Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Solving the World in Solvang, One Glass of Wine at a Time!

Solving the World in Solvang, One Glass of Wine at a Time!

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny


“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”

--Rumi

Some say a vacation isn’t defined by the length of the distance you go, but the ability to allow yourself to step into another world.  And with Covid severely restricting airplane expeditions, the day-trip adventure has become the way to hack travel in 2020.  Which is why Edible Skinny delighted in voyaging to the perfect Los Angeles Stand-In for Europe: Solvang, CA.  The trip might have been just two hours north of the City of Angels, but it sure felt like a world away.  

As Psychology Today reports, “vacations allow your body to “re-set’ and to be more present in the moment.”  Even if we can’t escape to Europe we still need to escape.  “Worry ages a person and vacations, whether around the globe or around the backyard fire pit, allow you to turn off the worry and allow your mind to shift into neutral.”  A couple hours in the car and Kelly and I were overnighting to a drivable fantasy: exploring old-world European architecture, savoring Burgundy quality wines, and reveling in food experiences that rival the Food Halls of Italy.  

Solvang is a little slice of Denmark in Southern California.  Known as the Danish Capital of America, this tiny hamlet has the quaintness of Carmel, the wine quality of Sonoma, and the foodie experiences of Napa.  The town, of course, is housed in the middle Santa Barbara wine country.  This expansive wine region is composed of a patchwork quilt of micro-climates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world.  That’s 275 plus wineries in the seven approved American Viticultural Areas (AVA) harvesting a total of 16,166 acres of land.  If you close your eyes you’ll think you’re in the south of France.  

So in preparation for your own great escape, the following are some places of note to explore when you want to discover yourself in your backyard.  Here’s to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and power and love returning into your life.  


THE HAMLET INN

http://www.thehamletinn.com

Upon arrival in Solvang we contactlessly checked-in to The Hamlet Inn.  It’s a simple hotel, but it’s simplicity done right.  

For a wandering traveler, a hotel space that incorporates specific individual distinctions will completely transform their time from a “hotel stay” into a “hotel experience.”  All of The Hamlet Inn’s 15 Danish-inspired rooms are Scandanavian in design and decor from an offset sink allowing for easier access to your toiletries to the plethora of hooks to hang your clothes on to the red and white colored Danish flag bedspread.  Instead of having these rooms just be a place to sleep, each space also includes a dining area, with a coffee maker and fridge, and a workstation/productivity area with lots of plugs.  The free Wi-Fi was perfect for a traveling telecommuter like Kelly.  On the entertainment side, the hotel offers free use of their bicycles providing guests with alternate transportation to nearby shops and wine tasting.  And for those who just want to chill and drink some of the wine they bought during their day’s tastings, there is an outdoor gazebo.  Added bonus, vouchers at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery for a breakfast pastry the next day!  


LUCAS & LEWELLEN

https://www.llwine.com

Louis Lucas and Royce Lewellen met in 1975.  Louie was a third generation grape grower who had been supplying premium wine grapes for reputable Napa and Sonoma wineries for decades, while Lewellen was a Superior Court Judge who was a passionate wine enthusiast with a vision for the future of the Santa Barbara County wine industry.  Over time their friendship blossomed into a 25 year old business, 400 estate acres, three major wine labels, two popular tasting rooms in downtown Solvang, and a state of the art winery.  

Kelly and I sat down for some delicious wine with Michael Lewellen, Managing Partner, Sales and Marketing Director, and son of founder Royce Lewellen.  2020 was quite a year for Lucas & Lewellen.  Besides the issues with the Vid, this summer was one of the hottest on record in Santa Barbara County (115, not ideal for grape growing).  And then there were smoke issues from the fires in Napa and Sonoma (once again, not ideal for grape growing).  But positivity prevailed and the harvest was successful!  Plus the city of Solvang closed the street that their two downtown tasting rooms are located on.  This allowed Lucas & Lewellen to create a patio experience tasting room so their wines could still be discovered in an al fresco environment.  It’s been quite a wild ride, but Lucas & Lewellan’s steadfast focus has allowed their brand to have one of their best sales years to date.

