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, July 20, 2014

Summer Cherry-Basil Gazpacho Recipe

When life hands you a bowl full of organic cherries, there's only one thing to do: make gazpacho.

This past week I picked up a large bag of crimson beauties at the grocery store, not realizing they were destined for something special. But after visiting a local San Luis Obispo farmers market, where I purchased vibrant green basil, pungent shallots, a crooked young cucumber, freshly-harvested yellow and red tomatoes, as well as shiny purple and green bell peppers, I knew what I had to do: meld these seasonal flavors and colors of the rainbow. 

The following chilled soup recipe is refreshing, bursting with summer flavors, requires little preparation, makes a superb meal or side dish, and is guaranteed to wow your family and friends. 

Revel in the colors, the flavors, the season. 


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2 - 4 

1 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries, halved
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped bell peppers
3 - 4 large basil leaves, torn 
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons minced shallots
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
Salt & pepper to taste
Step 1: Wash all of your produce and get out your cherry/olive pitter. If you don't have one of these useful kitchen contraptions, you will need to get one in order to make this divine recipe. Although pitting cherries is a messy and laborious task, it is so worth the effort. Once you've pitted the cherries, cut them in half and place in a large glass bowl. 
Step 2: Cut your cucumber and bell peppers into bite-sized chunks and throw them in with the cherries. 
Step 3: Chop your ripened, juicy tomatoes and add them to the beautiful compote. 
Step 4: Mince your shallots and place them in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, Sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. Whisk vigorously, then taste and adjust for seasonings.
Step 5:  Pour the dressing over the vibrant mixture and cover with torn basil leaves. Then get out your blender. 
Step 6: Place 2 cups of the cherry-veggie mix in the blender and lightly puree. Add the cherry-stained puree back to the bowl, mix gently, cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours, allowing the intense flavors to meld. 
Step 7: Serve up this cold summer soup garnished with a bit of basil. If you desire a swig of wine as an accompaniment, pair with a crisp sauvignon blanc.  
 The sweetness of the cherries is offset by the tang of the acids and the spiciness of the basil, while each bite is full of cool textures and flavorsperfect for a refreshing warm weather meal.
Dig into everything summer has to offer. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Easy Peach-Raspberry Crisp Recipe

The stone fruit harvest is in full swing throughout San Luis Obispo County. 

In last week's Talley Farms Fresh Harvest Boxwhich is an enormous carton chock full of freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables available for pickup in various parts of SLO County on a weekly or bi-weekly basistheir assortment included a bag of delicious furry-skinned peaches, as well as ruby-red raspberries. This morning I decided to merry the flavors of these two popular fruits. 

Following is an easy recipe for a not-so-sweet, easy-on-your-pancreas fruit crisp that uses no refined sugar or flour, is enhanced by the addition of honey, dried ginger and fragrant cinnamon, and incorporates ready-made granola topped with shredded butter for a flavorful, easy-to-make crisp topping. 

A fruitage made in heaven. 

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Serves 2 - 4

3 - 4 firm peaches
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup granola (I used a favorite of my mine made with almonds, vanilla and honey)
2 tablespoons shredded cold butter


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Wash, halve, pit, and slice your peaches (leave skins on for extra fiber).
Arrange in a small baking dish (mine was about 8 1/2 x 5).

Add raspberries which have been rinsed and drained, then drizzle with honey, sprinkle with ginger and cinnamon, and stir all ingredients gently.

Top the fruit mixture evenly with the granola. 

Take out a cold stick of butter from the fridge and grate two tablespoons. 

Place the shredded butter on top of the crisp and bake for 25 minutes. 

 After taking this fruit melange out of the oven, allow to cool slightly before serving. 

Try dolloping this seasonal baked fruit medley with freshly-made whipped cream, ice cream, or even vanilla Greek yogurt. Feel free to drizzle some of the cooked-down fruit juice from the bottom of the pan over the top of the crisp when serving.
Bask in the season!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

San Luis Obispo County: July 2014 Events

Jumping for joy in Morro Bay over 4th of July weekend.
The bedazzle of Independence Day might be over, but July continues to sparkle throughout San Luis Obispo County. From the Central Coast Wine Classic, to Festival Mozaic, to the California Mid-State Fair, here's a peek at some of the festivities that are sure to ruffle your feathers. Click on the links below for more information about event and ticket details. May your summer continue to shimmer!

Central Coast Wine Classic
July 10 - 13
This time-honored philanthropic event was created to sustain 501(c)3 foundations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties whose missions are in the healing, performing and studio arts. The event purports: "California Wine & Its Finest." With an auction, barrel tasting, dinner at Hearst Castle, wine symposiums, winemaker dinners, and a reserve wine tasting, what a splendid way to support California Central Coast nonprofit organizations. 

