional rennet. Washed rind, aged about two month. Berthaut Soumaintrain (province of Yonne), Burgundy, France.
  • Flavor Team Notes: “Classic stinky French cheese” is how Paul describes this triple-cream cheese that’s an award winner from the Paris Cheese Competition. He shares how the cheese-making process results in the proteins slumping into its soft texture.  The cider cuts some of the intensity of the cheese, and the bourbon aging seems to bring an assertiveness that goes well with the bold flavor of the cheese.

Flavor Team Flavorites

  • Andrew: The Bristols Granata (aka pomegranate cider) was outside of the norm and delicious. For the cheese, The Montgomery Cheddar really hit a note and can see why it is “England’s best cheddar.” It went well with the pairing, but good by itself. I am starting to like the infused ciders, but always a go for nice dry cider.
  • Kara: For cider, I give my Flavorites thumbs up to a tie between the Bristols Black Beard and Bristols Skimmington. To me, they’re rather on far ends of the cider spectrum, which I find interesting. Cheese-wise, I give another thumbs-up tie (don’t judge me). For sheer eating enjoyment, I also pick the Montgomery Cheddar. When I want a cheese to pair with some cider, I’ll go with the Soumaintrain. My Flavorite overall pairing is Pairing 2.
Fromagerie Sophie owners Sophie Boban-Doering and Paul Doering with the Flavor Team after the super-successful and fun cider/cheese pairing event.


Watching the Evolution

As we were putting together this story, we talked about how our palates are developing and changing. We’ve definitely seen it with wine, and now we are seeing it in our cider tastings. For example, just a few months ago, I remember tasting some of the more lively or “less traditional” ciders (i.e., those outside the dry, crisp, appley, sparkling range). While I could appreciate the art in making them, I didn’t honestly love them. Now, Skimmington is one of my Flavorites and Granata is one of Andrew’s Flavorites.

It will be fun to see how our cheese palates develop over time.

And, hmm, an interesting a correlation to living a great flavored life. Palates – appreciation and enjoyment – change in more than food and drink, and that’s a very good thing in life, in my opinion. The more we learn and experience new things, the more new things come along to experience. Cool how that works.

Closing Thoughts

Judging by the lively conversations going on at every table and the great interactions with Bristols and Fromagerie Sophie folks, the pairing was a complete success.

Great people, living their passions, sharing their gifts with world, and spreading joy one cider and one wheel of cheese at a time. It really does make the world a better place.

We hope there are more of these events in the future. We’ll keep our eyes open for the next cider and cheese pairing, and will post it in our Calendar.

Hope to see you there! ‘Til then, keep tasting the great flavors of life!

For More Information
Bristols Cider House

Fromagerie Sophie

Have you had the opportunity to enjoy a cider/cheese pairing? What were your thoughts? Do you have favorite ciders or cheeses? Please let us know and we’ll cover those in future stories.