I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in San Luis Obispo, California.
Greetings from San Luis Obispo, California
N 35° 16.8165’ W 120° 39.7814’ Elev. 200 ft.
I happened to take some Texans on a mini-tour of this area recently and, while atop Black Hill in Morro Bay (parking lot elevation 485 feet), we espied three separate pods of whales, probably California Grey whales and numbering well over two dozen, lollygagging their way up the coast. I mention it here only because it was a thrill. The most I’d ever seen before, at the same time, were two. Count ‘em: Two! And yeah, you’re right, I’m blessed. Thanks for noticing.
As part of Grande excursão do Wally we also went through downtown San Luis Obispo. I’m always surprised when I visit here because so many of the businesses seem to play a endless game of musical chairs with their locations. This is mostly because of rents skyrocketing due to the cost of earthquake retrofitting the buildings. Evidently the Powers That Be have issues with un-reinforced masonry crashing down and killing and/or maiming the unsuspecting every time some errant temblor rolls through, like the one that came a’callin’ in Napa last Sunday. As a result, you never know who’s going to pop up there or what new businesses will sprout where. They’re like whales … or sea serpents — you never know where they’re going to pop up! OK. Maybe more like whales.
One of newer (to me) arrivals in downtown SLO is the SloCo Pasty — pronounced PASS-tee — Company, which opened its doors in June of 2011, serving up those delicious turnover-shaped pastries filled with meat and vegetables. Pasties are not to be confused with certain abominable fried pies that are so popular in parts of the South. Pasties are baked. (SloCo, by the way, is the local abbreviation for San Luis Obispo County; SLO is the accepted abbreviation for the city surrounding Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.)
Although SloCo Pasty Company offers traditional Cornish pasties, such as the Oggy, Shepherd’s Pie, and Bangers and Mash (pork sausage cooked in beer and sautéed onion with mashed potatoes), it also offers pasties with, according to their sign, a “California twist.” These hybrids run the gamut from Santa Maria-style barbecue beef to Greek to Mexican to Indian (curry) to old-fashioned Chicken Pot Pie.
My friend ordered one of the hybrids, the Tri Trippin’ ($10.50). This pasty is filled with Santa Maria-style barbecued Tri-tip, baked beans and salsa. It was served with an extra side of salsa as well as a side of broccoli cole slaw.
Tri-tip roast or simply Tri-tip is an extremely popular regional cut of meat. Its name is derived from the shape of the cut. Anywhere else it would be called a bottom sirloin roast or some such. It’s somewhat of a mystery to me why people here go crazy for it. It can be very tough and chewy or, when it’s cooked right, tender and succulent. You just never seem to know how it’s going to come out. Invariably it’s served without a barbecue sauce.
The beef in his Tri Trippin’ was fairly tender. Although they billed the beans as “baked” they are not sweet, like, say, Boston Baked Beans. They are actually Ranch beans, a savory version of pintos that’s routinely served with Tri-tip hereabouts. While it wasn’t bad by any means I just didn’t think it was all that exciting. It was sort of like a Santa Maria-style barbecue plate in a pastry dough. Oh wait, that’s what it was supposed to be.
I wasn’t really hungry so I ordered two pasties to go, an Oggy and a Shepherd’s Pie ($9.50 each). SloCo Pasty Co. will “par-bake” (partially bake) the pasties so they can be cooked at home. They kindly mark all of the pasties with a dough-letter atop so that you can tell which is what (or vice-versa). Both of these pasties are served with a side of red wine gravy.
The Oggy is billed as “the one that started it all.” It’s the traditional Cornish miners’ pasty with steak, red potatoes, onions and rutabaga. My friend really enjoyed this one, saying it reminded him of the ones he used to get in Grass Valley, California, a former gold mining region where there was a large population of Welsh miners in days past. I thought it was a little bland. But I think that was because I was comparing it to the Shepherd’s Pie, which I was having at the same time.
I thought the Shepherd’s Pie was incredible. It’s filled with a savory mixture of ground beef, carrots, onions and peas cooked in a red wine gravy, and mashed potatoes. I thought this was wonderfully flavorful, a classic. Even though I never really got a handle on the flavor, dipping it in the red wine gravy was also quite good.
While there we sampled a great local beer, the Firestone 805 ($5.50/16 oz; $6.50/20 oz). Named after the local area code, the 805 is an incredibly smooth light blond ale brewed “just up the street” in Paso Robles by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. It’s easy to understand the wild popularity of this fine beer; they also make a similarly wonderful DBA.
In addition to offering (what I consider to be somewhat frightening) Beer Floats (pick your poison: Guinness & Coffee Ice Cream or Boddingtons & Vanilla; $6.75/ea), SloCo Pasty Company offers a thing they call “Beer Flights.” You can choose any four of the 10 beers they have on draught and they’ll give you a 5-ounce glass of each for $8. Not a bad deal for the opportunity to sample the wares of brews from the British Isles to the West Coast, with a layover in South Burlington, Vermont, of course (Magic Hat #9). Wait… South Burlington?
Another cool thing SloCo Pasty Company did while I was there was the management had the good taste to take advantage of The Simpsons marathon — Every.Simpsons.Ever. — currently airing on FXX through Labor Day. Is there anything that could possibly go better with pasties and beer? Well, D’oh! Oops, I meant: No!
And so we roll.
SloCo Pasty Company, 1032 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo, California
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.