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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2015 Central Coast Craft Beer Week

A few of Bang the Drum Brewery's invigorating creations. 
San Luis Obispo County might boast over 300 wineries, but beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world.

The California Central Coast is home to several craft breweries, and over a dozen of them have proudly banded together to form the Central Coast Brewers Consortium. Today this community of brewers kicked off Central Coast Craft Beer Week, an eight-day celebration of local suds.

From northern San Luis Obispo County all the way down to Buellton in Santa Barbara County, this week beer geeks can swig and swill at events like tap takeovers and beer dinners. Click here for a complete schedule of events.

In celebration of SLO County's locally-brewed beers, this afternoon I visited the ever-popular Bang the Drum Brewery for a taste of some of their fermented creations. I found this watering hole comfortable and relaxed, the customer service friendly and knowledgeable, and the selection of beers spirited and tasty.

Celebrate the innovative!

Bang the Drum Brewery is located at 950 Orcutt Road in San Luis Obispo

Open every day except Tuesday, follow them on facebook for live music and special event updates throughout the week. 

 Sip inside or outside; it's all good!

When you visit Bang the Drum Brewery, consider choosing four samplers of their recently-brewed beers. My selection included the French-style Saison (I didn't catch the alcohol content but can report that the nuances were light and citrusy), the El Dorado Pale Ale (5.2% with light hops and a grapefruit finish), the White Stout (7.3% with a deceptive light appearance yet bold coffee nose and taste), and the Draca—a chipotle smoked porter (5.6% that reminisced of chewy cacao nibs and a smoky finish).

See you on the local beer trail!


Sunday, March 8, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Boucher Trail


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that the earth laughs in flowers. 

San Luis Obispo County is currently grinning from land to sea, with splashes of wildflowers springing up everywhere. Over the weekend I went in search of these sprightly blossoms along the Boucher Trail. 

Located on Highway One, just a few miles north of San Simeon near the Elephant Seal Rookery, this coastal trail winds along the bluffs near the highway, leading to the Piedras Blancas Light Station

Along this 3-mile out-and-back hike, wispy grasses blanket the landscape, the ocean laps against the rugged coastline, and the Northern Elephant Seals take refuge in the protected coves. During this exceptional time of year, wildflowers begin their golden ascent.

With SLO County's recent warm winter weather, now is the perfect time to get out for some fresh air, explore the California Central Coast, and enjoy a few splashes of color. 

Guaranteed to make you smile!
Boucher Trail's entrance is located directly on Highway One, about four miles past the entrance to Hearst Castle. 
Park in the northernmost lot of the Elephant Seal Rookery and look for this sign at the trail's entrance.  


The hike is mostly flat, well marked, and easy to follow. 


On a clear day, it's easy to spot the Piedras Blancas Light Station
The lighthouse dates back to the late 1800s and guided tours allow access on certain days. 


This time of year, cheerful pops of color adorn the coastal slopes. 


The Santa Lucia Mountains loom in the distance, and friendly critters like this white crowned sparrow live in this pristine habitat. 


Throughout the year, thousands of elephant seals breed, birth, molt, and rest along these protected California Central Coast shores. 

Wildflowers and waves: The planet is laughing out loud!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival: Turning 21!

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) is coming of age. This year they turn 21, and from March 10 - 15, they'll celebrate throughout the county with film, wine and fun.  

Whether you live in SLO County or somewhere beyond, here are my top 21 reasons why you don't want to miss this year's festival. 

1. Movies matter. The SLOIFF screens documentaries, dramas, classics, narrative features, short films, animation and more, providing moments of laughter, sadness, fear, wonder and enlightenment on the big screen.

2. The festival is down to earth. Sure, their special events are full of glitz and glam and special celebrity guests, but SLO County's laid-back vibe always shines through.  

3. Ticket prices are affordable. Forget the high-priced tinsel-town film festivals, the SLOIFF offers a variety of tickets and passes ranging from $12 - $285. 

4. The focus is sharply on the filmmakers. Dozens of movies are screened throughout the festival. Filmmakers provide real-life insight by attending many of the screenings and engaging in Q&A's with the audience. 

