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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mariposa: Prospectors Brewing Co.

The Caifornia Gold Rush (1848 - 1855) might long be over, but in the Sierra Nevada foothill's historic Mariposa County, you can get a taste of modern-day gold. Since 2012, Prospectors Brewing Co. has been handcrafting golden suds for locals and tourists.

Their friendly, laid-back tap room, which sits at 4886 A 7th Street, just off the main drag of the township of Mariposa, lies deep in the heart of gold country. Located about 40 miles from Yosemite National Park's valley entrance, this sudsy watering hole is worth a stop if you're in their neck of the woods.

Year round, you can taste their carefully crafted brews on tap: Bootjack Blonde, a cross between a German pilsner and an American ale; Mariposa Midnight, an oaked and smoked stout; Long Tom IPA, an India pale ale; and Pistol Whipped Wheat, an American wheat beer. When I visited their tap room a few weeks ago, current seasonal selections included Poker Flat, a Belgian porter with vanilla bean, and Dirt Nap, an American barleywine. 
 Our tasting party went straight for the Bootjack Blonde (5.6% ABV) and the Pistol Whipped Wheat (5.8% ABV). Both brews went down clean and easy, honing our palates for more of Prospector Brewing Co.'s selections on our next visit, which I hope will be in the not-too-distant future.

 Mariposa was long ago inhabited by the Southern Miwok Indians, settled by a Spanish priest in the early 1800s, and later boomed during the 49ers Gold Rush. Remnants of these bygone eras remain studded throughout this rural northern California region.   

Mariposa is also home to the California State Mining & Mineral Museum, where you can discover California's mineral wealth, colorful history, and geologic diversity while viewing the state's official mineral collection. The brewery facility for Prospectors Brewing Co. is located near the museum, next to the county fairgrounds. 
So the next time you're in the Yosemite area and want a taste of local and modern history, stop in at the museum on Highway 49, then head a few miles north to Prospectors Brewing Co.'s tap room for a "taste of the gold."

 Then hit the happy trails.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

20th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival: Highlights!

The Fremont Theatre's richly-decorated ceiling in downtown San Luis Obispo.
A wise friend recently told me: "Creativity is the greatest gift in the world." How wonderful that  San Luis Obispo County recently played host to filmmakers, cinema fans, celebrities and creative minds alike, who came together for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF). This 5-day celebration transformed SLO County's every day utopia into a cinematic paradise, allowing guests the golden opportunity to watch artistic gems on the big screen and attend once-in-a-lifetime events.

Celebrating its 20th year, the festival's staff, board of directors, sponsors and legion of volunteers made this platinum anniversary year unforgettable. I've been attending this festival since 2007, and each year just gets better and better. When the schedule comes out, I struggle with which movies and events to chooseyou just can't see them all or be everywhere at once. This year was no different. 

Adam West
Attending the Opening Night festivities was a must. American icon Adam West, best known for his role as the famous Caped Crusader in the 1960s classic television series, Batman, was honored at the Fremont Theatre. After a screening of director James Tooley's documentary, "Starring Adam West," the world's foremost Batman accepted the festival's Spotlight Award. This honor, bestowed to one of Hollywood's most humble, genuine and funny actors, brought Bat Fans and people from all ages to take part in this historic night in downtown San Luis Obispo.

After this incredible opening, the next four days were jam-packed with film, wine and fun at various locales around the county. I handpicked several key events and movies, including compelling documentaries, shorts, narrative features and special event films. Some of these movies were intense and emotional, while others brought laughter or radiated high energy to the audience. Here are a few highlights.

"Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi"
Botso Korisheli and Charlotte Alexandar
This movies' tagline says it well: Sometimes a story is so inspiring that it must be told. The extraordinary life of one of San Luis Obispo County's long-time residents, Wachtung "Botso" Korisheli, who escaped Stalinist Georgia into Nazi Poland and Germany, eventually making his way to the United States, is one of the most compelling films I've ever watched. In spite of the devastating and tumultuous events he lived through in his native country, Mr. Korisheli, who currently resides in Morro Bay, has lived a peaceful, exemplary life as a musician, sculptor, teacher, mentor, husband, father and friend to many. It's no surprise that this movie won the Neil Travis Best in the Fest Award. 

"Boogie Stomp!"
Musician Bob Baldori directed this electrifying documentary which transports audiences into the rhythmic world of boogie woogie—an African-American style of piano that became popular in the late 1930s and early '40s that is the backbone of American music. Mr Baldori, who's been performing blues, boogie and rock for several decades and played hundreds of dates with Chuck Berry, combined talents with fellow Detroiter Bob Seeley, known to insiders as one of the best boogie players in the world. 

Actor Jeff Bridges and Director Bob Baldori at the King Vidor Reception
Their foot-stompin' journey takes them on performances all over the world, where they fuse their own style and unique talents. This mesmerizing film not only tells a tale of two great performers connecting later in life, but enlightens the audience with the rich music history that's shaped our country and the world, and compels moviegoers to get up and out of their seats. After the festival screening, Mr. Baldori asked the audience if this movie made us want to get up and dance, to which we replied a resounding: "Yes!"

