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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shari's Berries: Wine and Fall Flavors Pairing Guide


When I lived in Sacramento, I distinctly remember Shari's Berries fancy dipped strawberries
plump, juicy berries, elegantly swizzled in crunchy, sweet chocolate

Recently, when someone from their community outreach contacted me to share their Wine and Fall Flavors Pairing Guide, I gladly agreed.
 Following is their easy-to-use guide for marrying the flavors of autumn desserts and wine. 

Just in time for the holidays. 

Wine and Fall Flavors

Sunday, October 19, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: Slipping into Fall

A dazzling autumn Avila Beach sunset
During the year, San Luis Obispo County expresses itself through plenty of regional traits: sun, fog, wind, (occasional) rain, surf, sand, sunsets, seasonal crops, wine and festivals—to name just a few. 

These Central Coast idiosyncrasies help us define the SLO Life, and this time of year the signs of autumn are everywhere. Wine grapes are crushed, fall harvests are plenty, scarecrows line the streets of Cambria, and chilly mornings are the norm. Although warm days still linger, clouds are once again journeying to the sky, providing the perfect backdrop for glittering ocean sunsets. 

Following are a few videos with recent footage from around San Luis Obispo County; showcasing two splendid days this fall. The first, a very windy day at the end of September, and the second, a hot afternoon in October when the giant surf gave us something to ogle. 



Enjoy this season while it lasts. 








Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Cambria Scarecrow Festival

Although the California drought rages on, whimsy runs rampant along the Central Coast. 

Once again, the unconventional town of Cambria is hosting its annual month-long scarecrow festival in San Luis Obispo Countybringing out the kid in everyone.

In its sixth year, hundreds of offbeat characters line Cambria's east and west village streets, front the hotels on Moonstone Beach Drive, and stretch along the businesses in the pastoral region of San Simeon.  

Cambria, hard hit by the water shortage, brings a timely message to the scores of ogling slocals and visitors via their mischievous scarecrows: Save water! 

The sage advice—drink more wine and beer instead of water, wash your hair with Chablis, bathe or shower with a friend—makes perfect sense. 

Water shortage or not, October calls for a celebration doused in great community spirit. 

For a glimpse of Cambria's rogue characters, please view the photo adventure below. 
To visit these free spirits in this idyllic spot on the globe, click here for more details. 




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cayucos: Ruddell's Smokhouse

Inspiration comes in many forms. Over the weekend, my idea for a new apple recipe stemmed from a visit to Ruddell's Smokehouse

This tiny smoke shack, tucked neatly away on the northern end of San Luis Obispo County in the unassuming, historic beach town of Cayucos, is located just steps from the Pacific Ocean. With colossal tidal views, Ruddell's smokin' seafood and meat keeps slocals and tourists coming back time and time again.  

Their menu includes salads, sandwiches, and my personal favorite: soft tacos. Thick, warm flour tortillas, packed with savory smoked choices such as shrimp, albacore, salmon, chicken, pork loin (or just plain veggie), are layered with a creamy sauce and sweet chunks of apple, shredded carrots, and crunchy celery. The perfect big bite for a day on the beach. 

During my visit I purchased a whole smoked chicken and was lucky enough to take home a half pound of smoked shrimp—shellfish is something they don't normally shrink-wrap and sell with other specialties due to lack of quantity. 

I transported these spiced edibles home, mulling over my refrigerator full of apples recently acquired from my adventure along the Avila Valley Apple Trail. I devised the following recipe, heavily influenced by Ruddell's tacos, and selfishly thrown together to cater to my own taste buds. 

I hope the following savory-sweet dish stimulates your own palate as much as it did mine. 


APPLE SALAD RECIPE WITH SMOKED MEAT OR SHRIMP
Serves 2 - 4

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups smoked shrimp or chicken
Substitute cooked shrimp or chicken if you can't get your hands on some smokin' meats.
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers 
Red, orange or yellow are fun colors of the rainbow
2 cups chopped apples 
Sweet or tart variety—you choose
1 head of green leaf or bib lettuce, washed, cored and leaves left whole

Dressing:
1 cup Greek yogurt
Juice and zest of one lime
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS:


Prep your ingredients and plop the Greek yogurt, chopped shallot, and lime zest into a glass mixing bowl. 

