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, February 21, 2015

2015 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival: Turning 21!

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) is coming of age. This year they turn 21, and from March 10 - 15, they'll celebrate throughout the county with film, wine and fun.  

Whether you live in SLO County or somewhere beyond, here are my top 21 reasons why you don't want to miss this year's festival. 

1. Movies matter. The SLOIFF screens documentaries, dramas, classics, narrative features, short films, animation and more, providing moments of laughter, sadness, fear, wonder and enlightenment on the big screen.

2. The festival is down to earth. Sure, their special events are full of glitz and glam and special celebrity guests, but SLO County's laid-back vibe always shines through.  

3. Ticket prices are affordable. Forget the high-priced tinsel-town film festivals, the SLOIFF offers a variety of tickets and passes ranging from $12 - $285. 

4. The focus is sharply on the filmmakers. Dozens of movies are screened throughout the festival. Filmmakers provide real-life insight by attending many of the screenings and engaging in Q&A's with the audience. 

5. SLO County spans over 80 miles of coastline. Whether you're in need of a vacation or staycation, the California Central Coast is a real-life Shangri-la, brimming with unspoiled beaches. Catch a movie and an ocean sunset! 

6. You can't beat the local Mediterranean climate. If you're currently stuck in a blizzard: there's hope. SLO County's temperate weather offers a reprieve from harsh weather conditions.

7. Movies and events take place countywide. From Paso Robles to Atascadero, to Avila and Pismo Beach, to downtown San Luis Obispo, several movie theaters and venues host festival screenings and events, providing plenty of opportunities to explore the region.

8. There's an abundance of wine. SLO County boasts over 280 wineries—maybe even more; I've lost track. Get out for a taste!

9. You won't go away hungry. The farm-to-table movement is alive and well in San Luis Obispo. Restaurants all over the county incorporate fresh, local fare into their menus. 

10. The festival kicks off with a coming-of-age Opening Night.  On Tuesday, March 10, local hot spot Luna Red will host SLOIFF's spirited Opening Night reception in downtown SLO. Following is a screening of the coming-of-age film "The Road Within," starring Dev Patel, Robert Sheehan, and Zoe Kravitz at the majestic Fremont Theatre. Special guests from the movie will be in attendance.

11. Their high-energy Surf Nite in SLO is in its 10th year. "Hollywood Don't Surf" and "Big Wednesday" screen at the Fremont Theatre on Thursday, March 12, with some big names in surfing bringing down the house for a Q&A and after-party. The SLOIFF's 4th Annual Spotlight Award will be presented to writer/director John Milius. 

Me with actor James Cromwell.
12. Did I mention the wine? The documentary "Red Obsession," which explores the Bordeaux wine phenomenon, will screen at Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles on Thursday, March 12. The pre-screening reception includes appetizers made by the winery's in-house chef, and wine tasting sponsored by the SLO Wine Country Association. 

13. The SLOIFF and Friends of Hearst Castle are making history this year. On Friday, March 13, Orson Welles' controversial film, "Citizen Kane," will screen for the first time ever in Hearst Castle's decadent Hilltop Theater. Special guests will be in attendance—and yes, this event is already sold out. 

14. You don't want to miss the Special Presentation Films. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 80s hit coming-of-age movie, "The Breakfast Club." As one of this year's Special Presentation Films, the SLOIFF pays tribute to the late director John Hughes with a screening of his iconic film at the Fremont Theatre on Friday, March 13. A Q&A with film critic Kirk Honeycutt and other special guests will follow. 

15. No other film festival presents a King Vidor Award. On the evening of Saturday, March 14, which celebrity will take home the coveted King Vidor Award? Stay tuned for the festival's big announcement. 

16. You have the golden opportunity to learn from industry experts in Behind the Scenes Workshops/Panels. Over the festival weekend, a professional actor will offer acting classes for kids and adults, a visual effects experts will share secrets for creating the perfect scene, visiting filmmakers will educate guests with their real-life stories of making films, and a Warner Bros. restoration expert will share his story of bringing a lost film to pristine condition. 

