Morro Bay shares in the Sunset glow

Sunset’s Savor the Central Coast uncorks for consumption this weekend in Santa Margarita. The buzz wonders if Morro Bay’s Windows on the Water executive chef, Neil Smith, will maintain his Battle of the Bay Best Chef title over another local, Shawn Washburn, executive chef at Shawn’s on Main.

However, another Morro Bay announcement is looming.

On Sunday, Sunset Food Editor Margo True will announce the winner of the magazine’s One-Block Feast Contest at 2 p.m. at the Santa Margarita Ranch. The ultimate prize has already been won as lifelong friendships will forever be savored among several families living in Morro Bay’s Cloisters and Beach Tract neighborhood.

Last spring they were selected one of 10 Western states’ competitors to create a community garden and celebratory feast to be documented in a future Sunset book.

Christine Johnson explained, “John and Abby Diodati attended Savor last year and met Margo True. After talking about life in Morro Bay and our family-friendly Beach Tract neighborhood, Margo told them about the upcoming One Block Feast contest and encouraged our neighborhood to apply. John gathered a group of us crazy enough to give it a try.”

Unique among the contestants, Morro Bay added a learning experience for their children and dedicated a Kid’s Garden to parallel the adult experience.

Sunset’s True reposted from Diodati’s blog, “The Beach Tractors are a group of young families in Morro Bay, on California’s Central Coast they’ve replaced concrete slab yards with edible gardens, seeded an oyster bed, and planted a rooftop garden; bought meat chickens; and borrowed goats for milk. Their party is at long last about to happen and it includes a whole separate children’s menu, grown in gardens the children have tended themselves.”

Notably, Leonard and Midge Gentieu hosted the adults’ feast on the boat Papagallo II the same weekend with Sunset’s writers and photography crew documenting both. Macy Sheets, Kayden and Ryan Diodati, Maia, Ava and Liam Burton, Sydney and Ava Beckett, Maggie, Gwen and Carly Muff, Conrad Ditmore, Jonas and Kalvin Smith, and Nicholas Johnson were the junior gardeners.

On feast day, it was Kayden’s turn to lead the lesson. He choreographed butter churning to backyard boom-box blasts. They’d toss the jar of cream and shake their bodies until butter jelled to the appropriate thickness.

Meanwhile, dads rocked out barbecuing Morro Bay oysters and moms danced the children around decorating the Kid’s Feast tables. Across the street, the Johnsons’ oven was primed and garnish table readied for edible art.

The menu selections were minty lemonade, root chips from carrots, potatoes and beets, sweet beet biscuits, eggs in pots, fritter faces hand decorated with edible art by each child, and lemon ice served in lemon cups.

The children echoed new friendships as their best experience. Their biggest challenge was the goats darting toward Highway 1. Macy discovered her talents teaching younger children. Sydney loved planting sunflowers, Gwen liked exploring a neighbor’s “house and stuff,” Maia enjoyed chickens, and Nicholas relished trapping gophers.

They learned that weather trumps harvest-time regardless of Sunset’s deadlines and that joy is giving back to their community. They organized and led the Morro Bay 4th of July Bike Parade.

Before feasting team leaders Maia, Kayden, Macy and Maggie toasted their efforts — “Cheers to growing food from seedlings while harvesting lifelong memories and friendships.”

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.