Quail State creates new downtown Fresno hangout

Fresno’s newest rooftop bar and restaurant, is changing the way Fresno and Clovis think about hanging out. And its impact is immediate. With full-service dining and original craft cocktails on the menu, reservations are already highly suggested.

Quail State Fresno is a place where locals gather and assemble with friends or a place to make new ones. Currently open for street-level patio seating of the Pacific Southwest Building in downtown Fresno, Fresno’s newest vibe on the corner Mariposa and Fulton avenues is a controlled rockin’ street party.

While educating its patrons has importance, co-owner Josh Islas says Quail State’s vibe has everything to do with creating a great place to hang out with good community people, a staff who has impeccable attention to detail. 

Islas says Quail State is a neighborhood hospitality junction and does not focus just on being a wine or cocktail bar. 

“I want people to come here to feel cared for, taken care of and loved,” Islas said during an interview with me in the rooftop bar, March 31. “Hospitality, attention to detail, stellar drinks and incredible food are what set us a part.”

With Executive Chef Matthew Lee in the kitchen, Josh crafts cocktails from the Quail State’s rooftop bar, Fresno’s first.

“I believe we can help create the night life we all want downtown. I think there is no such thing as being ready for new things. People from New York, L.A., or San Francisco may ask, ‘Are you sure Fresno is ready for this?’ Of course we are.” — Josh Islas, Quail State co-owner

After working in award-winning restaurants in So. Cal, Quail State co-owner Josh Islas has opened his own Fresno rooftop restaurant and bar in Downtown.

Since 2016, Islas and co-owner and wife, Hayley Islas-Wolf, have been envisioning a Downtown Fresno rooftop location and finally settled on the corner of Fulton and Mariposa, beginning renovations in June 2020.

“I chose a building that is the most iconic to start something successful in,” Josh said. “And while COVID-19 slightly delayed where I thought I’d be today, I think it has been a blessing in disguise.”

Born and raised in Fresno for 20 years, Josh moved to Southern California for 10 years where he worked in cafes and a variety of award-winning restaurants and bars. Through watching and actively working, he saw what worked, and what didn’t work, in the hospitality industry. 

Why downtown Fresno?

“I believe that downtown Fresno is the only top 50 cities [sic] in the nation with no thriving downtown, and that is an abomination to me,” Islas said. “People have said for years and years and years, ‘We need to invest in downtown’. I believe that change comes from the inside and I am tired of people from all over Fresno bag on their own city.”

Islas and his wife both said they take pride in Fresno, and want to be a part of something that Lee and others are proud of.

Chef Lee, former executive sous chef at Botega Italian Restaurant in Napa and Exectutive Chef at Taste Craft Eatery in Paso Robles, designed the menu. Quail State is currently without a full kitchen for its dinner service. However, seeing a creative solution, Lee sought the kitchen of Cocina de Mama, which conveniently only serves for breakfast and lunch, across the street and creates his original dinner menu from there. All of the produce, meats and dairy are prepared from local Central Valley partners.

The Quail State team is already in go-mode despite the pandemic.

Co-owner Hayley Islas-Wolf joins her husband, Josh, to create a bar which specializes in craft cocktails and natural wine.

“Customers keep restaurants and bars popular by coming back,” Islas said, “by writing stellar reviews of staff, atmosphere, chefs, food and drink. I already know our loyal customers continue to return because the staff is welcoming, caring.”

His’s eyes and voice spoke with passion as Islas said he methodically hired a staff that gives back to their customers and community.

“My staff demonstrates they care about providing a legitimate, welcoming atmosphere,” Islas continued. “It’s all about customer service. Without it, you’re not going to last in this industry.”

Future forward — 

As he looks ahead for the next year, assuming COVID-19 continues to wane, Islas believes Quail State will continue to grow. Only open currently for craft cocktails and select natural wines, he said he’s hopeful their proposed full wine bar will be completed by July 2021. However, both co-owners have much bigger plans.

“By next year, I hope to open a second full restaurant and bar in a nearby location,” Islas said. “And as that builds out, I plan on opening a couple more, all in the downtown area. All will be a wine, bar, and restaurant concept.”

Currently, downtown Fresno has only two bar concepts: The Modernist and Quail State. Islas says that is not enough to change the downtown district. According to Islas, he believes Fresno has been a beer city for at least 10 years and now is the time to add cocktail locations to the city.

