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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

SLO Olives

The slurpers stopped me in my tracks. Although I arrived early at the 7th Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival, the dawdling crowds had already ascended upon Downtown Paso Robles City Park. I had to fight my way through the mecca of hungry olive oil tasters. But my resolve to clash through the unhurried mob and make my way to the multiplicity of olive oil, locally-made food, and San Luis Obispo County winery kiosks spurred me on. With wine glass and tote bag in hand, I forged ahead.

After standing in line to vie for a sample of We Olive's olive oil ice-cream (which I successfully procured, savored, and declared rich and delicious), I looked around at the undending vendors and didn't quite know where to start. I remembered a favorite from last year's tasting adventure, and sought out Carriage Vineyards bright, buttery (think the color of popcorn kernels!) olive oil. After a quick swig of the varietals they offered for sale, I opted for a bottle of their grassy Arbequina. Then on for some wine tasting.

After meandering a bit through the masses wth my prized tasting tickets, I sought out the pleasant sips of Hearthstone Vineyards, Kiamie Wine Cellars, Stacked Stone Cellars, and Derby Wine Estates. Later I was delighted to stumble upon the intriguing wines and welcome hospitality of Graveyard Vineyards. A future visit to their vineyard in San Miguel to retaste their serious wine is in order.

Eventually lunchtime set in, and I wandered around Downtown Paso where I stumbled upon Thomas Hill Organics Market Bistro & Wine Bar. As I sat outside in their lovely courtyard in my famished state, munching on a fabulous grilled pear and avocado sandwich layered with Humboldt fog goat cheese, arugula, and citrus vinaigrette, I knew I'd revisit this charming restaurant again (where their menu is based on fresh, organic produce from their Paso farm). The thick focaccia...the grilled pears with an almost savory chutney-like essence...the richness of the avocado and cheese offset by the tang of the dressing, all worked together in harmony...providing me a welcome respite from the horde.

Then it came time to face the crowds again. I'm glad I did, as I soon discovered the smooth, peppery taste of Hidden Hills Olives & Oaks Tuscan olive oil blend, as well as Chaparral Gardens tangy artisan vinegars. How does Blackberry Roasted Pepper Vinegar sound for future recipes? Or Pacific Spice Vinegar—made with organic kiwi's, citrus, ginger chili and secret spices?

After calling it a day, I leafed through the festival's offical program and found a recipe for goat cheese marinated in olive oil. Sounded good, but required 2 days in the fridge to marinate. Too impatient. So, I made up my own quick version. Here it is. Enjoy before summer slips away!

SLO Marinated Goat Cheese

1/2 pound goat cheese
(I used a hard, aged cheese; soft goat cheese would work just as well)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 cup finely chopped herbs
(I used Italian parsely, chives, & thyme leaves)
2 cups sliced fresh veggies
(I picked up yellow cherry tomatoes &
zucchini from the farmer's market)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 small baguette, sliced

This recipe works well for 3 - 5 people; you can easily double it if you're expecting more guests.


Put olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper in small bowl. Chop herbs and add to oil mixture; whisk together. Place cheese in middle of platter and arrange sliced veggies around the sides of platter. Drench cheese and vegetables with 1/2 of oil fusion. (Reserve other 1/2 in fridge for later). Squizzle cheese and veggies with a bit more lemon juice and salt & pepper if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and let flavors meld for one or two hours in fridge before serving. Set out platter and reserved bowl of oil marinade at least 20 minutes before guests arrive. This appetizer is too messy to serve as a finger food, so provide your small swarm of visitors with petite plates and forks. Serve sliced baguette on the side to dip in the the reserved oil marinade. Don't forget to offer your friends chilled glasses of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc. They will love you (as I'm sure they already do).

Cheers!
Who could resist this charming façade?
Thomas Hill Organics offers a seasonal menu and a Central Coast wine list. Guests can order by the taste, half, or full glass.  
The curiously-named Graveyard Vineyards sits adjacent to Pleasant Valley Cemetary in San Miguel. I'm looking forward to visiting their ranch and tasting their chocolate-infused port.
In spite of the multitude of festival-goers, I look forward to slurping my way through next year's olive celebration.

Bottom's up!

