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, July 20, 2014

Summer Cherry-Basil Gazpacho Recipe

When life hands you a bowl full of organic cherries, there's only one thing to do: make gazpacho.

This past week I picked up a large bag of crimson beauties at the grocery store, not realizing they were destined for something special. But after visiting a local San Luis Obispo farmers market, where I purchased vibrant green basil, pungent shallots, a crooked young cucumber, freshly-harvested yellow and red tomatoes, as well as shiny purple and green bell peppers, I knew what I had to do: meld these seasonal flavors and colors of the rainbow. 

The following chilled soup recipe is refreshing, bursting with summer flavors, requires little preparation, makes a superb meal or side dish, and is guaranteed to wow your family and friends. 

Revel in the colors, the flavors, the season. 


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2 - 4 

1 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries, halved
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped bell peppers
3 - 4 large basil leaves, torn 
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons minced shallots
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
Salt & pepper to taste
Step 1: Wash all of your produce and get out your cherry/olive pitter. If you don't have one of these useful kitchen contraptions, you will need to get one in order to make this divine recipe. Although pitting cherries is a messy and laborious task, it is so worth the effort. Once you've pitted the cherries, cut them in half and place in a large glass bowl. 
Step 2: Cut your cucumber and bell peppers into bite-sized chunks and throw them in with the cherries. 
Step 3: Chop your ripened, juicy tomatoes and add them to the beautiful compote. 
Step 4: Mince your shallots and place them in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, Sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. Whisk vigorously, then taste and adjust for seasonings.
Step 5:  Pour the dressing over the vibrant mixture and cover with torn basil leaves. Then get out your blender. 
Step 6: Place 2 cups of the cherry-veggie mix in the blender and lightly puree. Add the cherry-stained puree back to the bowl, mix gently, cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours, allowing the intense flavors to meld. 
Step 7: Serve up this cold summer soup garnished with a bit of basil. If you desire a swig of wine as an accompaniment, pair with a crisp sauvignon blanc.  
 The sweetness of the cherries is offset by the tang of the acids and the spiciness of the basil, while each bite is full of cool textures and flavorsperfect for a refreshing warm weather meal.
Dig into everything summer has to offer. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Easy Peach-Raspberry Crisp Recipe

The stone fruit harvest is in full swing throughout San Luis Obispo County. 

In last week's Talley Farms Fresh Harvest Boxwhich is an enormous carton chock full of freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables available for pickup in various parts of SLO County on a weekly or bi-weekly basistheir assortment included a bag of delicious furry-skinned peaches, as well as ruby-red raspberries. This morning I decided to merry the flavors of these two popular fruits. 

Following is an easy recipe for a not-so-sweet, easy-on-your-pancreas fruit crisp that uses no refined sugar or flour, is enhanced by the addition of honey, dried ginger and fragrant cinnamon, and incorporates ready-made granola topped with shredded butter for a flavorful, easy-to-make crisp topping. 

A fruitage made in heaven. 

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Serves 2 - 4

3 - 4 firm peaches
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup granola (I used a favorite of my mine made with almonds, vanilla and honey)
2 tablespoons shredded cold butter


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Wash, halve, pit, and slice your peaches (leave skins on for extra fiber).
Arrange in a small baking dish (mine was about 8 1/2 x 5).

Add raspberries which have been rinsed and drained, drizzle with honey, sprinkle ginger and cinnamon, then stir all ingredients gently.

Top the fruit mixture evenly with the granola. 

Take out a cold stick of butter from the fridge and grate two tablespoons. 

Place the shredded butter on top of the crisp and bake for 25 minutes. 

 After taking this fruit melange out of the oven, allow to cool slightly before serving. 

Try dolloping this seasonal baked fruit medley with freshly-made whipped cream, ice cream, or even vanilla Greek yogurt. Feel free to drizzle some of the cooked-down fruit juice from the bottom of the pan over the top of the crisp when serving.
Bask in the season!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: July 2014 Events

Jumping for joy in Morro Bay over 4th of July weekend.
The bedazzle of Independence Day might be over, but July continues to sparkle throughout San Luis Obispo County. From the Central Coast Wine Classic, to Festival Mozaic, to the California Mid-State Fair, here's a peek at some of the festivities that are sure to ruffle your feathers. Click on the links below for more information about event and ticket details. May your summer continue to shimmer!