Lucas & Lewellen have been crafting wine for generations, and you can taste it.  All of Lucas & Lewellen wine is made with 100% estate fruit (which means the grapes are grown solely on their property) from three different vineyards from three of Santa Barbara County’s separate and distinct climate zones.  Each property creates a different style of grape, that when blended with an alchemist style of attention to detail create some fantastic wines for an amazing price point.  And with 24 grape varieties, the permutations are endless.  This is a brand where creativity is embraced.   

One standout wine for Kelly and I was their “High 9” Pinot Noir.  This is a limited vintage from the highest nine acre block of the Goodchild Vineyard, which also happens to be an outstanding location to grow the superior clone 667.  The wine is then aged in French oak barrels, creating bright red fruit flavor and a lingering finish.  As Kelly said, “It’s like it’s saying ‘I’m here’ with a lot of pucker; like it’s the wink on a semicolon.”  An opinion that’s echoed in the 91 points rating they received in the July 2020 edition of Wine Enthusiast.  

Another amazing discovery was their “Cote del Sol” Cabernet.  The “Side of the Sun” is Lucas & Lewellen’s reserve level-Cabernet crafted from a combination of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah.  This bottle toys with the aspects of time.  The Cabernet grapes are first harvested from the “sunny side” of their Valley View vineyard.  Once these grapes are grabbed, Mother Nature puts her time and effort into energizing the grapes on the more shaded side of the mountain.  After a week or two these shadow grapes become more complex in nature, they too are then harvested.  And while this is happening, the winery is also delaying the harvest of the 8% Syrah grapes for an extra 2-3 weeks.  Even though these two varietals are not traditionally harvested at the same time, through the magic of creative farming Lucas & Lewellen make it so.  Thus allowing for them to be crushed together so that the grapes, and their juices, can co-ferment.  The result is a wine that hints at the secrets of dark plums and garden herbs with a subtle softness that begs for a sunset to toast to.  


TOCCATA TASTING ROOM

https://www.llwine.com

Once we finished up at Lucas & Lewellen, Kelly, Michael, and myself crossed the street directly to their sister brand the Toccata tasting room.  The old world meets the new world at Toccata, which pours estate-grown classic Piedmontese varietal wines.  But there’s no bad blood here.  In the spirit of sibling harmony, if you purchase a wine tasting at one tasting room Lucas & Lewellen will take half off the regular tasting fee at the other tasting room.  

All this attention to detail has created quite a following for these brands.  In Santa Barbara wine country the average wine club retention rate is 2 ½ years, but for Lucas & Lewellen it’s double that.  Speaking about their wine club, it is a total steal at its price point.  It includes bi-monthly releases of 2-3 wines to compliment each season.  Wine club members automatically get 25% of the wines in the shipment and a 20% off savings on all non club wine purchases.  And for those fussy drinkers, the brand will tailor your shipments to match your preferences.  Their events include experiences such as the ability to prune a vine, opportunities to participate in (pre-Covid) wine cruises, and of course parties!  You could say it’s totally La Dolce Vita.  


INDUSTRIAL EATS - RESTAURANT & BUTCHER SHOP

https://industrialeats.com

After sipping the high life, it was time for some Eats, Industrial Eats that is! 

Industrial Eats is a quality focused dining experience tucked away in a repurposed warehouse on Industrial Way in Buellton, California.  As its Instagram bio explains the restaurant was “born on december 9 2013 with one big ass fan and two wood fired ovens.”  Owners Jeff and Janet Olsson, who have operated New West Catering since 1998, said their intent with creating Eats was to open a restaurant that they themselves would want to frequent.  The result was a foodie wet dream built on prices and flavors that speak to the masses.    

Details matter here.  The space is tattooed with graffiti of produce on its exterior walls, there’s a craft butcher counter filled with house made treats, and multiple dishes unexpectedly involve caviar.  Kelly and I started off with one of their “Get In My Belly,” aka salads, which consisted of Smoked Pheasant, Basil, and Citrus. This lettuce had the Bliss Point perfection of the richness of a smokey gamey meat and the healthiness of farm to table veggies.  One bite and we knew: this is the type of place where skilled chefs have just plain mad respect for honest ingredients grown in their backyard.  

Eats’ two wood fired ovens churn out thousands of seasonal dishes every year, all sourced from sustainable farms and food pioneers.  So Kelly and I went for their best selling Fennel Sausage Pizza.  This was no hum-drum pie, this was a lesson in gastronomy.  The crust was thin and crispy, the fennel sausage was homemade, and the crispy basil on top was the piece de resistance!