Boogie Stomp! is a must-see!

Surf Nite in SLO
Honk playing live at the Fremont Theatre
Each year the SLOIFF brings its most popular event, Surf Nite in SLO, to the Fremont Theatre. This year, a packed audience got their groove on while watching the cultural icon, "Five Summer Stories." Made by Californians Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman, this 1972 classic surfing flick portrays a young, outlaw sport from the watershed era of the '70s, featuring surfing gurus David Nuuhiwa, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez and Sam Hawk. Heralded as one of the finest surf films ever made, its original soundtrack by the band Honk introduced an original new sound to surf films at that time.  

The last time Honk played in concert after this film was over 20 years ago and the SLOIFF made history at this year's Surf Nite in SLO. After the "Five Summer Stories" festival screening, Honk rocked the stage with an eclectic mix of their songs from over the years, intermixed with tunes from this swell film, while the Fremont's giant screen splashed staggering wave scenes. Epic!

"A Birder's Guide to Everything"
Filmmaker Luke Matheny
Sometimes you just need a good laugh. This delightful coming of age tale about teenage birdwatchers brought comic relief to the SLOIFF. Co-writer Luke Matheny, the 2011 Oscar-winning "God of Love" filmmaker/star, was in attendance for an entertaining Q&A after the screening. The plot, storyline, writing and cast of this film was top-notch and it tied for Best Narrative Feature in the festival's George Sidney Independent Film Awards. Look for this playful film in select theaters and on demand, March 21st. 

King Vidor Awards & Reception
On Saturday night of the festival, actor James Cromwell presented the Dude himselfJeff Bridges—with the SLOIFF's highest honor, the King Vidor Award. Mr. Bridges has been charming audiences since his childhood; some of his notable roles over the years include "The Last Picture Show," "Starman," "The Fisher King," "The Big Lebowski," "The Contender," and "Crazy Heart" for which he won an Oscar. The sold-out audience welcomed this Oscar winner and appreciated his laid-back, mellow persona during the Q&A with Mr. Cromwell. At the reception held later that evening at the SLO Masonic Lodge, Mr. Bridges sipped on SLO County wine while mingling for a bit with guests, providing an unforgettable experience. 

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival's extraordinary influence comes but once a year. When this SLO County festival rolls around, we can't see or experience everything, but we can take with us what we've discovered. This was the SLOIFF's 20th year and I'm willing to bet that each of us who have attended the festival over the years are a little—or a lotbetter for the opportunity to catch a few thought-provoking movies and creative events that don't normally come our way. 

Hats off to the SLOIFF for an ingenious 20th anniversary!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

20th Annual SLOIFF: Jeff Bridges!

Last night's King Vidor Awards was nothing short of magical. Ever since the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival's (SLOIFF) announcement that Academy Award®-winning actor, Jeff Bridges, would be receiving the festival's highest honor, the galvanized SLO air has sizzled with anticipation. 

When my parents and I arrived at the majestic Fremont Theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo at dusk, the buzz and excitement swept us away. Soon after taking our seats, my sister and her fiancée joined us and it wasn't long before the festival's dynamic duo, managing director, Charlotte Alexander, and artistic director, Wendy Eidson, kicked off this electrifying awards show.

At the beginning of this red-hot event, I had to face my fears. SLOIFF's board president, Paul Metchik, called me on stage to accept the President's Award. I stood in front of hundreds of people in the sold-out audience and gave a short acceptance speech. Terrifying but exciting! Awarded for my years of volunteer service, serving on the SLOIFF board  of directors, and helping to create the local winery participation in the festival, I couldn't have been happier. 

After the filmmaker awards the great actor, James Cromwell, presented Mr. Bridges with the King Vidor Award. Let me tell you, the Dude still abides. During the Q&A, he was warm, charismatic, honest and downright likeable. 

At the after party, held at the nearby SLO Masonic Lodge, local wineries and restaurants provided delicious sips and nibbles, while the celebrity guests of honor mingled with the ecstatic crowd. What a celebration. A truly incredulous night that I'll never forget!

Here I am on stage at the Fremont Theatre—facing my fears and feeling grateful.
Jeff Bridges, receiving his King Vidor Award.

I'm thankful I was able to share this incredible evening with my parents, my sister and her fiancée. A special thanks to my mom for gently, but firmly, pushing her way through the reception crowd to make sure she got pictures of me with both Jeff Bridges and James Cromwell. Big smile!

Friday, March 7, 2014

20th Annual SLOIFF: Day 1 of Movies!

