I am living on the Central Coast of California with my husband of 40 years, Steve. We have been enjoying the last 9 years here, cooking together, walking along the beach, working in the same local winery and enjoying the new friends we have made. Previously we lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area. I was a Chef/Caterer and Cooking Instructor for 21 years. We entertained alot in those days meaning we threw alot of parties. Our wine cellar was a fun place to be and usually a hard place to leave when dinner was ready. The decision to move to this darling little beach town was quite by accident. We knew we couldn't afford to retire in Mill Valley and started looking for places to relocate to. After a few trips wine tasting in Paso Robles we stumbled upon Cayucos. I started making reservations for little weekend getaways to wine festivals in the area and before long knew this was our place. Steve wasn't so sure as he can be pretty set in his ways. He eventually agreed. We sold our house which was a very emotional journey, packed up our two elderly cats and off we went to begin a new life.
The Central Coast was not a foodie's paradise in those days. Luckily we had and still have great farmer's markets as well as Trader Joe's. I used to call it a "gastronomical wasteland". Eating out consisted of fish and chips or diner style food. The only restaurant worth going to was Hoppe's ,right here in Cayucos. It is still a favorite. Fortunately chef's from all over have discovered our wine country and have taken chances ,opening really good restaurants.
Having much more time on my hands, I cooked all of the time using local ingredients including the wonderful fish from a market nearby in Morro Bay or sometimes right off the fishing boats. Our little local supermarket has a good butcher and we can get decent bread thanks to La Brea and Trader Joe's.
I started working at a little winery called Rio Seco. She heard that I had a culinary background and together we would put together little menus for the wine festivals and wine club member parties. I loved trying out new things and pairing them with the robust wines. Zinfandel is the grape that the Central Coast has become known for. It yields hearty, fruity, peppery wines with light tannins. As my need to work more hours and obtain health insurance came about I took a position with Peachy Canyon Winery, THE Zinfandel gurus. Six years later I am still enjoying pouring wine for the many enthusiasts that come through the tasting room.
My food reflects the area we live in with everything prepared simply to let the fresh flavors compliment our casual lifestyle and the wine we love to bring to the table. Still I can't forget my years of Bay Area Chefs influence. The long slow cooking in my Mexican casuelas, moles, french potato gratins, duck confit, extensive preserving of fruits in jams, chutneys, relishes as well as pickling everything I could get my hands on. Everyone looked forward to Holidays as I would always come up with something new. Swedish Christmas buffets, Easter Brunch, Guiness Stout Stew for St. Patrick's day, Southwest Thanksgiving or just a good ole barbeque for 4th of July.
I very often made my own bread using the Italian biga that I learned from Carol Field's while testing her recipes for the "Foccacia" book.
Working at Tante Marie's cooking school in San Francisco was where I became a total "foodie". I helped local Chef's prep for their demonstration classes. That was in the 80's! I still have many cookbooks that I haven't even scratched the surface with trying recipes from those chefs. The one who influenced me the most was Diana Kennedy. I love Mexican regional cuisine. Working with her is another blog entirely.
Steve and I have been presented with a challenge. He is recovering from head/neck cancer. The treatment of it kills the cancer cells but also damages the saliva glands and taste buds.
He lost alot of weight and we are trying to "fatten" him back up. It is difficult because the very things that help you gain weight he is unable to eat. He longs for my oatmeal cookies, a juicy hamburger off of our grill, the chunky garlic bread that accompanied many of our meals. I have to make sauces for him to pour over his meals so he can swallow his food. It is unimaginable what it is like not to have saliva to help moisten food before it can be swallowed.
We do alot of soups, stews and casseroles now. I see an improvement in the taste buds as he is starting to taste wines again and likes the saucey foods I prepare.
I hope to share some fun menus and methods of cooking my way with you, whoever you are.
Let's see if this blog stuff is all it is cracked up to be too! Julie Powell made it look easy as she was brilliant in her book "Julie and Julia" which I loved as well as the movie.