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Food, art, music: Americana style

Four boutique hotels offer great meals at a bargain, accompanied by folk and bluegrass performances

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CRAB BLT SALAD :  Trevor Lynch, SeaVenture Resort - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • CRAB BLT SALAD : Trevor Lynch, SeaVenture Resort
- BARGAIN WINE IN MORRO BAY!:  The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar Tuesday Wine Promotion - I recommended the Galley’s special last year and thought it deserved attention again. Every Tuesday from January through March, the Galley offers their regular wine list at half-price. It’s a great value considering the excellent choices: Roederer Estate Brut, normally $35 is only $17.50; the French Ladoucette Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, normally $52 is $26; and Babcock Pinot Noir Grand Cuvee, Santa Rita Hills, normally $42 is $21. The Captain’s List, featuring exclusive and expensive wines, is 25 percent off: You can get the coveted Sea Smoke 2007 Pinot Noir Southing, normally $100 for $75; and the Alban 2005 Estate Syrah Lorraine (rated a perfect 100-points by critic Robert M. Parker), which sells for $250, will cost you $187.50. For those of us who love wine you can’t beat these prices; some of them may be lower than the retail price! Get the details at galleymorrobay.com or 772-7777. -
  • BARGAIN WINE IN MORRO BAY!: The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar Tuesday Wine Promotion


    I recommended the Galley’s special last year and thought it deserved attention again. Every Tuesday from January through March, the Galley offers their regular wine list at half-price. It’s a great value considering the excellent choices: Roederer Estate Brut, normally $35 is only $17.50; the French Ladoucette Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, normally $52 is $26; and Babcock Pinot Noir Grand Cuvee, Santa Rita Hills, normally $42 is $21. The Captain’s List, featuring exclusive and expensive wines, is 25 percent off: You can get the coveted Sea Smoke 2007 Pinot Noir Southing, normally $100 for $75; and the Alban 2005 Estate Syrah Lorraine (rated a perfect 100-points by critic Robert M. Parker), which sells for $250, will cost you $187.50. For those of us who love wine you can’t beat these prices; some of them may be lower than the retail price! Get the details at galleymorrobay.com or 772-7777.

I’ve always been the type of food lover who craves a certain dish at each of my favorite restaurants. And I am irresistibly drawn back to those places to have them several times. Among my latest faves: the succulent two-day pork at Izakaya RAKU, the addictive Kurobuta pork and noodles at Mee Heng Low, and I’ve always loved the halibut tiradito at Lido. Admittedly, some chefs tell me they wish I would try something new they’re offering. But when my craving sends me running back for another taste, those dishes are the only food that will appease my appetite.

Happily, I can report I’m finding new faves to add to my list in restaurants across SLO County. The latest dish is the delicious grilled lamb riblets with buttermilk onion rings and house-made ketchup chef David McWilliam prepares at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. Though it’s mid-January, there’s still plenty of time to get to the great restaurants participating in SLO County Restaurant Month. McWilliams will be serving that lamb on his special menu (more details provided below).    To view the list of restaurants and, in most cases, see the chef’s prix fixe menu of three courses for $30, go to sanluisobispocounty.com. However, there’s another very special event that takes place in conjunction with Restaurant Month: the Central Coast Americana Festival at the Central Coast Boutique Hotel Collection (CCBHC).

HEARST RANCH BEEF RIBS :  Stephen Walls, Apple Farm Inn - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • HEARST RANCH BEEF RIBS : Stephen Walls, Apple Farm Inn
The CCBHC, including the Cliffs Resort, Apple Farm, Inn at Morro Bay, Sea Venture, and Sycamore Mineral Springs, is participating in SLO County Restaurant Month. But on the weekend of January 14 through 17, they’re also offering a very special celebration food lovers like me will want to indulge in—the Americana Festival. Originally named the Folk Festival, it provides a wide variety of live music, including folk, swing, country, and bluegrass. You’ll enjoy four days of American heritage themed events that combine food, art, and music at each of the five hotels.

I attended several of these events last year and feasted on delicious treats from the chefs while enjoying the talented local musicians. All five hotels will feature prix fixe dinners ($35 per person), but most don’t charge a cover to enjoy the concert. The event begins Thursday evening at Sea Venture with an Artisan Market and the chefs from all five hotel restaurants serving special food samples that showcase locally grown and produced ingredients. Each of their dishes was created to honor American heritage.

Sea Venture is charging only $10, which includes the “vittles” and music, with wine, beer, and cocktails available for purchase at the bar. Sea Venture has an excellent local wine list with many good choices available by the glass. That night, the Cliffs and Inn at Morro Bay will also feature live music with no cover charge. For the next three nights, each of the five hotels will offer music and the prix fixe menus.

I recently attended a media luncheon (among writers from the other newspapers and magazines) at the Cliffs for a preview of Americana heritage dishes the Boutique Hotel Collection chefs are serving during the event. Several of them were so delicious, like the aforementioned lamb by McWilliam, I plan to visit all of the chefs’ restaurants. The chefs and management began collaborating last September to create three exceptional menus featured at each hotel restaurant.

MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE :  David McWilliam, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE : David McWilliam, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort
Throughout the month the chefs will prepare their dishes using fresh local products from SLO County farmers and artisan producers. Each of the three menus features a specialty from all five chefs. The menus will change every ten days, so the hotels won’t feature the same menu at the same time. That’s an amazing total of 15 different dishes being offered by the Boutique Hotel Collection throughout the month of January.

I found some of the menu selections very appealing. For example, take Chef Treaver Lynch’s crab BLT salad with blue crab, herb mayo, tomato, crisp bacon, and micro lettuces; chef Gregg Wangard’s specialty of panko-fried Shelton Farms chicken with roasted butternut squash, sage brown butter, Bautista Farm arugula, and pickled red onion; the spicy crab cakes with fresh herbs and house-made garlic aioli by chef Stephen Walls of the Apple Farm Inn; chef Anthony Reeves of Inn at Morro Bay came up with a apple and golden raisin stuffed quail with whole grain mustard sauce and pancetta lentils; and chef David McWilliam’s provided one of the desserts, a Mississippi mud pie of chocolate and whipped cream with chocolate sauce. That’s just a small portion of the offerings.

 Part of the proceeds from the Americana Festival will be donated to Hospice of San Luis Obispo County Supportive Music Program. You can get details and buy tickets in advance at sloamericanafestival.com or by calling Brooke Mattingley at 556-3306, who can also be reached at brooke@cliffsresort.com. I recommend calling the hotel if you want dinner reservations.

This is a well-planned food, art, and music event that offers something for every taste at each of the CCBHC restaurants. You can support a great cause and walk away with memories of a dining experience we food lovers live for, and it’s all offered at value prices.

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