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, June 27, 2010

SLO Ranch

I hoped to bump into a wild pig or two on yesterday's hike, but no such luck. My first time to explore the open space at Johnson Ranch just outside of San Luis Obispo City, I found instead, winding trails that meandered slowly up and around dried grassy slopes amidst fragrant oat grass and tall oak groves. Although these hills were alive with critters—lizards, cows, and birds—I didn't stumble upon any pigs.

In spite of my lack of swine sightings, this 242-acre property provided me and other adventure-seekers the occasion to benefit from cardio exercise by walking, running, or dirt biking the 2-mile loop trail—as well as traversing the additional 1.3 mile trek on the opposite south side. Although my first impression led me to believe that all I'd trudge were parched hillsides, the indirect trails eventually led me through shady splotches of trees and streams; as well as to patches of colorful wildflowers and unexpected panoramic views. Fresh air, a sunny sky, and a remarkable new hiking discovery outweighed the boars' no-show.

Even amidst the dried prairie land, full green trees dotted the landscape.

Colorful wildflowers cried out here and there.

The fog rolled over the ocean in the distance.

Looking to the opposite side, SLO City and its ridgeline beckoned.

After this zigzagging hike, the warmish temperatures left me in need of a refresher. I whipped up the following to hydrate and alkalize my weary body. This thirst-quencher (think lemonade stand) offered a familiar cool, sweet-tart finish, and a refreshing way to end any work-out.

SLO Lemon Crush

2 cups purified water

2 cups ice

Juice of 3 - 6 lemons

4 - 6 tablespoons raw honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

Strawberries for garnish

Combine all ingredients in blender (except for strawberries) and purée for fantastic results! Taste frothy mixture and adjust according to your own tastebuds. Add more lemon for pucker power; drizzle in more honey for a sugary effect. Serves 2 - 3.

Once consumed, acidic lemons actually produce alkaline-forming properties that balance the pH of the body and combat the buildup of malolactic acid, which contributes to sore muscles in athletes.

Happy adventure hiking! With or without pigs!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SLO Summer

Rising temperatures. Blue skies. The anticipation of new produce and seasonal indulgences at the local San Luis Obispo County farmers' markets.

Over the weekend, I couldn't resist treating myself to a colossal bouquet of elegant scarlet dahlias at the Saturday morning market. This screaming-red cluster of velvety, tuberous flowers brought a certain elegance to my kitchen and a blissful reminder to continue to surround myself with simple splendors.

I also brought home some splendorous strawberries, juicy apricots, and aromatic lemon basil that necessitated experimention with a sweet and spicy fruit salsa. Additionally, I dragged out a cookbook and attempted something new: homemade vegan focaccia bread.
The finale was exquisite—a sumptious appetizer that screamed of summer colors and flavors, paired with a SLO County wine that lent itself to the season.
If you haven't bought flowers for yourself lately...what are you waiting for?

1 basket organic strawberries, sliced
1 very large apricot (or 4 small), seeded & sliced
1 medium heirloom tomato, diced
1 large jalapeno (use a small one if you want to add more heat), seeds removed & finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed & finely chopped
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon basil leaves, chopped
(If you can't find this varietal, use Italian basil and the zest of 1 or 2 lemons)
1 - 2 tablespoons Italian parsely leaves, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1 - 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 - 2 small lemons
Raw honey for drizzling (optional)

This recipe is all about your personal preferences. Use peaches instead of apricots. Add an extra tomato (or none at all). Throw in some red onion, or yellow. Maybe squeeze a little extra lemon juice. Do whatever appeals to your senses.
When you're ready to experiment, chop all ingredients and layer in a glass bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. Using your hands, gently toss all chopped delicacies in the large bowl until mixed. Then pour dressing over chopped ingredients and gently toss. (Of course you could use a spoon, but I think this way is much more fun). Let salsa marinate at room temperature for 2 hours to let colors macerate and flavors meld. Stick in fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
If you're up for crafting your own freshly baked bread, give this recipe a whirl for a finished creation that produces a chewy, sponge-like interior and a satisfying external crunch.
Adapted from the Quick-Rise Focaccia Dough recipe in Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein
2 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 package quick-acting/rapid-rise yeast
½ teaspoon salt (plus a bit extra for dusting)
1 cup warm water (between 120 - 130F)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus a bit extra)
2 teaspoons dried lemon peel (optional)
In a large glass bowl, add 1 ½ cups of the flour, yeast, and salt. Stir in the warm water and oil. Gradually stir in ½ cup of the remaining flour (reserve ½ cup). Pour mixture onto a lightly floured board and knead for 8 - 10 minutes. Incorporate the remaining flour as needed until you have a smooth dough that you can form in to a ball. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 200F. Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish. After dough is finished resting, transfer to the baking dish and stretch the dough with your fingers and press until it is stretched evenly along the entire bottom of the pan. Dampen the kitchen towel and lay over the glass dish, careful not to touch the dough. Place the baking dish on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. Then remove from the oven.
Remove the kitchen towel and heat oven to 400F. Wet your fingertips and poke small indentations across the dough. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with a bit of salt. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until firm in center and lightly golden. If you wish to add the dried lemon peel, sprinkle evenly over the top after bread has been baking for 10 minutes, or you risk burning the delicate peel.
Let cool slightly, then serve up crusty, warm pieces plated with fruit salsa and drizzled with honey. I paired this seasonal starter with Alapay Cellar's 2009 Viognier ($28). This lovely wine's undertones of apricot, honey and citrus, blossomed with this sweet and zesty salsa's melded flavors, and cut through the spice.
A fine start to a decadent SLO summer.

If you make the trek out to Avila Beach this season, Alapay Cellar's tasting room is within walking distance of this sandy summer hangout.

Indulge a little.

Monday, June 7, 2010

SLO Pier

I remember the shell. Not too big, white and spiny with a lustrous, pink interior. Up close to my ear I could hear the ocean. This prized souvenir stayed with me for many years (I wouldn't doubt if someday I uncover it in a box tucked away in my garage), as did the memories of my childhood trip to San Luis Obispo. Years ago my mom's parents whisked me and my young aunt Jennifer to this coastal destination for a few days of sightseeing and exploration. Although I can't recall my exact age or how many days we stayed, I do remember walking on the Pismo Beach Pier, its giant timbers balanced over the sea. I spent my hard-earned allowance—probably a whopping fifty cents a week back in the 70's—on my treasured shell. My special purchase occurred right here, on this very pier.

Now that I permanently live a mere nine miles from this barnacled wharf, where tourists and locals flock daily to soak in the fresh ocean air, dazzling unbounded views and cool crashing waves, I wonder why I take this sacred spot from my early days for granted. Venturing here on Sunday was an anomaly for me. I left the out-of-the-ordinary heated temperatures of SLO City behind me, and drove south into the warm yet refreshingly cool, breezy Pismo weather. I found the pier alive with activity, with the festival Wine, Waves, & Beyond in full swing. This day brought a longboard competition on the south side, proceeds benefitting The Association of Amputee Surfers.

As the bullhorn sounded throughout the day, participants paddled out into the great beyond on their elongated surfboards.

Competitors rode choppy surf in windy conditions.

But the surfers made their mission look easy.
The churning, invigorating white waves made me feel as if I was missing out on a worthwhile endeavor.

Wipeout! Look closely for the flailing feet!

I felt safe and content on the shore, soaking up the view.

Later, as I waded in the crystal-clear, revitalizing water splashing under the pier, I thought about where I've been and where I am now.

I've come full circle. And I can still hear the ocean—even without my shell.

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