Sunset’s Central Coast Crush

Orange is not my favorite color. Having grown up in a house decorated with too much of  it—in just one room, we had orange flowered wallpaper, orange curtains, mottled orange carpet and an orange plaid couch—I tend to avoid this color whenever possible. But, if you wanted to get into SAVOR the Central Coast 2011, you were going to have to wear a neon orange lanyard. “Orange?!” I thought to myself, “Why so much orange?”

Serious fun at SAVOR the Central Coast

However, as we strolled around SAVOR’s festival grounds at Santa Margarita Ranch—10 minutes north of San Luis Obispo and 20 minutes south of Paso Robles—Sunset magazine’s trademark eye-popping orange started to make more sense to me. This color not only matches the quintessential flora of the West, the California Poppy, and one shade of a sunset sky but it also carries an energetic charge that reflected the fun everyone was having at this large event featuring some of the best foodie producers in the Central Coast.

[The 2012 Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast takes place once again at the beautiful Santa Margarita Ranch September 27-30. More info and tickets available here.]

Tolerant Hug Bug the goat from Happy Acres Family Farm

With giggling amateurs milking patient Happy Acres Family Farm goats, free tours by vintage train through the Ranch powered by a 1897 Porter Locomotive Works engine, live plant installations including edible gardens, cooking demonstrations and gardening chats led by a range of experts, non-stop live music and, of course, plenty of tasty food and drink samples, SAVOR created good times and pleasant memories throughout the jam-packed weekend.

Local Specials on the Central Coast

Neal Maloney and Margo True at “The Art of the Oyster”

Although Sunset’s Menlo Park offices are surrounded by fresh, quality Bay Area food and drink, it seems they have quite the crush on our rich and diverse Central Coast foodie scene. When it comes to gastronomy, ours is largely undiscovered country but word is getting out. At “The Art of the Oyster,” Sunset Food Editor Margo True shared her appreciation of the delicious fresh oysters produced by the Morro Bay Oyster Company and described her visit to this floating operation in Estero Bay, although she left the shucking demo to founder and oyster expert Neal Maloney. Originally, Neal had plans to become a marine biologist but, since 2008, he and his team have turned their scientific knowledge to cultivating sweet oysters that make foodies swoon.

Central Coast cheese & wine display

At “Serve Up Local Cheese with Style,” Sunset Food Editor Elaine Johnson highlighted several local cheeses and cheese shops while she demonstrated how to pair and present them when entertaining. I was proud our local cheese makers like Stephanie Simonin of Happy Acres Family Farm, Christine Maguire of Rinconada Dairy, and the folks from Central Coast Creamery create such great products that earn the respect of Bay Area foodies on the Sunset team. Sunset’s “discovery” of our Central Coast foodie treasures helps to spread the word about local businesses to the wider world of folks who love good eating and drinking as much as classic California landscapes. For more insight, check out the perspective of Elizabeth in SLO about the 2011 SAVOR the Central Coast.

Glasses for Wine and Bins for Compost

Sylvie Laly presents the Riedel Wine Glass Seminar

And then there were the beverages. We have so much good wine and beer in the Central Coast, it’s sometimes hard to remember to spit so you don’t splat. Everything in moderation-ish. Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider facilitated the “Cool-Climate Syrah: Taste the Difference” seminar which featured several Central Coast winemakers celebrating this assertive grape that prefers a longer hang time on the vine than most varietals. “Syrah is an encore at the end of harvest,” they agreed as we all smiled with our purple teeth.

We also had a chance to experience the Riedel Wine Glass Seminar with different sized and shaped glasses designed for various varietals. “You can stack them,” encouraged Sylvie Laly of Riedel Wine Glass Company and, because it was late in the day after lots of foodie fun, stack them I did. I’m sure she didn’t mean to stack them four glasses high, though! Terrence Jones of Vinum Vita shares some insight of his experience at this seminar.

In the Central Coast, we’re becoming more familiar with composting at food and drink events so I was puzzled with how to dispose of my compostable cups, plates and utensils when presented with sets of just two bins, “Trash” and “Recycle.” Where was “Compost”? Good news, 2012 SAVOR fans: the Zero Waste program led by the Morro Bay Guerrilla Gardening Club will be on hand this year to help keep compostables out of the landfill. Personally, I appreciate the Sunset team’s openness to feedback about things that can improve this great event from year to year. Thanks for listening, Sunset!

To SAVOR or Not to SAVOR, That is the Question

Christa Hozie of Brown Butter Cookie Company

Over the past year, I’ve spoken to many friends, acquaintances, and strangers about their experience of SAVOR the Central Coast: “It was fantastic!” “Super fun!” “Loved all the local producers!” Some folks with a grumpy attitude about this event let their preconceptions keep them from attending at all because they didn’t like the corporate sponsorship. Like the Olympic games using corporate sponsorship money to produce a grand sporting event that features so many individual athletes, SAVOR would not be able to promote so many wonderful local producers—say, Brown Butter Cookie Company, Thomas Hill Organics, 15 degrees C, Picking Daisies specialty cloth napkins, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, L’Aventure Winery, Roxo Port Cellars, Vina Robles Winery and so many others—without the largesse of some serious corporate sponsorship. We even spotted a hand-crafted tall bike in the expo tent—all part of Santa Margarita charm.

Sunset’s SAVOR the Central Coast balances flights of foodie fancy with thoughtfully-organized events and learning activities that make for a weekend packed with fun and flavor that features many smaller Central Coast producers. If you enjoy reading their lush, informative magazine, you’ll enjoy how Sunset magazine comes to life off the page at SAVOR the Central Coast. Bring on the orange!

Tomato Man Gary Ibsen

Cherubs from the Madonna Inn

Worn with pride: goat milking ribbon!

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