For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Monday, August 31, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Hot August Days and Nights

Shell Beach sunset on August 29. 
San Luis Obipso County's fiery month reached a glowing finish. 

Some of the August highlights—both good and bad—included 2,400 acres burning just south of Santa Margarita in the Cuesta Fire, a great white shark chomping on a woman's surfboard in Morro Strand State Beach, humpback whales feeding along the Central Coast, and scorching sunsets lighting up the sky. 

Hats off to the 1,800 brave firefighters who brought the fire to a halt. Kudos to the gutsy Los Osos resident who swam to shore after the feisty shark bit her surfboard. Thank you to the giant mammals who continue to entertain us. Gratitude for the opportunity to witness kaleidoscopic evening skylines. 

Following are a few of my photo highlights for this hot August month.
 (sorry, no shark pictures


August 1: The juvenile humpback whale that's been feeding around San Simeon Bay since mid-July lunged up right in front 
of me while I was standing on the pier. A moment I'll never forget.



August 5: The Morro Bay sunset seduced everyone in its wake with a red-hot sliver of color. 


August 13: "Junior" the whale couldn't get enough to eat in San Simeon. 


August 17: The Cuesta Fire fumed up the San Luis Obispo skyline. 


August 29: On my second great sailing adventure this summer, I witnessed the after effects of a giant 
humpback whale breaching near Avila Beach. Boom!


August 30: This complacent humpback whale danced along Cambria's Moonstone Beach. 
August ended on a very cool note. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer Corn Chowder Recipe

The 12th Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival 
This past weekend I braved the triple digit heat and headed to northern San Luis Obispo CountyAt the Paso Robles Olive Festival, held in Paso's Downtown City Park, this annual event brought a legion of farmers, olive oil producers and epicurean tasters together for a celebration of olive that's good. 

I paid homage to the khaki-colored fruit—born by the tree that has symbolized peace, wisdom and prosperity since ancient Greek times—by meandering through the park's booths of modern-day purveyors. 

My discerning pick of the day? 

The extra-virgin Arbequina oil produced by the family-owned ranch, Templeton Olive Oil. Cold pressed within hours of harvest, this bright olive oil was fresh and clean on the palate, peppery on the finish. I picked up a bottle and put it to good use. 

Following is a corn chowder recipe I devised that utilized this healthy, rich, buttery olive oil, along with Talley Farm's fresh sweet summer corn and some other savory veggies. Summer might be hot, hot, hot, but this seasonal dish is well worth heating up your stove for a few hours. 

CORN CHOWDER RECIPE
Serves 4 - 6

INGREDIENTS:

4 - 5 fresh ears of corn
1 1/2 - 2 cups red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 - 3 cups chopped carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1 large onion
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups half-n-half or cream 
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Chardonnay (optional if you don't consume alcohol)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
A few sprigs of Italian parsley
2 bay leaves 
Salt & pepper to taste

If you don't consume dairy products, feel free to omit the cream. Although adding dairy lends an extra depth of richness and transforms your dish from mere soup into chowder, the end result will be still be summery and delicious. 

DIRECTIONS:

STEP 1 
Shuck your fresh ears of corn, peeling away the husks and fibers. 



STEP 2
 Break the lower knob off the end of each cob. 
Hold cobs upright and securely in a large bowl. 
Slice downward and evenly to remove the kernels. 






STEP 3 
Set your corn kernels aside. 





STEP 4

Place the naked cobs, vegetable broth, 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of parsley, 
and some pepper into a large soup pot and bring to a boil. 
Place a lid on top, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. 




STEP 5

Remove the corn cobs and strain your fragrant,
 sweet broth into a glass bowl and set aside. 


STEP 6 

In your soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, 
and salt and pepper to taste. 
Sweat these veggies out, stirring frequently for 20 - 30 minutes, 
until the mixture starts to soften and slightly caramelize. 



STEP 7 
Deglaze the pan with the wine (or some of the broth), stirring frequently for a few minutes.


STEP 8 
Add the corn kernels and potatoes. 


