Imagine cruising down a coastal California highway in a convertible sports car, your hair whipping in the wind.
As you soak in the spectacular sight of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, your thoughts turn to dinner — and the juicy burger or succulent steak that awaits you at the end of your journey.
“When you get in the car, you’re going on an adventure. You’re going to find some things you expected and some things you didn’t expect,” said cookbook author and culinary instructor Brigit Binns, who lives in Paso Robles. “It’s a quintessentially American pursuit.”
Binns recently teamed up with Sunset magazine to take readers on a culinary road trip.
Her book “Sunset Eating Up the West Coast: The Best Road Trips, Restaurants, and Recipes from California to Washington,” is part cookbook, part tour guide — showcasing eateries and other foodie-friendly attractions. The mouthwatering list of destinations ranges from casual coffeehouses and down-home diners to more upscale establishments, as well as bakeries, bars, bistros and more.
Each entry is paired with easy-to-follow recipes so readers can replicate their favorite dishes at home.
According to Binns, whose books include 2013’s “The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from California’s Central Coast,” “Sunset Eating Up the West Coast” was inspired by her travel blog.
She launched Road Foodie while living with her husband, actor and director Casey Biggs, in upstate New York.
“I couldn’t stand spending winters there,” she explained, so she’d spend three months each year traveling around California.
Binns and Biggs, star of the Paso Wine Man advertising campaign, moved to the Central Coast about six years ago. Their Paso Robles estate, Refugio, doubles as home base for Binns’ business; she conducts gourmet cooking classes in a state-of-the-art kitchen studio.
As much as she loves San Luis Obispo County, Binns acknowledged that she still occasionally feels a tinge of wanderlust. So it seemed only natural that she return to the road for “Sunset Eating Up the West Coast.”
For the book, published by Oxmoor House in April 2015, she selected 12 routes in four regions — Southern California, Northern California, Oregon and Washington — ranging in distance from 70 to 201 miles. The 272-page volume features 75 restaurants and more than 125 recipes.
“The premise of the book was to avoid built-up areas,” explained Binns, who avoided large urban cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego in favor of less well-known locales. “‘Off the beaten path’ was the codeword.”
To decide which locations to feature, Binns sifted through her sizable archives — “I had three years of Sunset magazines on the floor in my office,” she said — and consulted with editors.
After narrowing down her list, Binns hit the road in the fall and winter of 2013, eating her way from the San Diego County city of Vista to Bow, Washington, about 35 miles south of the Canadian border, over the course of 42 days.
“There was space for me to make discoveries while I was driving,” explained Binns, who had plenty of opportunities to “utilize (my) Googling skills” and solicit suggestions from locals. “I find bartenders are extremely knowledgeable. They’re the ones to ask, ‘Hey, what’s going on at that place down the road?’ They always know everyone.”
Binns’ epic culinary journey “sated all my desires for a road trip,” she said. “I had the feeling of freedom that I’ve always wanted.”
She hopes “Sunset Eating Up the Central Coast” will instill readers with a similar sense of adventure.
“Sunset Eating Up the West Coast”
By Brigit Binns