Second half to our lunch at Somm’s Kitchen in Paso Robles: Remember that this is an intimate dining experience, just 14 guests in total. And while you may scoff at coughing up $150/person for a meal prepared by someone who denies being a chef, Ian Adamo has legions of loyal followers. The proof is that you need to make reservations at least three months in advance to be assured of a seat.
After the Pol Roger Champagnes and salmon appetizer, we then moved to the 2007 Salon, a $650 sparkler. This bubbly was overpowering, with fine, minimal bubbles and quite dry. A nose of citrus, peach and lilac, with tasting notes of lemon.
Served with this was perhaps the most unique and creative way with fish I have ever seen. Ian served halibut both poached and steamed and creamed these two versions together, for a presentation that resembled mashed potatoes but tasted nothing like that. Not really fishy, but ocean-y (if there is such a word). Accompanying the halibut was seaweed, cucumber and bamboo. A plating of the fish with the powerful Salon was alone worth the price of admission.
Next up was the 2018 Aubert Hudson Valley Chardonnay. Aubert really only does chardonnay and pinot noir, and they have mastered both. It’s a little early to be opening a 2018 Aubert but a treat none the less. Alongside it, Ian poured a non-vintage Egly Ouriet Brut Rose. A delicious Champagne, it sat on the lees for 60 months and offers bright cherry aromas and a whole dimension of tastes, including strawberry.
Then, something of a palate cleanser as well as a separate course – Pecorino Toscano, which is sheep’s milk cheese, served in the style of a grilled cheese. Dense and chewy, it was almost a meal all on its own. The Aubert went quite well with it.
Next up was a 1998 Marcassin Pinot Noir from Marcassin Vineyard. This was the star of the show! An earthy bouquet with outstanding body and structure. Terry got aromas of berry, cherry, bakery spices, prune (maybe due to its age?), and vanilla. Tastes of tobacco and dense, black berry.
Ian seems to like to confuse his guests a bit. Case in point was the next dish, a tomato soup that I identified as cream of tomato. Only problem was that there was no cream in it, just pureed tomatoes. It was spicy with notes of paprika and basil, very appealing.
Our first meat of the meal was duck breast sausage with mushrooms. The spice crept up on me, hitting me on the finish. Joining that was an Aubert UV Vineyard Pinot Noir, vintage 2006. Featuring a bright cherry aroma (with some strawberry and baking spices), it has tastes of berry, leather and dirt, with almost a tingling effect. Another hit.
We concluded with a French cake popular in Bordeaux called a cannelle pastry (sometimes spelled canale). Not my favorite, but served with what was Terry’s favorite wine of the night, a 2010 Saxum Broken Stones, a powerful wine highlighted with pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and dense black fruit.
Capping off the afternoon were two cognacs, 1974 and 1968. Powerful. The last libation was a 25-year-old rum that was quite potent.
Our overall impressions – we will definitely return. Ian isn’t constrained by what he learned in cooking school because he never went. Consequently, you get some things that are in a category all by themselves. Some are delicious (like the halibut) and some are misses (like the dessert). But you’re not going to find anything similar anywhere else, like the salmon I discussed in my first column or the non-cream cream of tomato soup. And, of course, the wine. Magnificent, distinctive, memorable, rare – you get to experience unrivalled wines paired with some innovative and inventive culinary delights. Go see for yourself.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.