 Drizzle with the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey, then sprinkle with parsley, salt & pepper.   

Give your creamy medley a big stir. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Throw in the bell pepper and celery and stir yet again. 

Lastly, add your crisp, crunchy apples. I used Red Yorkings that I picked up at Glen Gopher Apple Farm.

Fold all ingredients together, cover, and marinate in the fridge for 2 - 4 hours. 

When you're ready to eat, spoon the apple salad on individual lettuce leaves and top with the shrimp or chicken. 
Top with a little parsley to make your presentation extra special.

I paired this dish with Claiborne & Churchill's newly-released 2013 Pinot Blanc. A beautiful choice from a local vintner. 


A big splash of Cayucos inspiration!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: October 2014 Events


Talley Farms pumpkin patch.
Autumn is gently easing its way across San Luis Obispo County, and traces of this new season are cropping up everywhere. 

The green vineyard leaves are slowly rusting on the vines, the pumpkin patches are brimming with bright orange splotches, and the farmers markets are bursting at the seams with seasonal darlings like squash and apples. 

The end of the year is imminent, and to help carry us into the holiday season is the warm month of October—jam-packed with SLO County festivals and annual seasonal events. 

From digging clams at the Pismo Beach Clam Festival, to drinking local wines at Paso Robles Wine Country's Harvest Wine Weekend, to gawking at scarecrows at the Cambria Scarecrow Festival, October is shaping up to to be one of the most celebratory and flavorful months of the year.

Here's a peek at many of October's events throughout the county. Click on each link below to visit the event websites for more details. If I've left out any happenin' festivities, please feel free to share in the comments section below. 

 Get out your calendars, make some plans, purchase your tickets, and have some fun amidst the ideal SLO County autumn weather!


Cambria Scarecrow Festival
Head to Cambria!
October 1 - 31
During this festival's month-long run in 2013, over 420 scarecrows perched whimsically along the business streets of Cambria and San Simeon, mesmerizing visitors with their funny faces and imaginative garb. A tradition that started in 2009, the organizers claim this festival is truly a case of whimsy running rampant. So true, and you don't want to miss it. 

Morro Bay Harbor Festival
October 4 & 5
This 33rd annual event takes place at the water's edge on the Morro Bay Embarcadero. A wine and beer court, an entertainment stage, live music, the Kid's Cove, and the Maritime Heritage Pavilion are the major highlights. If you've ever wanted to know what it takes to be a commercial fisherman, this is the festival for you. 


Organic Braeburns at SLO Creek Farms.
Avila Apple Festival
Downtown Avila Beach
Sunday, October 5/Noon - 4pm
Take a bite out of fall with a festival that promises "all things apple." They'll provide music, apple grower booths, a vendor fair, an apple pie baking contest, a kids apple pie eating contest, apple juggling for the young and old, a kids caramel apple licking contest, and much more. Crunch on that!

Oktoberfest
Madonna Inn Expo Center
Saturday, October 11/Session One: 1:00 - 9:30pm; Session Two: 6:30 - 9:30pm
Get dressed up in your finest lederhosen and head to the iconic Madonna Inn for traditional German food and world-class beer. Ein Prosit!

Harvest Wine Weekend
Paso Robles Wine Country
October 17 - 19
If you plan on attending this vinous celebration, you're faced with some big decisions. With over 140 weekend activities at various wineries, you just can't drink it all.

Pismo Beach Clam Festival
October 17 - 19
This clam festival is in its 68th year, so head to the beach to celebrate these bivalve mollusks! Friday evening is all about the wine walk. Saturday is fun in the sun with an all-day surf contest, a morning parade, and a lunchtime clam chowder contest on the pier. Sunday at noon, head to the north side of Pismo Pier for a children's clam dig, then head to the pier for the annual clam bake. Fun!

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) Presents: BREAKING AWAY
Fremont Theatre
Josh Brolin at SLOIFF's September event at the Fremont Theatre.

