When she was growing up, Sunset magazine’s editor-in-chief Katie Tamony spent summers in Arroyo Grande visiting her aunt. So she has seen the county’s beauty and tasted its bounty firsthand.
Now, as Sunset co-sponsors Savor the Central Coast late this month with the SLO County Visitors and Conference Bureau, Katie has used that knowledge to help create an outstanding four-day festival — featuring cooking demonstrations, a garden, area farm tours, winemaker dinners and more.
We caught up with Tamony in her offices in Menlo Park to find out why she thinks our county is such an exceptional area for food and wine enthusiasts.
Q When you visit San Luis Obispo County, what’s your favorite thing to do?
A I love the diversity of the area so much. I visit my daughter Sara, a sophomore at Cal Poly, take hikes in Cambria along the coast, enjoy wine tasting in Paso....I find something new every time I come here.
Q What are the next food and wine trends that Central Coast residents can expect to see?
A Actually, the Central Coast is leading the way on many trends. The farm-to-table movement, where chefs are opening restaurantscloser to the source, is happening here. With wine, the Central Coast has two great trends going on—they’re out in front with growing the Mediterranean grapes (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne, Marssanne, and Grenache Blanc from the Rhône; and Tempranillo and Albariño from Spain), and they’re way out in front in blending grapes.
Q If you were going to host a casual dinner party for friends with a menu that represented the best of the Central Coast, what would you serve?
A The menu would be full of local produce, and when you use the best ingredients, you can keep it simple and easy for the cook! I would start with a salad of watermelon and burrata or a cold zucchini soup. And I would serve grilled local lamb or chicken and veggies. For summer dessert, I would serve strawberries and balsamic over ice cream, or an apricot clafouti. I remember spending summers with my aunt in Arroyo Grande and eating buckets of sweet apricots from her backyard.
Q Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties are well-known wine and food regions. Why did Sunset select San Luis Obispo County for the Savor event?
A This is the heart of the California lifestyle, where south and north come together. Sunset is all about discovering hidden gems, and we think SLO is still under the radar for many people across the West but poised to take center stage.
Q What is your favorite restaurant in SLO County?
A That is an impossible question to answer! There are so many I need to try....but I will say I just had a lovely lunch at Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles. I can’t even begin to adequately describe the nirvana of eating the pork belly sandwich there. I also love to take my daughter out to Novo in San Luis. My guilty pleasure, though, is Firestone Grill. What a deal on a tri-tip sandwich!