“I believe we can help create the night life we want downtown,” Islas continued. “I think there is no such thing as being ready for new things. People from New York, L.A. or San Francisco may ask ‘Are you sure Fresno is ready for this?’ Of course we are. Give Fresno more credit.”

Quail State’s Brunch is back! Quail State is now offering two brunch seatings every Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are live!

Thanks to its rich history, The San Joaquin Valley is linguistically diverse with and estimated 40 languages spoken, and is home to cultures representing the globe – each brings with them their own vibrant flavors and unique history. Quail State is striving to celebrate the things that make local dishes different by using fresh, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients to create cocktails and food inspired by the people who call Fresno home.

After tasting through a few of meticulously crafted drinks and expertly prepared dishes, I want to be one who returns and root for the locals who are reimagining downtown Fresno.

“If you are looking to bring someone to downtown Fresno, the only thing holding you back is you,” Islas said. “Know yourself, know who you are talking to, know your market, your clientele and execute your vision faithfully. This is what we are doing at Quail State.”

For those who want to delve deeper, the Quail State website is chocked full of agave, gin, rum and whiskey reviews as well offering ongoing education for bartenders and enthusiasts alike. Check out the popular “Whiskeys of The World” class, as well as mezcal, gin, and rum tasting events.

Fill out a form to learn more about participating in their specialty classes ranging from bartending basics, advanced bartending techniques, and mixology theory.

Those ready to check out Islas’ craft cocktails can do so via QuailStateFresno.com. Make reservations for a table Wednesday through Sunday to enjoy their selection of craft cocktails, natural wine, California beers, and farm-to-table food. A take out menu is also available.

Be sure to return to TalesoftheCork at a later date for a food, cocktail, and wine review.

In the following quick video, Josh Islas creates a craft cocktail called Left Hand.

Josh Islas put the finishing touches on this Quail State Left Hand craft cocktail creation.

Visit Quail State Fresno in downtown Fresno: 1060 Fulton Mall, Suite 201, Fresno, CA 93721.
They can be reached by phone: 559-999-7727

For reservations, use the RESY system to claim your table via https://quailstatefresno.com.

Be sure to visit TalesoftheCork on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Contact Greg Stobbe at talesofthecork@gmail.com for collaborations and inquiries.

TalesoftheCork Mango Margarita

Fresh-squeezed juice is the key to a stunning margarita. Toss the fake mix, spend time juicing, and rock the party with this TalesoftheCork mango margarita recipe.

Adding mango purée, or any fruit, adds depth and interest. Photo: TalesoftheCork

Items needed:

Blender, cocktail shaker, juicer

· 1 Mango
· 1 Orange
· 1 Grapefruit
· 4-6 limes
· Blue agave
· Tequila (I use Leyendal del Milagro)
· Orange liqueur (I prefer Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
· Ice

· Thai chili or jalapeño slices)
· Rim glass with lime & salt (I don’t)
· Mint or Thai basil for garnish

For two (with top offs) citrus and TalesoftheCork mango margaritas:

Juice a large orange, grapefruit and 4-6 limes.

Important —
· Squeeze citrus juice into separate cups.

Peel a soft, ripe mango, roughly chop, and purée. Set aside.

Of course shake, don’t stir.

Please taste before serving to make any adjustments to your liking. I find that limes are inconsistent with their potency, and are sometimes weak or strong in flavor. Double or triple the portions for more mango margarita servings.

Pour. Add Thai chili or jalapeño, garnish.

Sip, share, sip, enjoy.

Take a photo of your TalesoftheCork mango margarita and tag/hashtag @talesofthecork, #TalesoftheCork on Instagram, twitter and/or Facebook. I would love to see your creation.

Hot outside? Love me some Passaggio Rosé

When I first met winemaker Cynthia Cosco a couple of years ago in San Francisco, I immediately felt she was someone I wanted to follow. Her affiliation with DogPatch Wine Works in San Francisco, an urban wine group, helped cement my affiliation.

Passaggio with Greg
While I live in the Central Valley, I can still get out to visit Sonoma County wineries a few times a year. Passaggio winemaker and owner Cynthia Cosco met me at her Sonoma Square tasting room a few months ago.

While I sometimes feel a loss for not accomplishing my dreams yet, I am inspired by those who have risked much for a dream in pursuit of their passion. Yesterday, as I sat in my pool, sipping the last of my 2014 Passaggio Wine Tempranillo Rose, my thoughts turned to Cynthia.