Saturday, October 25/7:00pm
The SLOIFF is turning 21 next year and they're coming of age jubilee has already started. This past month they brought THE GOONIES to the Fremont's big screen. Afterwards, actor Josh Brolin engaged the sold-out audience with an awesome Q&A. October's star-studded event will include actors Dennis Christopher and Paul Dooley when as join the audience for a screening of the 1979 comedy, BREAKING AWAY. See you at the Fremont. 

BUBBLYFEST by the Sea
Pismo Beach
October 24 - 26
Proclaimed as the nation's only dedicated sparkling wine celebration, tickets are selling fast. Visit their website to find out which fizzy events are still available. 


Tinged wine grapes leaves in San Luis Obispo.

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile."
~William Cullen Bryant


Monday, September 22, 2014

Baked Applesauce Recipe

This past weekend I tasted a mere ten of the more than 7,000 varieties of apples that are grown around the globe. 

While visiting a smattering of apple farms located on the southwest end of San Luis Obispo City—banded together as the Avila Valley Apple Trail—I crunched on delicious slices of varieties such as Red Delicious, Pippin, Spitzenberg, and Braeburn. 

Although the colors, sizes, textures, and levels of tartness and sweetness differed, these apples shared one important element: they exuded the essence of the impending fall season. 

After visiting three of the trail's orchards and sampling several slices of variegated apples, I now have a refrigerator full of these healthy, phytonutrient-rich autumn fruits. Here's my first recipe of the new season: baked applesauce with ginger and orange. 


Just enough sweet. Not too much tart. Perfect for the fall palate. 


BAKED APPLESAUCE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:

3 - 4 pounds crisp apples, cored and sliced 
Zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon each of allspice, cardamon, cloves, and nutmeg

Feel free to leave the skins on for more fiber and texture, unless you are aiming for a smoother sauce. 
Golden Delicious apples are considered the preferred variety for applesauce. 
I used mostly Goldens, but threw in a few red varieties like tart Braeburns for a little pucker power. 
I found that for every pound I baked, the yield was a little over one cup of cooked apples.

DIRECTIONS:


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
Zest and juice your orange and lemon and place in a small bowl. 
Peel a 2-inch strip of ginger and grate into the citrus bowl. 


Core and slice your apples and place in a 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish. 
Pour the citrus-ginger mixture over the apples and stir. 


Stir again after sprinkling the spices over the apples. 



Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. 
As the apples are baking, you'll wish you could bottle the heavenly aroma of the 
spices, ginger and orange wafting through your kitchen. 



Once every 15 - 20 minutes, remove the foil briefly to stir the apples 
and notice how they start to disintegrate and fall apart. 
 Bake for a total of 40 - 50 minutes until the apples are very tender and their juices start to flow. 
Remove from the oven and smooth them out as much as desired with a potato masher. 
Let them cool.



 I prefer to place my chunky applesauce in Mason jars and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. 
The harmonious flavors are wonderful spooned on oatmeal, topped with ice-cream, 
or fabulous eaten as a lone snack. 

I hope you'll feel inspired to get your creative juices flowing with one of 
San Luis Obispo County's star autumn fruits. 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: Avila Valley Apple Trail

Organic Braeburn apples waiting to be plucked at SLO Creek Farms. 
To celebrate today's end of summer and the impending autumn equinox, I hit the Avila Valley Apple Trail in search of seasonal, pomaceous fruit. Guess what I found? Apples, apples, and more apples. 

The happy trail, located just a stone's throw from Avila Beach, is comprised of a handful of farms that grow and sell several delicious apple varieties that thrive in this bountiful region of southern San Luis Obispo County

With stubborn fog hanging thick in the air, I explored three of the trail's orchards: the grassy, organic u-pick rows of SLO Creek Farms; the bustling country store at Gopher Glen Apple Farm; and the rustic, inviting grounds of See Canyon Fruit Farm. 

I tasted several freshly-picked apples, picked my own Braeburns, basked in the verdant hills while driving through See Canyon's windy roads, and brought home several pounds of sweet and tart varieties.



If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I'm set for ages.


Rows and rows of organic Braeburns are currently in season at SLO Creek Farms. Located just off of Highway 1 at the San Luis Bay Drive exit, their orchard is an easy stop on the way to Avila or Pismo Beach. Family friendly, they offer a small play area for kids as well as hay bales and tables. 