THE GOOD SEED COFFEE BOUTIQUE

https://goodseedcoffeeboutique.com

The next morning, I rolled out of bed and strolled over to The Good Seed Coffee Boutique.   This micro-roastery is owned by Brad and Leyla WIlliams, whose mission is to create coffee for a thoughtful life.  As both a Q Grader (someone who ranks coffee quality similar to a wine comelier) and a roaster, Brad is intimately attentive to each new batch of coffee seeds for their coffee house guests and club members.  The barista explained to me, “he’s like a mad scientist when it comes to roasting.”  Dedication is what transforms dreams into a reality and when that dedication is directed toward the perfect cup of coffee the result is a cup of joe where just one sip can transport you to another universe.  And just to add a bi
t more quickness to their tale, Brad’s wife Leyla crafts and sells 8 different types of sourdough bread loaves made per pre-order, with a 3 day fermentation process beginning on Wednesday for Friday pickup.  Swing by and sample one of their Superfood Lattes!   


Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at:  http://www.thiswayadventures.com








Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Pain-Doughlorian from One House Bakery

The Pain-Doughlorian from One House Bakery

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny

In October, I was lucky enough to be in Benicia, CA during the town’s annual Scarecrow Contest where one edible scarecrow was creating quite a bread buzz!

One House Bakery took Benicia's straw mannequin game into hyperdrive with what they referred to as the “Pain Doughlorian,” a series of baked life-size replicas from The Mandalorian made from everyone’s favorite carb to love-to hate-to love.  

"I Have Spoken!"  Named for “pain,” the French word for “bread,” the collection included three full-sized recreations: Din Djarin’s “Pain Doughlorian,” “Baby Dough-da,” and “The Pandroid,” the bounty hunter lethal-android-come-retooled-babysitter IG-11.

"Don't Eat That!"  The immersive art installation took two weeks to create by One House owner Hannalee Pervan and her staff and family.  The Pain Doughlorian’s armor was crafted entirely of bread, Baby Dough-da utilized bread while floating in mixing bowls, and the Pandroid consisted of “pans and other kitchen tools'' from One House's bakery.  

The result was magically awesome!  The perfect fusion of Star Wars nerdiness blended with Cordon Bleu culinary prowess.  This was the way...to a fun time!

Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at: http://www.thiswayadventures.com






Monday, February 8, 2021

Keep Summer Blue: Lake Tahoe, the Perfect COVID Vacation - Part Two


Keep Summer Blue: Lake Tahoe, the Perfect COVID Vacation - Part Two

By Kat Thomas

Part Two in the Adventures of Tahoe Summer for the Thomas Gals!  When we last left our fearless sisters they were living the lake life while residing in the teeny tiny town of Tahoe City, CA.  We will now continue on the epic greatness that was their six-day summer vacation!  

TRUCKEE RIVER RAFTING
Tahoe in the summer is all about water sports and thus Kelly and I, ocean babies that we are, were about to become something we would have dreamed possible: River Rats.  But there’s a first time for everything!  So we signed up for a Truckee River Rafting trip, the IRL equivalent of a waterpark’s lazy river!

The Truckee River Rafting trip is a self guided raft trip offering commercial grade rafts (2, 4, 6, and 8 person in size) allowing adventurers to idol the day away on the Truckee River.  The 2-3 hour trip floated us through tranquil stretches of scenic meadows, mountains, and small rapids.


We began our leisurely float in Tahoe City, along a peaceful stretch of the Truckee River, ended at the River Ranch Restaurant.  The website suggested you bring a small cooler with snacks and drinks (but no styrofoam or glass) for impromptu picnics along the way! 
I ate one too many edibles at the beginning of our ride and as a result my cat-like reflexes were not up to snuff.  READ: we hit a fallen tree because I was too Stoned.   Rest assured we were fine as we were in an inflatable rubber tube going a maximum boat speed of 3 miles per hour…  Let’s just say hilarity ensued and it was hysterical both in physical reality and the altered state of consciousness I was in! 

