Curious Epicurean

Downtown Paso Robles has managed to maintain its historic feeling with a beautiful park and brick buildings, while embracing very modern culinary trends. Midway between San Francisco and LA, Paso Robles is a perfect weekend escape. On a recent visit, we stopped in for a dinner at Artisan. The restaurant is decidedly urban in the midst of the small town setting.

One of the things I truly admire about Paso Robles restaurants, is their commitment to local, seasonal ingredients and an abundance of local wine. If you visit Paso Robles in search of fabulous food and wine pairings, a stop at Artisan will not leave you disappointed. We opted for a Vina Robles, Verdelho “Huerhuero Estate”, 2010. It’s wonderfully balanced with creamy notes and a bright aroma of melon and pear.

Jalapeño cornbread, served with honey butter

Jalapeño cornbread, served with honey butter.

Diving into the seasonal menu at Artisan is a treat. We started with the Jalapeño cornbread. There is something so fun about finger food appetizers–even at a restaurant! The spicy cornbread is perfectly complimented by the delicate honey butter it is served with.

Scallops, prawns, mussels, clams and Spanish chorizo.

Scallops, prawns, mussels, clams and Spanish chorizo.

For entrees, we were tempted with fresh seafood. We tried the scallops, prawns mussels, clams and Spanish Chorizo. The scallops were buttery and tender. The spicy chorizo and saffron were perfect compliments to jazz up the seafood. We also had the swordfish, garnished with kalamata olives and local olive oil. The swordfish had beautiful grill marks that provided a crunchy outer layer and locking in the savory flavors.

Swordfish with kalamata olives.

Swordfish with kalamata olives.

Chickpeas provided a bright, green compliment to the rich swordfish.

Artisan is open daily for lunch and dinner. We’re looking forward to stopping in for brunch during our next weekend visit to Paso Robles.

Our fabulous photographers selected some of their favorite photos from our wedding and made a beautiful video with it. It was a wonderful surprise! We’re so happy to be able to look back on some of our favorite moments from our day!

Koloa Rum Company was definitely on our list of things to check out while in Kauai. As luck would have it, we ventured in on August 16, National Rum Day. Located on the grounds of Kilohana Plantation, the beautiful plantation-style tasting room and store are bright and welcoming.

Koloa Rum Company has been open for two years and the rum has quickly gained industry acclaim. The handcrafted rum is made with pure cane sugar and pure water sourced from Kauai’s Mt. Wai`ale`ale.

Koloa Rum Company guests can enjoy complimentary rum tasting daily.

Visitors to the tasting room can enjoy a complimentary tasting of each rum produced by Koloa Rum Company. The guided tasting starts with the Kauai White Rum, a winner of a Bronze Medal at the International Rum Festival. As the tasting room staff explained, the White Rum is dry with hints of oak and licorice, with a fruity pineapple finish. Next up is the Gold Rum, a Silver Medal award-winner, with hints of molasses, candied apple and vanilla aroma. A sweet taste, with a sugar and lemon finish. Next, the White and Gold Rums join the Kukui Brand Mai Tai Mix for the perfect sample-size libation.

Kola Rum Company's Dark & Spiced Rum.

Next up, we enjoyed a sample of the spiced rum. Be sure to indulge in the delicious rum cake made with Koloa Rum Company’s Dark Rum and macadamia nuts.

I’m not an experienced rum taster and my palate is no where near expert, but I particularly enjoyed the spiced rum and mai tai.

Koloa Rum Company at Kilohana Plantation.

Kilohana Plantation has a host of additional activities to enjoy. The formerly-working plantation holds onto its roots with tours of its still working farm and lush gardens. You can tour the plantation on foot or on a 1930s steam train. 22 North is an acclaimed farm to table restaurant that is one of the gems of Kauai’s culinary scene. The plantation is also home to Luau Kalamaku, a luau with a theatrical twist.

Fall is my favorite season in California. While most visitors flock to the beaches in July and August or look forward to hitting the slopes in Tahoe during the winter, trips during autumn are often missed. I had the opportunity to attend a conference that toured Disneyland last week. The warm afternoon sun and light breeze made it seem like summertime, but one thing was missing–the crowd. I’ve never seen the park like this. Sure there were plenty of attendees, but it wasn’t difficult to walk across the park and the hour-long lines of summer and the holidays were noticeably absent. Decorations of pumpkins, leaves and harvest had that extra Disney touch.

