On Saturday, I spent the good part of my day at Sunset's Main Event at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, where wineries, breweries, restaurants and artisan food purveyors transformed this former farming and ranching outpost into a food and wine lovers paradise. With over 200 wines to try and dozens of tempting food bites, I rubbed elbows with a bevy of locals and out-of-towners who came out to the ranch for a taste of the good life.
In its fourth year, this savory event spans four days. Thursday and Friday kicked off with adventure tours and special dinners at impressive locales around San Luis Obispo County—how does indulging in abalone on the cliffs of Cayucos or an elegant sunset dinner at Hearst Castle sound?—while the Main Event stretched over the weekend.
New for this year, the Savor Run, produced by the Central Coast Cancer Challenge, allowed athletes to participate in a "Fastest Mile Challenge," 5K, or 10K that started and finished at the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Even though I didn't quite feel up to the challenge after Saturday's indulgence, I knew what I had to do: run through the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo. So I woke up early Sunday morning to line up with hundreds of other runners and walkers. Guess what? I did just fine.
Now that this gratifying weekend is over, a little recovery and a lot of hydration is in order. At least until the next big festival. Harvest celebrations are just around the corner.
With blue skies and a fiery hot sun, my palate steered me towards mostly white wines. Crisp Rhone blends from Caliza Winery, Halter Ranch, and Ecluse Wines hit the spot; while a lovely pert vermentino from Tablas Creek caught my attention. Unoaked chardonnay from Chamisal Vineyards and Tolosa Winery paired nicely with the summery weather, and Still Waters Vineyards Cuvee Blanc 2012—a refreshing blend of viognier, chardonnay, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc—also went down easy. I did venture into the red zone and particularly fancied one of Talley Vineyard's pinot noirs and Justin Winery's infamous Isosceles blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.
Even on a scorching day, who could resist a warm bacon churro with chocolate sauce? Thank you, Artisan. Scores of people lined up all day long to indulge in the luscious cheeses provided by Fromagerie Sophie, a soon-to-be-opened and not-to-be-missed specialty cheese and charcuterie shop in downtown San Luis Obispo. Thomas Hill Organics outdid themselves with Bengali-spiced lamb and mint aioli, while countless other chefs let "farm to table" guide their senses, offering tasty bites that showcased the locally grown produce found on California's flourishing Central Coast.
It's no surprise that a few food celebrities made an appearance in our culinary paradise. Food Network Chef Marcela Valladolid shared a few secrets with a captivated audience and let us in on some simple tips for making Mexican tacos and pineapple margaritas. A few hints: Don't overdo your tacos with a lot of condiments; use lime juice to cut through the fat and enhance the flavor of the meat. When making a simple syrup for your margaritas, add half of a jalapeno pepper to give it a little kick.
Food Network Host Sandra Lee wowed guests at the Farm to Table exhibit, enlightening the audience with refreshing cocktail ideas.
Then there was Sunday—race day. If showing up is half the battle, I succeeded. If crossing the finish line without collapsing is the other half, mission accomplished.
Another adventurous weekend rife with local delicacies and bucolic life. Well done.