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.”


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.  


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!  


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.  


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.  


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 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:

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 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:

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!  

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!

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.  

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!  

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