17. The Movie Mogul pass let's you do it all. If you purchase a Movie Mogul pass ($285), not only do you have access to all of the festival's screenings, receptions, workshops/panels, and all VIP receptions (excluding the Hearst Castle events), you'll receive the SLOIFF 2015 Tasting Pass, valid at participating SLO County wineries. 

18. The festival staff and volunteers put on a world-class event. With only two paid staff members, a hard-working board, and a team of dedicated volunteers, what an amazing feat they pull off every year.  

19. SLO County's generosity is contagious. This festival couldn't happen without the generous support of its sponsors. Whether you live here or visit, you can't help but notice the community spirit.  

20. The SLOIFF has truly come of age. I've attended this film festival for many years and watched it evolve over time. I've said this before and I'll say it again: The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival just keeps getting better and better with each passing year. 

21. The festival is truly a feast for the senses. Film, wine and fun in SLO County. Need I say more?

One of San Luis Obispo County's spectacular Cambria sunsets in February.
The Edna Valley region's wine country shining bright in January.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SLO Cooked Beef Burgundy Recipe

Shell Beach sunset, a few days before the rain. 
For those of you who know me well, you probably understand that I never follow a recipe to the tee. Where's the fun in that? My current philosophy about cooking is simple: embrace the basics of any recipe and make it your own. 

When I feel like throwing together a particular dish, I peruse dozens of other recipes and let my creative juices flow. I rely heavily on local ingredients from San Luis Obispo County and then let loose in the kitchen. 

This week's culinary experiment is heavily influenced by beef bourguignon, the classic French dish commonly known as beef Burgundy. The warm, rich flavors of bacon, beef, onions, carrots, mushrooms, thyme and red wine gently simmer together in the slow cooker, making this beef stew the perfect accompaniment for a rainy or snowy day.

SLO County received a fair share of much needed rain over the weekend and this recipe hit the spot. I hope you'll be inspired to brew up this dish in your own your own part of the world. 

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy Recipe
Serves 2 - 4

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cubed
1/2 pounds thick cut bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
3 large carrots, chunked 
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups red wine, pluse 1/2 cup reserved
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

A word to the wise when creating this meal: You don't have to use a Burgundy varietal. Incorporate a red wine that you like to drink. 
I opened up a jammy SLO County syrah, bottled by Castoro Cellars. 


Cook bacon until slightly crispy and fat is rendered. Place bacon and fat in two separate bowls.

While bacon is cooking, prep your vegetables. 

Once your veggies are chopped, add 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat to a large saute pan and sweat the onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic with the thyme, salt and pepper for about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste, stir, and turn the slow cooker on low. 
Add the veggie mixture to the slow cooker.

Heat up the pan you cooked the bacon in, add a drizzle of the bacon fat, and salt & pepper the stew meat. Lightly brown the beef in batches. 

Cook each side of the meat for 1 - 2 minutes then transfer to the slow cooker. When you're finished cooking the beef, add 1/2 cup red wine to the pan, stir to deglaze, then pour into the slow cooker. 

Add the remaining wine, beef broth and bay leaves to the slow cooker. 
Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Then uncover, stir, taste, and adjust for seasonings. Cover and cook for up to two more hours if desired, until beef is fork tender. 

I served this savory meal atop egg noodles. Mashed potatoes, rice, or thick toasted slabs of French bread would be equally delicious enhancements. 
 Douse with fresh Italian parsley.

Pour a glass of SLO County wine and dig in. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2015 San Luis Obispo County Events

It's never been easier to plan your annual SLO County fun and frolic.

Visit San Luis Obispo County's 2015 Community Event Directory is up and running, providing a monthly breakdown of regional festivals and special events. 

Want to find out more? Click here to take a look at their all-encompassing guide. 

One thing's for sure: in SLO County we celebrate just about everything. 

The last day of January 2015 went off with a splash in Montaña de Oro

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