Augusto Caudillo and winemakers Dan and Ellen Kessler-Haak collaborated July 19 for the first-ever winemaking dinner at the Lompoc eatery Caudillo co-owns, Scratch Kitchen. Scratch Kitchen started service in early May, just three months ago. The chefs and co-owners, Augusto Caudillo and Gonzalo Pacheco, opened their doors to a lot of anticipation in this town — one that’s primarily working class and woefully light on quality food that isn’t Mexican or Thai.
Lompoc residents, starved for the innovative slash healthy cuisine easily found in other nearby cities, descended upon Scratch en masse, especially during lunchtime and for Sunday brunch.
For years, Caudillo, a 2006 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas, and chef Gonzalo Pacheco, his business partner and brother-in-law, had tossed around the idea of opening their own restaurant.
Caudillo is the youngest of eight children, and was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and raised on the Central Coast, according to www.scratch-kitchen.com He has worked at various restaurants around the country, including Lucky’s in Montecito, and as a personal chef.
Pacheco, born and raised in Mexico, moved to Santa Barbara in 1991, where he was introduced to the local restaurant industry. He graduated from the Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Program at Santa Barbara City College in 1997, and worked in restaurants as varied as the Wine Cask, Fess Parker’s Grand Hotel in Los Olivos, and, like Caudillo, at Lucky’s.
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On Sunday, July 19, arriving patrons were handed flutes of Kessler-Haak’s sparkling wine and pointed to a buffet of fresh fruits, crackers, breads and cheeses.
“I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d pick for a first-time winemaking dinner than Dan and Ellen of Kessler-Haak,” Caudillo said.
Once guests were seated, Caudillo, coordinating an eight-person wait and bar staff, put plates down in front of the 20-plus guests simultaneously, an impressive feat, and our meal began.
All of the courses and wines were well timed and the plates full of color and the food artfully arranged.
Leading off was “Sottaceto,” meaning “pickled” in Italian, a plate featuring medallions of fried goat cheese, beets, chives, cucumbers and watermelon radishes paired with Kessler-Haak’s 2013 Estate Chardonnay.
Next up was a strawberry confit and herb salad served with the Kessler-Haak 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir. The salad featured Iberico cheese, which balanced the bright-fruit acidity of the wine.
My favorite pairing was the choice by the chefs/winemakers to pair roasted Tasmanian trout, served ratatouille style with pancetta and basil, with the KH 2011 Estate Pinot Noir. The fish was perfect in flavor and texture, and the pancetta brought an elegant level of smoke to the table — but did not overpower the wine.
The fourth course featured a pistachio-crusted lamb loin served with a delicious cauliflower au jus with a smidge of mint jelly. Accompanying this was the 2013 KH Lafond Vineyard Syrah.
True story: I scraped clean my plate; I’ve never tasted better flavors of cauliflower.
Our meal ended with a dessert trio: A cheesecake bite, homemade Snickers-style chocolate bar, suitably melted in the heat of the night, and a tiny cheese board canapé. Accompanying these small-but-mighty-rich desserts was the Kessler Haak 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon.
Scratch Kitchen is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., also Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday dinner, 5 to 9 p.m.
Details: 610 North H Street, Lompoc, 809.0829
Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com