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Popular Bacon & Barrels makes San Luis Obispo debut this weekend, July 15-17

Bottle Branding photos/Would you like bacon with your drink? Bacon & Barrels celebrates four years of bacon-inspired food and barrel-aged libations with its San Luis Obispo County debut this weekend, July 15 to 17.

Holly Holliday, founding queen of Bacon & Barrels and owner of San Luis Obispo’s Create Promotions, parent organizer of this event and BubblyFest, relocated the popular event north from its early locations at Saarloos & Sons’ field in Los Olivos in 2013 and 2014, and last year, at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard outside of Solvang.

In 2014, just one year after launching Bacon & Barrels in Los Olivos, Holliday added a sister event every May since, in San Diego.

Bottle Branding photos/ Like creative food made with bacon? Bacon & Barrels is your new heaven

While general admission tickets remain available for this Saturday’s event at Madonna Inn Meadows, the coveted VIP (all-weekend access) tickets just sold out.

In the case of Bacon & Barrels, VIP stands for “Very Important Pig,” and guests who partake in that status take it Very Seriously.

VIP attendees will enjoy all three sections of Bacon & Barrels: Friday evening’s kick-off dinner at Biddle Ranch Vineyard House; early admission (noon) to Saturday afternoon’s festival at Madonna Inn Meadows with exclusive access to the lounge; and finally, the Buffet & Bloody’s Sunday Brunch at Sidecar, 1127 Broad St., also in San Luis Obispo.

The tickets that are still available (get yours today, as they will not last) include early-admission (noon to 5 p.m.) for the festival Saturday ($80); general admission (1 to 5 p.m.) ($60); and both categories of the designated non-drinker tickets ($30), for early and regular entry to the Saturday event.

All Saturday tickets include parking, a glass, live music, live chef and mixology demonstrations, and all food samples — while supplies last. You won’t leave hungry.

Those who pay to sample the libations get all of the above — plus everything alcoholic.

About those live demonstrations: Chefs from the hottest restaurants will prepare and proffer small plates starring the most creative forms of (what else) — bacon and pork belly. To pair with the nibbles will be drinks from brewers, winemakers and mixologists, who will offer bacon-inspired and bacon-based libations. You really cannot go wrong here, folks.

The Spazmatics will provide live music Saturday.

For more details on the entire weekend, visit

Holliday notes that Bacon & Barrels is proud to support the Create Community Foundation, which provides grants and assistance to organization that serve at-risk youth. In addition, the festival makes it an annual goat to divert 95 percent of its trash from landfills via cutlery, napkins and cups that are biodegradable and compostible.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for


California's 2014 wine sales increase both in volume, value across United States

California's wine shipments in the United States were 225 million cases in 2014, up 4.4 percent from the previous year, according to the Wine Institute in San Francisco.

This translates to an estimated retail value of $24.6 billion, up 6.7 percent. California wine sales to all markets, both domestic and international, increased 3.7 percent by volume to 269 million cases in 2014.

“California has had three excellent harvests in both quantity and quality in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and these vintages are receiving global recognition,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute.

“The premium wine segment — $10 and above — is strong and with excellent prospects for continued growth over the next few years,” said wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. “The value-priced wine segment has been shrinking because consumers are buying more expensive wine and because of competition from the increasing number of alcohol beverage offerings.”

The United States has been the world's largest wine market since 2010.

Fredrikson explained that value-priced wines made up 75 percent of California table wine volume in 2014, while premium wines accounted for 25 percent of wine volume but almost half (47 percent) of winery revenues.

Because of the consumer transition to higher value wines, dollar sales grew faster than purchase volumes in 2014, according to Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights into consumer preferences and purchases.

According to Nielsen, in measured U.S. off-premise channels, the most popular wine types by volume were Chardonnay (19 percent share), Cabernet Sauvignon (13 percent), Red Blends/Sweet Reds (10 percent), Pinot Grigio (9 percent) and Merlot (8 percent), followed by Moscato (6 percent), Pinot Noir (5 percent), White Zinfandel (5 percent), and Sauvignon Blanc (4 percent). Red blends accounted for the strongest volume gains, along with Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fig Mountain Brew Co. opens Santa Maria taproom on Betteravia Road

  Four years ago, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company was a new operation named after a local mountain favored by hikers and bicyclists.

