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.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Goodness

Over the weekend someone gifted me a day-old baguette. I could have turned it into croutons, but with Thanksgiving just a few days away I experimented with a sweet-savory bread pudding recipe. The end result was over-the-top goodness.

No matter how much we stuff ourselves on Thanksgiving, somehow we always seem to find room for dessert. So I offer up this flavorful bread pudding recipe that your family and friends will give thanks for. This custard treat makes good use of leftover bread and sweet potatoes, so you might even want to wait until the after-holiday weekend to whip up as an extra special breakfast. Enjoy.

SWEET POTATO-ORANGE BREAD PUDDING RECIPE

Serves 6 - 10 hungry or not-so-hungry mouths.

Ingredients:
6 cups stale, cubed baguette
1 teaspoon butter
1 - 2 cups roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup honey
Zest & juice of one small orange
1/2 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon & ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon each of allspice, nutmeg & cardamom
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks 

Instructions: 
To roast the sweet potato, heat oven to 350°F. Cut potato lengthwise in half and place flesh side down on a glass baking dish. Bake for about one hour, until tender all the way through when pierced with a fork (and you'll see caramelization bubbling on the bottom of the dish). Remove and let cool. 
Sweet potato goodness: from pantry to oven. 

Rub the bottom of a 9 x 11 glass baking dish with butter. Slice or tear the baguette into large bite-sized pieces and scatter evenly in the dish. 



Scoop out the sweet potato flesh from the skins and add to a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the honey, orange, salt and spices and mix for a few minutes before adding the cream and milk. Stir the liquids in and then add the eggs, whisking until everything is well incorporated. 
The mixture will be slightly thick but still runny. 




Pour the mixture over the bread and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then place in a preheated 350°F oven for 40 - 50 minutes. You know the pudding's done when the flavors brighten the kitchen, the top crisps up to a golden brown, the custard sets firmly, and the center puffs up. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream. 


Before and after pictures: chewy bread soaks up fall flavors to yield a festive dessert. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Thanks


Even though I don't always practice what I preach, I'm a true believer in focusing on what I'm grateful for on a daily basis. As 2013 slips further into autumn and the holidays loom just around the corner, perhaps this is a season for added reflection.

With ideal temperate weather and vibrant fall leaves freckling the  Edna Valley region vineyards, this past weekend I felt even more blessed to live in San Luis Obispo County. I couldn't resist taking a drive in my own backyard, in search of distinctive local wines to share with family and friends during the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities. 

Hoping to find the perfect regional nectar of the gods to fill our glasses and complement the abundance of food and flavors that will mound our plates on this gratified holiday, I visited three small quality-focused wineries located in this cool-climate coastal zone. Here's what I found.
At Wolff Vineyards I couldn't leave without a bottle of their 2012 Dry Riesling, a nicely balanced, fruit-forward ambrosia of flavors. This varietal will hold up well to the countless flavors that might end up on our holiday plates.

 I picked up another outstanding white that pairs well with the myriad zest of the holidays: Claiborne & Churchill Vintners's 2012 Dry Gewürztraminer; a floral explosion in the mouth. Their 2009 "Classic" Pinot Noir also went home with me. Velvety and packed with notes of berry and herbs, I envisioned a glass of this medium-bodied red going down nicely with our festive meal without overpowering the roasted turkey.
I discovered an outburst of jam-packed flavor in Cerro Caliente Cellars 2007 Syrah. This vintage was a particularly good year for the region's grapes and I'm hopeful our smoked turkey will pair spot on with this pleasant, peppery wine.

Even though I still haven't quite figured out how I ended up so fortuitous to end up in San Luis Obispo County, I'll keep tasting away, thankful for every entreating sip. I will remember the importance of sharing with family, friends and even strangers, as well as continue to give thanks, give back to my community, and keep on exploring my beautiful environs.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Yosemite Hallow

Whenever I visit the Yosemite region my favored pastimes are simple: eat, drink and exercise. Not necessarily in that exact order, but always with a camera in hand. 

On Halloween Day, a relative and I drove down to hike the low forested meadows of Yosemite Valley. The weather screamed, "Clear blue skies with warmish breezes all day long," while the trails warned, "Enter at your own riskyou might never want to leave."

With luminous autumn colors lining the Merced River, we spent the good part of the afternoon leisurely following a 7-mile loop course. On this hallowing day, during an off-season time of year, we practically had the trails to ourselves. The absence of people in this national park was actually quite eerie. 

We worked up quite an appetite on our trek and the next celebratory dayAll Saints Day—went in search of regional food and libation. On Highway 41, located about 45 minutes from Yosemite National Park's south gate entrance, lies Fäsi Estate Winery. Set amidst the golden hills, mooing cows and serpentine oak trees of the lower Madera County Foothills, this stellar establishment offers a taste of local terroir. 

The tasting room opened just last year, but since 2003, Swiss proprietor Ralph Fäsi has been producing syrah from the winery's nearby 42-acre organic vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley. A member of both the Madera Wine Trail and the Yosemite Sierra Wine Road, this boutique winery attracts Yosemite visitors who travel far and wide. 

When our small party of three arrived, tasting room manager Jane Achermann greeted us outside with a big smile and a warm welcome. She escorted us inside where we explored four of their wines. 

First up: 2012 Fäsi Crest Chardonnay. Made from locally sourced grapes that benefited from both barrel and stainless fermentation, this dry white with mineral notes went down nice and crisp; quite a sharp contrast to the fruit forward chardonnays I usually drink on the Central Coast.

The next pour: 2005/07 Fäsi Crest Syrah. A blend of two vintages of the winery's flagship varietal, this nicely aging, dry syrah—heavy on blackberry and mineralwas an equally big hit with our tasting group. 

Then came a surprise: 2011 Fäsi Crest Malbec. According to Jane, Fäsi has ownership in an Argentine winery, where this big, easy-drinking malbec hails from. 

And last but not least: 2008 Fäsi Crest Sweet Syrah. We savored this sweetly restrained dessert wine that left a lasting impression without any cloying syrup or stickiness.

I've been on the wine tasting circuit for several years now and Jane—who is originally from Switzerland and speaks several languages—is hands down one of the most pleasant, knowledgeable tasting room hostesses I've ever encountered. She went above and beyond to educate us about this boutique winery and make us feel welcome. Our first visit to Fäsi Estate Winery will not be our last.
Then our palates diverted us to handcrafted beer and seasonal local pub fare. We headed up Highway 41 to Oakhurst, located at the southern end of California's gold country, and less than 20 miles from Yosemite's south gate entrance. Sometimes referred to as the gateway to Yosemite, this small town also boasts a new eating and drinking establishment: South Gate Brewing Company.

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada foothills and filled with a warm interior, friendly service and a welcoming menu, we started out by indulging in a few suds. Crafted on site, South Gate's current selection includes golden ale, American pale ale, English-style porter,  IPA, as well as a seasonal amber Oktoberfest beer.

We needed something to wash down with our beers and ordered the crunchy, tasty blonde ale beer battered fish and chips as well as a few of their delicious artisanal brick oven pizzas. "The Mountaineer," topped with alfredo sauce, fennel pork sausage, bacon, mushrooms, red onion, fresh basil, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses is my new favorite pizza. Utilizing many local, seasonal ingredients, I can't wait to visit this brewpub again to experience more of the tasty, regional flavor combinations.


There's much more to the Yosemite region than just spectacular granite cliffs and glacier-carved valleys. When in Yosemite, eat, drink and hit the local trails. 
Not necessarily in that order.

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