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Savor the good life

Sunset magazine reminds us that SLO is the happiest city

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Savor the Central Coast, the popular event Sunset magazine created three years ago, is the most talked about food event of the year on the Central Coast. Yet when it all started, then Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony admitted during an interview last year for New Times that she didn’t expect it to occur annually.But the hungry crowds that attended—both locals and visitors from faraway places—changed that plan.

THE CHIEF :  Addressing her fellow journalists, Kitty Morgan, the new editor of Sunset, talked a bit about why the Central Coast is one of her favorite places to visit. - PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THE CHIEF : Addressing her fellow journalists, Kitty Morgan, the new editor of Sunset, talked a bit about why the Central Coast is one of her favorite places to visit.

Now in its third consecutive year, Savor the Central Coast has put together another great four-day event that will take place Sept. 27 through 30, 2012. Not only will you have the opportunity to taste more than 200 different wines, you’ll meet Sunset’s editors by joining them on adventure tours and watch such celebrity chefs from the Food Network as Ted Allen and Aarti Sequeria demonstrate cooking techniques.

One of my favorite Los Angeles chefs—Susan Feniger, author of Susan Feniger’s Street Food, owner of Street restaurant, and co-owner of Border Grill restaurants—will demonstrate recipes from her new cookbook, a volume all about food that’s “irresistibly crispy, creamy, crunchy, spicy, sticky, and sweet.” While long weekend events are hardly new to Central Coast wine lovers who attend similar wine and food festivals several times yearly, Savor has charmed many more locals. I credit its popularity to the fact that it’s not wine focused, although they use this event to promote their annual wine competition (which isn’t limited to Central Coast wines). Because of its stronger food and gardening focus, Savor attracts people who don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

This year, Sunset’s new editor-in-chief, Kitty Morgan, invited local dignitaries and the media to join her for a clam bake, California style, at Sea Venture Resort’s beach house. Chef Casey Walcott handled the clam bake in a sandpit that was fired up four hours before the guests arrived. They created a little dining oasis on the beach where guests were encouraged to kick off their shoes, sip a little wine, and dig into a family-style feast that offered whole Atlantic lobsters, longneck clams, Cattaneo Brothers sausage, corn on the cob, onions, peppers, and individual sides of clarified butter for dunking. The meal was paired with three Chardonnays from Edna Valley: 2010 Fleur de Edna, 2010 Paragon, and 2009 Reserve. It was a prelude to the clam bake that will be offered by Sunset’s wine editor, Sara Schneider, during Savor.

UNCOVERED :  As a preview for the main event in September, the Sea Venture restaurant held a clambake for the media lunch. Here, the canvas has just come off of the food. - PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • UNCOVERED : As a preview for the main event in September, the Sea Venture restaurant held a clambake for the media lunch. Here, the canvas has just come off of the food.

Another culinary adventure, called “the secret tomato garden,” will be presented by Sunset’s garden editor, Julie Chai, at Sycamore Mineral Springs. It’s no secret anymore, since I wrote about that hidden garden last week (July 19) in Cuisine, that farmer/consultant Ralph Johnson has created a professional garden that provides the Boutique Hotel Collection chefs with fresh produce, fruit, and herbs. Sunset announced that the chefs from Sycamore Mineral Springs, Cliffs Resort, Apple Farm, and Sea Venture will be sharing tomato growing methods and recipes with the guests. A tomato-inspired lunch will be served in the garden and paired with wines from Wild Horse Winery.

The main events on Saturday and Sunday take place at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, featuring talented artisans from Santa Cruz to Ventura and including winemakers, chefs, brew masters, fishermen, and farmers, all serving tastes from individually tented booths, as well as from the main tents. You could get plenty to eat and drink from the huge number of restaurants and wineries doling out great food and wine. Chef Susan Feniger will be on stage Saturday only at 10:30 a.m., preparing recipes from Street Food. That afternoon, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance will present Paso Robles grown varieties, including Spanish, Italian, Bordeaux, Rhone, and American Zinfandel.

On Sunday this year, they’ve added a Firestone Walker Brewing Company tasting of their awesome beers by brew master Matt Brynildson. Experts from Riedel Glassware will also be there to show you how tasting from the correct glass makes as much a difference with fine brews as it does with fine wines. And you get to take your set of Riedel beer glasses home when you’re done.

Another really fun event on Sunday is the Battle of the Bay, which features two Morro Bay chefs, who are given specially selected ingredients to see which one can impress the judge with a better meal. The first year, this event went to chef Neil Smith of Windows on the Water. Last year, it was won by chef Shawn Washburn of Shawn’s on Main. There’s no mention of which chefs will be competing this year on the event’s website. There’s actually other information not provided, such as the names of participating wineries, which I found quite odd.

The adventure tours, celebrity cooking demonstrations, winemaker seminars, and dinners all require advance reservations and additional fees, ranging from $20 up to $125 per person. But you must have a general admission ticket—$150 per person for a weekend pass, or $85 for a one-day pass—to buy any of the additional events. Here’s a deal for local residents: You can buy a one-day pass for $75 by entering the discount code “LOCAL” when buying tickets, but you’d better act fast to get in on it; special event tickets are already selling out. For the full list of events, seminars, and dinners during Savor the Central Coast, go to savorcentralcoast.com.

Savor offers a cornucopia of treats with something that will please every taste for good eats. That’s why everyone I know is talking about it.

Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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