Today, Santa Barbara County locals know “Fig” as the place to meet for a cold one after work, for Quiz Night or for televised sports. From the original taproom on Industrial Way in Buellton, to the second site in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone to the smallest and newest site in Los Olivos, “Fig” rules.

The newest to open its doors is the Santa Maria taproom, located at 560 East Betteravia Road at College Avenue. The new site shares space with Me-n-Ed’s Pizza —once inside, go left for Fig and right for Me-n-Ed’s — and patrons can order Fig beer from the Me-n-Ed’s side, and pizza from the Fig side.

Kady Fleckenstein, Figueroa Mountain’s brand manager, and Jaime Dietenhofer, CEO and president, detailed the brewery’s expansion into the North County during a lunch at the taproom Nov. 13.

Spicy tater tots are on the menu at the new Santa Maria Fig Mountain Brew taproom

Santa Maria is short on night life, said Fleckenstein, and Fig hopes to fill that void. There will be football every Monday, Thursday and Sunday, and doors will open at 11 a.m. daily. On the menu are beer floats and beer cocktails, and a menu specific to Santa Maria, such as a tri-tip beef sandwich and tri-tip tacos.

“We want to make this a local place,” Dietenhofer said.

The taproom offers its own Mug Club for residents from Los Alamos to Nipomo. Among the perks are a discount card, field trips and chances to meet other folks who favor Fig Mountain beers.

Members of the military will receive a 10 percent discount on all orders, Fleckenstein said.

Fig Tri tip tacos

The Santa Maria taproom features bar and table seating with all of the core beers — among them Lizard’s Mouth, Imperial IPA, Hoppy Poppy and Davey Brown — on tap, as well as seasonal and special brews. And the menu features “bar bites” — delicious tri-tip tacos, a burger, tri-tip sandwich, spicy tater tots and chicken wings.

Lizard’s Mouth continues to be Fig’s most popular beer: “We can’t make it fast enough,” said Dietenhofer.

Early next year, Fig Mountain will continue its expansion with taprooms in both Arroyo Grande and Westlake Village, Fleckenstein said, and both of those sites will also contain breweries just like the original Buellton taproom.

Giving Fig’s booming expansion some scale, Dietenhofer noted that the company’s current overall production is between 15,000 and 20,000 barrels per year, and “we’re headed toward 60,000,” he said.

In 2010, when Fig opened its doors, production was 100 barrels and there were just five employees. Now Fig employs 100 people, Dietenhofer said.

Even with booming growth, however, the owners will never mess with a good thing: the beers themselves. Once the Arroyo Grande and Westlake Village sites open, Fig will have a total of seven brewers on staff, Fleckenstein said.

“Our beer recipes always stay the same, and all of our brew staff gets trained in Buellton.”

This weekend, Figueroa Mountain will celebrate its fourth anniversary from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Buellton facility. Featured will be live music from Stiff Pickle Orchestra and the Molly Ringwald Project, good eats from the Pairing Knife food truck and games and contests,

“This is an extra special year for us,” said David Esdaile, Buellton taproom manager, referring to the brewery’s skyrocketing growth. “We consider ourselves a family, and we’ve grown substantially this year with new employees, Mug Club members and customers.”

The anniversary beer to be released Saturday will be a Belgian-style Abbey Quadrupel that was aged in oak barrels with figs.

“This massive dark beer is heady with dark fruit aromas along with deep caramel notes and a deep malt backbone,” noted Mike Hastings, director of brewing operations.

Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer, father and son, founded Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. in 2010, paying homage to the Santa Ynez Valley with handcrafted beer and labels featuring hand-drawn artwork depicting the local landscape.

Learn more about @FigMtnBrew or where to find the beer at

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press







Arroyo Grande's Comfort Market specializes in quality, comfort food for lunch, dinner

Less than six months after opening, Comfort Market in Arroyo Grande is getting lots of attention from diners and restaurant writers alike. A writer from the San Jose Mercury News recently paid a visit to Comfort and Ember and sang the praises of both.

Late one very warm October afternoon, I visited owner Kari Ziegler at the end of a long drive, looking for comfort — literally — from the heat of the road. She plied me with ice water, handed me the menu and suggested something cool and refreshing: The Morro Bay Tuna Niçoise Salad. It was marvelous, with fresh everything, from the bread to the tuna to the eggs to the generous slices of red onion.