Central Coast Wine Classic
July 10 - 13
This time-honored philanthropic event was created to sustain 501(c)3 foundations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties whose missions are in the healing, performing and studio arts. The event purports: "California Wine & Its Finest." With an auction, barrel tasting, dinner at Hearst Castle, wine symposiums, winemaker dinners, and a reserve wine tasting, what a splendid way to support California Central Coast nonprofit organizations. 

Central Coast Lavender Festival 
July 12
Held in the Downtown Paso Robles City Park, this free event is all about the heavenly flowering lavender plant. Seminars on distilling lavender, booths with goods for sale from local lavender growers, a children's activities area, and sample tasting of lavender ice cream are just a few of the fragrant ways to experience this perennial goodness. 

Seven Sisters Craft Beer & Music Fest
July 11 - 13
Held at El Chorro Park & Campground in San Luis Obispo, this second annual event celebrates music, art and life. Listen to eclectic nonstop music, find good grub, beer and wine, acquire art, camp out or take a hike. 

Play On! A Suzy Miller Dance Spectacular
July 4 - 27
Explore your flights of fancy from Shakespeare to Broadway at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

California Mid-State Fair
July 16 - 27
You know the drill: livestock, deep-fried munchies, carnival rides, concerts. This year some of the fair's music headliners include Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Journey, and the Doobie Brothers. Monster trucks and County Rodeo Finals round out this county exhibition, making the fair one fine Paso Robles event. 

Morro Bay Founders Day Community Picnic
July 17
Morro Bay's 50th birthday celebration continues. Bring your picnic and blanket or lawn chair while enjoying sights and sounds from the 60s. 

Central Coast Renaissance Festival
July 19 & 20
At Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo, guests are transported to the late 1500's when Queen Elizabeth I reigned supreme in England. Dress up in your finest wench or royal apparel, watch armored knights joust, and taste a meaty pie. 

Festival Mozaic
July 17 - 27
Bringing five centuries of music to the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic presents concerts in historic and scenic venues around San Luis Obispo County. 

That's all I know for now!

Foggy 4th of July morning at Morro Rock.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SLO Wine Country: 24th Annual Roll Out the Barrels

Blue skies and glowing temperatures brightened San Luis Obispo County's recent summer solstice weekend. With plush grapevines neatly lining Edna Valley region's rolling hills, the new season's choice conditions gave way for one of my favorite annual festivals: Roll Out the Barrels Passport Weekend.

This inebriating event, held at SLO Wine Country's member wineries—most of which lie south of San Luis Obispo City—is always the perfect way to roll into summertime. In its 24th year, participating SLO County wineries pulled out all the stops to make guests feel welcome by kicking off the summer season with wine tasting, barrel samples, music, and tasty nibbles; all set amidst perfect locales to soak up the regional terroir. 

Here are a few highlights of this once-a-year celebration. 

Since 2004, Sextant Wines has been devoted to expanding the horizons of the Central Coast wine region by growing old world varietal selections in SLO County's unique soils and climates. Sextant specializes in zinfandel and petite sirah blends, and also produces several other reds and whites. My favorite discovery at their Edna Valley tasting room goes to their 2010 Caverio GSM, Paso Robles. This grenache, syrah, mourvedre blend was vibrant and well balanced—just like the weekend's festivities. 
Not only does Sextant offer wine tasting, but guests will also find a gourmet deli, picnic grounds, and even a cottage retreat. They sell TheraBee Culinary Honey, a local, handcrafted artisan infused honey. I sampled more than a few of TheraBee's intriguing blends, including chipotle cacao, and my personal favorite: cardamom anise. These sticky sweet-savory creations are a gift from the culinary heavens.
At Saucelito Canyon, the sun beamed brightly and the wine flowed freely. Urbane Cafe served up tasty bites like steak torta, which fared well with Saucelito Canyon's dry-farmed zinfandel. This family-owned vineyard and winery is always a pleasant stop when exploring the Edna Valley wine region.

Roll Out the Barrels wouldn't be complete without visiting Wolff Vineyards. Not only does their tasting room offer a hilltop view of their surrounding vineyards and the undulating Edna Valley region, but the wines and syrah-infused meatballs keep patrons coming back year after year. I overheard a gentleman declare, "Pour me some red and make me meatball ready."
 I paired my meatballs with their estate-grown 2011 Petite Sirah. Delicious all the way around.

One of the nicest attributes about Roll Out the Barrels is the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the winery owners, winemakers, and staff. On Sunday, I headed for some pinot noir tasting at Corbett Canyon's wine making facility in Arroyo Grande, where the wines of Center of Effort and Sinor-LaValle are craftedThis facility is generally closed to the public, but these two top-notch wineries opened their doors for this annual event. Winemakers Nathan Carlson and Mike Sinor were both on hand to provide notable details about the wines they craft...and I was more than content to taste through their impressive lineups.

