Columnist Dinner and a Movie

Dinner & A Movie

McPhee’s Grill — Modest Genius in Templeton

By Teri Bayus

It is an achievement when a chef becomes successful. Those with the right ingredients of talent, hard work and panache not only survive but also thrive.

Chef Ian McPhee of McPhee’s Grill in Templeton is like a white truffle, rare and wonderful. To be successful and happy after 20-plus years as a restaurant owner and chef is a rarity.

The chef/owner attributes his years of success to both the growth of the surrounding wine country, tourism and the loyalty of his local customers.

He recalls that when he and his wife, June, first opened in 1994, there were about 20 wineries in the surrounding area. Today more than 350 populate the countryside.

Chef McPhee said it was no secret, “I just cook what I like and I am lucky a bunch of people like what I like.” I think he is a modest genius.

Gary started with the combination of homemade hot fudge sundae with toasted macadamia nuts, delectable French vanilla ice cream and added a warm caramel sauce. He was thrilled with the frozen dish and tasty sauces.

I started with a spicy vegetable Crudité, and then an oak grilled, ocean mist artichoke steamed then cut in half. It is finished on the grill and served with a chipotle chili mayonnaise and shaved Parmesan cheese. This is my favorite way to eat this elusive flower, and I have been known to drive to Templeton from Pismo just for this dish.

We then tried a bit of the Mexican Tortilla soup with the lime creama and colorful tortilla ribbons, and we both were elated at how delectable and comforting it tasted. Our next taste was the chopped little gem Caesar salad with roasted red peppers agrodolce served with Mom Herten’s garlic bread.

The salad was unique and scrumptious, but that bread was one of the best things I have ever tried. A thick slice of French bread covered in secret sauce and cheese, it was simple, yet astonishingly delightful. We talked about making just a meal out of that and the J. Dusi Zinfandel wine.

For an entrée, I had a 14-ounce rib eye served with three salsas, jalapeño cheese, mashed potatoes and a goat cheese stuffed poblano chili. The steak was impeccably grilled and the mashers where so full of flavor, I inhaled them.

The chili was the flawless combination of savory and hot. I vowed to add this to my reason-to-drive-to-Templeton list. Gary had two starters for his entrée, as our immaculate server, Leslie, had done such a succulent job of describing them; he just had to try both.

The kung fu baby back ribs, with their secret Asian barbecue sauce and cold noodle peanut salad were delicious and bold. He went epically crazy for the crispy tempura shrimp. Large shrimp dredged and fried to precision with a spicy peanut dipping sauce and Asian slaw where his favorite of the night.

Chef Ian took me on a tour of his busy kitchen and was fired up about the custom-made brick oven that was hand-built by native Italian, Giuseppe Crisa at Forno Classico in Santa Barbara, reflecting the Italian tradition of wood-fired Napoletana pizza ovens.

Using only local oak for fuel and reaching temperatures up to 1,200 degrees, the oven can cook a pizza in less than 1 minute, which McPhee says, gives the pizza a “lightness” that is not found in slow-cooked pizzas made in a conventional gas oven.

The pizza menu includes house creations like the Fig & Pig (fig jam, prosciutto, crispy pork belly, smoked Gouda, and basil) and the R U Nuts (pistachio pesto, basil, Italian sausage, fresh Mozzarella, and Pecorino), in addition to classic pizza styles such as Margherita and pepperoni.

“This is not a job to me,” McPhee says, “It’s part of my life and lifestyle. I am so happy to be here, and I love what I do, I am very lucky.”

I asked him if he would ever retire and with the well-known twinkle in his eye he says, “If I don’t show up for work, then I have gone to the big kitchen in the sky.” I wish him 20 more years of success, as this chef is a rare gem.

McPhee’s Grill is located at 416 South Main St., in Templeton. Call (805) 434-3204. They are open for lunch Mondays-Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and nightly for dinner at 5 p.m. For more information, see their new website at: www.McPheesGrill.com.

‘The Post’ — Scattershot Storytelling That Lacks Depth


“The Post” arrives to remind us about the indispensable role of the press in a democracy, ours in this particular case. A historical fact that comes to illustrate the dangerous times we’re living now.

The story of “The Pentagon Papers” is not ancient history, and yet people seem to have forgotten.

The Plot: When American military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg (played by Matthew Rhys), realizes to his disgust the depths of the U.S. government’s deceptions about the futility of the Vietnam War, he takes action by copying top-secret documents that would become the Pentagon Papers.

Later, Washington Post owner, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), is still adjusting to taking over her late husband’s business when editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) discovers the New York Times has scooped them with an explosive expose on those papers.

Determined to compete, Post reporters find Ellsberg himself and a complete copy of those papers. However, the Post’s plans to publish their findings are put in jeopardy with a Federal restraining order that could get them all indicted for contempt.

The Post boasts an incredible cast, right down to the small parts. But the film is heavy-handed to the point of ham-fisted, from the opening scene onwards. Despite an impactful, committed performance by Streep as Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post who helped crush gender barriers in journalism.

Then a called-in performance by Tom Hanks as the brash and swaggering Bradlee, editor of the Post. This film suffers from a lack of depth and a surprisingly scattershot approach to the story.

The film is trying to be a kind of parable of feminist empowerment, but even that is insulting. Graham was from the start, smart and tough as hell. Watching the admiring and supportive glances as she comes into her own was ridiculous.

A viewer would be forgiven for coming away with a flawed understanding of The Pentagon Papers because this film is more about how the Washington Post came into national prominence by defying the White House and publishing documents the government claimed as top secret and vital to U.S. military success in Vietnam.

Director Steven Spielberg needed to have greater faith in his audience, and let the moments in the script breath, rather than cutting to yet another brief shot of expository detail. I think this could be enjoyed on DVD, so save your money and see “The Shape of Water” instead.

Teri Bayus is the host of Taste Buds, which can be seen at www.Tastebuds.tv. She can be reached via email at: livewell@teribayus.com

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