Cynthia’s story and Passaggio Wines are now a well-known commodity to Sonoma winophiles (Video). After a 15-year career in law enforcement, she sought to reconnect to her Italian family tradition of winemakers and pursued the passion in 2004 at BevMo of all places.

By 2007 she was making her own wine while working for CrushPad in Napa and later in Sonoma while becoming their lead winemaker in 2011. She introduced her brand in 2012 and now has a tasting room in the Sonoma Square.

Cynthia’s participation in community events, promotion of other winemakers via twitter chats and her encouraging demeanor is infectious. And while I continue to reinvent myself, a transition from full-time journalism teacher to social media and reputation management specialist to a passion for food and wine, I am inspired by people like Cynthia who dream and day-by-day step out, risk and pursue a a vision.

While I finished my 2014 Passaggio Tempranillo Rose, their tasting room as both the 2015 version as well as one created from Merlot. Both are excellent pool and food wines.

So while I sip Passaggio 2014 Tempranillo, the wild strawberry, watermelon, raspberry and dry savory notes linger. It’s crisp flavors are great alone or with a poolside food bite. But that is old news. The 2015 version is for sale with slightly different flavors as vineyard, weather and winemaker all adjust character, combined with past experiences and focus.

Heck, I understand the 2015 Passaggio Merlot Rose is delicious. While I missed the #WineStudio Sonoma Rosé Revolution Twitter chat on June 7 while I was in Italy, I know I missed good conversation. I need to stop into her tasting room and try a bottle and reconnect with Cynthia.

And if you get to Sonoma Square before I do, please tell her and tasting room manager Frank, I said hi.

Passaggio Wines is open every day of the week. They can be found in the Sonoma Square. Their tasting room is at 25 East Napa St, Suite C, Sonoma, CA 95476. Phone: (707) 934-8941 and email: info@passaggiowines.com. They are open Monday-Thursday, noon- 6 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.


If you missed my last post, check out the August 16, 2015, post, Beat the heat with cool Gazpacho, Medlock Ames Rosé. After 10 months of darkness, TalesoftheCork is ready to resume regular postings. Please check back and repost.

And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Beat the heat with cool Gazpacho, Medlock Ames Rosé

With temperatures well over 100F this week, we are creating simpler meals to feed us but promote cool plates and quieter ovens.

Our evening began away from the table for a quick sip of a Medlock Ames 2013 Alexander Valley Bell Mountain Estate #Rose, Sonoma County. I love taking a moment to relax for a few minutes with a sip of Rose before dinner by the pool.

Medlock Ames is an estate fine wine producer located in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California. Started in 1998 by friends Chris James and Ames Morison, their boutique winery and ranch produces high quality, artisan wines that are organically farmed and the methods include 100% solar-powered and advocate progressive, creative farming. They are tucked away at the edge of Alexander Valley atop Bell Mountain. You can find the Medlock Ames tasting room in a century-old landmark Alexander Valley Store & Bar via 3487 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Call them at 707.431.8845 or use email:info@medlockames.com. They are also on Twitter and Instagram.

While this is not their best effort, I am trying the Medlock Ames 2013 a year after release. However, the Medlock Ames 2013 Rose has yummy aromas of strawberries, watermelon and spice. It’s crisp, dry and has a slight tangy finish. I know their 2014 is even better so make sure to check in with their latest offering.

Our first entrée was summer soup: homemade chilled Gazpacho. We shopped the local farmers market for fresh heirloom and plum tomatoes, a red pepper, cucumber, two celery sticks, a red onion, basil, and a jalapeño. Later we added red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar, cracked salt and pepper (all to taste). One of the keys to a create cold tomato-based soup is fresh ingredients and to add and subtract based on your palate. Chop into larger pieces but let the blender do the work as you blend the ingredients to a smooth consistency.

While dinners don’t need fancy plates, we purchased these bright melamine summer-colored dinners on clearance at Sur la Table. They seem to add a ‘pop’ to a TalesoftheCork meal.

Place blended mixture in a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours before service.

In the meantime, we created a garlic cream to drizzle over top before eating. We added 1/3 cup (100cc) of whipping or heavy cream, mince and swirled in three chopped cloves of garlic. Place in a cooler for an hour, bring to room temperature and pass the cream through a sieve before dripping on the surface of the Gazpacho.