Luckily the edible’s effects lessened, allowing me to more consciously experience the numerous impromptu photo shoots of the Thomas Gals.  Adventuring included: pulling over to a side bank for our picnic lunch, swimming in a giant natural whirlpool where we lazily spun circles, pulling over for an al fresco glass of wine in our matching Seafoam Yeti cups (so Bougie, but at the same time such an amazing cup!), joining an impromptu riverbank dance party (a direct byproduct of a couple stationed at the water’s edge with a table, two beach chairs, a bottle wine, and a massive old school Boombox).  All of it was Absolutely Fabulous!!!

The ride finished with a bit of Level One Rapids (truthfully I’ve seen scary drops on the Log Flume ride on the Boardwalk, but it’s still fun to boast you did some Level One Rapids...).  This water adventure was fantastically fun with hints of Tom Sawyer, J. Crew, and a Moveable Feast.  

I guess you could say, it’s a Waterful Life!


PIONEER COCKTAIL CLUB
Marg my words, after all the bumper boat adventures, it was time for Happy Hour! 

So for our post-tributary libation we headed over to the Pioneer Cocktail Club, a rustic-chic tavern serving innovative cocktails and an eclectic bar menu, including Amazing wood-fired pizzas.  Yummm!  This is as Hipster Bougie as Tahoe City (with its population of 2,100 people) gets.

Pioneer Cocktail Club’s cocktails are divinely simple.  Each craft cocktails is made with artisanal spirits (including Tahoe Blue vodka), fresh juices, and house-made syrups.  For our imbibing adventure, Kelly started with an Autumnal Mexicano cocktail: the Spiced Pear Mule crafted with Tito Vodka, Spiced Pear, Ginger, and Lime.  I chose something more Mad Men Hipster: the Oaxacan Old Fashioned made with Mal Bien Mezcal, Chocolate Bitters, and an Orange Twist.  The next round included the delightful Ta-Hoe’s crafted with Gin, Watermelon, Lime Juice, Apricot, and Serrano for Kelly.  Totally summer in cocktail form!  I went for the Tree Hugger’s Gimlet composed of Gin, Douglas Fir Brandy, and Fresh Lime.  (I told you it was Hipster Bougie…!)

Kelly and I went Halvies on the dinner splitting two showstoppers from the menu.  The Derby Burger with Pimento Cheese, House Pickles, Garlic Mayo, and BBQ Fries was the perfect blend of Americana and Down Home Southern.  We complimented it with one of Pioneer Cocktail Club’s famous wood-fired pizzas: Bitches Love Burrata concocted from Basil Pesto, Tomato, and Burrata Cheese.  They say money can’t buy you happiness, but those people have never had burrata pizza under the redwood trees while watching the sunset reflected in Lake Tahoe.  


POPPY’S FROZEN YOGURT & WAFFLE SHOP
The inside scoop on feeling like a kid again!  After discovering that Pioneer Cocktail Club didn’t offer dessert options (too Hipster Bougie to care about losing out on the dessert market share), Kelly and I sauntered next door to Poppy’s Frozen Yogurt & Waffle Shop for a summer ice cream nightcap (a rite of passage at the Jersey Shore).  Like every perfect cone shop, Poppy’s has a walk-up window for ordering and outdoor seating.  Their ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet comes in a variety of flavors that change daily.  A few examples of their playful options include blackberry, cake batter and sparkling pink lemonade.  It turns out life is better with sprinkles!  


TAHOE SAILING CHARTERS
Home is where the sailboat is! Kelly and I finished out our Tahoe Summer Adventure with a sunset cruise with Tahoe Sailing Charters.  With a slogan of “turning winds into smiles,” we knew the two of gals were in for a fun time with this one!

They say that life is just a series of obstacles preventing you from sailing, which a philosophy the Thomas Gals thoroughly embrace having grown up on the shores of Long Beach Island, NJ. (Tahoe, with its plethora of water sports activities, constantly reminds us of a freshwater version of Barnegat Bay!) 

I like big boats and I cannot lie... At 5:30pm, we boarded the Santa Cruz 50 aka the “Tahoe Cruz” and headed for a sunset cruise on The Hoe’s blue waters!  Although there was not a ton of wind, just being on the water was the perfect cap to a delightful Covid-y socially distanced vacation. Plus, the bottomless Costco Champagne didn’t hurt either!