Yesterday I cried at least twice. But I also smiled, laughed and learned a heck of a lot. By attending three screenings at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF), I watched a little-known piece of history unfold in the riveting documentary, "Second Opinion;" I discovered the heartening life story of a Morro Bay resident in "Botso: The Teacher from Tiblisi;" and I learned the whole story of the high school student who gained national attention in 2010 when she collapsed at a cross-country meet and crawled across the finish line in "Running for Jim."

Not only did these powerful documentaries bring three very different stories to life for audiences, but after each screening the filmmakers were present for Q&A's. Being able to engage in these illuminating sessions and hear their "stories behind the stories" after watching their films is what makes a film festival so extraordinary.
Filmmaker Eric Merola and Science Writer Ralph Moss at Downtown Cinemas in Downtown San Lius Obispo

In "Second Opinion," filmmaker Eric Merola recounted the 1970s events of science writer, Ralph Moss. Moss, who blew the whistle on a massive cover-up on a promising cancer therapy being tested at Sloan-Kettering, was also in attendance for the Q&A. This movie screens again today at 4pm at La Perla Del Mar in Shell Beach.

Wachtung "Botso" Korisheli, SLOIFF's Managing Director Charlotte Alexander, Writer/Producer Hillary Roberts Grant, Director/Producer Tom Wallters, and Producer David Thayer at the Fremont Theatre in Downtown San Luis Obispo.
"Botso: The Teacher from Tiblisi" shares the extraordinary life of one of San Luis Obispo County's long-time residents, Wachtung "Botso" Korisheli. His early hardships in Stalinist Georgia brought him to the United States, where he's lived an exemplary life as a musician, sculptor, teacher, mentor, husband, father and friend to many. This film portrays one of the most inspirational stories I've ever seen and audiences have the opportunity to watch it Sunday, March 9, at 10am at the Palm Theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SLOIFF's Artistic Director Wendy Eidson and Director Robin Hauser Reynolds at the Fremont Theatre
In 2010, remember the media blitz when 16-year-old Holland Reynolds collapsed near the finish line at a cross-country meet, then crawled through the finish to secure the title for her team and her ailing coach? Her mother, Robin Hauser Reynolds, co-directed the inspirational film, "Running for Jim," which shares the story of Jim Tracy, the most decorated high school cross-country coach in California history, and serves to bring awareness to the fatal Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), which Coach Tracy is currently battling.

I hope you can attend some of the SLOIFF's screenings and Q&A's over the next three days where you can laugh, cry and learn. That's a wrap!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

20th Annual SLOIFF: Opening Night!

WHAMM! The 20th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) got off to a Gotham good start. American icon Adam West, best known for his role as the famous Caped Crusader in the 1960s classic television series, Batman, was honored last night at the Fremont Theatre. 

After a screening of director James Tooley's documentary, "Starring Adam West," the world's foremost Batman accepted the festival's Spotlight Award. This honor, bestowed to one of Hollywood's most humble, genuine and funny actors, brought Bat Fans and people from all ages to take part in this historic night in downtown San Luis Obispo. 

For over 40 years, Mr. West has left his mark both as a family man as well as an actor, and the evening's captivating film, directed by his son-in-law, delved into Mr. West's early life all the way up to the present. The enthusiastic audience learned of his modest beginnings growing up on a farm in Walla Walla, Washington, his journey starting out as a young actor, his ties to San Luis Obispo, his infamous role as Batman, his setbacks in Hollywood, his many accomplishments in TV and film leading up to the present day, and his real-life role as a husband and father. After the movie, audience members eagerly lined up to ask questions, thank him...and one lucky man even checked off a bucket list item. 

"Rhett...get in the batmobile," Mr. West playfully demanded into the microphone. The audience laughed and Rhett walked back to his seat with a smile and a glow. 

It was easy to see how Mr. West's starring role from the 60s still leaves a lasting impression. A woman thanked him for making her difficult childhood better by being able to watch his show. Another woman thanked him for his influence and talked proudly of pursuing live theater. She even professed a Batman tattoo on her chest. A confident-sounding young boy admitted he was nervous to stand in line to ask Mr. West if he was ever nervous when he filmed his shows. Mr. West responded, "Always!" and commended his young fan.

The repertoire between Mr. West and his adoring audience was nothing short of ZAMM! He is one of the most genuine celebrities I've ever encountered at the SLOIFF and those in attendance last night surely felt his warmth and sincerity as he connected with everyone. He emphasized how much happiness he's found over the years bringing happiness to others and at one point looked straight at the audience and said, 'You know what? I'm no Dark Knight. I'm the White Knight." That says it all.

The evening started with a BANG! at the VIP reception at Luis Wine Bar in downtown SLO.
San Luis Obispo celebrity magician, Rich Ferguson, pulled some SWISH! and SWOOSH! for guests. Pictured from left to right: Los Angeles radio personality, Ralph Garman, Adam West, and magician Rich Ferguson.
The majestic Fremont Theatre was the perfect locale for this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Pictured from left to right: KROQ's Ralph Garman, who presented the Spotlight Award and moderated the Q & A; Adam West; and the film's director, James Tooley.

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