By Donna Polizzi
If you’re looking for an idyllic setting to enjoy a day of delectable food and wine, head to Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County. The area is full of wonderful restaurants like the Olde Port Inn at the end of the Harford Pier in Port San Luis and is well worth walking the plank. The fresh ocean air, warm sun, and barking sea lions make the senses come alive.
Now let’s talk food…. This is the place to chow down on some of the best seafood on the California Coast. The Olde Port Inn is unique in many ways and one of the most notable is that the tables are glass and offer a view of the ocean below where sea lions and seals frolic in the water.
The new Owner and Chef, David Whitestine treated my guest and me to a lunch that will not be forgotten. If you love great food, read on. If not, read on and you just might change your mind.
Chef David served up a Beet Salad with jicama, candied walnuts, yellow and purple beets, goat cheese with a wonderful mustard and vinegar dressing. Next was moist Crab Cakes and the “Harpooner” special that included fresh scallops, jumbo prawns and fish served with a Beurre Blanc sauce. Chef David says “The Crab Cakes are made without breadcrumbs, which makes them moist and gluten-free and we will be including many more gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian items on the menu.”
Are you hungry yet? Let me tell you that the Cioppino was savory and as fresh as it gets. Stuffed at this point, we were delighted when Crème Brule’, a French classic dessert, was presented at our table. This finale was flavored with vanilla bean and a crispy crystallized shell that topped the creamiest dessert on the planet. Add the Olde Port Inn to your bucket list.
There are so many reasons to head out to Avila Beach. Imagine standing on the pier, overlooking the majestic beauty of Avila Bay, while pelicans swoop thru the air dive- bombing for fish while the sea lions and seals put on a show below.
While waddling back to the car, the decision was made to take a scenic drive. Winding roads along the San Luis hillsides sycamore-tree lined road, leads to the hidden 26 acre Kelsey family farm and vineyard. Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards is unique in so many ways. It is nestled next to a creek with towering Sycamore trees just 3 minutes away from Avila Beach. Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards is at 1947 See Canyon Rd, in San Luis Obispo. I had the pleasure of spending time with Owner Laurie Kelsey, learning about the families artistic talents that make this place so pleasurable. Hearing the stories was a delight and they have the gift of making you feel like an old friend within minutes of arriving.
When the Kelsey’s first bought their ranch, there were so many apples that they had to decide what to do with them all. They began crafting unique wines by blending apples and grapes. The technique requires pressing the apples and fermenting them with Chardonnay or Red Blends to make delicious hard cider blends.
The wine is a story of its own and must be tasted. Let’s just say this; in the beginning of the year, Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards won 12 medals at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. They entered 12 wines and won a medal for EVERY wine that they entered, including 3 Double Gold’s, which is equivalent to a unanimous rating by all panel members. To put this into proper perspective, this is a 12 for 12 wins out of over 6,300 entries from West Coast to the East Coast. If this doesn’t showcase the superb and superior quality of Kelsey’s wines, I don’t know what does.
Colleen Gnos, Laurie Kelsey’s cousin, is the creator of the exquisite artwork that graces the tasting room. Beautiful surfboards shine with paintings of mermaids and divers. While mermaids have enchanted sailors and people of all ages for Centuries, Laurie proudly stated: “some of the mermaids painted on the surfboards feature actual family members from photos and then painted by Colleen and transformed into mermaids.”
One more fun feature…..Let’s talk Peacock. The Kelsey family rescued 7 peacocks from an old ranch in Avila Beach. They kept having babies, and the vineyard became a drop-off point for people with unwanted peacocks. Over 100 peacocks now roam the property, interacting well with dogs and people while putting on colorful displays for all to enjoy. I encourage you to get up and get out there. Sip, Savor and Live life with ferocity.
(Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys2TheCoast.com Keys 2 The Coast is a free travel resource, that gives honest recommendations based on personal experiences to help uncover “local treasures to wine, dine, explore and more” on the California Central Coast. Go to Keys2TheCoast.com and let the adventures begin.)