For a crunch while chilling with the Gazpacho, we also made herbed-garlic croutons–day old sourdough, baguette or Batard are best. Chop into good size pieces, coat in good olive oil and minced garlic, add a sprinkle of Italian herbs, salt and pepper and toast in a 350F oven for 15 minutes.

Wait until just before service before adding the garnished basil, cream garlic drizzle and herbed-garlic croutons. This adds interest and adds flare to the presentation as well as to the overall taste.

It sounds involved, but this really is super easy! 😎

For the second entree, some prep is also needed but simple in nature. Two hours before, Geena prepared a tomato confit. This entails boiling whole plum tomatoes for 20 seconds then removing their skins. Then she halved the tomatoes, removed the seeds and drizzled them in a pan with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt and peeper and roasted them at 250F for two hours.

The 3-cheese grilled sourdough sandwich includes Havarti, Gruyere, and an aged white cheddar. Grilled peaches are wonderful summer snacks, fresh fruit option with fresh figs and/or a dessert.

The tomato confit was then added to already melted three-cheese grilled sourdough open sandwiches. We used Havarti, Gruyere, and aged white cheddar. Add a little butter to the outside of the bread to give the closed sandwich its golden color and crisp characteristics.

Meanwhile I fired up the BBQ with some wood and briquettes to grill our fruit (dessert if I could be patient). After cutting the peaches in half, I brushed them will olive oil, Grand Marnier, and a dab of butter, grilling them on each side off the flame for three to five minutes a side depending on how hot your grill is. I finished with a sprinkle of raw sugar on each half, grilling to caramelize and get the classic grill marks.

We finished the plate with halved Mission and Tiger figs–raw–and added a glass of sparkling Pellegrino. A TalesoftheCork summer dinner to keep cool but still feel like you ate well.

If you missed my last post, check out the August 4, 2015, post, Grilled salmon, peaches and Cardwell Hill Pinot.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (@Talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Grilled salmon, peaches and Cardwell Hill Pinot

With just a little forethought, tonight’s dinner is easily accomplished. Geena and I are getting back to meal planning on Sundays and with a grocery, meat and fish list, great meals are really only 30 minutes of prep time.

Grilled salmon and peaches is quick. Just brush both with olive oil. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.
Grilled salmon and peaches is a 30-minute prep meal. Begin by brushing both with olive oil and let them come to room temperature. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.

Plan to stop and pick up salmon on the way home from work. You will also need two peaches, quinoa, mint, a couple of carrots, celery, cucumber, asparagus and plain yogurt.

Dinner tonight: Grilled spiced salmon with homemade raita dressing, quinoa, roasted asparagus with Romano cheese and grilled peaches.

The trick to great salmon is brushing it with olive oil, adding cracked pepper and a touch of salt. Lightly drip olive oil over the peaches, add Allspice and drizzle (the secret ingredient) Grand Marnier before grilling.

The salmon takes about 8 minutes while the peaches about 6 minutes. It is a good idea to sear both but then grill them off the heat and bake them, allowing the wood and briquets to fill the BBQ with its great smokey flavors.

Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

A great, healthy addition to this meal is quinoa. We added chopped celery and carrots to the quinoa at the very end to add a crunch and to ensure they stay crispy. The sauce or dressing on the grilled salmon is a homemade raita dressing. The cucumber dressing is a favorite in India and is built on a plain yogurt base. Add garlic, shredded cucumber, mint, cracked pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

It is a good idea to refrigerate this mixture for an hour before adding to the grilled salmon. The raita is a great topping as its crisp acidity adds interest to the rich flavor of the salmon. This works well with the spice and smokey char of the grilled fish.

This one dish meal is perfect with a Pinot Noir. We chose Cardwell Hill Cellars 2008 Reserve Estate Willamette Valley in Oregon. Contrary to what others have said online, this Pinot is a winner. I imagine it just needed more time in the bottle to “grow up.” This is a three-clone French-style Pinot Noir: Silky smooth, dark bing cherry earthiness and spice with vanilla and caramel notes. So pretty, light and clean. This can easily be enjoyed by itself or with grilled fish, roast chicken and pork chops. Loved it!

If you missed my last post, check out the August 4, 2015 post, Grilled shrimp appetizers and Cooper Rose.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.