Entries in ‘Food’ Journal

Los Osos: Things To Do

Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Are you visiting Los Osos or the Baywood Park area of town for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in this California coastal community.

squash blossoms, Farmers' Market, Los Osos, California

Los Osos Farmers’ Market. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is Montaña de Oro State Park, but I also take them to check out Spooner’s Cove, and a short hike down the bluff trail to Corallina Cove for a more local, authentic experience. Baywood, a small community tucked in Los Osos on the most southern inlet of Morro Bay is also worth a look.

Spooner’s Cove got its name, not from kissing, but from a long time ranching family named Spooner. It is where the Park headquarters is located, in the old ranch house. A relatively little known, and fairly new trail is the Point Buchon Trail, stunning views along the coast.

There are a number of great trails in the park, especially for mountain bikers and equestrians.

When I want to escape from everyone and be surrounded in nature, my favorite thing to do is to kayak
out to sandspit – private tours are available via Central Coast Outdoors.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend walking to the bench at the end of the trail in the Elfin Forest for kissing with a view or Sweet Springs Nature Reserve.

ducks, Sweet Springs Nature Reserve, Los Osos, California

Birdwatching at Sweet Springs Nature Reserve. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Are you traveling with a dog or two? The best place to walk the dog is Cuesta Inlet. This is private property, but the owner has been very generous and allows people to walk their dogs there. Plus he allows people to keep their kayaks and sailboats there too as long as they are licensed and have contact info on them. But please pick up after your dog. That means bring your own bags and carry them out with you. There are no trash cans.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the skate park. It’s located in the middle of town and is excellent, the beach at Pasadena Street is good, too. The Los Osos Library has a number of kids’ programs, events and reading programs, perfect for entertaining kids while traveling.

Noi's Thai, Los Osos, California

Noi’s Thai Takeout. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Food in and around Los Osos

Los Osos has an eclectic dining scene; favorites include La Palapa in Baywood and La Casita on 9th Street (best salsa this side of the border) for Mexican food, Noi’s for Thai and Celia’s for lunch, or the Clubhouse Grill at Sea Pines Golf Resort for sandwiches and salads with live music on the weekends during the summer.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat, hands down, is Back Bay Café in Baywood. The cafe sits right on the bay and breakfast is included with your stay at Back Bay Inn or Baywood Inn. Sweet!

Looking for cheap food in Los Osos? Sylvester’s Burgers has famously good HUGE and drippy (with great sauce) hamburgers.

Hungry for late night dining? Don’t get your hopes up, Los Osos Baywood is a rural destination offering outdoor adventure and relaxation. It really doesn’t offer much of a late night dining scene. Most restaurants close by 9 p.m. There are a few that stay open later in Morro Bay on the weekends.

Thinking about an expensive, high-end meal, head to Morro Bay for plenty of dining options. It’s about a 10 minute drive from LOBP (Los Osos Baywood Park). For some of the freshest seafood on the central coast and a fantastic dining experience head to the Galley, Windows on the Water, Harada’s Japanese restaurant and Bayside Café in Morro Bay.

Lace Lichen, Elfin Forest, Los Osos, California

Lace Lichen hangs from the trees in Elfin Forest. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Los Osos outward bound

Are you getting a clearer picture of this central coast area? Outdoor adventures like hiking, exploring nature, biking, kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding, layered with California sunsets, is what this place is about. At high tide, adventure seekers can paddle through the mudflats and channels of the Morro Bay Estuary Natural Preserve and its 800-acre wetland. It’s a refreshing dose of natural beauty.

To capture this beauty, get your picture taken in Baywood Park, Elfin Forest, Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Montaña de Oro or on the Sandspit. The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Black Hill or Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro. You can also drive to the top of Cabrillo Estates, hike to the top of Valencia Peak (in Montaña de Oro – a hearty hike) or Elfin Forest, or kayak or hike out to the top of the sandspit or back to the little known “Sharks Inlet” and the farthest westerly spot on Morro Bay, and the hill on top of the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the bluff trail in Montaña de Oro right along the ocean or any of the countless miles of awesome trails. After a day of adventure, Sea Pines is the best place to go for a spa treatment.

If you are a museum lover you’ll need to head over to Morro Bay. The Natural History Museum (the only museum in Morro Bay) is actually pretty good for kids, offering interactive kiosks.

Pacific Ocean, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, California

Montaña de Oro State Park. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Looking for exciting night life? You’ll need to head to San Luis Obispo for things to do. LOBP is lower key after dark. There are a few bars that offer music and pool and are open late night: Sweet Springs Tavern and the Merry Maker. Again, Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo provide more expansive night life opportunities.

