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“The Death of an Arrogant Idiot & The Birth of a Foodie”

Marisol at the Cliffs
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Ranked #22 of 106 Restaurants in Pismo Beach
Price range: US$25 - US$40
Cuisines: American, Contemporary, Bar
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Restaurant details
Dining options: After-hours, Breakfast, Dinner, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: Spy Glass
Transit: The bus stops right in front of the cliffs or down the street at spy glass.
Description: "Marisol" translates to "The Sun and the Sea" and no where is this more evident than through the flavors of the food. The menu at "Marisol" has been developed as New American Cuisine. As the premier choice of Pismo Beach restaurants, all of the dishes at "Marisol" are prepared with a soulful touch by Chef de Cuisine Victor Flores, featuring produce from fields of local farmers, seafood fresh off the boats of local fishermen, and naturally raised meats and poultry. The wine list for "Marisol" is awarded by Wine Spectator and has an amazing wines by the glass page with many local wines from Monterey to Santa Barbara County. For the finest oceanfront dining experience, try our award-winning Pismo Beach California restaurant "Marisol at the Cliffs".
Reviewed 18 February 2014

As a kid, I was a bit of an arrogant turd. I found it easy and pleasurable to make fun of people who talked to their pets with a funny voice. Of course, with perfect karma, I then grew up to be one of those blubbering people.

Now, as an adult, I must admit I’ve heard myself (in my sometimes noisy mind) making fun of the “foodies” – people who claimed and behaved, in my view, with excess enthusiasm for the culinary experience. So, when my wife dragged me (with loving exuberance) to a wine and food experience at Marisol, I was not expecting much. In fact, I’d get new ammo to with which to undermine kind, food-loving folk.

First, here’s the end of the story: My ignorance was magnificently highlighted by an extraordinary food experience. I now stand humbled, well fed and, yes, transformed.

Here’s how I got to that surprising end…

I entered Marisol as sunset was beginning. As I strolled in, I found myself inside a Church of Food and Beverage. The late afternoon light was relentless as it bathed us through the giant, ocean-facing windows. The stained glass kept increasing in intensity. I was having an out-of-drug experience…and I hadn’t even sat down.

After being graciously greeted and then seated, I was immediately presented with a most unusual drink – a whiskey that had the dry, smooth smoke-filled liquid running through it. It was new to my palate…and stunning. Who knew one could take slow, deep drinks of smoky, liquid air. It didn’t even make sense. I was beginning to awaken.

As I listened to our teacher and guide - the passionately joyful, Teri Bayus, dish out culinary knowledge, another delicacy, Foie Gras, was placed before me. A splash of Spanish sherry came with it. I had a conflagration in my mouth. I now have intimate knowledge of how fire reacts when gas is poured on it. My transformation into a foodie was accelerating.

Other highlight and takeaways from my birth of a foodie evening…

-LIFE AS A WOMAN? I more deeply understand the meaning of “awakening my senses.” I think I may have more insight into how a sensuous woman experiences life. Lucky me!

-An HONORABLE AFFAIR: I learned a well-designed food and beverage can be like having sensuous and satisfying affair with an exotic and gorgeous woman (her name would be Marisol, of course!) And the best part? I can thoroughly enjoy the affair with my wife. Gosh, this is sounding odd! Well, no one ever said rebirth was clean and orderly.

-GETTING PRESENT: The experience at Marisol showed me there is a new universe in every bite. Especially if that bite is paired with a perfectly mated beverage. When PRESENT, the past is dead and the future is an eternity away. No therapy or meditation required. Just brilliantly conceived and prepared food and beverage.

My experience at Marisol was one of the better deaths of my life.

Zazz Daniel

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1  Thank ZazzDaniel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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170 - 174 of 275 reviews

Reviewed 16 February 2014

I arrived at Marisol by the Cliffs in Pismo beach about five minutes after dinner had started. Those in our class were the only people at the restaurant, though a few sat at the bar, and the sherbet sunset was coming through the picture windows aiding in my transportation from an evening as a a bedraggled young working mom of a toddler, cramming in study-time wherever possible, to a sophisticated, almost well-dressed young woman, sitting down to a be pampered by a relaxed, 8-course gourmet dinner, complete with impeccable wine pairings.