5. SLO County spans over 80 miles of coastline. Whether you're in need of a vacation or staycation, the California Central Coast is a real-life Shangri-la, brimming with unspoiled beaches. Catch a movie and an ocean sunset! 

6. You can't beat the local Mediterranean climate. If you're currently stuck in a blizzard: there's hope. SLO County's temperate weather offers a reprieve from harsh weather conditions.

7. Movies and events take place countywide. From Paso Robles to Atascadero, to Avila and Pismo Beach, to downtown San Luis Obispo, several movie theaters and venues host festival screenings and events, providing plenty of opportunities to explore the region.

8. There's an abundance of wine. SLO County boasts over 280 wineries—maybe even more; I've lost track. Get out for a taste!

9. You won't go away hungry. The farm-to-table movement is alive and well in San Luis Obispo. Restaurants all over the county incorporate fresh, local fare into their menus. 


10. The festival kicks off with a coming-of-age Opening Night.  On Tuesday, March 10, local hot spot Luna Red will host SLOIFF's spirited Opening Night reception in downtown SLO. Following is a screening of the coming-of-age film "The Road Within," starring Dev Patel, Robert Sheehan, and Zoe Kravitz at the majestic Fremont Theatre. Special guests from the movie will be in attendance.

11. Their high-energy Surf Nite in SLO is in its 10th year. "Hollywood Don't Surf" and "Big Wednesday" screen at the Fremont Theatre on Thursday, March 12, with some big names in surfing bringing down the house for a Q&A and after-party. The SLOIFF's 4th Annual Spotlight Award will be presented to writer/director John Milius. 

Me with actor James Cromwell.
12. Did I mention the wine? The documentary "Red Obsession," which explores the Bordeaux wine phenomenon, will screen at Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles on Thursday, March 12. The pre-screening reception includes appetizers made by the winery's in-house chef, and wine tasting sponsored by the SLO Wine Country Association. 

13. The SLOIFF and Friends of Hearst Castle are making history this year. On Friday, March 13, Orson Welles' controversial film, "Citizen Kane," will screen for the first time ever in Hearst Castle's decadent Hilltop Theater. Special guests will be in attendance—and yes, this event is already sold out. 

14. You don't want to miss the Special Presentation Films. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 80s hit coming-of-age movie, "The Breakfast Club." As one of this year's Special Presentation Films, the SLOIFF pays tribute to the late director John Hughes with a screening of his iconic film at the Fremont Theatre on Friday, March 13. A Q&A with film critic Kirk Honeycutt and other special guests will follow. 

15. No other film festival presents a King Vidor Award. On the evening of Saturday, March 14, which celebrity will take home the coveted King Vidor Award? Stay tuned for the festival's big announcement. 

16. You have the golden opportunity to learn from industry experts in Behind the Scenes Workshops/Panels. Over the festival weekend, a professional actor will offer acting classes for kids and adults, a visual effects experts will share secrets for creating the perfect scene, visiting filmmakers will educate guests with their real-life stories of making films, and a Warner Bros. restoration expert will share his story of bringing a lost film to pristine condition. 

17. The Movie Mogul pass let's you do it all. If you purchase a Movie Mogul pass ($285), not only do you have access to all of the festival's screenings, receptions, workshops/panels, and all VIP receptions (excluding the Hearst Castle events), you'll receive the SLOIFF 2015 Tasting Pass, valid at participating SLO County wineries. 

18. The festival staff and volunteers put on a world-class event. With only two paid staff members, a hard-working board, and a team of dedicated volunteers, what an amazing feat they pull off every year.  

19. SLO County's generosity is contagious. This festival couldn't happen without the generous support of its sponsors. Whether you live here or visit, you can't help but notice the community spirit.  

20. The SLOIFF has truly come of age. I've attended this film festival for many years and watched it evolve over time. I've said this before and I'll say it again: The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival just keeps getting better and better with each passing year. 