When you arrive at SLO Creek Farms, grab a bucket and head to the fragrant trees. 
Customers are welcome to taste and eat apples straight off the vines while out harvesting. 
Their apples are $2.50 per pound, and when I picked up my bucket, the cheerful attendant let me know that the redder the apple, the sweeter it is.
SLO Creek's sweet-tart Braeburns should be plentiful over the next month.  

Gopher Glen Apple Farm lies deep in the heart of See Canyon at the end of the Avila Valley Apple Trail. 
The lush scenery is well worth the drive. So are their varied apples. 



I don't know that I've ever been presented with a tasting menu of apples. But at Gopher Glen, I eagerly snapped up slices of all nine varieties. 
At $1.85 per pound, I took home some snappy Red Yorking and Red Gold apples. 




My last stop along the trail: See Canyon Fruit Ranch
I tasted their four offered varieties and left with a bag of Golden Delicious apples at $2.00 per pound.
Visions of homemade applesauce danced in my head.




Before leaving See Canyon Fruit Ranch, I stumbled upon their breathtaking gardens and idyllic wedding spot. Quite the place. 




A few tips if you decide to hit the Avila Valley Apple Trail.
Bring cash, as not all of the farms accept credit cards.
Wear your outdoor shoes, especially if you visit SLO Creek Farm's u-pick orchard.
Remember that apple season usually lasts until late November, depending on the weather, and most of the trail's farms are only open seasonally.
With several pounds of vibrant apples in my fridge, look for my creative juices to flow. Recipes coming soon.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

BarrelHouse Brewing Co.

Exploration is good for the soul...and the palate. 

Over the last year numerous friends and family have raved about BarrelHouse Brewing Company, and finally, this past Friday, I headed north to check out this hop spot for myself. 

Turns out, this steely beer fortress, which lies in the midst of an industrial park surrounded by gnarly oak trees and dry grassy fields, lives up to the hype. BarrelHouse Brewing is more than just your average watering hole.  

Located in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County, just on the cusp of Templeton and Paso Robles, this brewery crafts portfolio beers as well as seasonal limited releases. Massive brew tanks fill the interior where guests can relax at the bar or tables, and outside, an inviting half-acre beer garden provides a family-friendly hangout. Here's a peek...
  

BarrelHouse Brewing's picnic grounds and grassy lawn allow plenty of room for well-behaved kids to roam free. 


There's also plenty of room for adults. Our entourage arrived early Friday evening for a birthday celebration and snagged a table. 
Several guests brought their own chairs so they could sit, sip, and listen to live music. 




This vintage truck turned stage is the perfect medium for local bands to provide free weekend entertainment.  




Guests young and old grooved to classic rock tunes performed by Route 66

We ordered a sampler of BarrelHouse Brewing's tasty handcrafted beers like Poor Man's Blonde Ale and BarrelHouse Stout. I went back for a full size glass of their popular limited release, Brazz Monkey, a "delicious tropical blonde with clementine oranges and fresh local orange blossom honey." The perfect sip on a warm summer evening. 

Did I mention there was food? When there's live music, there's also nosh available for purchase from local gourmet food trucks. Last Friday, Fundaro's Foodstream set up shop and served up tasty dinners like these miso pulled pork sandwiches. 
Check BarrelHouse Brewing's event page for upcoming music and events.




The next time you're in need of exploration, BarrelHouse Brewing is the perfect setting to hang out with family and friends. 
Their venue is one of those places where you'll lose track of time and place...and want to return again and again. 

Click here for current operating hours and directions to BarrelHouse Brewing. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: Charging Waves

I need a new hobby about as much as I need more housework. But as an extension of the landscape photography that tethers me to all that shines in San Luis Obispo County, over the weekend I decided to take on one more pastime: video artiste.

I compiled some of the past few day's cranking waves into a few rhythmic video clips, hoping that the energy and tempo of SLO County's coast finds its way to you. 

These are my very first attempts at editing a montage of charging waves, so please understand I'm no film expert. What I do hope, though, is that you'll feel the intensity of what I experienced when I trekked along the coast this past weekend through Cambria, Cayucos and Morro Bay. 

