The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2015

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Page 42 of 140

42  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2015 by Jaime C. Lewis A fter 20 years owning a progressive catering business and popular restaurant, Chef Maegen Loring was a household name on California's Central Coast. But she'd grown tired of business ownership; all Loring wanted to do was cook again. So when Niner Wine Estates President Andy Niner sought a chef to open his estate winery's restaurant in Paso Robles, Loring was a shoe-in. Aside from tremendous expertise, confidence and relationships that come only with decades in the industry, Loring also brought a commitment to hyper-local ingredients and nose-to-tail effi- ciency, both of which aligned with Niner Wine Estates' dedication to the estate model. "Because [the restaurant is] in its infancy, we're really writing the book on what it will be," says Loring, who is now Executive Chef at Niner Wine Estates. With support from Andy Niner, Loring has planted wheat and rye to the property alongside 350 existing olive trees for olives and olive oil. Chickens and a mobile coop (to fertilize the vineyards) come next, as well as an encyclopedic chef's garden just steps from the kitchen, and possibly even cattle. Once much of the estate's agriculture is established, Loring dreams of offering a domestic dim sum night to show off the harvest and push guests' culinary boundaries. "We're small because it's all about small experiences," Loring says of the small plates menu and a staff comprised of Sous Chef Matt Ramirez and Dining Room Manager Ryan McMichael. While those experiences might appear small on paper, Loring's deductive approach to complementing Niner Wine Estates wines results in expertly-edited dishes far greater than the sum of their parts, including carrot-ginger flatbread, pistachio-mint pesto and preserved lemon with Niner Wine Estates' 2012 Grenache Blanc; and pork belly sopes with avocado, fennel, and prickly pear matched with the 2012 Reserve Syrah/Grenache. "Maegen brings twenty years of experience to the table," says Ramirez. "She's been here, she's dealt with all the farmers, the purveyors—she knows everybody." "I always saw myself as a chef, connected to the earth, shopping farmers markets and working with individual farmers. It's just what I've always done," says Loring. "Every time we do a dish, we ask ourselves What's new about this? How can we own it? For me, that's always the question." Chef Maegen Loring brought a commitment to hyper-local ingredients and nose-to-tail effi- ciency to The Restaurant at Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles. The Whole Nine Yards CHEF MAEGEN LORING TAKES "ESTATE" TO THE EXTREME WITH PASO ROBLES'S THE RESTAURANT AT NINER WINE ESTATES WINERY KITCHENS

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