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).

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.

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