My last indulgence of the festive weekend: Niven Family Wine Estates in San Luis Obispo. Surrounded by grapevines and fresh air, guests enjoyed current releases from their Baileyana/Tangent/Trenza/Zocker/Cadre True Myth labels while listening to live music by Moon Pie.  
They even served up a wine dessert. The vanilla ice cream by SLO Maidinfused with 2011 Trenza Obispan—a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, tempranillo, and malbec—was mixed with chocolate chunks and tasted divine on this warm summer day.

Summer has just begun. Indulge a little in SLO County. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: June 2014 Events!

San Luis Obispo County's spring fling is now behind us and summer's kick-off month will soon be here. In June the hills morph from green to golden brown, the florid wildflowers fade, and SLO County hosts a slew of regional activities. 

Below are several of June's annual events that are a sure sign summer is just around the corner. Check out the links below for ticket pricing and additional event details. 

June 1: An Afternoon of Epicurean Delights
Benefiting CAPSLO, the Health & Prevention Division of Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County—which provides medical, educational & advocacy services for over 10,000 under-served families, women, men and youth throughout SLO County—this annual culinary event takes place at the Chapman House by the Sea in Shell Beach. Guests can stroll the beautiful gardens while listening to music and gourmandizing SLO County wine, beer and fine food bites.   

June 7: Central Coast Oyster & Music Festival
This all day festival, held at the scenic Avila Beach Golf Resort, is all about laid-back fun. Live music. Local beer and wine. Culinary oyster treats. Oyster shucking contest. Fun, fun, fun.  

June 19 - 22: Roll Out the Barrels
This annual event kicks off Thursday, June 19, with "Barrels in Mission Plaza" in downtown San Luis Obispo, where SLO Wine Country's member wineries share sips paired with local culinary delights. Friday evening brings a handful of winemaker dinners and the rest of the weekend is filled with two days of passport tasting at more than 20 wineries in the Edna Valley region. I can't wait!

June 20 - 22: Pismo Beach 29th Annual Classic Car Show
This family-friendly event includes an opening night gala, a charity auction and cruise night, and over 850 classic cars and hot rods that descend upon this prime beach town.

June 28: Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival
Held at the Atascadero Lake Park, this evening wine festival raises money for Atascadero's Charles Paddock Zoo and plays host to live music, over 60 Central Coast wineries, local olive oil tasting, culinary pairings, local breweries, and artist showcases. 

Feel free to post your favorite summer SLO County event in the comments below and whatever you do...have fun! 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Triple Crown Hopeful: California Chrome!

I feel like I'm caught in the middle of someone else's dream and I'm going along for the ride—and all the while the dream keeps getting better and better. 

The last several weeks have brought notoriety and world-wide attention to my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Steve Coburn's racehorse, California Chrome. Their vigorous chestnut colt, whom they affectionately call "Junior," and co-own with Denise and Perry Martin, swept America's hearts after winning this month's 140th Kentucky Derby

The owners' humble story also captured our nation's attention as the public learned of these first-time breeders. Down-to-earth people with regular jobs, they originally owned California Chrome's dam, Love the Chase, as part of a racing syndicate. In 2009 they bought her outright for a mere $8,000 after her poor performance at the track. Called dumb asses for their purchase, they formed Dumb Ass Partners (DAP) Racing.

Now the unimaginable part of the story: California Chrome almost didn't happen. Before Chrome's sire Lucky Pulpit entered the picture, the DAP partners originally bred Love the Chase with a stallion named Redattore. My Aunt Carolyn recently told my mom, "Thank goodness it didn't take." The owners wanted to take another shot with Redattore, but the stud didn't return from South America where he was on a breeding stint.

They mated Love the Chase with Lucky Pulpit at Harris Farms in Coalinga for a mere $2,000 stud fee; the result was a chrome-marked colt that showed great promise. The rest is history. Actually, history is still in the making. 

Two weeks after winning the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome kept our nation's Triple Crown hopes alive by capturing the second jewel of the crown, the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland. 

On June 7, many of us "chromies" will be in New York to witness the much-anticipated, third jewel of the crown, the Belmont Stakes, while other fans will watch the race on NBC. We will all bring high hopes and good intentions as California Chrome races alongside ten other strong contenders, as he vies for the coveted Triple Crown title. If "America's horse" wins, Chrome will become the very first California-bred racehorse to take home our country's highest honor in the Sport of Kings. 