Well, almost. I was a wine critic for the evening only with my nose and eyes, as I am four months pregnant. As the evening unfolded and I learned about each wine – many of which were extremely expensive and rare – I wished many times that I both enjoyed wine and didn't have to waste the fine specimens before me, but I consoled myself with the idea that few others review food and wine pairings based on smell, and perhaps that almost gives me an edge, especially if you're also a social pariah on the Central Coast, like me, due to your dislike for wine. Thankfully, several other classmates offered to help me drink my wines once I had finished sniffing them.

The opening appetizer was already being served as I arrived and the other students/guests were mingling. I put down my bag, overflowing with diapers, and stared longingly at a smoke-infused Johnny Walker and coke reduction cocktail, garnished with in-house beef jerky. The level to which I am uninterested by wine can be rivaled only in the level at which I am enamored with fancy cocktails. Alas, I can speak only for the sweet meat - and full disclosure, beef jerky is a weakness of mine – which was delectable. The description of the cocktail and the experience of the sweet meat has had me dreaming of a seat at the Marisol bar several times this week.

I am generally a food scarfer, but the quality and pacing of this meal impressed upon me an involuntary limited-time-only desire to savor each bite slowly. I found almost every aspect of this meal was cooked to perfection, though if I had one over-all criticism, I think the creativity of the food pairings and flavors could be pushed to the next level.

Before I get into my reviews of the actual food, I must thank four special people. First, my dear best friend, Michelle, for gifting me this entire experience – I love you so much, and I hope everyone can find a friend like you in their life. Secondly, Chef Gregg Wangard, for his generosity, warmth, and talent in providing the meal. Thirdly, the extremely knowledgeable sommelier Jeff Chaney, who continued to pour me wine, despite probably noticing that I wasn't fully appreciating his carefully curated collection. Also, he looked like Ira Glass and wore yellow pants, and I have nothing but love in my heart for both of those things. Finally, I must thank the lovely Teri Bayus for her expert coaching on food writing, and her clear enthusiasm for her job.

1. Seared Foie Gras with reconstituted black mission figs and buttered white toast, garnished with sherry and honey glaze, coarse salt, and a sprout sprig.

Controversy in a bite. For the last 18 months, foie gras has been illegal to sell in the United States, but fear not, the chef is not under arrest. It is still legal for foie gras to be “gifted” along side something paid for (hypothetically the sherry I “drank” with it). Furthermore, this was Hudson Valley duck liver, which is sustainably raised and naturally - not forcefully - grain fed. And for the record, it has been proven that ducks and geese will over-stuff themselves given the opportunity, without human intervention.

With that aside, this was the first time I'd eaten foie gras, and definitely my most delightful experience with liver thus far in my life. I have stayed far, far away from liver since taking a big bite out of a lamb liver as a child, assuming it was an especially luscious piece of dark meat. My mistake. This foie gras, however, did not taste gamy, and melted away in the mouth. It was decadent, layered with the multiple textures from the toast and chewy, candy figs. The seeds of the fig stuck in my teeth, leaving a lingering sweetness.

Wine pairing: NV Bodegas Dios Baco Amontillado Sherry, Jerez, Spain

This sherry was described as an oxidated one, made from Palamino grapes. It was the color of amber, with an ombre affect to colorless at the top of the liquid. The smell reminded me of Chinese Black Vinegar which is made from rice and described as “malty, woodsy and smoky” in flavor.

2. Three-Mushroom (shitake, button, and portabella) soup thickened with sourdough bread and mascarpone cheese, garnished with a drizzle of truffle oil.

This is the one exception I could (and a little bit did) make to my evening of slow paced dining, which may have had something to do with the fact that this was my favorite course. It was one of the simplest of the evening, but I would get down on my knees and beg if I thought that would get me this recipe. I would guzzle this soup to the point of being as engorged as a Hudson Valley duck liver myself, given the chance.

I could taste the celery in the soup, which was a homey and unexpected touch, and though not excessively strong in the mouth, the notes of garlic lingered. I am not usually a fan of truffle oil, but it was perfect with this soup.

Wine pairing: 2005 Louis Latour Nuits-Saint-Georges, Cote de Nuits, France

The color of this “old world” wine was described as “brick” red, but I thought it looked like the color that young Russian women in China prefer to dye their hair; a dead, deep, blood red mixed with purple. The flavor was described as an “earthy pinot noir, with savory clove and leaf notes”, perfect for drinking alongside food because the expected sweetness of fruit has dissipated with age. I smelled less of a bite in this specimen than other wines, and it reminded me faintly of the scent of nail polish remover.