Total splash and wonderment. 



Monday, September 1, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: September 2014 Events

Cambria shining bright over Labor Day Weekend.
With a remarkable Labor Day Weekend behind us, September has arrived on the scene and promises plenty more excuses to enjoy life in San Luis Obispo County. With our Indian Summer just getting started, more warm, sunny days are ahead of us, and I for one am ready for the merriment. 

Following are several, but not all, of the upcoming September SLO County events. From the Morro Bay Avocado & Margarita Festival...to a Taste of Downtown & Arte de Tiza in Paso Robles...to an evening at the historic Fremont in Downtown SLO with actor Josh Brolin...to Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast at Santa Margarita Ranch, I hope you'll be able to immerse yourself in the SLO Life and enjoy some of these energized celebrations!



Dahlia Daze
Morro Bay Community Center
Dahlias grown in SLO County.
September 5 & 6
Behold lovely dahlias with other like-minded admirers of this tuberous varietal at the annual flower show, which will provide information tables, speakers, and even a Dahlia Parade. 

Morro Bay Avocado & Margarita Festival
Morro Bay Embarcadero
Morro Rock in all its glory.
September 13 & 14
Enjoy specialty avocado dishes and margaritas while you groove to the sound of live tunes. What more could you want? How about an all-inclusive big rock for your viewing pleasure (included with your entry ticket). 


Via Dei Coloro SLO
Downtown San Luis Obispo
September 13 & 14
Head to Downtown SLO for the vibrant "street of colors" chalk art festival.

Beaverstock Festival
Castoro Cellars, Templeton
September 13 & 14
A two-day music festival set in Castoro Cellars idyllic vineyards; this year's ticket sales benefit the Templeton Education Foundation.

30th Annual Cuesta College Writers' Conference
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo
September 19 - 20
I've attended this life-changing conference for most of the years I've lived in SLO County. This year's keynote speaker is author Anne Perry. Several practical, influential writing workshops are offered by writers, publishers, editors, and other industry professionals for those of us willing to show up, listen, learn...and write. 

Arte de Tiza 13th Annual Sidewalk Chalk Art/Taste of Downtown
Paso Robles Downtown Park
September 20, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tickets are on sale to imbibe in samples from downtown Paso restaurants and wineries. Walk around, taste and sip, while catching a glimpse of the day's innovative chalk sidewalk art. 


San Luis Obispo International Film Festival screens "The Goonies"
Fremont Theatre, Downtown San Luis Obispo
September 20, 7:00 pm
Actor Josh Brolin will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening of this 30-year-old film which gave Mr. Brolin his first major movie role. 

Sunset SAVOR The Central Coast
September 25 - 28
This four-day celebration of the California Central Coast holds its main weekend event at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch. But there's more: adventure tours around SLO County, as well as special events, dinners, and celebrity chefs. 

77th Annual Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival
Historic Village of Arroyo Grande
September 26 - 27
A summary of Westways Magazine's claim about this extravaganza: Rotary Club's fish fry, salsa contest, quilt auction, free outdoor movie screening, spelling bee, baking and canning contest, grape stomping (yeah!), pie-eating contest, wiener dog race (really?), carnival rides, and a parade. That packs a punch!
(Ok, I embellished a little). 
Center of Effort and Sinor-La Valle.


California Wine Month
September
Tis' the season to discover the many wines of California; hopefully you'll explore some of those made in San Luis Obispo County.

Vina Robles Amphitheater Concerts
Paso Robles
September
Big names like Chicago, Brian Wilson with Al Jardine from The Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills & Nash will be bringing down this outdoor house. 


Click on the links above for more details about each event and ticket sales. 
Labor Day Weekend was simply amazing with blue skies and ideal temperatures gracing the coast. Pictured above are scenes from Morro Bay's Art in the Park. The lovely hand-crafted jewelry is the work of Karen Greenberg, proprietor of Mi Juleree. The steel wine-isms are the innovative creations of Mark and Richard Cruzen of Steel by Cruzen
In case you missed Labor Day Weekend in SLO County, here are a few videos to help make you feel like you were right here on the coast. See you in September!





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