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John Blanchette: Central Coast
Oyster Festival:
The New Pearl of the Central Coast

Story and photos by John Blanchette

Morro Bay Rock and harbor in fading light, Central Coast, California
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.

otters feasting on oysters, Morro Bay
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 the 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.

the crowd at Morro Bay's Oyster Festival, Morro Bay Golf Course
Unassuming Festival attendees

local brewery Tap It had the beer flowing

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: children with hula hoops; right: Chef Giuseppe DiFronzo of Giuseppe's with plates of oysters
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 with a live crab at his Stax and Giovanni's Fish Market and Galley
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.

a glass of Laetitia Rose sparkling wine at the Laetitia Winery
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 and (badger or otter them for information and the date of next year's Central Coast Oyster Festival).

Related Articles:
Classic California on the Central Coast; San Luis Obispo; Pismo Beach; Ojai, California; Laguna Beach; Yountville, Napa Valley

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Let John know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for South of the Border Wine Country

Hello John – I enjoyed reading your article. I live in La Bufadora and have friends visiting next week, so you have given me some good tips on where to go in our wine country. We have always called Cetto – L.A. (like Los Angeles) Chet-o and it might have been worth mentioning that it is actually Italian in origin. Also, I don't know about when visiting the Valle, but when in town, it is better to have pesos than dollars. Right now the rate is approx. 11.70 for each dollar. Just sayin' and like I said good article!

--- Ella O'Bryan, La Bufadora, Baja, MX

Hi, We here at Country Living Magazine are working on a story about hotels around the US. We would like to feature the Paso Robles Inn. I have to find photos to go along with the story. I was wondering if you could please send me any images of the hotel. This can be anything from the rooms to the food! All images can be submitted low res and if selected I will ask for hi rez later. Also, if you know of any photographers that have photographed the hotel can you please give me the contact info? Thank you so much!

--- Will Morel, Assistant Photo Editor, Country Living Magazine, New York, NY

I am looking forward to my "silver" years, which in my case, will be the years (if fate is good to me) that I will finally be traveling. New Zealand is at the top of the list - I have always been drawn to it.

--- Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Yes, was a fun city. Bad wine though.

--- Bo, Portland, OR

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