Restaurant News & Reviews

Savor three signature SLO County foods

Chaparral Gardens’ artisan vinegars took home three awards at a recent food show that featured more than 2,300 entries.
Chaparral Gardens’ artisan vinegars took home three awards at a recent food show that featured more than 2,300 entries. The Tribune

As the Sunset Savor the Central Coast event celebrates the bounty of our area this weekend, here are a few more local finds worth knowing about:

SLO Fresh Catch

In June 2010, San Luis Obispo County landed SLO Fresh Catch, the West Coast’s first Community Supported Fisheries program (more have since launched). Modeled after Community Supported Agriculture programs that support local farmers, participants sign up to receive a weekly share of fresh seafood caught by local fishing boats.

“I had heard about other programs on the East Coast and thought it would really work here,” said SLO Fresh Catch organizer Margie Hurd. She began exploring the feasibility of the concept, and found a willing partner in Mark Tognazzini, a longtime fisherman himself who was already promoting the catch of local boats at his family’s Morro Bay restaurants and fish market.

CSF members prepay for 12 weeks of delivery, which nets them individual portion sizes cut at Tognazzini’s fish market, plus educational information that Hurd has assembled regarding the catch, which boat/captain caught it (the CSF also hosts occasional “Meet the Fishermen” events), and how to cook it.

“People have become so nostalgic about their food supply,” said Hurd. “This is a great way to eat local fish and help support our local fishermen.”

More information and to sign up: www.slofreshcatch.com, 481-5827.

Also, J & R Natural Meats has expanded its retail presence to Templeton. You’ll find locally raised meats ranging from grass-fed and grain-fed beef, pork and lamb, chicken and veal, and even buffalo and venison. More information: www.jrmeats.com, 1131 Rossi Road (in the Trader Joe’s center), 434-5050, Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Chaparral Gardens artisan vinegars

Move over, olive oils; a couple local vinegars have brought home some bling. Chaparral Gardens garnered not just one, but two awards from the 2011 NASFT Summer Fancy Food Show, beating out more than 2,300 entries in 33 categories at the prestigious specialty food and beverage event.

Craig Clark and Kari Bourquin planted their organic produce farm in Atascadero in 2001, but an excess of berries in 2005 nudged them into the world of specialty artisan vinegars.

Now, the couple handcrafts nine different flavors and counting (most have very low acidity so they’re wine-friendly).

Among them are the kiwi/ginger/citrus-flavored Pacific Spice — a silver finalist in the “Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer” category, and the luscious Blackberry Balsamic — a silver finalist in the “Salad Dressing” division that also pulled down the gold award in that category.

More information and where to purchase: www.cgvinegar.com.

Morro Bay Avocados

There are avocados, and then there are Morro Bay avocados — if you’ve had the latter, you’ll know why they’re considered the gold standard for the prized fruit.

The word “terroir” is used in the wine world to talk about a vineyard’s sense of place and its inherent qualities. However, the term is also applicable to Hass avocados, explained Megan Shanley of Shanley Family Farms.

“The Morro Bay area is the furthest north and therefore the coolest of the avocado-growing regions in California,” she said. “That microclimate allows us to leave the avocados on the tree until later in the season (typically August to October) so they develop peak oil content.”

In order to help distinguish the superior local product in markets, the Shanley family is spearheading a trademarked branding effort specifically for “Morro Bay Avocados.” The program also involves other local growers, and just began rolling out with this harvest season.

Also in addition to avocados, the Shanley family grows finger limes, an intriguing small fruit native to Australia that’s being hailed as “citrus caviar” — think lemon/lime-flavored Pop Rocks. Currently, production is coming from the family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, but they also have some plantings started in Morro Bay.

More information about Morro Bay avocados and finger limes: www.shanleyfarms.com.

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