Morro Bay Tuna Niçoise Salad at Comfort Market

Ziegler welcomes the praise and adoration from diners, because in addition to having a hand in everything from shopping to prepping, she photographs soups and sandwiches to promote Comfort via social media.

And it’s working: Regulars watch Twitter and Facebook to learn the daily soup specials. Ziegler likens it to being stalked — but in a good way.


Ziegler, who owned the now-closed Gather Wine Bar further down Branch Street, has long had a bead on the community’s appetite for good food. If she and her staff make it, hungry people will come and eat it.

Ziegler relies on fresh, quality ingredients to turn out treasures such as the Taylor Ham & Cheddar, “a New Jersey classic,” with pork, cheddar cheese and a fried egg served on a brioche bun, or the Turkey Mango Stilton: Roast turkey breast with melted ginger-mago Stilton cheese and mozzarella, finished with local spinach and mayo on wheat.

Taylor ham and cheddar on Brioche

Seriously, I’m drooling as I write.

Ziegler understands that running an eatery is rewarding — and exhausting. The restaurant business incorporates cranky customers for whom nothing is right, but also faithful fans who hang on your every entrée and talk you up like nobody’s business.

Ziegler and her executive chef, Jaime "Jimmy" Mendoza, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, have teamed to offer a series of cooking classes that recently launched, appropriately, with a how-to on homemade soup.

As of this morning, only a few tickets remain for the next class, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30. Visit Comfort Markets, or for more information.

Details: Comfort Market is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (although the doors close when the food sells out, which happens). Located at 116 W. Branch St., Arroyo Grande;

In addition to on-site dining, Comfort offers custom picnic baskets, catering and a selection of pastas, sauces and more.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press

Get your bacon on at Saarloos & Sons's Field in Los Olivos July 17-20

Bacon & Barrels, named by the Huffington Post as “One of the Top Five Festivals in California,” returns with a Saturday festival and meals to Saarloos & Sons Field in Los Olivos. Organizers predict that tickets for the event will once again sell out, so get on it!

Bottle Branding Photo Succulent Braised Bacon

Bring a big appetite for the yumminess of All Things Bacon, for you will not be disappointed. The second annual festival will once again showcase local chefs’ bacon recipes, and highlight the best artisan barrel-based beverages: bourbon, beer, scotch and wine.

The food industry’s best, including Gusto owner/chef and Iron Chef America alum Vic Casanova, will offer live preparation of bacon-infused small plates and bacon-and-barrel drinks.

Ticket prices include all food and drink tastings, and range in price from General Admission; $60 advance, $70 at door; Designated Driver: $30 advance, $40 at door; Early Bird (noon) General Admission: $80 advance, $90 at door; and the V.I.P. Weekend Pass (limited!) for $325, which includes Friday evening dinner, early entrance at noon Saturday with access to lounge’s special tastings and Sunday’s brunch.

The Friday dinner, Saturday festival and Sunday brunch will all take place at Saarloos & Sons Field, 2971 Grand Ave., Los Olivos.

Bacon & Barrels debuted in Los Olivos in June 2013, and this year added a second location in May – San Diego. That event also garnered Holly Holliday's Create Promotions more well-deserved fame — and another sell-out.

Friday: The weekend kicks off with an all-bacon dinner in the field to be prepared by Chef Jake O. Francis, pig farmer and farm-to-table master. The four-course dinner is viewable here

Saturday: General public admission begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Sunday: The VIP experience continues with the “Bacon, Bellini and Bloodies Brunch, also in the field.

Bacon & Barrels Los Olivos will donate a percentage of ticket sales to support The Los Olivos School Foundation and the Los Olivos Business Organization. Bacon & Barrels will also incorporate its proprietary Environmental Event process, with a goal of 95 percent of all event trash to be diverted from the landfill.

May is Craft Beer Month in the Santa Ynez Valley

Craft Beer Month is May 2013 in the Santa Ynez ValleyAren’t we lucky? As residents of the Santa Ynez Valley, we are free to enjoy one entire month of craft beer, thanks to Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, which has extended last year’s one-week craft beer celebration to the entire month of May 2013.

Craft beer fans will have plenty of choices to sample local and non-local beers.

As the saying goes, “it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine” — and perhaps that’s why craft beer is one of the new best things in the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara and on the greater Central Coast.

