So a couple of weeks ago I was raving about the sexy and elegant space at Clara in Carlsbad. Traveling up the coast a few miles to Oceanside is The Miller’s Table that could be described as Clara’s earthier yet refined sister whose intimate space, soft lighting, candles and large communal table seduce in a subtler manner. Staci Miller is the chef/owner/seductress who also curates their ever-changing wine program.
While on the topic of the space, most of its 24 seats are situated around a large communal table mentioned above and they are surrounded but a smattering of tables that seat two to four. Both of my visits have had me at the communal table and resulted in conversations with strangers who I would not have met otherwise. There was a girl’s night out and a couple that had just become engaged so yes, the conversation was lively. I was with my friend Captain Mark from Boundless Boat Charters, who was so impressed with The Miller’s Table he brought his wife back the next night for date night.
If anyone was prepared for this venture it was Staci Miller. She is a native of the Detroit, having spent her first seven years there and was very well versed on the nuances of the deli scene, which impressed me immediately. One early memory from her Detroit days was seeing The Fifth Dimension with her parents who were sharing a Bodha bag filled with Strawberry Boones Farm wine with friends at the local outdoor concert venue.
Since then, her 30-plus years of culinary experience prior to The Miller’s Table included recipe testing for Los Angeles Times, culinary school station inspector, private chef, catering company owner along with numerous serving, bartending and winery gigs. She also studied viniculture at Napa Valley College and worked as a wine educator for L.A. Wine Tasting and in wine export and sales for Wine Expo.
Needless to say, the experience was there, as it is for many people in the industry, but Staci had the gumption and drive to make her own place a reality. She tried first in Northern California but that did not pan out so she moved to be closer to family in North County and landed a job as a wine buyer at Whole Foods in Del Mar.
Oceanside was just catching on as a culinary destination and Staci caught wind of that early. The space she leased was a Chinese restaurant, so its small kitchen was not conducive for launching a full menu. Adapting to her limitations, Staci developed a simple menu consisting of meat and cheese boards, snacks, appetizers and sandwiches. The farm-fresh sandwich menu includes a variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and artisan takes on roast beef, turkey, tuna and vegetarian options.
It’s the wine program that really excites me though and I should mention that our server, Melanie, was very well-versed on it. In fact, the entire kitchen staff is involved in service and front of the house folks all help out in the kitchen, which makes for a very engaged team and a refreshingly different dining scenario. This format also allows Staci to address the disparity in wages between servers and kitchen workers. With the shared responsibilities the tips are shared, which also creates a fair wage system and has created an intimacy between the staff and the customers.
While wines are available by the glass or bottle, The Miller’s Table’s signature service is wine flights, where customers can choose from an ever-changing list of trios spotlighting reds, whites, California labels or foreign selections that all work around a talking point or theme that allow patrons to expand their wine horizons. Wine dinners happen often and take diners through a region paired with six courses of a winery or brewery’s offerings.
Examples of some nice pairings were the Villa Wolf Riesling that was perfect with our seared tuna and grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a dry Riesling and part of the Noble White Flight that Staci put together. She also pointed out that in France, certain grape varieties are considered noble whites, and Riesling is one of them. Another perfect pair was the Chateau Grand-Jauga Sauternes Cuvee Prestige 2015 with my apple tart tatin. She described this as “a lovely mix of aromas and flavors including apricot, honeysuckle and juicy citrus, plus a streak of minerality.” Well, it was amazing with dessert and further proof that the crew at The Miller’s Table will take care of your wine and food pairings quite nicely.
I loved a lot about The Miller’s Table. It’s an Oceanside gem definitely worth checking out. You can do that at 514 South Coast Highway Oceanside, visit www.themillerstable.com, call (442) 615-7200 and of course find them on Facebook and Instagram.