3. Arugula Salad with medium poached pears, candied roasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles and thyme dressing.

Chef Gregg's trick to perfectly candied pecans is to cook them in powdered sugar and salt. You're welcome. The Paradise blue cheese, made with top cream, is something that I generally shy away from, but this variety was heady, spicy, quite salty, and perfect, despite hinting at the usual dirty notes of blue cheese. It was smooth as butter, compared to the harder more crumbly variety I am used to. The poached pears provided a soft, cidery crunch, and when everything was tossed with arugula – which I often find too biting for my taste – it was a scrumptious little salad.


Wine pairing: NV Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley

Though cliché, the word that came to mind to describe the appearance of this champagne was “bridal”, complete with an excited veil of bubbles upon being poured that simmered down while resting in my glass. The flavor was described as bone dry, with lean, minerally, soapy, floral, citrusy, and bitter almonds notes. To me it smelled light, and of just barely souring fruits.


4. Farm raised salmon encrusted with potatoes on a bed of lemon infused jasmine rice, garnished with meyer lemon balsamic dressing and sprouts.


I may have had salmon flavored to rival this before in my life, but never have I tasted salmon, taken on its own, cooked to such perfection. It was fatty in the best possible way, as if the membranes between each flake of fish were made of butter. By the last few bites of the dish, the fish had cooled down enough to lose that heavenly quality. I thought the hair-thin potato slices that made up the salmon “crust” were decent, but perhaps not my favorite pairing. The strong, almost heartburn-inducing balsamic glaze garnishing the plate was the perfect acidic tang to tie together each bite of salmon and rice, as were the peppery green sprouts atop the salmon. The creamy bed of green rice had a rice wine jalapeno kick to it, which was a nice addition to the flavor pallet.

Wine pairing: 2009 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

This selection was shinier, pinker, and clearer than the previous red (paired with course 2) with a color that I would describe as crisp magenta. A “new world” wine, it smelled of sweet vinegar that I would actually like to taste, and the smell left a tiny burn in my nose and throat.

5. Breast of duck with spaghetti squash on a parsnip puree.


Cooked in the sous-vide style (in a cryogen bag to assure it's evenly cooked), the duck was tender and not unpleasantly chewy. I don't recall it having a huge flavor presence of its own, but I very much enjoyed the addition of the crunch of the spaghetti squash flavored with red pepper, and the cool turnip puree with a hint of vanilla. Though not strong, the flavors lingered in my mouth and gave me the overall impression of comfort food.


Wine pairing: 2010 Sinor La Vallee Syrah, Les Galets Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley

Another deep fuchsia colored wine, reminding me of a sumptuous shade of lipstick. Described as “spice driven”, it definitely did smell spicy to me.

6. Crostini with Brillat Savarin cheese wedge, quince paste and a castelveltrano olive.

Apparently I am not a very adventurous cheese eater, because I found this dish to be the only one I struggled to enjoy. The brie, around 83% milk fat (compared to butter's 84%), was described as “soft and ripened”. Even after cutting off the rind, which packs the most flavor, I found the cheese pungent. It smelled faintly sour, and tasted very salty and rich, almost exactly like a highly concentrated Kraft Mac n' Cheese. The olive was nutty and briny, and tasted the way wine smells. I did not find the quince paste to be spectacular either, though there was nothing wrong with it by any means. Not my cup of tea, but I know many who would have gobbled up this pairing.

No wine pairing

7. Banana foster with Doc Burnstein’s vanilla ice cream and mint leave, on a corn flake bed.


The thing I enjoyed most about this dish was incorporating the fresh spearmint leaves into each bite. The “crust” around the banana tasted of cinnamon, and was slightly gritty, sticking to the mouth. I did enjoy the additional crunch of the corn flake garnish. Again, not my favorite part of the meal, but I imagine my son would jump at the chance to eat it.

Wine Pairing: 2011 Tatomer Riesling Beerenauslese, Kick-on Ranch Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Served ice cold, I thought this wine looked almost oily when poured. Described as a “noble rot, late harvest wine”, the main thing I smelled in it was raisins.

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Thank karissa_mt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 February 2014

Went with two friends. It was a beautiful day in February so we sat on the balcony in the sun. I had a lobster wrap and champagne. Dreaming about it now. Service was excellent. A very relaxing meal.