American Craft Beer Week ( takes place from May 13 to 19, with beer being celebrated in every 50 states.

Closer to home, beer aficionados can enjoy special tastings, a beer festival, classes, dinners and more throughout the entire month.

On Saturday, May 11, the Second Annual Buellton Brew Fest takes place in that town’s River View Park. Featured will be 25 breweries. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 from May 1 through 11, and include unlimited tasting, lunch and live music.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit, Eventbrite or the Buellton Chamber of Commerce.

Last year’s inaugural event sold out well in advance, so organizers urge those interested in securing tickets quickly.

“After a phenomenal inaugural year, it’s awesome to see the excitement continue to build in this area for beer and and the art of craft beer,” said Holly Holliday, event director and owner of Create Promotions,

“We look to continue to bring the best of the best to the Santa Ynez Valley, in order to inspire future beers to come. This event is beer at its best, we’re proud of that.”

Friday night, May 10, Chris Knox, manager of Bin 2860, will host a special dinner at the Mendenhall Museum in Buellton. Diners at the progressive beer dinner will enjoy Americana favorites such as truffle French fries, gourmet sliders and beer floats paired with rare beers that will not be served at Saturday’s event. The dinner is limited to 100 tickets, which are available for $75.

Other beer dinners during May include Solvang Brewing Company’s brewmaster dinner, May 15; Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s dinner at the Ballard Inn & Restaurant, May 19; and a beer versus wine dinner at the Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant, May 30.

In addition, food and beer pairings can be enjoyed at the Wandering Dog Wine Bar and The Good Life, both in Solvang, featuring beer with meats, cheese and desserts.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in Buellton, Valley Brewers in Solvang, Wandering Dog Wine Bar and Bin 2860 in Los Olivos will host beer-themed classes. Topics range from ales versus lagers to sour beers to yeast classes and brewing demonstrations.

Firestone will release a “Library Anniversary Ale” every Friday during May, and Figueroa Mountain plans special “pint nights” and progressive brew tastings.

Visitors curious about beer businesses can plan their trip around the new SYV Craft Beer Trail Map, which can be printed via

Every event associated with Craft Beer Month can be found at or by calling (805) 686-0053.

Tasting rooms' canned food drive to benefit FoodBank of Santa Barbara County

The third annual "Food on the Vine" event to benefit the FoodBank of Santa Barbara County will take place Thursday through Sunday, April 4-7, at participating tasting rooms throughout the Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at Avant Tapas & Wine in Buellton with food, wine and live entertainment. The evening's cost is $20 per person, with all proceeds going directly to the FoodBank.

Friday through Sunday, bring three canned goods to the following tasting rooms in exchange for a complimentary wine tasting.

Visit Alexander & Wayne, Arthur Earl, Beckmen, Brewer-Clifton, Carina Cellars, Casa Cassara, Cimarone, Coghlan, Cold Heaven, Firestone, Foley, Fontes & Phillips, the Good Life, Lincourt, Lucas & Lewellen, Scott Cellars, Tercero, Toccata and Qupe.

Food on the Vine poster

Sunset's SAVOR weekend draws big crowd despite heat in Santa Margarita

Dear Organizers of Sunset Magazine's SAVOR the Central Coast: Pretty please, provide more tents to shade patrons from the heat at Santa Margarita Ranch.

Fall is typically still warm — er, hot — here on the Central Coast, and today was no exception. It was a few digits shy of 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Santa Margarita during my visit today to the Santa Margarita Ranch, which hosted Savor the Central Coast's weekend events.

This is not to say that there wasn't relief from the sun, because the tents and ranch structures housing Farmers Market to Meal, Central Coast Pavilion and Winemaker Central were more than sufficient.

However, I felt for the many winemakers pouring their wares in minimal or no shade north of the structures in booths, sweat dripping from their foreheads.

Winemakers from the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County were particularly well represented Saturday. Pouring wines were winemakers and representatives from Sierra Madre Vineyard, Byron, Kenneth Volk and William James Cellars, among others, as well as representatives from the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association and the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association.

All grousing about the heat aside, I must emphasize that the event itself was organized like clockwork, with live chef demonstrations the highlight of the weekend, staff members at the ready to answer any questions and clean and cool portable restrooms. No port-a-potties for this crowd.