STEP 9 
Add the broth, one bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, then stir. 
Kick up the heat to bring to a low boil. 
Let it roll uncovered for 20 - 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Don't forget to taste test along the way for seasonings!


STEP 10 
Turn the heat down to medium-low and get out your blender. 
Purée between three to four cups of the mixture and add back to the soup. 


STEP 11 
Add the cream (if desired) and simmer for about ten minutes. 
Taste again and adjust for seasonings. 


STEP 12 
Ladle up and enjoy the remainder of your summer!



Sunday, July 19, 2015

San Simeon Bay: Baby Humpback Whale

A baby humpback whale makes its debut in San Simeon Bay in July 2015.
The days of mid-1800's whaling are long since over in the town of San SimeonNowadays, whales still migrate along the Central Coast of California but are protected—as well as revered. 

Late last week I heard about a humpback whale and her calf who were spotted feeding in San Simeon Bay. I couldn't resist a trip up San Luis Obispo's northern coast to try and catch a glimpse of these magnificent mammals. 

Last Friday I showed up mid-morning at the William R. Hearst Memorial State Park and headed straight to San Simeon Pier. With my camera readied and my expectations high, I arrived to find a small crowd of onlookers peering out to the east side of the pier. Amidst the breaking fog and the local bird life, the juvenile humpback whale weaved its way in and out of kelp beds. 

Left in the safe enclave of the bay while its mother went out to sea, the young humpback followed schools of anchovy, and over the next several hours (I stayed until my camera battery went kaput) the 15 - 20 foot barnacled beauty circled around both sides of the pier, providing us human bystanders with the thrill of a lifetime. While standing on the pier, people came and went throughout the day, and I listened to languages spoken by visitors from all over the world. Every time we caught a glimpse of the whale reemerging, or bursting up out of the cool, clear water in a head lunge—the universal excitement and pure joy felt by everyone was unmistakable.

A day I'm sure none of us will ever forget, and a whale of a time. 



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Morro Bay: A Local Gadabout's Getaway

Morro Bay Harbor
Prior to my permanent move to San Luis Obispo County over a decade ago, I visited this coastal wonderland on many occasions. Although I no longer fit the bill of a tourist, I still consider myself a local sightseer. 

I work hard in order to live in here, and play hard by exploring SLO County's idyllic terrain. During my weekend outings I thrive discovering the Central Coast's regional avant-garde. 

But during summertime's high tourist season I often avoid certain venues, thinking to myself, "That's for the tourists." Until recently. 

Over the last few weeks, while roaming about the seaside community of Morro Bay, I abandoned my self-limiting beliefs long enough to realize: maybe the out-of-towners know something I don't. 

What did I find by following the crowd? A long line worth the wait and a fresh view of Morro Bay's harbor. 

If you fancy fish and chips, line up with the scores of tourists at Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley. Located on the heavily visited Embarcadero, this waterfront market sells fresh seafood, while its adjoining outdoor restaurant serves up maritime specialties like deep fried halibut and calamari, barbecued oysters, clam chowder, burgers and seafood sandwiches. Adults can bevy up with beer, wine and select mixed drinks; kids can keep happy with fish on a stick and fried oreos. 

I decided to wait in Giovanni's never-ending line to see what all the hype was about. While standing there for almost an hour, I stared out at the harbor—with glassy views of blue waters and the behemoth Morro Rock—listening intently to the the out-of-town couple in front of me. I learned they visit this fishmonger's establishment whenever visiting Morro Bay, and based on the number of people lined up before and after me, I got the impression many other visitors do the same. 

When I finally sat down with my order of fish and chips ($10.99), I squeezed a little fresh lemon over the top and eagerly dipped Givoanni's popular finger food into their tangy tartar sauce. My verdict? Hot and crispy. Fried to perfection. Well worth the wait.   

Lost Isle Adventure Tours

Once you've eaten the local sea life, explore the water. Believe it or not, Morro Bay has a Tiki boat—and you can hop aboard daily during the summer. With a dock located on the Embarcadero, Lost Isle Adventure Tours departs hourly, offering guests a 60-minute plen-air cruise around the harbor. 

