The charming seaside town of Avila Beach has blossomed as a destination for locals and tourists alike. For years it seemed the only time locals who didn't live there visited, it was just to dine at the Olde Port Inn or Fat Cat's, or to go out drinking with pals at the popular Mr. Rick's. Now there are many good reasons for driving to Avila Beach: Alapay Cellars, Kelsey See Canyon, Marre's fine dining, Salisbury Vineyards, Woodstone Marketplace, and the excellent Friday Farmer's Market (which ends in November).
Now this booming little town has brought us two great new shops: the Avila Wine & Roasting Co., with its excellent selection of Central Coast wines and French press coffee and Joe Momma's, a coffee shop and spa that features the amazing Clover drip single-cup brewer that's still quite rare in the United States. Believe me, these places aren't just for tourists. Both have plenty to offer local epicureans. And aren't the best places usually well worth driving out of your way for?
The Avila Wine & Roasting Co.
This cozy shop, tucked between Alapay Cellars and Custom House restaurant on San Miguel Street, offers an array of artisanal wines from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara. I was recently thrilled to find them offering a wine I highly recommended last May and thought was sold out: the Verdad 2006 Albarino. They carry a large and varied selection of wines from other artisanal producers, like Ecluse, Fralich, Labyrinth, Nicolaysen, and Palmina none of which have tasting rooms. Because shop owner Kelly Moreno and manager Brandon J. Edmonds love wine, they occasionally carry something extraordinary from a winery that does have a tasting room, like Silverstone 2003 Cabernet Franc a favorite of Moreno's. He shared a taste of his last bottle with me and it was quite impressive. That's what you want in a good wine shop, a place where they go out of their way to find the gems and offer them to you.
Wine lovers will undoubtedly remember that this shop opened a
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- WINE AND COFFEE : Avila Wine & Roasting Co. manager Brandon Edmonds loves wine, and his passion and experience shine through at the shop.
Admittedly you won't usually find Moreno here. His greatest passion is for his chosen career. He's a Cal Poly professor of psychology and forensic science, he has a private practice, and he's written several books on psychology.
"I love wine, especially from the small artisans we sell here and through our wine club, so I paired up with people like Brandon who really know the business," Moreno explained. "We offer the wines you won't find at BevMo! or Trader Joe's."
Barista, cook, bartender, and dishwasher, the personable Edmonds is your guide to wine tasting and other indulgences here. He spent several years as manager of Central Coast Wines in SLO, so you'll find he's quite knowledgeable about Central Coast wines. He's equally passionate about finding rare wines for their shop and for the new wine club he created.
Edmonds can help you find exactly the type of wines you prefer (fruity Chardonnays, unusual whites like Albarino or Pinot Grigio) recommend foods to pair with them and, most importantly, suggest wines that are within your price range. He always offers an array of samples for tasting, quite reasonably priced, providing guests a chance to taste before buying a bottle. You can also buy a bottle, a glass, or a taste and enjoy it with some cheese and bread alfresco on the cozy patio in front of the shop.
Ask about their new "Avila Coasters" group, which requires no sign-up fee. I was the first to sign on. The group will gather at the shop the last Wednesday of each month to meet the artisanal winemakers and enjoy their special wines with appetizers. The inaugural tasting takes place on Halloween, Oct. 31, at 4 p.m., with RN owner and winemaker Roger Nicolas and Chef Ralph Fabula.
Check out Edmonds' new wine club, of which he wrote: "We want this club to impress you. We want you to be as excited as we are. We want you to know that we have you in mind when we put these shipments together." Who could resist that?
Avila Wine & Roasting Co. is at 53 San Miguel St. For more information, call 627-1918.
This new coffee shop, connected to an organic spa named "nekkidd," offers more than you might imagine. Throughout the day and evening, you can count on a cup of Joe that hasn't been sitting around in the equivalent of a thermos all day. The shop also offers freshly brewed teas, quality sodas, and fresh pastries from SLO's House of Bread. And what could be nicer than sipping that flavorful fresh brew with an awesome view of the Pacific Ocean?
Joe Momma's also boasts a rare coffee brewer, made by Clover. According to epicurean Dan Fredman, a fine wine marketer who promotes wines like Talley Vineyards worldwide, there are only three or four Clovers in L.A. or San Francisco. After discovering a Clover in Avila Beach, he sent me an ecstatic mail: "Admittedly I'm a little obsessed with coffee, but this was like answering a blind date ad on Craigslist and having it turn out to be Pamela Anderson!"
I encountered a rather snobby barista during my first visit to Joe Momma's. But the young woman who waited on me was hospitable and enthusiastic about discussing the unique shop. They've brought something truly extraordinary to SLO County that's worth driving out of the way to indulge in a perfectly brewed coffee. The prices were quite reasonable for a cup of coffee that excels past anything the large chains offer, no matter how fanciful the name. The shop serves Intelligentsia Coffee and Black Cat espresso. The decadent pastries and muffins looked delicious, but I wish they'd offer the whole grain treats I prefer.
I really enjoyed the brightly colored yet minimalist shop with great ocean views. After indulging in that great cup of coffee brewed in the Clover, check out the quality of their fairly priced "green" clothing, jewelry, and skin care products in the nekkidd spa which their cards promise is "good on you."
Joe Momma's is at 310 Front St. For more information, call 627-1500.
Contact New Times' Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.