The New Pearl of the Central Coast
Story and photos by John Blanchette
Morro Bay Rock and harbor
orro Bay, CA - I love oysters and I really love oysters and champagne,
so I had a great time at the opening reception for the First Annual
Central Coast Oyster Festival in Morro Bay, California.
Laetitia Vineyards poured their Rose and Blanc sparkling
wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and the Morro Bay Oyster
Company provided the the star companion. We dined on these and other
appetizers on board the Chablis, a two-story, 50-foot long tour boat
that ferried us around the Morro Bay harbor and the famous rock at sunset
to view the moored yachts, fishing boats, barking seals and ever-hungry
otters, who were also lying back on the water and dinning on the local
oysters, sans wine.
Local oyster lovers
Following the tour I dined at the harbor-side restaurant,
Windows on the Water and had a delicious clam chowder in a light broth
and lobster pasta, accompanied by a lovely Rose from nearby Pomar Junction
Winery in Templeton.
It was a pleasant introduction to the abundance of
Central Coast and one of those rare days in June, perfect temperature
in the mid 70s and clear of gloom all weekend.
Lying about four hours north of Los
Angeles by car, the drive offers breathtaking views of the Pacific
Coast and inland valleys, where lolling golden hills are pinned by stately
oaks, offering shade to black angus cattle, sheep and horses, as the
soft breezes carry birds of all feathers and the sweet aromas of warm
soils and spreading hay.
Next day a free bus shuttled festival goers two miles
from town to the Morro Bay Golf Course, where the event was in full
swing from Noon to 8 p.m.
Unassuming Festival attendees
Thousands attended the Saturday afternoon festivities
which were a cross between Woodstock and a Fourth of July picnic. Local
bands entertained listeners and dancers all afternoon, the area's top
restaurants offered tastings and the local artisan brewery Tap It had
the beer flowing.
There was a cigar maker, cocktails tent, fruit juice
venders, water stations, raw foods vendor, barbecue pit masters making
Santa Maria steak sandwiches, seafood gumbo, paella, wood-fired tile
pizza ovens, oysters in all varieties from Rockefeller to steamed, Barbecued
and raw, hula hoop instruction and a lot of suntanned, happy faces,
some painted with colorful designs, and no arrests or disturbances.
Left: Hula hoop instruction; Right: Chef Giuseppe
DiFronzo of Giuseppe's was one of the many local chefs working their
magic on Morro Bay Oyster Company's prize product
The next day I rented a bicycle at Farmer's Kites,
Surreys, Bikes & More to tour the town and Morro Bay Rock. I tasted
delicious saltwater taffy at Carousel and bought Pinot Noir handmade
soap at the Babylonian Soap Company. Lunch followed at Stax, a local
wine bar with an impressive array of beers and wines from around the
world. Try the cheese and charcuterie plates with your beverage.
Giovanni DeGarimore, a fisherman's son, is owner
of Stax and Giovanni's Fish Market and Galley
Over the weekend I stayed at Estero Inn on the Embarcadero,
overlooking the harbor. A waffle breakfast with fruits, yogurt, muffins
and coffee were complimentary along with wifi and computer usage. The
bed's mattress, comforter and pillows were downy and warm, allowing
me to keep my window open at night for the smell of salt air and the
sound of the ocean.
That afternoon on the way back to Los Angeles I noticed
a sign for the Laetitia Winery Tasting Room just off the 101 freeway
in Arroyo Grande. My car veered on up through the driveway to the lovely
vineyard, with picnic tables and walking paths to enjoy the beauty of
the property while sampling the wine.
Laetitia Rose sparkling wine and vineyard property
It made for a pleasant journey back to the city.
For information on activities and events check the local
papers, the daily Tribune and the weekly New Times or contact www.morrobay.org
(badger or otter them for information and the date of next year's Central
Coast Oyster Festival).
California on the Central Coast; San
Luis Obispo; Pismo