Once aboard the Tiki boat, Lost Isle sells adult beverages (and hot chocolate for the kids), provides blankets in case guests catch a chill, and the captain jovially educates about local surroundings and wildlife. 

For my ten-dollar ticket, I thought the boat ride was a steal. We zipped around Morro Bay Harbor with other seafarers, watched sea otters float peacefully, listened to seals bark, and stopped off for brief exploration on the sand spit with a behind-the-scenes view of Morro Rock. 

If you decide to get lost on a tour, bring cash for the mixed drinks and a big smile for the boat ride. 
Explore your own surroundings like a gadabout!

Click here for more info:

Lost Isle Adventure Tours

Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Centrally Grown: San Luis Obispo County's Newest Gem

Sometimes you just need a place to unwind. The next time you're driving down California's Central Coast on Highway One, consider pulling off the road for a respite at Centrally Grown

Perched on a hill in the piney town of Cambria, this northern San Luis Obispo County gem plays host to a bakery, coffee bar, deli, natural gourmet foods market with locally sourced produce and goods, a bar and restaurant, as well as a general store where local artists sell their ware—all set amidst whimsical gardens, wooden sculptures, living earth structures, and a coastal view. 

I recently paid a visit to Centrally Grown, where I explored their curious grounds, indulged in a house-made boysenberry poptart topped with violets from their edible flower garden, and found myself not wanting to leave.

As the ocean air permeated the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains, the sun peeked out, the fog rolled in and out, and I leisurely strolled around, snapping dozens of pictures. Following is a video compilation of my exploration at Centrally Grown, which I hope inspires you to take a drive up SLO County's beautiful coastline and stop off for a little rest and relaxation.

I look forward to returning to this seaside mecca to soak up more Central Coast ambience...
...and you can be sure I'll post more of my adventures. 


A special thanks to audionautix.com for the use of their music in this video. 

Centrally Grown is located at 7432 Exotic Garden Drive in Cambria, California, directly off Highway One. 
Click here for more information.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Central Coast Sailing Charters

Central Coast Sailing Charters is located on Harford Pier in Avila Beach
Yesterday's late morning sail aboard Central Coast Sailing Charters could not have been better. The fog cleared, the skies beamed, the waters glistened, and the whales danced in Avila Beach. 

This past week several humpback whales have been following schools of fish around San Luis Obispo County's coastline, sharing waters with boats and kayakers while circling around Port San Luis Harbor.

When these majestic mammals show up in Avila, we never know how long they're going to grace us with their presence. I still remember the short-lived frenzy some of them caused in August 2012—when I stood on Harford Pier, watching in awe as beautiful humpbacks swam by an elated crowd of onlookers. 

This time I decided to observe the humpbacks from a different vantage point: aboard a 44-foot sailboat. I booked a ticket with Central Coast Sailing Charters and looked forward to a day of fun in the sun. 

Welcomed aboard the "Ocean Spirit" by Captain Mark, this two-and-a-half hour maritime adventure was pure bliss. The captain was gracious, knowledgeable about the locale, and kept a safe distance from the humpbacks. We sailed around in the pristine ocean air, enjoying each moment while catching glimpses of blowholes and breaches from enormous humpback whales. 

Following is a short video of my excursion with Central Coast Sailing Charters. I hope this summer you'll be able to hop on a boat, put your feet up, feel the sun on your face, and take in the local scene.




SAIL AWAY!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Peach Caprese Salad Recipe

It's that time of year again in San Luis Obispo County: peach madness! The fuzzy-skinned fruit is making its yearly debut at local farmers markets and I couldn't resist picking up a basketful for some culinary experimentation. 

Turns out, peaches pair beautifully with thick slices of tomatoes. Serve up this seasonal duo with fresh mozzarella and you've got a a fantastic caprese salad to serve as a side dish or vegetarian meal. Just slice, arrange on a platter, and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper, a drizzle of honey, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top off with some fresh herbs.

I don't know what else I'll be inspired to conjure up from SLO County's stone fruit crop this year, but for the time being, I'll enjoy this vibrant caprese salad that's simple, delicious, and full of seasonal flair. 


