By Leslie Dinaberg, Editor, Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine
Spend a gorgeous September weekend sampling the best of the best from winemakers, celebrity chefs, brew masters, fishermen and artisanal food producers who call Central Coast home? Not to mention two nights in the beautiful Seacrest Oceanfront Hotel in Pismo Beach?
It’s a tough job, but somebody had to do it and I’m so glad it was me who got to explore the uber-cool culinary exploration event that is Sunset Savor the Central Coast. What a treat!
Put on by Sunset Magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau, this annual four-day event (sadly I was only able to attend two days) was absolutely worth the short drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Margarita and the historic Santa Margarita Ranch in San Luis Obispo.
The 13,900-acre ranch and quaint town of Santa Margarita are themselves worth a visit. Established in as an outpost of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, it was originally a convenient layover for travelers on El Camino Real. The Asistencia was built circa 1817, and is one of the first recorded uses of mortar in California. Today it’s an actual working ranch with a rotational cattle grazing program that has allowed perennial grasses to return, a lush riparian habitat to thrive, and the regeneration of many oak trees.
In addition, the 975-acre vineyard was one of the Central Coast’s first to employ resource conservation practices. It’s also a beautiful location for weddings; fundraisers and special events like Savor the Central Coast, which is in its third year.
This event featured wine from more than 100 area wineries, food from local restaurants, farmers and wholesalers, demonstrations from celebrity chefs like Susan Feniger (Mandalay Bay), Ted Allen (of the TV show Chopped) and Aarti Sequeira (winner of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star), booths full of information and tasty treats from destinations up and down the Central Coast (including our local Santa Barbara Convention & Visitors Bureau, pouring a delicious lavender spritzer), live music, a beer garden as well as a terrific garden and backyard farm area that was chock full of great ideas.
There were so many things to taste and enjoy and savor it was a little overwhelming. Nonetheless we were up to the challenge after a terrific night’s sleep listening to the crash of the waves below our balcony. Despite the 90+ degree heat we managed to sample some old favorites (I never miss the opportunity to taste wine from Gainey and J. Lohr or have the clam chowder from Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo or the Cayucos Brown Butter Cookie Company‘s brown butter sea salt cookies), as well as find some new ones such as the delicious pure Pinot Noir Rose from Ancient Peaks Winery in Santa Margarita (we brought a few bottles home which were perfect with take-out Chinese food last night), some beautiful Zinfandels from Opolo Vineyards and the best donuts I’ve ever, ever had from SLO Donut Company (Maple Bacon!).
I can’t wait to savor the Central Coast again next year!
For more images of SAVOR click below: