Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RESTAURANT: Big Sky

My last post on my trip to the central coast is about one of my favorite restaurants in San Luis Obispo: Big Sky. Big Sky Cafe serves "modern food." There's a lot of southwestern influence, mixed with American classics and vegetarian dishes. It's food that is prepared and presented with great care, but is relatively inexpensive. This is for sure the best breakfast in town and is always packed on weekend mornings, but is just as good for lunch or dinner.

One fact I did not know, is that Big Sky was opened by a former chef of Kokomo, at the Fairfax Farmer's Market, another favorite place of mine to eat.

I am definitely a true Angeleno now, because when we went to brunch on Saturday morning at around 10:30, I was like "Oh, it's going to be packed." My mom assured me that it was "late" and the crowds would be gone by then. I was skeptical. Sure enough, she was right. I guess I'm now used to Los Angeles, where everyone in the whole freaking city goes to brunch on the weekends and brunch lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and every place is crowded pretty much for all of those hours.




For brunch, J. ordered the special French toast, despite the fact that he knew full well I was making it for brunch the next day. We decided it was okay, though, since it was on a different kind of bread, with a fruit compote, it was almost like a different dish. Kind of like ordering two different kinds of sandwiches. As you can see, there was quite a lot of it. It was made with a cinnamon swirl bread with a fresh, warm apple compite on top and a liberal dose of confectioner's sugar.


I ordered the traditional New Mexican Pozole (vegetarian $7.95, with pork $8.95). I've always wanted to try it because I've never seen it on a menu anywhere ever before, and probably won't unless I actually go to New Mexico. Pozole is a spicy hominy stew with peppers, tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, cumin and cilantro, with a poached egg on the top. I ordered the vegetarian version, but you can also get it with seared pork. Pozole is a dish that has it's origins in Pre-Columbian times. Traditionally, it was made with lime-treated maize instead of hominy. Treating maize with lime (not citrus lime, mineral lime) is called nixtamalization, and serves to remove the hard outer hulls.

No one knows where pozole originated from, but it is thought to be in the Jalisco region of Mexico (also the home of tequila!). It is said that when the conquistadores arrived in the region, they were served pozole made with human flesh. They loved it, but once they discovered what it was made with, made the wise decision to use pork instead, and the dish promptly spread throughout the Spanish territories. In New Mexico, pozole is served on Christmas Eve to celebrate life's blessings. [NOTE: I'm totally unsure about the accuracy of some of this. Most of this info came from Wikipedia without references. But I'm putting it out there, with disclaimer, just in case, because it's interesting.]

This meal is WAY hearty. I felt like I ate three bowls of it, but by the time I was full, I had barely scratched the surface. It was so good though. It was spicy and pungent, and every mouthful was a parade of different flavors and textures. It's the kind of breakfast you would want to eat before mountain climbing or hiking or heavy labor. You can just tell it will give you energy and stamina for a long haul.

Big Sky
1121 Broad Street
San Luis Obispo
805-545-5401

8 comments:

I'm making a point of going there next time I pass through SLO (and, of course, it's on the pay to SB).

I seem to think I may have been there before, actually, about 5 years ago, when my sister moved from SF back to S. Barb. Might have been the place.

It's pretty interesting: SLO/Pismo is like where folks from Ventura/SB Cty go for weekend trips nowadays.

Is it still punishable by lashings to refer to it as "San Louie?" Because I always do . . . and they always correct me.

said by Jeremy at 4:13 PM Delete

My boss does the same thing and I don't bother to correct him.

The name is Spanish, not French, so it makes no sense to call it San Louie (though it does make sense to call St. Louis, "St. Louie" because that's the french pronunciation). It's pronouced Luis, in American and Spanish.

Although, technically, it was named after a French guy, so I guess an argument could be made ...

However, I am not that big a pronunciation snob. Call it what you like. But everyone will know you're a tourist.

At least we don't make everyone call it San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which is its full name. It's long enough as it is.

said by KT at 4:19 PM Delete

the guy that corrected me about the pronounciation (within Jeremy's earshot) said it was pronounced "San Looois" and to me, that is a Spanish word followed by an English name. to me, "Luis" has a shorter, more pronounced "u" sound and then the "is" is light and you barely hear the "s". so there.

anyway. we will definitely have to try this place -- notice the Freudian slip there when Jeremy said it's on the "pay" to SB, where his family is? ha ha busted.