Sometime, come back and check out the Pozo Saloon. Pozo is south east of Santa Margarita. It’s over 100 years old and hasn’t changed much in all that time. GREAT family style BBQ where you sit family style. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to. Could be a group of retired physicians or the Hell’s Angels.

If you need more things to see and do in Los Osos, New Times and Bay News will keep you posted on what’s happening in the area. KCBX Public Radio has an extensive calendar of events.

Morro Rock, Morro Bay, Los Osos, California

Morro Rock photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

You can tell a lot about Los Osos from visiting and watching Baywood Junefest, Octoberfest, Boatzart & Bayfest. Sea Pines offers a summer concert series. In the fall look for migrating Monarch butterflies at Monarch Grove or come for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, held over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. More than 250 species of land, sea, and shore birds, both migratory and resident and dozens of endangered species thrive here in the winter. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

Insider Tip: I’ll bet you didn’t know that you could kayak out to the sandspit & enjoy miles of secluded, beautiful beaches. Just outside of Los Osos, you can visit Morro Bay or the charming beach town of Cayucos.

What are your favorite things to do on California’s Central Coast? For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter.
Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Los Osos Baywood Park.

Monterey, California Restaurants

Friday August 1, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

"Joyce Vineyards" carmel, california

Enjoying Joyce Vineyards wine at Carmel Beach, California

Monterey County restaurants may come and go, but wining and dining in this California coastal community never goes out of style. I know this from first-hand experience, as my parents retired to the fairytale Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County and made a hobby out of dining out. There are endless amounts of things to see and do in Monterey, with new wineries and restaurants opening as fast as sardines swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

I like nothing better than to pour a glass of Pinot Noir and kick back on the deck, looking out to the ocean. My husband prefers beer and with names like “Belly Up Blonde Ale” and “Stout Resistance” who could resist trying a growler (that’s a hefty sized beer) from Peter B’s Brewpub inside Monterey’s Portola Hotel & Spa?

 
 
 
 

"Peter B's Brewpub" sausages

House made sausages at Peter B’s Brewpub, Monterey


 
Monterey Brewpub

Start dinner or happy hour with a jumbo Bavarian pretzel, Monterey Bay Calamari and a beer flight sampler, then move on to house made sausages, served alongside warm German style potato salad, slaw and stout mustard from Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey.
 

"C restaurant" seafood

Fresh seafood The C Restaurant & Bar


 
Fresh seafood in Monterey

Seafood lovers will find happiness at the C restaurant & bar, housed inside the Intercontinental Clement Monterey on Cannery Row. This luxury hotel offers Monterey Bay views from hotel rooms, the restaurant and bar. Try the lobster bolognaise, grilled arctic char or a grilled vegetable sandwich utilizing local produce. I would be happy sipping a glass of wine by the outdoor firepit, watching the sea otters glide by.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Steps from the Intercontinental Clement is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Children and adults will find entertaining and educational exhibits on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

While it may seem strange to aquarium guests, fresh fish (and other items like pizza and salad) are served inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium at Cindy’s Waterfront restaurant. This is where I learned about the importance of seafood sustainability, through the Seafood Watch program, a continually evolving guide to sustainable fish. Every respectable restaurant and fish monger should adhere to the Seafood Watch guidelines; our world and certainly our oceans would be better for it.
 

"Bay of Pines" restaurant

Bread pudding at Monterey’s Bay of Pines


Monterey nightlife

The Bay of Pines serves American organic cuisine – think salad greens from Salinas valley, organic chicken pan seared with diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives and spring artichoke served with a new potato puree or sauteed shrimp splashed with a cucumber organic vodka cream sauce. Bay of Pines is also the go-to place for live music in Monterey.
 

"Passionfish" sea scallops

Passionfish in Pacific Grove, California for seafood

Pacific Grove dining

Passionfish is one of my favorite restaurants in Monterey County. A local favorite based in Pacific Grove, California, this is the place to dine for fresh, sustainable seafood, served with a passion.
 

"Beach House" Shrimp, "Pacific Grove"

Beach House Firecracker Shrimp, Pacific Grove


 
I had high hopes for Beach House restaurant in Pacific Grove, as the Ocean View Blvd. location, looking out to Lovers Point Park and the water is fabulous. I was tempted to order the salmon, but passed on the fish, marketed as “creative brand certified organic salmon,” as it was not listed on the Seafood Watch program as wild. Instead, I opted for Scampi Monterey served with fresh pasta in a light cream sauce. The crispy firecracker shrimp is a tasty appetizer for the light appetite or sharing with the table. I need to re-visit Beach House next time I’m in the area.
 