Do I think he'll sweep the crown? Here's what I believe: Sometimes the stars align perfectly in the Universe. 
California Chrome is most definitely one of those stars. 

A friend recently described California Chrome as "art on four legs." I couldn't agree more. 

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth White. This story, pictures, or any portion of this blog thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and photographer, Elizabeth White. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

140th Kentucky Derby: California Chrome!

Photo courtesy of Christina Melton

I love a story where incredible events happen to good people, past endeavors come full circle with the present moment, and dreams come true. 

Last weekend's 140th running of the Kentucky Derby fit the bill for one fine story. My Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Steve Coburn's three-year-old horse, California Chrome, galloped his way into history after a victorious romp around Churchill Down's distinguished race track.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my aunt and uncle would end up with a Kentucky Derby winner. But little known to me, the Universe had plans. Big plans, that are in fact, still unfolding.

A few years ago I remember hearing that Steve and Carolyn were dabbling in the racehorse business. I thought their horse, whom they co-own with another couple, Perry and Denise Martin, was just a hobby. 

But over the last several months, I gleaned from my cousins' Facebook posts that something colossal was conspiring out of California Chrome's recent winning streak. First, a win at the King Glorious Stakes in late December, followed by another one in January at the California Cup Derby. Then on March 8, after winning the San Felipe Stakes, the news was out: this fast California-bred race horse qualified for the Kentucky Derby!

Carolyn's daughtermy cousin Christina Meltonbusied herself with travel plans to Louisville, Kentucky, and our enormous family waited vicariously in the wings. 
California Chrome with Jockey Victor Espinoza
Photo courtesy of Christina Melton

California Chrome went on to win the Santa Anita Derby in April, and during the past few weeks and the days leading up to the Running of the Roses, news stories broke of this runaway favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Media giants like the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The Washington Post spread the word about this California-bred hopeful. 

California Chrome's humble beginnings  and the owners' grand ambitions garnered attention—the stuff American dreams are made of.  The Coburns and Martins, everyday working-class Americans, plunked down $8,000 to purchase a Maryland-bred mare named Love the ChaseSomeone at the stable declared whoever buys that mare a dumb ass. “Well, we’re the Dumb Ass Partners who bought her,” Steve said. They formed Dumb Ass Partners (DAP Racing). 

Maybe to some they were foolish, but their investment proved fortuitous. For a $2,000 stud fee, these first-time breeders bred Love the Chase with Lucky Pulpit, a feisty Kentucky-bred stallion whose lineage includes Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Love the Chase's pedigree also goes back to big names in the horse world, some of which include Swaps, a California-bred thoroughbred who swept the Kentucky Derby in 1955, and Man O' War, the powerful racehorse born in 1917 that won 20 of his 21 races. 

In 2011, Love the Chase and Lucky Pulpit's gene pool produced a rock star. Born in Northern California at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California Chrome became the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby since John F. Kennedy was in the White House. Winning was a dream come true for my aunt and uncle. In a recent interview that aired on CBS, Carolyn said that she turns around to Steve three or four times a day and says, "Can you believe it? We won the Kentucky Derby!"

They held on to their dream. A few months before the Derby, the owners turned down a lucrative $6 million dollar offer from a Middle-Eastern interest for 51% ownership of California Chrome."The answer was not only no, but hell no," Steve said. "What kind of price tag can you put on a dream that's coming true?"

If they had accepted the lucrative offer, most likely California Chrome would have been
Trainer Art Sherman with my uncle and aunt behind him
taken out of the hands of Trainer Art Sherman at Los Alamitos Race Course. In a Yahoo! Sports interview, Steve credited  their trainer as the secret to California Chrome's success. Steve said of Art, "He's old school, he's patient, he takes his time. He's always said, 'I'll let this horse tell me when he's ready to go'."

Way back in 1955, Art Sherman accompanied Swaps to the Kentucky Derby as an exercise rider, sleeping in the same boxcar as the horse on their way to the race. Art came full circle this year when he returned to the Derby as California Chrome's trainer. The sweet victory made this 77 year old the oldest trainer to ever win this illustrious race. 

What's next? California Chrome will vie for the coveted Triple Crown. On May 17, he'll run the 139th Preakness Stakes at the historic Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland, where his owners anticipate he'll capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown. If he wins the Preakness, then it's on to New York for the Belmont Stakes held on June 7. Steve believes that California Chrome has the heart to win and declared, "I honestly think this horse will be a Triple Crown winner."