Thank Renery
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 February 2014

The first course was Foie Gras which I gave to my friend and I ate the accompaniments. He thoroughly enjoyed his second piece and described the avocado like texture. I savored the dried mission figs with honey and a sprout sprig on a buttered piece of toast. I was spoiled! I knew after this tasty treat, traditional toast and jelly would not serve me. The wine paring was NV Bodegas Dios Amontillado Sherry from Jerez, Spain. As I enjoyed these two delightful treats, I understood why my friend liked having dessert first.
Chef Gregg Wangard graced our table with his understated charm and witty stories. His brilliance was just not just heard in his presentation of the expert preparation but in the engaging delivery.
The next course started with the pouring of a 2005 Louis Lattiur Nuits-Saint-Georges from Cotes de Nuits, France. The dish was a comforting 5-Mushroom Soup thickened with bread and Mascarpone cheese, rained with truffle. There was no lead in this perfectly matched duo. The acidic bright wine with cherry notes frolicked in my mouth with the pacifying flavor of the earthy rich soup.
This inspired pairing of the sommelier, Jeff Chaney lit my heart on fire. There were impressive pairings all evening. Jeff spoke about his choices with attention grabbing enthusiasm. It was instantly apparent that he loved his work and he poured a bit of that into every glass.
The Arugula Salad wore it well; dressed with thyme magic and accessories of Grand Marnier and cinnamon poached pears, hand crafted candied pecans and blue cheese crumbles. Gregg pulled it off with this clever ensemble whose sweet crunchy and rich chewy textures complemented the bold leafy number. Of course it was celebrated with dry citrus bubblies with an almond nose; NV Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley. This was possibly the best palate cleansing amusement that I have ever experienced.
The table was prepared with simple elegance; white cloths and plate. Marina was our lovely server who enhanced my entertainment with flawless choreography of plates, glasses and flatware.
I welcomed the next beautiful plate of steamy Farm Raised Salmon encrusted with golden brown discs of potatoes on a bright bed of lemon infused jasmine rice. The sensual texture of the salmon joined with the spicy rice filled my mouth; was corporeal! What became my favorite wine of the evening manufactured a pretty rustic color in the glass. The 2009 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast had great structure with fruit forward with balanced acidity. Both this plate and this wine turned me on. My lips were on fire, wow!
At this moment I realized that Gregg and Jeff were a perfect pairing. I was enchanted by the knowing that I could feel the enthusiasm of their work in every bite. The cheery company around the table appeared to be mirroring my experience.
The fifth course was breast of duck over spaghetti squash over a parsnip puree. The duck was cryogenically prepared…oooo science…but I still gave mine to the meat eaters at the table. What is notable is how satisfying what was left on my plate was. It was partnered with a big fruity and spicy wine, 2010 Sinor La Vallee Syrah, Les Galets Vineyard from Arroyo Grande Valley.
This was followed by the playful combination of a Brillat Savarin cheese wedge on a crostini with quince paste and a Castelveltrano olive paired with a 2011 Tatomer Riesling Beerenauslese from Kick-on Ranch Vineyard in Santa Barbara. I had fun mixing and matching the elements to discover the various nuances of flavor.
Nothing could be out done by the dessert that followed; Banana Foster with Doc Burnstein’s Vanilla Bean ice cream and a mint leaf. Warm banana, cold ice cream and mint? Yes! Seconds please.
This is not a fast paced meal. Be prepared to settle in and savor.

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    • Food
Thank DoveDaniel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 February 2014

My husband and I recently dined at the Marisol at the Cliffs restaurant and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had several courses and all of them looked and tasted absolutely wonderful. It is difficult to chose one favorite course so I decided to quickly mention a few. I had never before eaten Foie Gras (with figs) and discovered I really love it. It tasted like a small bite from heaven. Normally, I would never order arugula salade because of the bitter/spicy taste, but this salade was paired with pecans, pears, blue cheese, and a thyme dressing and I would order it again in a heart beat. It was delicious. And lastly, I wanted to mention the crostini with brie (?) cheese and quince paste (another first for me) and an olive. I would have finished that course even if it had been 3 times as big. So yummy. All in all, we had a great experience with great food, great views (gorgeous sunset),and a great staff. We will definitely go back for more.

    • Value
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    • Food
Thank N M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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