As Kelly and mine toes skimmed the sapphire blue water, Tahoe Sailing Cruises First Mate spun us tales of local Tahoe lore such as where Marilyn Monroe REALLY died (Hint: it was on Lake Tahoe) and whether or not there’s a fully preserved elephant from the 1940s named Mingo at the bottom of the lake.  BTWs, the later lore is a total falsehood (later Googled), as after residing in the area for a few years Mingo the Elephant returned to his first home in Woodside, CA because it did not like Tahoe’s mountainous elevation and hated to be away from his zebra love.

What a picture perfect way to finish off the Thomas Gals magical Tahoe adventure, gliding on towards a rose quartz sunset sky with the wind at our back and the waves playfully kissing our feet!  Here’s to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and summer adventures that go on forever!  


Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Keep Summer Blue: Lake Tahoe, the Perfect COVID Vacation - Part One


The Thomas Gals!

Keep Summer Blue: Lake Tahoe, the Perfect COVID Vacation - Part One

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny

This summer multiple members of the Edible Skinny family were lucky enough to vacation in Lake Tahoe, CA!  As anyone in 2020 knows, COVID-19 was the hurdle to this year’s summer, with many metropolitan dwellers searching for the perfect relaxable place, ideally somewhere that was easily drivable so you could nix a plane ride and embraced the world of social distanced activities.  And thus Lake Tahoe, with the pine-scented atmosphere and its multitude of summertime water sports, became the perfect solution (as if it wasn’t already) for anyone living in the Bay Area. 

Lake Tahoe, located 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, is widely considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Nothing can diminish the first impression of driving towards the lake and seeing this giant pool of indigo-blue water cradled between mountain ranges.  The lake is located 1,897 meters atop the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range on the California and Nevada border (2/3 in California and 1/3 in the state of Nevada).  The clear, cobalt blue lake welcomes about three million visitors annually while the year-round resident population is about 53.000.

Tahoe City View!

First there’s the Lake itself at a depth of 1,644, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America.  Having been on this earth for 2 million years, the lake is considered an ancient lake.  It is the second deepest lake in the United States (Crater Lake is the winner winner chicken dinner!) and one of the deepest in the world.   The most popular visual image used for contexts is that you could completely submerge New York’s Empire State Building, which stands at 1,454 feet at the tip, and you wouldn’t see it at all.  At the longest and widest, Lake Tahoe measures 22 miles by 12 miles, with a shoreline circumference of 72 miles.   

Then there’s the water in this lake; it’s as pure as drinking water.  The water in Lake Tahoe is 99.994% pure, according to the Tahoe Fund, making it one of the purest large lakes in the world.  For comparison, commercially distilled water is 99.998% pure, so it’s pretty darn close!  Pretty much everywhere you dine urges you to kick your bottle water habit and replace it with Tahoe Tap! 

I had visited Tahoe once in the winter for a skiing adventure (which was simply fabulous and rightfully so as this location hosted the Winter Olympics in 1950), but this was my first time at the Lake during the summer.  Now I knew I was in for an entirely different experience, but truthfully I hadn’t fully comprehended the Perfect Storm of water sport activities that is Lake Tahoe.  The lake is the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the 300 plus days of sunshine:  sailing, standup paddle boarding, and river rafting.  No wonder it had become one of the Bay Area’s favorite playground’s even before a certain buzzkill disease!

So with that in mind, here’s some fabulous things we experienced during our times in Tahoe this summer (there were enough, we broke it into 2 articles)!

Here's to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and 300 plus days of sunshine allowing you to do every watersport under the sun!  


WELCOME TO TAHOE CITY

https://visittahoecity.org

The areas of the Lake itself are as varied as the activities you can do upon it.   The south shore is more popular among those looking for socialized entertainment and nightlife experiences such as bars, restaurants, and casinos, but not during the time of COVID.   

Sitting on the Dock of the Lake!

Instead the Edible Skinny crew stayed in the small town of Tahoe City on the north side of the Lake (mainly because that is where the house we were staying at was located).  Overall, north Lake Tahoe is more known for its quieter, more laid-back atmosphere.  On this side of the Lake, the towns are smaller in size and most businesses have earlier closing hours, resulting in visitors experiencing a quaint community feel.  And the shining star of the north Lake Tahoe experience is Tahoe City!