PEACH CAPRESE SALAD RECIPE
The secret to this recipe's presentation is using peaches and tomatoes that are ripe but still firm so that they don't fall apart when you slice them.


INGREDIENTS:

2 - 4 large peaches
2 - 4 medium tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley or basil
Drizzle each of honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle of salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cut peaches in half, remove pits, and slice into thick slabs. 
Slice the tomatoes in thick round pieces and thinly slice the mozzarella. 
Place alternating slices of peaches and tomatoes on a platter and top with sliced mozzarella.
Drizzle with honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, then sprinkle with fresh herbs. 

Couldn't be simpler to enjoy fresh, seasonal flavors!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Yosemite National Park: Glacier Point

Wildlife checking out the view at Glacier Point
Some aspirations are meant to stay on your bucket list. For me, visiting Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park remains on my list of things to do during my lifetime, long after my first visit. 

This majestic spot on the globe, where visitors stand 3,200 feet above California's Yosemite Valley, is absolutely sublime. With jaw dropping views of the Sierra Nevadas and the iconic granite formation of Half Dome, no matter how many times I travel to this vista, I always leave with a sense of exhilaration, an appreciation for the cosmos. 

We all have different ambitions, but it's hard for me to imagine anyone who wouldn't want to visit Glacier Point. What's on your life's checklist of aspirations? And which ones are worth accomplishing again and again? I hope you enjoy the video below of my recent trip to this high mountain mecca. 



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Morro Bay Kite Festival

A spirited day at the Morro Bay Kite Festival 
Last weekend the weather gods smiled upon San Luis Obispo County. 

Much needed rain eclipsed Saturday's skies, a bright blue horizon spiffed up Sunday's skyline, and both days sported plenty of wind. All in all? A splendid weekend for Morro Bay's annual kite festival.

This flitting event— held each year on the beach near the State Historic Landmark of Morro Rock— gave children and adults a chance to enjoy some old-fashioned fun amidst spring's blustery winds and the ocean's swell. 

Kites soared, waves crashed, and everyone looked like they were having fun, fun, fun. 



Check out my video below for a glimpse of this once-a-year, windswept festivity. 



Sunday, April 19, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Spring has Sprung

Spring wildflowers in Montana de Oro.

The late actor Robin Williams is credited with the maxim: Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!' 

Spring has sprung along the California Central Coast and seasonal events are off to a roaring good start. The weather is warm, the surf is up, the merrymaking is contagious. 

This is the time of year when San Luis Obispo County celebrates spring wind, ocean swell, and local flavors. Click on the links below to learn more about SLO County festivities taking place over the next few weeks that are well timed but short lived. 

Let's get the party started! 
















A beautiful spring morning in Morro Bay. Seize the day!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

25th Annual Roll Out the Barrels: Sextant Wines

Navigating your way through San Luis Obispo County wineries isn't always easy. With more than 200 choices, where do you begin?

Sometimes you need a local event to help steer you in a particular direction. This weekend I looked to SLO Wine Country's month-long 25th Annual Roll Out the Barrels event line-up for guidance. My choice was clear: Sextant Wines

Over the past two days, Sextant's charming Edna Valley tasting room laid the course for tasters with a selection of varietals from both their Paso Robles and Edna Valley vineyards. Paired with cheese and chocolate, their special weekend-only wine flight took guests to the horizons of the Central Coast. 

Here's a look at what was at the helm of Sextant's tasting lineup. 


2012 Sextant Edna Valley Chardonnay ($25.00)
Edna Valley, MacGregor Vineyard
Paired with Seascape, a Paso Robles cow and goat milk cheddar
This gratifying chardonnay tasted like a mouthful of tart, crisp green apples.

2013 Sextant San Lucia Highlands Chardonnay ($28.00)
Santa Lucia Highlands—Monterey, Sarmento Vineyard
Paired with mango-ginger Stilton, a crumbly English cow's milk cheese
Crafted from grapes grown in the renowned Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard in Monterey County, this chardonnay's bracing acidity cut right through the wild, sweet mango-ginger Stilton.