Central Coast Lavender Festival 
July 12
Held in the Downtown Paso Robles City Park, this free event is all about the heavenly flowering lavender plant. Seminars on distilling lavender, booths with goods for sale from local lavender growers, a children's activities area, and sample tasting of lavender ice cream are just a few of the fragrant ways to experience this perennial goodness. 

Seven Sisters Craft Beer & Music Fest
July 11 - 13
Held at El Chorro Park & Campground in San Luis Obispo, this second annual event celebrates music, art and life. Listen to eclectic nonstop music, find good grub, beer and wine, acquire art, camp out or take a hike. 

Play On! A Suzy Miller Dance Spectacular
July 4 - 27
Explore your flights of fancy from Shakespeare to Broadway at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

California Mid-State Fair
July 16 - 27
You know the drill: livestock, deep-fried munchies, carnival rides, concerts. This year some of the fair's music headliners include Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Journey, and the Doobie Brothers. Monster trucks and County Rodeo Finals round out this county exhibition, making the fair one fine Paso Robles event. 

Morro Bay Founders Day Community Picnic
July 17
Morro Bay's 50th birthday celebration continues. Bring your picnic and blanket or lawn chair while enjoying sights and sounds from the 60s. 

Central Coast Renaissance Festival
July 19 & 20
At Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo, guests are transported to the late 1500's when Queen Elizabeth I reigned supreme in England. Dress up in your finest wench or royal apparel, watch armored knights joust, and taste a meaty pie. 

Festival Mozaic
July 17 - 27
Bringing five centuries of music to the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic presents concerts in historic and scenic venues around San Luis Obispo County. 

That's all I know for now!

Foggy 4th of July morning at Morro Rock.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SLO Wine Country: 24th Annual Roll Out the Barrels

Blue skies and glowing temperatures brightened San Luis Obispo County's recent summer solstice weekend. With plush grapevines neatly lining Edna Valley region's rolling hills, the new season's choice conditions gave way for one of my favorite annual festivals: Roll Out the Barrels Passport Weekend.

This inebriating event, held at SLO Wine Country's member wineries—most of which lie south of San Luis Obispo City—is always the perfect way to roll into summertime. In its 24th year, participating SLO County wineries pulled out all the stops to make guests feel welcome by kicking off the summer season with wine tasting, barrel samples, music, and tasty nibbles; all set amidst perfect locales to soak up the regional terroir. 

Here are a few highlights of this once-a-year celebration. 

Since 2004, Sextant Wines has been devoted to expanding the horizons of the Central Coast wine region by growing old world varietal selections in SLO County's unique soils and climates. Sextant specializes in zinfandel and petite sirah blends, and also produces several other reds and whites. My favorite discovery at their Edna Valley tasting room goes to their 2010 Caverio GSM, Paso Robles. This grenache, syrah, mourvedre blend was vibrant and well balanced—just like the weekend's festivities. 
Not only does Sextant offer wine tasting, but guests will also find a gourmet deli, picnic grounds, and even a cottage retreat. They sell TheraBee Culinary Honey, a local, handcrafted artisan infused honey. I sampled more than a few of TheraBee's intriguing blends, including chipotle cacao, and my personal favorite: cardamom anise. These sticky sweet-savory creations are a gift from the culinary heavens.
At Saucelito Canyon, the sun beamed brightly and the wine flowed freely. Urbane Cafe served up tasty bites like steak torta, which fared well with Saucelito Canyon's dry-farmed zinfandel. This family-owned vineyard and winery is always a pleasant stop when exploring the Edna Valley wine region.

Roll Out the Barrels wouldn't be complete without visiting Wolff Vineyards. Not only does their tasting room offer a hilltop view of their surrounding vineyards and the undulating Edna Valley region, but the wines and syrah-infused meatballs keep patrons coming back year after year. I overheard a gentleman declare, "Pour me some red and make me meatball ready."
 I paired my meatballs with their estate-grown 2011 Petite Sirah. Delicious all the way around.

One of the nicest attributes about Roll Out the Barrels is the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the winery owners, winemakers, and staff. On Sunday, I headed for some pinot noir tasting at Corbett Canyon's wine making facility in Arroyo Grande, where the wines of Center of Effort and Sinor-LaValle are craftedThis facility is generally closed to the public, but these two top-notch wineries opened their doors for this annual event. Winemakers Nathan Carlson and Mike Sinor were both on hand to provide notable details about the wines they craft...and I was more than content to taste through their impressive lineups.

My last indulgence of the festive weekend: Niven Family Wine Estates in San Luis Obispo. Surrounded by grapevines and fresh air, guests enjoyed current releases from their Baileyana/Tangent/Trenza/Zocker/Cadre True Myth labels while listening to live music by Moon Pie.  
They even served up a wine dessert. The vanilla ice cream by SLO Maidinfused with 2011 Trenza Obispan—a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, tempranillo, and malbec—was mixed with chocolate chunks and tasted divine on this warm summer day.

Summer has just begun. Indulge a little in SLO County. 

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