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.

My 2015 12-Month San Luis Obispo County Calendar is Now Available!

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!

Friday, December 5, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: 2014 Holiday Events

Pismo Beach Pier 

San Luis Obispo County is bustling with end-of-year festivities and here are a few links to help you navigate your way through the holiday hoopla—and to help you find some cheery SLO County wine! 


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Morro Bay Surfboard Art Festival: November 2014

"Peace Pipe Dream" by artist Josephine Crawford rests
 in the serene gardens of Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. 

In the California coastal community of Morro Bay, surfboards aren't just for ripping waves. Local artists, schools, and community groups are carving a new path by transforming boards into one-of-a-kind canvas art for the inaugural Morro Bay Surfboard Art Festival

Until November 28, more than 25 of these slick surfboards will be proudly displayed in sponsoring businesses throughout Morro Bay. 

Some of these bitchin' works of art have already been spoken for via the festival's online auction, and several other boards will be up for grabs in their auction gala on November 29. Partial proceeds benefit school arts programs, Project Surf Campand Morro Bay in Bloom  

To check out this Morro Bay surfari, click here to download a map showing all sponsoring locations where these inventive boards hang; or, stop by the Morro Bay Visitors CenterTickets for the November 29 live auction gala can be purchased here

Below you'll find my photo journey, where I uncovered some of this awesome surfboard art while traipsing through Morro Bay. 

I couldn't resist taking a peek.


Friday, October 31, 2014

San Luis Obispo County Sparkling Wine Guide


Although you don't need a special occasion to drink Champagne or sparkling wine, tis' the season for bubbly. 

The holidays are imminent, and Cali Coast Wine Country comes to the rescue with the first-ever San Luis Obispo Sparkling Wine GuideFinding festive wines made in San Luis Obispo County for end-of-year celebrations is now effortless.

Their wine guide includes all of SLO County's fizzy spots, where wineries like Vina Robles, Claiborne & Churchill, and Laetitia produce California-made bubbly in diverse geographic regions of the county. 

Download and print their sparkling wine guide any time of the year...and enjoy the glitter of the holiday season!


San Luis Obispo wine country sparkles year round!


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.


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