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, May 31, 2013

Paradise Hopping

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite National Park is just a hop, skip and a jump from San Luis Obispo County. Well, not reallythe journey is more like a three-and-a-half hour drive—but in the grand scheme of things, the distance is well within the realm of possibility for a weekend trip. 

A few Saturdays ago, I hit the road before the crack of dawn to trade in one paradise for another. As SLO County disappeared from my radar and the drive through California's flat Central Valley brought me closer to the undulating Sierra Foothills, my reverence for this extraordinary part of the world soared.
Yosemite Falls, viewed from Glacier Point. 

With an open invitation to visit close relatives who moved to Madera County last year, exploring Yosemite and its dramatic highs and lows is now a pastime. Each brief sojourn grants me a few days to get out in the mountains, breathe its fresh, piney air and discover something new. 

My latest magnificent find is Glacier Point. This elevated lookout station sits 3,200 feet above Yosemite Valley and sports brilliant views of Half Domea Yosemite icon that looms 8,800 feet above sea levelas well as Yosemite Falls to the west and the valley below. From this vantage point the drops are shear, the sky is limitless...the views are phenomenal.

El Capitan on the right.
Even better is the 4.6-mile hike that meanders down and around the giant hillside. As walkers wind down to the valley below, the waterfall inches closer, Half Dome moves farther away, and El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, suddenly breaks through the horizon. 

If you decide to make this awesome trek, even though the trail is easy to follow, pay attention to a few slippery spots and the steep drops off the side. Hiking sticks would be a great asset. Oh, don't be surprised if you encounter a rattlesnake or two. They know paradise when they see it.

This elderly rattlesnake crossed our path on the trail. The encounter scared us all a bit, but then he quietly slithered away, retreating back into his own shady paradise.
Yosemite Valley surrounded by awesome rock formations.
Half Dome. Jutting out of paradise.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

Some believe the worst tragedy that can befall a soldier is not to be injured or killed...but to be forgotten.

Today's solemn yet inspirational Memorial Day service, held on the planks of Pismo Beach Pier amidst stunning blue skies and pounding waves, honored our armed forces. While flags rippled in the wind and families played  freely in the surf and turf below on this celebrated three-day weekend, the procession on the pier paid homage to past, present and future veterans. 

Highlights included honoring local World War II vets; one who served as a U.S. Army nurse and helped survivors of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany. An American flag that accompanied U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan was ceremoniously placed in tribute on the pier. Veterans fired a three-volley rifle salute and three of the shell casings from their chattering discharge were then placed in a folded American flag—representing duty, honor, country. A veteran read Bill Rose's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and later played a recorded bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace. I doubt there was a dry eye on the pier. 

This is the first year I can ever remember that I've attended a Memorial Day service. Perhaps it won't be the last. Today as I think about my personal freedoms, I remember who came and went before me so that I can stand on my own accord. I remember Rose's words: 

I am the Unknown Soldier
And maybe I died in vain,
But if I were alive and my country called,
I'd do it all over again.

Pismo Beach, U.S.A.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

SLO Cinco de Mayo

San Luis Obispo County's week-long warm streak concluded with a cloudy, blustery, cooler dayjust in time for Cinco de Mayo. I felt that a festive dinner was in order, but wasn't quite sure what dish fit both the occasion and the weather. All I knew was that the stormy skies made me yearn for something hot, innovative and delicious. Of course...Mexican-style pork stew!

Dried prunes, onion and jalapeño merry well together.
This out-of-the-ordinary medley of ingredients, cooked to perfection in a pressure cooker, is one of those meals that is so good it is intoxicating. Onions, jalapeño, dried prunes, cinnamon, cloves and pineapple are just a few of the oh-so-interesting elements that make up this delectable, thick soup.

A few years ago a chef friend introduced me to the world of nutritious, fast cooking with this flavorsome pork stew recipe that was developed by a colleague of food writer Lorna Sass. Known as the "Queen of Pressure Cooking," if you are interested in pursuing this rich, satisfying recipe, you can find it in Sass's book, Cooking Under Pressure.

As the recent Boston tragedy still ways heavily on our minds, I appreciate Sass's recent blog post about pressure cookers and whole-heartedly agree with her sentiment: "Tell everyone you know that the pressure cooker was always intended to help folks get a healthy meal on the table in record time, and nothing more."  

Recently, Sass was interviewed for a piece in The Washington Post, Take back the pressure cooker, and cook. Fixing this stew does just that.

Cubed pork shoulder, onions, chicken broth, cinnamon, oregano, ground cloves, prunes, canned tomatoes and a little salt & pepper cook in unison in the pressure cooker.

Freshly pressed garlic and diced jalapeño stirred into the stew after it finishes cooking adds a bit of zing and crunch.

Pineapple as well as green olives with pimentos get added to the cooked medley, bringing just enough sweet and tart to the palate.
 I paired dinner with Vina Robles WHITE4 2011. A blend of viognier, vermentino, verdelho and sauvignon blanc, the crisp acidity cut through the deep layers of flavor in this tender pork stew.
Words cannot describe how delicious this medley of unusual ingredients plays out. Rich, warm, tasty broth Fabulous, fresh flavors.

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