2013 Windemere Premiere Cuvee Pinot Noir ($25.00)
Edna Valley, MacGregor Vineyard & Aubaine Vineyard
Paired with Appenzeller, a farmstead Swiss cow's milk cheese
Think of a basket full of summer strawberries. Time for a sip. 


2013 Sextant Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($25.00)
Santa Lucia Highlands—Monterey, Sarmento Vineyards
Paired with Beaufort, a French mountain cow's milk cheese
Dark cherries met lavender in this oh-so-luscious pinot noir. Paired with alpine cheese that tasted so fresh I could almost smell the mountain grass, this marrying of flavors was a superb match.

2012 Sextant X-Series See Canyon Syrah ($34.00)
See Canyon, Creek Side Farms
Paired with Beemster XO, a 28-month aged Dutch cow's milk Gouda
Looking juicy in the glass, this cool-climate syrah hinted of cranberries and chocolate, which cut nicely through the nutty, caramel nuances of the aged Gouda cheese. 

2011 Sextant "Passage" Syrah based GSM blend ($45.00)
Paso Robles, Estate El Pomar Vineyard
Paired with a decadent chocolate truffle
One of Sextant's friendly tasting room attendants informed me that this Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend was not really a GSM. Its makeup consisted of 68% grenache, 20% syrah, and 12% petite sirah. The addition of petite sirah added to this blend's dark, inky allure. 

Click here for more information about Sextant Wine's tasting rooms in the Paso Robles and Edna Valley wine regions.

 Click here to navigate your choice of special events taking place during April for SLO Wine Country's 25th Annual Roll Out the Barrels extravaganza.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SLO Wine Country's 25th Annual Roll Out the Barrels

A spring view of the Edna Valley region and the Santa Lucia Mountains. 
April 1 isn't just for pranksters. This year, the day of fools belongs to oenophiles and locavores in San Luis Obispo County.

SLO Wine Country's 25th Annual Roll Out the Barrels begins on the first day of April, kicking off a month-long celebration of their member wineries' special events. Throughout the month, residents and visitors can eat and drink SLO-style, visiting wineries in San Luis Obispo and the Edna Valley region for vinous festivities like comparative tastings, vineyard tours, barrel sampling, a farm-to-vineyard luncheon, a blending seminar, and a bottling run demonstration. 

The spirited event culminates at the end of April with their annual Barrels in Mission Plaza in downtown SLO, where wineries and local chefs playfully pair festive bites and sips. The next evening their collaborative winemaker dinner at a local restaurant features the region's cool-climate varietals like chardonnay and pinot noir. 

I won't give away all of the upcoming shenanigans, so click here to visit SLO Wine Country's website for their entire event line-up. 

Eat and drink playfully all month long—like a slocal!



A glimpse in time of the San Luis Obispo/Edna Valley vineyards last fall.
Regardless of the season, this spirited area of the globe is no joke. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Islay Hill Wildflowers

In the midst of the drought and recent heat wave, San Luis Obispo County's velvet green hills are fading fast. But in spite of this unusual summer-like weather, spring wildflowers are thriving. 

This past weekend I traipsed up the open space trail on Islay Hill—the dome-shaped volcanic plug that lies just a few miles south of downtown SLO—and passed by parched wild grasses that practically screamed for water. But as the dusty pathway wound steeply around the hillside, spring beckoned. 

Patches of vibrant wildflowers carpeted various niches of the landscape, providing plenty of reasons to stop and stare, point and shoot. I captured a few glimpses of this kaleidoscopic moment in time.

This seasonal oasis of colors will be gone all too soon. Enjoy it while you can!

A shadier spot on the north side of Islay Hill provides the perfect growing grounds for lush grass and colorful wildflowers. 


Just about every color of the rainbow is currently thriving on Islay Hill. 


All shapes and sizes of seasonal blooms line the pathways. 


The blue-purple lupines are divine, but will be gone too soon. 


For more information about Islay Hill and how to get there, click here



"May all your weeds be wildflowers." ~Author Unkown

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