Wine has always played a significant role at this farm-to-table Paso Robles favorite, and now desserts do, too.
As its name implies, the focus of owner Debbie Thomas’s exposed redbrick restaurant is on organic ingredients, many grown or produced locally. But wine has always played a significant role in the Thomas Hill Organics experience. For any customers who might miss the point, “WINE” is spelled out in huge letters in the middle, and most popular, of three dining spaces stretching from the Park Street entrance to the small area, off the back service alley, that once contained the entire restaurant.
The menu changes often to reflect the season, but wood-fired chicken, braised short ribs, and vegan shepherd’s pie are often on the dinner menu. The superb grass-fed burgers are perennial favorites for lunch, along with vegan Buddha bowls. Appetizers may include black-lentil tacos with candied jalapeños or (in-season) heirloom tomatoes with pickled stone fruit, cornbread croutons, housemade ricotta, and balsamic caviar.
Intricate But Not Fussy
The preparations at Thomas Hill Organics are intricate and well-spiced but not fussy, the flavor combinations often daring but never overplayed. An early-2020 Belgian endive salad, for example, contained persimmons, shaved fennel, candied nuts, charred-cinnamon vinaigrette, and cocoa nibs, with aged Gouda sprinkled on top. An equally complex yet harmonious roasted chestnut soup followed the salad, the nuts the foundation for a puree that also contained fennel, apple, sweet potato, celery root, and parsnip. Grace notes included pomegranate seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, bits of puffed-rice granola, crème fraîche made in-house, and smoked maple syrup. Lamb pappardelle with saffron ricotta was the rich and rewarding entrée on this visit.
Executive chef Libry Darusman, who joined Thomas Hill in August 2019, has a sweet tooth that leans toward the ornate, even when he’s jammin’ with comfort confections like s’mores. In his version, served in a jar with an airtight lid, he calls the graham cracker crust “soil,” its gritty-moist texture partially courtesy of brown butter. Onto this crust he layers in dark-chocolate mousse and smoked-marshmallow meringue, whose combined bittersweetness make the dish. You can drop by the dessert bar (on the Park Street side) for sweets without dinner; this area doubles as a wine bar. The wine list, no surprise, favors local producers, making this an excellent place to expand your Central Coast palate.
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Daniel Mangin is the author of Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma and coauthor of The California Directory of Fine Wineries Central Coast and Napa and Sonoma editions. He writes about California food and wine for Napa Valley Life, Marin Magazine, Fodors.com, and other outlets.