Every holiday season, we at The Dish troll the universe for the most compelling, generous and elegant gifts that give back – everything from nail polish to iPhone cases and toys. This year, we went for simplicity and, as always, lots of heart.
Inspired by the gift of three avocados from a poor widow, Three Avocados is a non-profit organization that provides 100% of its net proceeds from the sale of coffee beans to educating and hydrating communities in need of clean water. Sourced from the very same places they serve, Three Avocados sells its rich and robust coffee beans, as well as tumblers, mugs and gifts to bring hope and health to those who need it most.
We love GoodMouth.com first for their awesome (and awesomely affordable) subscription toothbrush program, which delivers BPA-free, high-quality toothbrushes to your door on a monthly basis and then turns around to give two more brushes to someone in need.
Our friends at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery released this beautiful wine (perfect for anyone’s holiday table, by the by) as a means for contributing to local charities. Thus, $1 from every bottle purchased will go to two selected non-profits each year. This year, those recipients are Woods Humane Society and Family Care Network, which builds and enriches the lives of families across the Central Coast.
From fruit grown on our Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, NADIA Quattro offers aromas of brambleberry, blackberry and saddle leather, and on the palate, strawberry rhubarb pie and cardamom interweave with black licorice and fine-grained tannin.
Not that you asked, but when we were kids, some of our favorite Mister Rogers episodes were those that took viewers to factories that produce everyday things like crayons, graham crackers, or erasers. Today, we at Parker Sanpei are suckers for a good factory tour – they’re fun, educational, cheap (if not free) and if they have anything to do with food, there’s sure to be at least one delicious nibble involved. Here are our four favorites:
Come hungry! Tillamook invites guests to tour its Oregon factory, where cow’s milk is delivered and converted into cheese within 24 hours of arrival. Perks include plenty of tastings (including a cheese curd tasting) and a cafe featuring grilled cheese sandwiches and Tillamook ice cream.
The grey skies in aptly-named Greymouth on New Zealand’s west coast are brightened by Monteith’s, a popular mainstream brewer. Visitors to the factory get an all-access tour, including a cozy sit-down in the taproom and the opportunity to tap significant volumes of Monteith’s beer themselves.
Anyone who has ever witnessed the beautiful art of glass-blowing will appreciate this tour of one of Riedel’s Austrian factories. Tours include an in-depth look at the glass-making process and a comparative tasting in several different glasses.
Considered by many to be the best factory tour in America, the Jelly Belly factory tour takes visitors step-by-step through the process of making its sweet treats with plenty of bean-sampling along the way. Afterward, grab lunch at the Jelly Belly cafe, which sells jelly-bean-shaped hamburgers and pizzas, followed by (what else?) jelly beans for dessert.
We taste a lot of wine at Parker Sanpei, and as much as we’d like to say they’re all perfect, the truth is that the occasional dud makes its way into our glass. (That’s the bad news. The good news is, living on the Central Coast, it’s very, very hard to trip over bad wine.) Looking back over old files, we recently came across some amazing tasting notes we wrote about some less-than wines. A few of the doozies:
- “Smells like a service elevator in San Juan, Puerto Rico”
- “Notes of 125th Street, Harlem during the second week of a strike”
- “Tastes like I just walked up to the attic and licked a box”
- “Like being punched in the face with a garlic sausage”
- “Metallic overtones with an asphalt finish”
- “Like liquefied charcoal cascading down my throat”
Of course, then we started thinking about disgusting terms we use for actually very good wines. Descriptors like barnyard, brambles, tar, petrol, forest floor and graphite are not things we generally enjoy eating…but they’re notes in some of our very favorite wines.
Who says wine is confusing?
Harvest Wine Weekend is such a lovely time to check in with our favorite Paso Robles producers once the frenzy of harvest has finally died down a bit. Where will you be October 17-19? To peruse your options, have a look at the brochure.
In case you’re wondering, we’ll be at:
- Burbank Ranch Vineyard & Winery Friday night for happy hour (half-off wines by the glass and 20% off bottles) to enjoy live music by Loren Radis.
- Saturday, we’ll be at Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery for a cheese and wine pairing class with “The Cheese Lady,” Zina Miakinkova-Engel, and Winemaker Matt Ortman, in which we’re promised the opportunity to taste over one dozen cheeses! Then it’s hayrides through the beautiful VSJ vineyards on a horse-drawn wagon care of Harris Stage Lines.
- On Sunday, it’s time to visit Calcareous Vineyard for wood-fired pizza and live music, followed by the Annual Harvest Games from 1 – 3 p.m. Grape stomping, cork toss, etc…
See you in Paso!
Google “Savor the Central Coast” and the first autocomplete option to comes up is “Savor Central Coast VOLUNTEER.” Indeed, everyone is trying to get in on SAVOR.
Co-sponsored by Sunset Magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, SAVOR the Central Coast calls itself a food and wine festival but it’s quite a lot more than that. SAVOR is a celebration of the fact that SLO County encapsulates what it means to live in the West. It’s educational, enlightening, and applicable. Looking to build or buy a chicken coop? SAVOR’s got the best models on display at the Main Event (complete with clucking inhabitants!). Want to learn how to save tomato seeds for next year’s garden? SAVOR offers workshops taught by passionate seed-savers. Want to experience an abalone farm in Cayucos? Or horseback riding in Cambria? Or foodie secrets in Arroyo Grande? SAVOR is your guide.
The Main Event is just what it sounds like: a big deal. Here’s how SAVOR explains it:
The Main Event invites you to experience an epicurean and adventure playground where you can taste, sip, and indulge. The historic Santa Margarita Ranch hosts this two day extravaganza on September 27 and 28 showcases celebrity and master chefs, Sunset experts, brew masters, as well as local fishermen and artisanal food producers from throughout California.
Enjoy unlimited food and wine tasting as you wander the Marketplace where over 100 wineries, restaurants, and food purveyors invite you to sample delicious food and drink. Relax with a locally brewed beer while you listen to live music in the Estrada Garden. Learn from the experts at the Farm to Table Stage or have fun with a mini tour through your favorite coastal region at the Travel and Adventure Stage.
Stroll through the Central Coast Pavilion and sample award-winning wines from the Sunset International Wine Competition. Make sure to reserve your spot in Chef Central and Winemaker Central, offering in-depth educational seminars throughout the weekend, allowing you to explore your favorite topic at a deeper level. Cost is $25 per seminar with the purchase of your main event ticket.
For more information on this year’s SAVOR the Central Coast, including a full schedule of events, please visit http://www.SAVORCentralCoast.com.
Last weekend, our beloved friends at Thomas Hill Organics presented a winemaker dinner with DAOU Vineyards at Hearst Castle that took our breath away. And we’re not just talking about the view.
Chef Christopher Manning and his team offered one of the most beautiful menus we’ve ever encountered – and we’ve seen quite a few – from a mobile kitchen with no running water. (The term “glamping” was mentioned more than once.) The theme for the dinner was The Great Gatsby, which everyone ran with, guests and hosts alike. Each element was perfection, from the weather to the setting, the wine, and especially the food. Thanks to Debbie Thomas and Chef Manning for allowing us to crash this once-in-a-lifetime event!
Last week, we pulled Winemaker Matt Ortman away from the daunting frenzy of harvest at Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery to talk concrete fermentation tanks. Tasting through the Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah currently spending time in VSJ’s concrete cones and cubes, we gained a real appreciation for this method. Thanks to Matt for making time to get “heavy duty” with us.