I listened to celebrity chef Aarti Sequiera, Host of Food Networks' "Aarti Party," captivate about 120 people inside one of the historic barns on the historic ranch.

In abundance was plenty of cool water, short lines for fresh and delicious foods and foot-stomping live music and plenty of seats at flower-festooned picnic tables on a spacious lawn.

SAVOR is organized by the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, and Sunset Magazine. The event saw nearly 9,000 visitors in its second year (2011) and is expected to grow even more this year.

While most events Sunday are sold out, should you want to explore the vendors and free demonstrations, visit Dress for blazing heat and stay hydrated.

Spanish padres established a farm on the original Santa Margarita Ranch with assistance from the Chumash Indian population, and in 1787 it was formally recognized as an outpost of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.


Sunset's SAVOR the Central Coast returns to San Luis Obispo Co. Sept. 27—30

Sunset Magazine's SAVOR the Central Coast, the annual wine, food and outdoors extravaganza, returns to the historic Santa Margarita Ranch the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30, as well as at various locales throughout San Luis Obispo County. The entire event encompasses four days, Thursday through Sunday. SAVOR is organized by the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, and Sunset Magazine. The event saw nearly 9,000 visitors in its second year (2011) and is expected to grow even more this year.

Details about all four days can be found via

Sunset's new International Wine Competition will take place Sept. 28 during a Grand Tasting and Dinner in the Dinosaur Caves Park in Pismo Beach. Hosting will be Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider, and Editor-in-Chief Kitty Morgan. The dinner itself is sold out, but tickets to the Grand Tasting's reception remain available at $50 per person.

"SAVOR brings it all together to celebrate the good life, while giving attendees a first taste of these amazing wines, which will be featured in the November issue of the magazine," Schneider said.

She will lead or moderate several wine-related sessions scheduled throughout the weekend at the ranch, and most are just $20 with the purchase of a main event ticket — $85 each Saturday or Sunday, or $150 for both days.

Tickets and updated information about sold-out sessions are available at

While all of the adventure tours and most of the food- and wine-specific sessions are already sold out, tickets remain available (as of this posting) for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday session with Chef Rick Moonen of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and rm Seafood. Moonen has devoted his culinary career to being the nation's top advocate for sustainable seafood.

The Santa Margarita Ranch: Spanish padres established a farm with assistance from the Chumash Indian population, and in 1787 it was formally recognized as an outpost of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

The Asistencia was built circa 1817, and is one of the first recorded uses of mortar in California. Today the 13,900-acre ranch is owned by the Rossi, Filipponi, and Wittstrom families, whose management practices have been recognized with several stewardship awards.

Using a rotational cattle-grazing program has allowed perennial grasses to return and has boosted the regeneration of many oak trees. A 975-acre vineyard on the property was one of the Central Coast’s first to employ resource conservation practices.


Wine girl steps out for Portland beer

Six beer samplesIn the spirit of sampling the drink for which Portland is really famous, tonight I turned my back on wine and hoofed it to Deschutes Brewery & Public House. I chose Deschutes because it's a known entity for me — I am pretty sure one of the last craft beers I really enjoyed was the brewery's Inversion IPA, so that one was one of the six 4-ounce samples I ordered tonight.

The other five beers I chose randomly.

Disclaimer: I don't know beer like I know wine, so my descriptors are likely to be those better suited to describing the beverage I more frequently imbibe.

With sweet potato fries slathered in honey mustard, and a salad of butter lettuce, dried cherries, goat cheese and salmon, I sampled, in order:

The Red Wheat (4.8 percent ABV): Pleasant and mild, shorter finish, a touch of cloves.

Inversion IPA (6.8 percent ABV): Bigger but tart with citrus and carmel on the finish. Nice color.

Twilight Summer Ale (5 percent ABV): Light. I first called it more "elegant" than the first two, but then decided its flavor didn't suit me.

Flagline Ale (4 percent ABV): Simple but light fruitiness. Best of the four ales.

Green Lakes Organic Ale (5.2 percent ABV): Light in taste but rich amber in color, which confused me. Also not a favorite.

Deep Red Belgian Specialty Ale (8.9 percent ABV): Should I have tried this first? By the time I reached it, I considered this ale to be the "cabernet sauvignon" of the lineup because of its boldness and higher percentage of alcohol.