Curious Epicurean

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.


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!

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.

I read a tweet from a local weather anchor that by Friday it will have rained 20 out of 25 days in March. Being a fan of all things summer, this is killing me! I crave sun, swimsuits and baseball season.

I’m excited to trade in the rainy Bay Area for sunny, warm Arizona for a few days. I need a little dose of summer to make up for this extended Bay Area winter. This is my first time attending the WACVB Destination Marketing Tech Summit.  We’re getting a chance to hear from travel & tourism leaders, who have expertise in business communications, social media strategy and content marketing. There are tons of great resources to keep on top of social media trends. But it’s rare to find such a wealth of industry-specific info in one place.

WACB Tech Summit Mixer at Tempe Center for the Arts

Of course I’m excited to play tourist in Tempe, too! Competitive research, just part of my job. With my iPad in hand, I’m doing last-minute plans for my free time. I’m definitely planning on checking out downtown Tempe and Mill Avenue.

Maybe we’ll even have time to pretend it’s summer and lay by the pool or check out one of the Giants last Spring Training games.

What’s on your must see list in Tempe?

For so many people who think of a destination wedding, wine country is a natural choice. I thought it was for me too. Aside from the fact that my fiancée and I both have a pretty healthy little wine habit, we also live in what is argued to be California’s oldest wine country and I work to promote the more than 50 area wineries.

Really, what could be more romantic than rolling hills of lush vines? What about the perfectly paired local varietals and wine country cuisine? What about the sheer variety of  hospitable venues to reflect any style or theme and accommodate a group of any size?

The size of the group certainly proved to be the issue. Before I could blink, the intimate late-summer winery wedding I had envisioned more than double in guest count. The price tag followed accordingly.

Inevitably, it was too much to deal with. I’m used to planning events. I’m comfortable with the ins and outs, deadlines, contracts and stress. But that’s when I’m paid to stress.

This was our wedding and I refused to stress. The solution: a destination wedding. Next August, as the suns sets on the North Shore of Oahu, we’re having our intimate wedding surrounded by close family and friends.

I’ve learned that a destination wedding can mean different things to different brides- and grooms-to-be. The location holds such value and is so meaningful. Wine country can be  the perfect, relaxing fit for many couples’ dream wedding. Wine country is our favorite go-to weekend escape, but I guess we just got spoiled having wine country at our fingertips whenever we choose. For us, we needed somewhere a little different with an oceanfront sunset and our toes in the sand.