All Text and Photos Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

SLO Renaissance

I'm a born people watcher. Not a voyeur—just a curious spectator of life. I can plop my arse in a coffee shop with a good book and amuse myself for hours, finding occasional mirth with the actors that come and go. Some of life's players sit and read by themselves; others chat with friends or colleagues; many simply come in for a fix and go. We all play our speckled roles.
In July, San Luis Obispo County's El Chorro Regional Park transformed into Donneybrooke, an English Renaissance village, and played home to the 26th Annual Central Coast Renaissance FestivalThese festivities brought scores of artistes who immersed themselves in a subculture of late 1500's Elizabethan Costuming, hilarious comedy, and thrilling jousts. Whether costumed or not, we all cooperated as indviduals, collectively painting the town red in this makeshift community. I watched and observed hundreds of participants throughout the afternoon, walking away delighted and entertained.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and hope you find a bit of merriment in this festival...as did I. 
 Lively entertainers bemused onlookers with strings and songs. 
Peasants danced in the streets.
Noble gentleman of the Queens Royal Court bespoke eloquently of current affairs.


Celtic musicians and dancers diverted our attention as they flittered about the stage.

The Merry Wives of Windsor wenches belted out humorous, saucy English tunes; reminiscent of taudry bar-speak.



No village is complete without a watch tower.

At the end of the day, I connected with my Scottish ancestry.


Donned in pleated kilts, these brave souls put up a good fight.

Who can resist a knight in shining armor jousting on a giant steed?

Or better yet—a Viking who lets it all hang out!

Hope to see you in Donneybrooke next year.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

SLO Hop

Over the summer I stepped out of my comfort zone. A happenstance blurb on a social networking site caught my eye, and I thought, what the heck? Free wine tasting in Paso Robles, a free gourmet organic lunch, and the chance to check out one of San Luis Obispo County's newest wine tasting services—The Wine Line. What was the catch? I had to get in front of the camera and "act" like a wine taster having fun while they filmed a commercial. I didn't hesitate to volunteer for this cool blog opportunity. And fun it was!

This entertaining day started mid-morning for me and three other volunteers. One of The Wine Line's friendly drivers shuttled us and the owner, Jason Westfall, to meet the filmmakers. For the next few hours, the camera followed us hopping on and off the comfortable touring van while we explored the creations of two wineries; one on the west side of Paso and one to the east. Not much acting was required as we naturally had a blast hanging out and sipping vino.

Our first action stop of the day began at a small, boutique winery on Highway 46 West, at the home of Caliza Winery. Spanish for the word "limestone," Caliza's tasting room is surrounded by their beautiful 20-acre vineyard that grows in rich soils that are a combination of fractured shale and clay loam. Located in the heart of the Templeton Gap region of Paso, the warm climate is tempered by cool marine air that swings through the gaps of the Santa Lucia mountains, providing budding grapes the opportunity to glow in the warm sunny days and recover during the cool nights; resulting in optimal acid levels. After tasting their 2008 Kissin' Cousins—aptly named for its lovely mouthfeel—this gentle, sexy blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Roussane quickly caught our attention. Due to the filming schedule, we only had time for one more taste and moved to Caliza's 2009 Pink (you guessed it—rosé), which was a hit and made us realize summer was here.
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Next up: a short drive to the east side of Paso where we hopped off to find the beautiful grounds of the grandiose Vina Robles Winery & Vineyard beckoning. Founded in 1996 by a Swiss entrepeneur, Vina Robles is surrounded by vineyards and boasts a 14,000 square foot hospitality center. We proceeded to the tasting room and delighted in meeting Martin Columberg, the Director of Hospitality, who guided us through an incredible tasting tour of reserve wines paired with artisan cheeses. Martin hails from the German region of Switzerland and trained there professionally as a chef. Not only did he provide excellent advice on which wines to pair with the cheeses, he gave us copies of some of his recent recipes that incorporate Vina Robles wine. (Look for his possible food and wine classes in the future). My favorite pick of the day: the 2006 Ryan Road Syrah. With a rich, velvety texture, it paired properly with "barely buzzed," a full-bodied cheese hand-rubbed with coffee and lavender. Unusual, but intriguing.

After the filming festivities finished, we sat in Vina Robles' lovely courtyard and enjoyed a fabulous lunch from Farmstand 46, arranged for us by The Wine Line. "Gourmet, healthy food made from organic, estate-grown vegetables and herbs. Farmstand 46 promotes and supports local, organic, sustainable farming." Need I say more?

For the remainder of the afternoon, Jason offered us the chance to take advantage of The Wine Line's shuttle service. So, we hopped on for a west-side stop at Kenneth Volk and Lone Madrone's tasting rooms for our last fun sips of the day before being shuttled home. The Wine Line offers stops at 60 Paso wineries; guests have the opportunity to choose where they'd like to go throughout the day and create their own touring adventure at their own pace. This stellar, much-needed, wine tasting shuttle service is the only one of its kind in SLO County. Click here for more details about their flexible service, pricing information, and winery options.

And don't forget to check out the final edit of the video promo!

Hop on. Hop off. Have fun!

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