Located at an elevation of 6,250 feet, this small mountain town has a quiet relaxed hamlet feeling as the town’s population is only 1,557 people.  The city’s heritage dates back to the Gold Rush, when fortune hunters passed through on their way to mine for silver in the Comstock Lode.  Tahoe City is perched on the north shore of Lake Tahoe at the headwaters of the Truckee River, the Lake’s only outlet.  The walkable downtown is four city blocks long, yet despite its size contains a vibrant mix of recreation, innovative cocktail culture, and breathtaking natural beauty.  That along with the night sky make it a five billion star vacation!  


STANDUP PADDLEBOARDING AT TAHOE CITY KAYAK

http://tahoecitykayak.com

We like big boards and we cannot lie!  The best experiences at Lake Tahoe are on the water so to ensure a constant smile, Kelly and I rented 2 paddleboards from Tahoe City Kayak.  Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) offers a fun way to play on the water, with the added benefit of a full-body workout to boot!  And, since you (eventually) stand at full height on your board, it gives you a unique vantage point for viewing what’s down under the water and out on the horizon.   

Kelly Blue Crushing the Lake!

The calmest water for paddling is in the morning, so it's ideal to paddle early in the day.  And the ladies and gents of Tahoe City Kayak made it super duper easy with a water launch site located right at Commons Beach, the public beach in the four block town.  Opting for the half day experience, Kelly and I packed sandwiches for the ultimate waterfront dining experience on Carnelian Bay.  Up close and personal the water of Lake Tahoe is amazingly clear, and more than a bit chilly billy!  A plunge into Lake Tahoe can literally take your breath away.  Lake Tahoe’s average surface temperature in the summer is 63 Degrees, and can drop to 53 Degrees just 18 inches below the surface.  But that didn’t stop the Thomas Gals from jumping in multiple times to experience some of the freshest water in the largest plunge tank on the planet.  

Kat Headstanding it Up!

Girls just want to have sun!  Now anytime Kelly and I vacation together we always decide to make some of our adventures epic photoshoots!  What do you expect from two sisters who spent all their time pretending to be Madonna when they were kids?  Especially considering the backdrop it couldn’t get better!  The beautiful hues of emerald, green and blues, shorelines peppered with massive boulders, and multiple costume changes.   Once we got the basic poses, I started experimenting with some simple yoga poses.  Humble never felt so crisp and refreshing as I fell into the water an infinite number of times.  In the end, we had hundreds of shots to remember the perfection of this day for years to come

Endlessly Blue!


JAKE’S BY THE LAKE

https://www.jakestahoe.com

They say you should never chase anything but drinks and dreams!  And the perfect place to do both is Jake’s by the Lake with a Kimo’s Mai Tai, one of Jake’s signature cocktails from the shores of Lahaina aka “Aloha in a Glass.”  Family owned and operated since 1978, Jake’s On The Lake is the ultimate lakefront dining experience in Tahoe City.  Now I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that Mai Tais would be a “Lake Thing,” but it turns out Jake’s Tahoe dining philosophy is: “come to altitude and let Tahoe change you with Jake’s Mountain Aloha.”  

Wooden Menus!

Jake’s restaurant menu is inspired by California and Hawaiian flavors.  Our entrees reflected this island's vibe!  I sampled the Macadamia Nut Halibut, where the fish was wild line caught and paired with Black Forbidden Coconut Sticky Rice, Asparagus, and Passion Fruit Beurre Blanc.  With every bite I felt like I should be on the shores of the Maui instead of the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Kelly had the Pacific Sea Bass with Ginger Saffron Coconut Risotto, Summer Squash, Pancetta, and Sweet Chili Pineapple.  All she could say was Mahalo Jake’s!  

Lovebirds Kelly and Omid!

But the shining moment of the meal was Jake’s famous Aloha Pie.  As we sat down to dinner, a slice of it caught my eye from across the (social distanced) aisle and right then and there I declared by the end of the night that pie would be mine!  Hula Pie originated at Kimo’s in Maui and has since spread to other restaurants across Hawaii and the mainland.  It even makes an appearance at a few restaurants like Jake’s and Sunnyside the shore of Lake Tahoe.  This pie is so famous it comes with its own special pie plate and although it is portioned for sharing, it rarely goes unfinished.  