21. The festival is truly a feast for the senses. Film, wine and fun in SLO County. Need I say more?




One of San Luis Obispo County's spectacular Cambria sunsets in February.
The Edna Valley region's wine country shining bright in January.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SLO Cooked Beef Burgundy Recipe

Shell Beach sunset, a few days before the rain. 
For those of you who know me well, you probably understand that I never follow a recipe to the tee. Where's the fun in that? My current philosophy about cooking is simple: embrace the basics of any recipe and make it your own. 

When I feel like throwing together a particular dish, I peruse dozens of other recipes and let my creative juices flow. I rely heavily on local ingredients from San Luis Obispo County and then let loose in the kitchen. 

This week's culinary experiment is heavily influenced by beef bourguignon, the classic French dish commonly known as beef Burgundy. The warm, rich flavors of bacon, beef, onions, carrots, mushrooms, thyme and red wine gently simmer together in the slow cooker, making this beef stew the perfect accompaniment for a rainy or snowy day.

SLO County received a fair share of much needed rain over the weekend and this recipe hit the spot. I hope you'll be inspired to brew up this dish in your own style...in your own part of the world. 

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy Recipe
Serves 2 - 4

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cubed
1/2 pounds thick cut bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
3 large carrots, chunked 
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups red wine, pluse 1/2 cup reserved
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped


A word to the wise when creating this meal: You don't have to use a Burgundy varietal. Incorporate a red wine that you like to drink. 
I opened up a jammy SLO County syrah, bottled by Castoro Cellars. 

Instructions:

Cook bacon until slightly crispy and fat is rendered. Place bacon and fat in two separate bowls.

While bacon is cooking, prep your vegetables. 


Once your veggies are chopped, add 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat to a large saute pan and sweat the onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic with the thyme, salt and pepper for about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste, stir, and turn the slow cooker on low. 
Add the veggie mixture to the slow cooker.

Heat up the pan you cooked the bacon in, add a drizzle of the bacon fat, and salt & pepper the stew meat. Lightly brown the beef in batches. 


Cook each side of the meat for 1 - 2 minutes then transfer to the slow cooker. When you're finished cooking the beef, add 1/2 cup red wine to the pan, stir to deglaze, then pour into the slow cooker. 



Add the remaining wine, beef broth and bay leaves to the slow cooker. 
Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Then uncover, stir, taste, and adjust for seasonings. Cover and cook for up to two more hours if desired, until beef is fork tender. 


I served this savory meal atop egg noodles. Mashed potatoes, rice, or thick toasted slabs of French bread would be equally delicious enhancements. 
 Douse with fresh Italian parsley.

Pour a glass of SLO County wine and dig in. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

2015 San Luis Obispo County Events


It's never been easier to plan your annual SLO County fun and frolic.

Visit San Luis Obispo County's 2015 Community Event Directory is up and running, providing a monthly breakdown of regional festivals and special events. 

Want to find out more? Click here to take a look at their all-encompassing guide. 

One thing's for sure: in SLO County we celebrate just about everything. 

The last day of January 2015 went off with a splash in Montaña de Oro



Sunday, January 25, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Warm January Weather


I know what I previously said: I'm supposed to be taking a break from blogging. 

But today's weather...and colors...were extraordinary in San Luis Obispo County. I can't help but share. 

Following is my day's picture memoir that reflects the colors of this warm winter's day. 

Enjoy. 

Early morning pink undertones reflecting in Morro Bay


Late morning colors beaming in Cambria. 

Cambria waves clattering and wisping.

 San Simeon Piedras Blancas Lighthouse shining bright. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SLO Hiatus


I'm taking a break—from my blog. 

As I pursue new interests in San Luis Obispo County, I intend to return to the screen in a few months with a renewed outlook. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to let me know what types of stories you'd like to see here. 

Until we meet again, I hope your trails are happy and your views are bright. 

A stunning winter sunset over Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: BRING IT ON!

2014 is going, going, gone. Although the last twelve months feel like a blur, a few moments from this past year stand out in the grand scheme of life's ups and downs. 

I will never forget meeting the "Dude" himself, actor Jeff Bridges, after both of us received awards at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. 

I will forever miss my beloved grandmother and younger cousin who passed away last year. Both taught me lessons I will carry forever and signs from the Universe continue to remind me that their energy is still with us. 