"Big Sur Roadhouse" California

Big Sur Roadhouse, serving California cuisine with a New Orleans twist


Big Sur dining

I can never get enough of Big Sur, so when I had the chance to dine at Big Sur Roadhouse, I was excited. Not only is the Big Sur location charming, the patio, with its unique outdoor fire pit table, is colorful and inviting. The personable New Orleans Chef Matt Glazer combines California cuisine with a New Orleans twist. Try the red beans and rice, Big Sur seafood gumbo, a muffaletta sandwich (pictured above) and save room for a Cajun-inspired dessert.

Overnight in Big Sur

If you plan to vacation in Monterey County for several days, be sure to make reservations with Glen Oaks, the owners of Big Sur Roadhouse, Adobe Motor Lodge and the adorable Oak Tree Cottages – no televisions, no pets, no smoking, no problem.
 

crabcake "Quail Lodge" Carmel Valley

Edgar’s crab cake Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley


Carmel Valley wine & dine

Finally, what’s a visit to Monterey Bay without a trip into Carmel Valley? As I mentioned, my parents retired to Carmel back in 1980. When they sold their Carmel Valley condo and bought a house with an ocean view, I lamented leaving the sunshine of Carmel Valley – first world problems, I know! I’m a wannabe Carmel resident living on a freelance travel writer’s salary – these two do not go hand in hand.

Insider Tip

Quail Lodge and Golf Club – where my husband and I held our wedding reception many moons ago – is one of the best value hotels on the Monterey Peninsula. Great rooms and a location that can’t be beat, guaranteed romance. They also serve really good crab cakes at Edgar’s Restaurant.

What are your favorite Monterey County, California restaurants? Article and all photos, except Passionfish scallops, by Food & Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau for restaurant review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Napa Valley Festival del Sole

Thursday July 3, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 1 Comment

"Jamieson Ranch" horse

Jamieson Ranch hosts Napa Valley Festival del Sole

As I have stated many times on this luxury travel blog, I feel blessed to live in Northern California with its endless possibilities of beauty, musical talent, fantastic food and wine, creative artists and wellness practitioners. A wonderful example of these opportunities coming together in one location is Napa Valley Festival del Sole. This annual 10 day summer celebration takes place in numerous venues throughout Napa Valley, California with over 100 wineries participating in this July event.

 

"Cici's Italian Butterhorns" "Taste of Napa"

Cici’s Italian Butterhorns participate at Festival del Sole: A Taste of Napa

 
Festival del Sole Taste of Napa

I had the pleasure of attending A Taste of Napa last July. Festival del Sole guests are treated to nibbles, bites and sips from Napa Valley wineries and culinary creators from Northern California. One of my favorite finds from A Taste of Napa was Lafayette, California-based Cici’s Italian Butterhorns. This mother-daughter duo makes delicious handmade Italian treats.
 

 
Festival del Sole concerts

Concert goers will appreciate the high caliber of musicians and singers drawn to Napa Valley for the opportunity to perform at Festival del Sole. With concerts ranging from Joshua Bell, to the Russian National Orchestra performing in 2013 and a series of young artist concerts sponsored by Bouchaine Vineyards, chamber music afficionados to opera lovers will leave on a satisfied note.
 

"Russian National Orchestra" "Lincoln Theater" "Festival del Sole"

Russian National Orchestra takes stage at Napa Valley Festival del Sole’s Lincoln Theater


Festival del Sole Gala

The annual Festival del Sole Gala at Meadowood Napa Valley is an elegant enchanted garden affair. I have yet to attend this swank gala, as it is a hot ticket at Festival del Sole with a live auction at the end of the evening to benefit Festival del Sole and various local arts education programs. The sold-out gala requests ladies dress in white attire, while gentlemen are required to wear summer dinner jackets.

Festival del Sole lodging

As mentioned above, Napa Valley Festival del Sole is a much anticipated summer event in Northern California. You’ll want to make your Napa Valley hotel reservations in advance, as this is not the festival to drink and drive. I stayed at Napa River Inn when I attended Napa Valley Festival del Sole. Additional hotel partners include properties in Calistoga, Napa, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville.
 

"Grape Crusher" sculpture

Napa Valley Festival Sole blends wine, food, music & arts

 
Insider Tip:
While Napa Valley Festival del Sole is not an inexpensive affair, there are several free concerts and events open to the general public – reservations recommended. For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter and Festival del Sole @Napafest.

If You Go:
Napa Valley Festival del Sole (888) 337-6272
www.festivaldelsole.org

Article, photos and video courtesy of Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Cici’s Italian Butterhorns photo provided. I was a guest of Festival del Sole’s Taste of Napa Valley, the Russian National Orchestra performance at Lincoln Center and Jamieson Ranch dinner. All opinions are my own.