The holiday season seems to get all the buzz when it comes to Disneyland. Sure the Christmas trees and fake snow are great, but the Halloween theme at the park is definitely my favorite. If you can sneak away for a fall getaway, I highly suggest visiting while the kids are in school and the crowds are away!

Some of my favorite shots of the day–enjoy!

Waterbar in San Francisco.

While it may be very tempting to make a beeline straight for MoMo’s or Pete’s Tavern before a Giants game, every once in a while it pays off to resist the urge to enjoy all things frat-tastic. For our last Giants game happy hour pre-game, we took a detour from the mob scene that is the bars surrounding the park. It certainly paid off.

On a beautiful, sunny San Francisco afternoon, we ventured to Waterbar, located on the Embarcadero South. The restaurant has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows, a sunny patio and inviting bar, all with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.Oysters and sparkling wine. That’s what I call happy hour.

Waterbar has an awesome happy hour! This isn’t your normal half-off apps and pitchers happy hour. We’re talking $1 oysters and $5 glasses of champagne. This is a whole new happy hour, offered Monday- Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm.

Pro tip: Everyday from 11:30 am- 6pm, the featured oysters are $1 each.

View from the bar at .

On our visit to Waterbar we sat at the bar, which was full by 4 pm. Business people from the Financial District mixed with tourists. We were the only Giants fans pre-gaming, but everyone was more than interested in the night’s game.

Oysters are shucked and cleaned right in front of you at the bar.

We enjoyed the featured oyster, the Hammersley Inlet from Washington and a couple glasses of sparkling wine each.

We’ll definitely be back to Waterbar for happy hour. It’s certainly worth it to venture from the normal Giant’s pre-game bars.

With 54 days to go, the bridesmaids dresses are here, shoes have arrived and I just picked out jewelry today! Having a casual Hawaiian wedding means I wanted my bridesmaids’ look to appear fun and effortless. In all reality, it takes a lot of work to plan a casual, laid back look and event.

The beach-ready sandals:

Steve Madden flat sandals for the North Shore beach.

The dress we picked out at J’aime Bridal as modeled by my MOH and baby sister:

The Bill Levkoff not-so-ugly bridesmaid dress.

Completing the look with accessories proved to be a challenge, until coral became the color of the season!

Coral drop earrings to match the bright orange hues of the flowers.

The bracelet that matches the earrings.

It took exactly one trip to Paso Robles for me to fall in love.  With a sprawling wine country featuring more than 200 wineries, cute boutiques and inspired dining in downtown, Paso Robles is perfect for a weekend trip from the Bay Area. Arriving on a busy holiday weekend armed with a few recommendations from a journalist friend, we eagerly set out for wine tasting. We spent the weekend navigating throughout the AVA, which varies greatly between the west and east sides of 101. The steep hills and canyons on the west side of the AVA get a heavy marine influence. There was fog and moss hung from the large oak trees. The east side wineries are mostly flat.

The inviting patio overlooking the lake at Bianchi.

One of our stops on the east side, was Bianchi Winery & Tasting Room. The beautiful grounds and tasting room at Bianchi are worth the visit by itself. The spacious, open tasting room features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a sunny patio, serene lake,vineyards and the coastal mountains in the distance.

The tasting room at Bianchi

The winemaker at Bianchi focuses on two collections of wine: the Heritage Selection, which are all estate-grown, and the Signature Selection, with grapes sourced from select small-lot vineyards from across the Central Coast.

The tasting at Bianchi did not disappoint. Here are some of my favorites from our visit to Bianchi:

  • 2007 Zen Ranch Zinfandel, Paso Robles- Berry aroma, with honeysuckle and anise flavors. We paired our bottle with a zesty red pasta.
  • 2006 Barbera, San Juan Vineyards, Paso Robles-  Aroma of vanilla, bold plum and berry flavors. This is a bold wine that needs the right dish to compliment. We paired ours with spicy carne asada.

Bianchi is definitely worth a stop on a Paso Robles weekend trip. The tasting room is open daily and tours are offered.