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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

SLO Farmers Market Celebration

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this morning, the Saturday morning farmers market in San Luis Obispo City offered more than its usual outdoor shopping experience. Today, in addition to rows of vendors setting up shop in the World Market/Embassy Suites parking lot, the market bustled with live music, cooking demonstrations, a free raffle, and you guessed tasting. 

In 1978, this retail exchange for farmers and consumers became one of the first of five California farmers markets after then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Direct Marketing Act, establishing California Certified Farmers Markets. 35 years later this Saturday morning tradition is still going strong, continuing to offer seasonal, nutritious, locally grown produce.

Vendors also bring regional specialties such as lavender and olive oil, and shoppers are tempted with locally made food like cheese and baked goods. Even the SLO Wine Country Association participates, offering bottle sales of some of their members'  wine. 

I've been frequenting this particular market for a few years now, and over time I've come to know certain farmers and closely follow their seasonal bounty. I know that during this time of year, just as summer starts to slip away, the vibrant basil varieties that provide fragrance to my dishes, and the summer dahlia flowers that brighten my home, will soon disappear. But with San Luis Obispo County's year-round growing season, new crops will take their stead; like crunchy apples and fall squash.

Here is a healthy recipe that incorporates rich, creamy avocado with the soon-to-be-gone basil, blended with an early crop of pesticide-free apples from SLO Creek Farms. You just can't beat the vibrant, seasonal food that comes directly from the soil of this county, providing inspiration for the kitchen.

SLO Savory Avocado-Apple Mousse 
with Bell Pepper-Ginger Relish

Serves 2 - 4

Ingredients & Directions for Mousse:

Flesh of 1 large ripe avocado (yields to pressure when you poke it, but not too soft and mushy)
2 small apples, cut in quarters (or 1 large)
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 - 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 - 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste

You can blend all ingredients in a regular blender, but for best results to achieve a creamy consistency, I'd recommend a high-speed blender (Vitamix or Nutribullet). Taste and adjust for seasonings and re-blend if necessary. If the consistency turns out too thin, blend in a bit more avocado so that it thickens. When the taste and consistency are pleasing to your palate, transfer to a glass dish, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 1 - 3 hours. 

Ingredients & Directions for Relish:

1 cup chopped sweet peppers (red and yellow bell peppers work well)
1 - 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger 
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

After chopping and grating, combine all ingredients for the relish and stir to meld flavors. Transfer to a glass dish, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 1 - 3 hours.

When you're ready to serve your mousse—which by the way, is refreshing, energizing, and works great as an appetizer or substitutes well for a soup or salad course—remove from the fridge along with the relish. Spoon the relish over the mousse and garnish with mint or basil if desired.

Dig in and enjoy the creamy texture of the avocado, amicably flavored by the apples and spices, complemented by the zingy crunch from the relish. Add a glass of SLO County chardonnay or sauvignon blanc to round out the dish.
There you go! A healthy, unique dish that is best served the same day that you make it.
Here are a few beauties from today's farmers market. Beautiful striped eggplant.
Behemoth artichokes.

Spicy radishes.
Creamy avocados.
This is the last week for these colorful, animated dahlias.
Good advice from SLO Creek Farms.
Let's not forget the local wines!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Fissures at Taft Point

Sometimes the best way to face your fears is through pure ignorance. Little did I know that on the 4th of July, when I traded the opportunity to watch fireworks for a day hike in Yosemite National Park, I'd come face to face with the edge of the earth. 

Hoping to escape the heat wave and find cooler hiking conditions at a higher elevation, a family member and I drove through Yosemite's south gate entrance, then headed left down Wawona Road. After wending along 17 slow, twisty miles, we reached the turnoff for Glacier Point Road 

This route, only open part of the year due to heaps of snow that blanket the mountains during the colder months, winds up and around for about 16 miles until reaching an eye-popping sightseer destination that perches high above Yosemite Valley. Providing a splendid vantage point behind safety rails, tourists can gawk at the wide, yawning valley 3,200 feet below, while Half Dome and the High Sierras stretch endlessly across the vista 

But before reaching this end-of-the-road destination at Glacier Point, we stopped 9 miles along the way to explore a hiking trail neither of us had trekked before: the seemingly easy trail that leads to The Fissures at Taft Point. I had no idea what was in store for me.  

After meandering less than a mile through tall shady pine trees, scattered with grassy meadows teeming with vibrant green ferns and florid wildflowers, we reached the end of this mostly flat pathway. Upon emerging from the sheltered forest, giant slabs of slick granite lay ominously against the sky's bright blue backdrop.  

We continued our exploration.  

First,  we noticed the fissures—horizontal narrow fractures in the granite called "joints." These famous sharp cracks separate the granite, granting trekkers a curious view of crevasses that lie hundreds of feet deep in the mile-high granite. Then we noticed something else as we edged closer to the precipice: no guard rails! 

The Fissures at Taft Point.
Much to my surprise, this point of view of the valley 3,000+ feet below was view-at-your-own-risk. One slip and it would be all over! My tremendous fear of heights kicked in and I prudently peered over the edge, keeping a safe distance.  

Taft Point was the only place that provided any means of comfort, and it took every ounce of courage to face my fears and step onto this small viewpoint high on the edge of a granite slab, where a teeny tiny guardrail allows tourists to soak in the stunning views of El Capitan and the valley while snapping a few photos. But believe me when I tell you, I held on to that rail with one hand at all times.  

I still get a bit agitated thinking about the sheer drops we encountered that day. But I suppose I'd go back. After all, it's not every day that you get to discover the ends of the earth.             

The edge of the earth.

The famous fissures.
If you look very closely, you'll see the speck of someone standing high near the edge, taking in the shocking view. Taft Point is located just a bit farther to the left, where you can stand behind a small guard rail and peer out over the "safe" threshold.

Later we continued driving to the end of Glacier Point Road and reveled in the view of Half Dome covered by mammoth thunder clouds.

At the end of the day I calmed my nerves with one of Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company's Half Dome wheat beers. Nothing wrong with that.
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