I would like to know where the human flesh in the first pozole came from.

said by headsie at 4:46 PM Delete

Yes, the pronunciation is totally Americanized now. Natives pronounce it more like "San Lewis." Kind of like Los Angeles. We really have no place to get all uppity about pronunciation, since authentic pronunciation would be like "San Loo-ees," with the accent on the "ees." And no one says that.

I guess, people saying "San Louie" is kind of like people who say "Frisco." That's the best analogy I can come up with.

I am guessing that the human flesh came from sacrifices? I am highly doubtful about that story though. It sounds like some sensationalized scary natives thing. I wish it was true though ... "This is awesome! What is this?!"

"Oh."

P.S. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Jeremy! I feel like I know you already.

said by KT at 4:53 PM Delete

that's funny -- "frisco" for "san francisco" is the same example the other guy used. I said, "it's not called 'frisco?" just to bother him, but honestly, I don't know what the big deal is. you can usually tell tourists by myriad other indicators than what they call a place and some tourists could be cool. admittedly, not many that would be all "it's good to be in frisco," but maybe they're just being funny.

but Jeremy pointed out yesterday that perhaps my debut album (if I should ever find a way to train my voice into something that did not induce people to cover their ears reflexively) would be "the girl from everywhere" because I just don't have anywhere that I can be all possessive about because everywhere I've lived there are like 14 criteria I can never meet to be a "local" and that's ok.

anyway, I figured on the human sacrifice part. and I'm with you on the story probably being, as they say, "gussied up a bit." but as much as Encyclopedia Brittanica and Jeopardy! want to sell me on the idea that it was such an honor to be a sacrifice in these cultures, I'm not buying it. People avoid dying at huge costs, dude. unless it's like this complicated thing I read about regarding the Japanese royal family, but I won't get into that here.

anyway, nice virtually meeting you too. I feel like I know you also, owing to your posts on the jeremiad.

said by headsie at 6:05 PM Delete

I totally agree on the tourist thing. I don't, as a rule, think there's anything wrong with tourists. They help the economy and people who like to travel can't be all bad. I am a tourist a lot of the time! And I think I am cool!

As far as the eating human flesh goes, I would say it's highly suspect that most of the reports of cannibalism come from the Spanish conquistadores, who were busily trying to justify their massacres.

I read that being sacrificed was considered an honor, because only people who were sacrificed went to the "sun heaven" and could be reincarnated as butterflies. I don't know that that would stop me from being super afraid of it and super pissed about it ...

said by KT at 6:53 PM Delete

tourism is a very good concept. it is good economically and can introduce people to other foods, cultures, ways of living, all good things. I have a problem with it when I seem tourism confused with entertainment, like a tourist expecting "locals" to give them a certain "experience" or to act a certain way so they can go back and report on how "it's exactly like it was on tv!"

and maybe those are "frisco" tourists, people who expect that they know all about a place before they get there and they try to mold what's really happening to fit what's convenient and familiar for them.

which is maybe why some people think of themselves as "travelers" rather than "tourists."

anyway, reincarnated as butterflies, eh? I guess that is just another example of the capacity for what humans can accept as "normal" or even "valued" when presented (or, more likely, oppressed) with a particular idea.

said by headsie at 2:44 PM Delete

That's a spot on comment about tourism. I think it has to do with the rise in our culture of things like Disneyland, television and film. Perhaps we are so used to seeing other cultures presented to us in these formats, that some people, when they actually go to visit other places and cultures have a hard time remembering that it is real--it's a real place with real people living real lives--and not just a presentation for their entertainment and edification.

Not to mention the fact that "good" tourists are unobtrusive and do not draw attention to themselves, meaning that necessarily only the "bad" tourists are remembered as tourists.

As for the sacrifices, I suppose if you think about the fact that even in this day and age people strap bombs onto themselves and blow themselves up on the promise of rewards in heaven, the butterfly heaven doesn't seem so far removed.

said by KT at 2:55 PM Delete

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