Hula Pie on its Special Plate!

Hula Pie is made with macadamia nut ice cream stacked high on a scrumptious chocolate cookie crust.  A layer of cool chocolate fudge sits atop the ice cream giving form to this delight.  Whipped cream that is carefully applied to resemble a hula skirt dances at its base before decadent hot chocolate fudge is poured over the top and drizzles to each side.  Finally more toasted macadamia nuts fall and cling to the hot fudge bringing together everything your taste buds need for a vacation.  The tip of the Hula Pie is always pointed towards the “I” on their signature plate because first impressions are everything when it comes to something as serious as dessert.  

Just Hum the Jaws Theme While Looking at This...!

All I can say is A Hui Hou Jake’s (Translation: Till We Meet Again)!

Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Carmel-By-The-Sea: the Perfect Socially Distanced Bay Area Day Trip


California Girls

Carmel-By-The-Sea: the Perfect Socially Distanced Bay Area Day Trip

By Letty Thomas, Edible Skinny


With Covid-19 curtailing a lot of travel plans, the perfect remedy for a Bay Area resident is a day trip to somewhere new.  Last month the four of us (myself, my sister Kathy, and my two daughters Katie and Kelly) planned a trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea or Carmel for short.   

COVID Spies

Located on the central coast of California about 120 miles south of San Francisco in Monterey County – Carmel is a hidden gem.  It is primarily a residential community with a passion for the ocean and the arts.  It was developed after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake when many artists, writers and actors left the city.

Driftwood on the Beach

We packed a picnic lunch and headed down the coast.  It was a two hour drive to the one square mile village.  It was a Saturday so parking at the beach was a bit challenging.  It was a beautiful day, Carmel has a beautiful beach, and apparently lots of beautiful people were enjoying it.  

Sandwich Time

One advantage that aided us on our quest for a parking spot: there are no parking meters in town.  In fact Carmel has some other unique claims.  There are no street lights and no house numbers on any house or business, which also leads to no home mail delivery.  Even stranger is the law making it illegal to wear high heels in town without a permit!


The Whole Gang

Once that ever illusive park spot was secured, we found an ocean view bench to eat our picnic lunch.  The smell of the ocean and sound of the waves breaking was so relaxing.  After eating we decided to go down on the beach.  The sand was soft and wide, with a gently sloping hill leading down to the water.  It's a lovely waterfront and reminds me of the beaches of the east coast.  

Beach Time!

After an hour or so, we decided to go into town and do some shopping before our early dinner.  I must say, it was easier walking down the hill to the water's edge than walking back up.  But made it back up the hill we did.  We retrieved the car from that treasured spot, and headed up the few blocks to town.  

In Carmel there are many cute shops built around fountains and plantings.  We headed to Lula's Chocolates for some of their delicious sea salt caramels.  It has been a family run business since 1945 using the same original recipes.  They are the best caramels I've ever eaten and melt in your mouth.

Lula's Chocolates

We got back in the car and toured around the winding, narrow streets.  The homes each having a unique name (instead of a house number) looked like something out of a Mediterranean travel brochure.  Every yard had blooming flowers, bushes, and trees.

It was time for dinner.  We found our restaurant: Flaherty's Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar.  Due to Covid -19 we ate outside on the sidewalk.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere charming as I felt I was in Europe at a sidewalk cafe.  The local wine complimented the seafood dinner.


Dining at Flaherty's Seafood Grill

After dinner we took one last look at the ocean as the sun was beginning to set.  It was time to head home after a very satisfying day in Carmel.  I highly recommend a visit to this charming village by the sea.


Letty Thomas was born and raised in multiple towns in NJ.  She attended college in Vermont and Connecticut.  She dreamed of working for Vogue or Glamour magazine but her love of salt water and boating got in the way.  She happily managed a yacht club “down the New Jersey shore” for almost 20 years before jumping into the world of beauty and travel writing.  She has two grown daughters that make her smile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Ocean Calls, a Two Day Voyage to Pismo Beach, CA


The Ocean Calls, a Two Day Voyage to Pismo Beach, CA

By Kathleen Berry, Edible Skinny


My sister and I are originally from the Jersey shore and although we live in a Bay Area waterfront community it doesn't offer the sights and the sounds of the ocean, any ocean. So after some research we planned a trip to the seaside town of Pismo Beach on the central California coast. Our trip was in early February, not a month with temperatures for swimming, but warm enough to enjoy a few days at the beach, south enough to be slightly warmer than in our hometown of Benicia.