I will always remember how my heart skipped a beat when I found out my sister gave birth to a girl—a sweet, precious addition to our family. 

And I will never forget how throughout the year, our family, along with the rest of the country, followed the epic triumphs and tribulations of my aunt and uncle's racehorse, California Chrome.

I am ready for 2015 and look forward to more of life's great adventures and lessons. I have no resolutions other than these simple words of advice: I will do something every single day that will make every single tomorrow better. 


Bring on the new year!


Last June I traveled to New York along with several other family members to watch 
California Chrome vie for the Triple Crown of horse racing. 
A remarkable adventure—during an epic year—that I will never forget. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pismo Beach: Old West Cinnamon Rolls

Several months ago one of my blog readers posed a question I couldn't answer: where to find the best cinnamon rolls in San Luis Obispo County. Since I gave up sweets years ago, I had no idea. 

So I asked around. I passed the question along to friends on a social networking site and the vote was unanimous: Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach. 

Since then I've stopped by Old West a few times to taste test. I now understand why this beach town bakery is such a hit with locals and visitors. Their thick, not-too-sweet sticky rolls are worth a trip to the California Central Coast. 

This morning I rose early to stand on Pismo Pier and catch the fiery sunrise. Then I traipsed over a few blocks to Dolliver Street to gobble up a cinnamon roll mounded with pecans. 




Sunrise and a cinnamon roll. 
Not a bad way to start the day amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. 



Old West Cinnamon Rolls is located at 861 Dolliver Street in Pismo Beach.
 Their bakery is open all year long, except for Christmas Day. 
If you can't make it to Pismo Beach, Old West ships their rolls and baking mix. 
Can't get out for a visit to the California Central Coast?
Stop by my blog for a weekly dose of SLO County. 
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: After the Storm

Last week's storm system, christened the "Pineapple Express," soaked drought-stricken California and left its mark throughout San Luis Obispo County. 

Although Thursday night's raging winds and deluge of rainfall wreaked havoc—causing capsized trees, flooding, and leaving many homes and businesses without power—we got what we needed: a magnificent downpour. 

The drought is far from over, but more rain is coming our way this week, bringing additional relief to one of the most severe water shortages in California's history. The SLO County hills will continue to glisten from the saturation and an emerald Christmas is within sight. 
  
Here are a few awesome sights I captured around San Luis Obispo County after the storm.

 Friday evening, storm clouds rolled out of San Luis Obispo.

Cambria beamed bright and beautiful Saturday morning. 
On Saturday, the mesmerizing surf pounded the shores of Cayucos. 

The storm's afterglow left its mark at Morro Rock on Sunday.

Until the next rain!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cranberry Salsa Recipe

Shake things up this Thanksgiving by putting some wobble into your gobble. 

I received the following recipe for for cranberry salsa from my mom, which I adapted slightly and eagerly taste tested. My conclusion? Thanksgiving goodness. 

This festive appetizer puts an unconventional spin on classic cranberry sauce by mingling the tart crimson superfruit with a touch of sweet honey, a bit of fresh lime, and a whole lot of zingy jalapenos, green onions and Italian parsley. 

Set this nouveau dish on your holiday table alongside some crackers or bruschetta and watch your guests gobble it down. When they ask you for the recipe?  Just send them to my blog. 



CRANBERRY SALSA RECIPE

Step 1: Bring water to a boil in a large pot. 
Add 12 ounces of rinsed, fresh cranberries to the boiling water for two minutes, 
allowing their skins to pop and fruit to soften. 


Step 2: Drain the cranberries, add to a glass bowl, then mash lightly. 


Step 3: Add 1/3 cup good quality honey and stir into the mashed cranberries. 


Step 4: Add the juice of two limes and a bit of salt & pepper. 


Step 5: Add two chopped green onions.


Step 6: Add two seeded, chopped jalapeños.


Step 7: Add 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley. Stir all ingredients, taste and adjust for seasonings. 


Step 8: Chill the cranberry salsa for 2 - 4 hours in the fridge before serving. 
This holiday recipe yields between 2 - 3 cups.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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