Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The vines and the cliffs

I'll be taking off a couple days, but I wanted to leave you with a few destinations for the weekend.

First, I had the pleasure on Friday night to join Vina Robles for their inaugural winemaker's dinner, which also served as the official unveiling of their new tasting room and hospitality center on Highway 46 East, where they are next-door neighbors to Robert Hall and across the road from Eberle.

It's a beautiful new space well worth a stop, with soaring ceilings, plenty of cozy nooks and a large tasting bar and gift shop. There are also tables outside and fabulous fountains that make you want to linger, as do the Red 4, Signature and Roseum, my personal favorites of their wines.
I'll be writing about the dinner in the upcoming Vintages magazine so look for it in tasting rooms at the end of September.

The Cliffs Resort's "Live on the Rocks" free concerts have become quite the place to spend a Sunday afternoon, and you have one more chance to make it this summer -- and it's a double-header with well-known local performers. Threes and Nines plays from 1:30-3:30 and Louie Ortega takes the stage from 4-6. There's barbecue and a full bar available, and of course, a fabulous view of the ocean while you enjoy the music.

Catch you back next week!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SLO Goings beat me to it

Features writer and SLO Goings contributor Sarah Linn beat me to the news that our gorgeous coastline made quite an appearance on the Today show this morning, so I'm going to have to throw DiscoverSLO over there today: Wow, what a coastline!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The perfect scoop? For me it's two

It's tough sitting next to Dawn White -- a features and business reporter who writes many of the stories for Dining Out.

Last week, on a warm and sunny afternoon, she just had to go try out the gelato place in Avila Beach, and she just had to have other opinions, so I just had to go along. Rough life.

Now let me say I don't eat ice cream very often. I'm just not a real sweets person. Give me salty snacks any day. But when I was traveling in Italy, stopping in for a gelato during an evening stroll was a daily occurrence.

So I wondered, as we walked up to Gelato Americano on Avila's Front Street, would the experience stack up? And I have to say, for the most part it did. The flavors and textures of the dolce de leche and blood orange combination I indulged in were spot-on Italian style, if not exactly the same as being in Italy. And taking it out of the shop to amble along the Avila shorefront wasn't bad either. I just wished I could join the throngs enjoying a day at the beach instead of going back to work.

The staff at the shop were friendly, offering as many tastes of their dozens of flavors as we wanted, and knowledgeable, explaining the story and tradition behind all the varieties.

For me, a new Americano ritual in Avila may have begun. But don't take my word for it -- check out Dawn's story on the shop in today's Central Coast Living.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For a wheelie good time

Zac Efron is not the only SLO County stand-out to make the Washington Post this week.

The Oceano Dunes -- and specifically renting an ATV to cruise around them -- star on the front page of the Post Sunday Travel section.

Judging from the crowds out there every weekend, a lot of people already know about the vehicular playground that is the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreational Area, the only beach in California (and one of only two in the country) where you can take or rent all manner of ATVs, motorcross bikes, sand buggies and tricked-out trucks.

If you're not one of those people, here's just one tiny taste from the Post article:

Miles of bright blue waves crash on a shore that curves around a cove sheltered by rumpled green hills. A broad, flat beach extending about 100 yards from the surf line serves as a camping area, with tents, trailers and RVs. The sand then suddenly curves upward into rolling hills with wavelike crests. The undulating dunes are up to 80 feet high from base to crest. From the tops of the first rows of dunes, you see the ocean in one direction and, in the other, nothing but more towering dunes, some with sheer vertical drops.
The article is eager to point out that commanding an ATV across these dunes is not just for testosterone-fueled boys and grown-up boys. The self-professed "middle age" author, her teenage daughter and her friend caught the thrill as well, even if they started out a little more timid.

If you've been a bit timid about tackling the dunes yourself, author Cindy Loose even provides some tips based on her own experience. Now get out there, and have a wheelie good time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

HGTV's new hottie is a SLO boy

Ok, after a little hiatus (my other job as online editor for kept me busy last week), I'm back with another slightly off-topic post.

I'm not one of those home show addicts, but I am a sucker for reality competition shows like Project Runway and Top Chef, and I recently got hooked on HGTV's "Design Star," in which designer-types compete for the chance to host their own show.

And lo and behold, the most interesting competitor on the new season, whose third episode aired Sunday night, is Todd Davis, a graduate of Cal Poly's College of Architecture and Environmental Design (even though he lives in San Francisco now).

He's a typical California boy, a thrill-seeking surfer-dreamer-adventurer who often works with his shirt off. It was clear he'd be a stand-out from the first episode, when the designers were challenged to design their living space and he built a skateboard quarter-pipe that plunges him into the pool, an often-played clip on promos for the show. The judges loved it, and he won Sunday's challenge with a room design featuring a wave that crashed into all the furniture (it's all about couch surfing, he said.)

It remains to be seen whether his, uh, very particular point of view will carry him through the more traditional design challenges, but he is definitely a fun one to watch.

Read his fun profile here then see a slideshow of photos.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Happy hour, romance and more at Sycamore

Ok, maybe this has been going on for a while, but if so, I just caught on. (Wouldn't be the first time.)

Sycamore Mineral Springs -- a lush retreat on the road to Avila Beach -- is offering nightly specials through its restaurant, the Gardens of Avila.

In the past, I was a fan of the resort's community classes on Sunday evenings, where for $5 you could take an intro class on yoga, pilates, tai chi or whatever else was being offered that week and then take a soak in the Oasis Rock Spa, and have been looking for a replacement excuse to visit since they were discontinued. Now I have five.

Mondays from 5-9, the Gardens is offering beer tasting, with 1/2 price been, appetizer specials and sports on the plasma screen.

Tuesday is regular old happy hour from 4-6, with 1/2 price appetizers, drink specials and resort giveaways.

Romance Wednesday offers a free 60-minute mineral spring hot tub for two with the purchase of two dinner entrees (reservations recommended), a much better option for date night than dinner and a movie.

Fridays is Wine & Jazz, with wine tasting from Tablas Creek and Brazilian jazz from Cello Bossa.

Sunday Supper ($30/$45 with wine) features traditional English roast or salmon, although the regular menu is available as well.

If none of those appeal to you, there are all the regular offerings at the resort -- lodging packages, spa services, private mineral springs tub rentals, yoga and other wellness classes, guided hikes and more.

What's your favorite retreat along the Central Coast? Share your thoughts here.