We knew it would be a five hour plus drive so we started our vacation with a mid-trip stop at the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad along the historic El Camino Real in Soledad. The mission was filled with wonderful displays of items from the different time periods in its past. The pretty courtyard offered a shaded porch perfect for some moments of quiet contemplation and then we were on the road again.

Oh, the sound of the ocean, waves gently breaking, circling gulls calling to each other. Oh, the smell of the salt, sun and sea. And how beautiful - the blue of the water with the afternoon sun sinking over the waves, creating a path of gold. We did our homework right because we could not have picked a nicer hotel with a better location. The SeaCrest Inn is located on a stretch of low cliff above a broad expanse of beach. The ocean view rooms overlook a large lawn area with heated pool, hot tubs, and outdoor seating groups with fire pits to sit around on a chilly night.

The first night we had dinner at Ada's Fish House. The decor was minimalist seashore rustic and the food was delicious. My sister had a lobster roll, rare in our new California hometown, but amazingly on almost every menu in the Pismo area. I had the local fish, sand dabs, prepared Piccata style. The service was great and when we questioned our server about the local area she sent over someone who was happy to suggest places to see and things to do.

The next morning we drove to the south end of town to the Monarch Butterfly Grove. February is the tail end of the monarch season, but there were still some butterflies flitting among the eucalyptus trees. The docents had telescopes set up for viewing of large kaleidoscopes (groups) of butterflies bunched higher up in the very tall trees. We were horrified to learn that the monarch population in that grove had dwindled from 150,000 years ago to just 1,000 this past winter. (Free)

A lazy afternoon was followed by one of the nicest of Pismo traditions – the sunset. Because the arc of Pismo Beach faces west, the sunsets are spectacular as the sun sets into the sea and the sky changes colors from flaming orange to soft pink to pale lavender. A perfect time of day to have a glass of wine, take some pictures, and pick a restaurant for dinner.

Our second dinner was at Rosa's, an Italian restaurant that is decorated in old school Italian style and offers homemade pasta and sauces. The chef studied in Italy and you could tell in every bite. Deliziosa!

The next day we were off to the beach at the SVRA – the State Vehicle Recreational Area. What is that you ask? Well, you can drive your car on the beach! And is it fun! You can drive for five miles within a few feet of the water, passing surfers, horseback riders, ATV rentals, and people camping. You don't have to walk across a wide beach to put your toe in the water, just drive to the water's edge and hop out. ($5.00)

We then took a quick drive to the north to the town of Avila Beach, much smaller than Pismo, but with a sheltered harbor full of boats. We admired the view as we ate lunch at Fat Cat's Cafe. It's a true cafe with a varied menu, good food, and many, many pictures of cats on the walls sent in by past diners/cat owners. There is a long pier with restaurants on the end that you can drive to. I dared to drive on the beach at Pismo, but I was far too timid to drive on the pier at Avila. (The pier at Pismo Beach was currently under renovation so I cannot offer any details.)

Before leaving town the next day we stopped in at Tastes of the Valleys, a wine shop with tastings of their wares so that you can sample a multitude of bottles all from different wineries. It was fun to try some new varietals that I hadn't experienced before. My favorite was a local zinfandel; Pismo Beach is about an hour drive from Paso Robles, a region known for its zinfandels and cabernet sauvignons. Our stop at the wine store evolved into a lunch, as we enjoyed a nice cheese plate with several unusual offerings that paired well with our samples.

It was a great trip with hours spent looking at the ocean and listening to the ocean, enjoying breathtaking sunsets, and seeing and trying new things. We felt like we were far from home even though it was only a five hour drive. We relaxed, we refreshed, we drove home and once again we miss the ocean.

Kathleen Berry is an adventurous senior who loves to travel. She recently moved to the San Francisco Bay area from the Jersey Shore. She has traveled extensively on both shoestring budgets and go-for-broke grand scale. She is fond of cruising and has shipped out on various cruise lines from a variety of ports. She truly believes the way to find the best local food is to always ask a local.