Winning the Kentucky Derby was an epic feat in itself. Winning the Triple Crown would be icing on the cake. Whatever the outcome, take this story to heart. I know I have. 
Watching my aunt and uncle on national television was surreal. I can only imagine how they must have felt. 
A special thanks to my cousin Christina for allowing us to live vicariously through her Facebook posts while she was living it up at the Kentucky Derby!

Christina, her husband Tony, and daughters Bailey and Savannah sported California Chrome's official colors: purple and green. 

The story continues. Yesterday, the Saturday before Mother's Day, "chromie" family members were invited out to Harris Farms to experience California Chrome's beginnings. Pictured here is the spirited sire, Lucky Pulpit.

This chestnut beauty is California Chrome's dam: Love the Chase

Here is Love the Chase nursing her newest foal, California Chrome's youngest sister. This filly is yet to be named and is also sired by Lucky Pulpit. 

Horse racing world, watch out for the up-and-coming Chrome Sisters!

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth White. This story, pictures, or any portion of this blog thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and photographer, Elizabeth White. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: May 2014 Events

Spring poppy in Harmony, San Luis Obispo County
Spring is still in full swing throughout San Luis Obispo County. During this fresh, colorful season, we've experienced our fair share of fickle weatherrain, wind, blue skies, clouds, mid- and high-temperaturesand as we ride out the remainder of this colorful, prime time of the year, there's plenty to do in SLO County. Here are a few ideas for the month of May, not in any particular preference or order. Click on each event's website for more info on ticket sales, location and event details. 

32nd Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival
May 15 - 18
Check out the Paso Wine Country Alliance for their low-down of the upcoming grand tasting, winemaker dinners and seminar, as well as copious winery activities in the northern part of this wine-flushed county. 

The Chardonnay Symposium
May 16 - 18
Head south of the county for an in-depth exploration of the world's favorite grape and its impact on viniculture, tastemakers and the market. 

California Festival of Beers
May 23 - 24
200 beers in just two days. Good grief, get a designated driver or hop on one of the shuttles provided by Hospice SLO and SLO Safe Ride. This grand tasting takes place in the Madonna Inn Meadows in San Luis Obispo.  

Strawberry Festival, Arroyo Grande
May 24 - 25
Taking place over Memorial Day weekend, this is one of California's largest festivals. The family-style fun offers residents and visitors the opportunity to experience one of the stars of spring...the strawberry. 

Amgen Tour of California
May 11 - 18
On May 14, SLO County's artsy, coastal town of Cambria will play host to a stage finish for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. On May 15 head further south to Pismo Beach, where you can cheer on cyclists from the race's next stage start. 

Morro Rock in late April during the annual Kite Festival.
Morro Bay Art in the Park
May 24 - 26
Vendors showcase and sell their works of art over Memorial Day weekend. After you shop, head for the iconic rock.   

San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum National Train Day Activities
May 10
Free museum admission all day as the nation celebrates National Train Day. 

SLO Jazz Festival
May 17
Tickets are on sale now for this inaugural festival. The bebop will take place in Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Enjoy the springtime festivities!

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Northern Elephant Seals: Molting Season

San Luis Obispo County is full of hulking beastsjust look north to the Piedras Blancas seal rookery. Located on Highway One, just a few miles north of San Simeon, this remarkable point of interest provides a safe refuge for thousands of migratory giant elephant seals that shore up twice a year on California's Central Coast. 

During the month of April, hordes of females and juvenile seals return to shore for the molting season, followed by the sub-adults and adult males that start to arrive in early May. Each seal remains on shore for one month to grow new skin, shed their old, and rest. Legions of locals and tourists show up as well. 
Upon arrival at the rookery, it's easy to find fascination in the seals' resting patterns, sand-flipping, and signs of molting.
Along the half-mile elephant seal boardwalk and trail, human visitors can meander along the path and pause at the sight of these behemoth marine mammals.
When visiting the rookery, you can extend your visit by walking along the bluffs for a short yet breathtaking hike. Part of the California Coastal Trail (CCT), a network of public trails that runs along the 1200-mile California coastline, just look for the entrance at the northernmost end of the parking lot. Piedra Blancas Light Station provides an impressive backdrop in the near distance.
If you meander along this path, you will find seals resting along watery enclaves with other whimsical creatures.
Just a few of the many faces of the Piedra Blancas seal rookery.

You can view these colossal elephant seals for yourself by visiting the California Central Coast.
Suit yourself!

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