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Everything apple: Take a bite out of the first-ever Avila Apple Festival 

What could be more uniquely American than watching a SLO County Sherriff’s Department officer consume copious amounts of apple pie as quickly as possible in a family-oriented street fair-type setting?

Give up?

click to enlarge APPLES TO APPLES:  Yellow-fleshed Braeburn apples, perfect for baking, stewing, juicing, and snacking, are ready to be picked at SLO Creek Farms, located off San Luis Bay Drive. - PHOTO BY BRANDON GABLE
  • PHOTO BY BRANDON GABLE
  • APPLES TO APPLES: Yellow-fleshed Braeburn apples, perfect for baking, stewing, juicing, and snacking, are ready to be picked at SLO Creek Farms, located off San Luis Bay Drive.

How about watching that very officer battle it out against the best—and hungriest—at CAL Fire? This scene is not brought to us by Norman Rockwell. It is, in fact, exactly what’s in store for folks attending the first-ever Avila Apple Festival, Sunday, Oct. 5.

Rick Cohen, executive director of the Avila Beach Community Foundation (ACF) and coordinator for the event, is ready to see furious bits of apple and crust fly through the air during the anticipated apple pie eating contest. It’s going to be an all-out blood (or juice) bath.

“They have a very friendly rivalry going on,” Cohen said. “We might even see a little trash talk—who knows.”

Tickets to the festival’s foodie-centric Saturday night dinner are sold out, but there will plenty of crisp entertainment in store during Sunday’s It’s Everything Apple! vendor fair, unfolding on the Avila Beach Promenade from noon to 4 p.m. Live tunes by Canyon Ramblers, apple pie baking contests, apple juggling contests, and even wholesome apple bobbing for the kids are planned.

The ACF has waited a long time to see the event come to fruition (pun intended, at Cohen’s request).

“People in Avila recognize that apples are a huge part of the local economy, and for years, they’ve wanted to see some kind of event featuring that,” Cohen said. “There are a lot of events that take place in Avila Beach, but most are put on my outside organizations or private entities. This festival is one that will purely benefit the community for needed projects and nonprofits.”

Although some readers might assume that Avila Beach’s greatest natural resource is—well—the beach, Cohen pointed out that Avila Valley and See Canyon’s most tangible top commodity is, in fact, the nutritious, delicious apple.

About 12 to 15 apple producers take advantage of the cool microclimate, ranging from larger-scale productions like SLO Creek Farms, Gopher Glen, and Avila Valley Barn to funkier, more boutique-style operations that operate businesses akin to roadside stands.

Although considerably less sexy than wine grapes, Cohen believes that the crunchy orbs are long overdue for a moment in the spotlight.

- GO APPLE CLICKING!:  AvilaAppleFestival.com - Facebook.com/AvilaAppleFest - Twitter.com/AvilaAppleFest -
  • GO APPLE CLICKING!: AvilaAppleFestival.com
    Facebook.com/AvilaAppleFest
    Twitter.com/AvilaAppleFest

“So many events in the county are wine and beer oriented, focusing on how much you can eat or drink,” Cohen said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, it doesn’t focus on the family or the kids. … We didn’t want to duplicate what we already saw. We wanted to do something new and different.”

Family owned and operated SLO Creek Farms offers a U-pick experience that gives locals an intimate look at the fruit. Yellow-fleshed, organic Braeburn apples currently hang heavy in their orchard, ready for outstretched arms. The farm offers movies in the orchard as well as classes on herbs and raw cooking.

Owner Robyn Gable said bringing the apple community together is a dream of her family’s.

“Every Apple farm is different. We’re big on organics here, Avila Valley Barn has all the animals and the awesome grocery store vibe, and other farmers have their own small cider operations or unique experience to offer,” Gable said. “It’s really fun to be able to experience all that. There’s plenty for everyone.”

 

A romp through ‘Savorland’

If there ever was a Central Coast theme park, it would look, smell, and taste something like Sunset magazine’s Savor the Central Coast main event, held at the Santa Margarita Ranch Sept. 27 to 28. In many ways, the five-year-old event is a theme park, if you replace the rides with wine booths and the churro and pretzel carts with farm fresh cheeses, figs, and #CAGrown pistachios.

Burlap, straw, reclaimed wood, fresh cut flowers, exotic smells, and the choo choo of Santa Margarita Ranch’s old-school train again provided a fitting backdrop for the region’s extreme abundance.

click to enlarge CHUG INTO CHOWTIME:  Santa Margarita Ranch is known for its award-winning vineyards and ancient barn as well as the old timey train that chugs through the property during Sunset Savor the Central Coast each year. Pictured, New Times Arts Editor Jessica Peña and intern Adriana Catanzarite take a break from the food to travel back in time. - PHOTO BY HAYLEY THOMAS
  • PHOTO BY HAYLEY THOMAS
  • CHUG INTO CHOWTIME: Santa Margarita Ranch is known for its award-winning vineyards and ancient barn as well as the old timey train that chugs through the property during Sunset Savor the Central Coast each year. Pictured, New Times Arts Editor Jessica Peña and intern Adriana Catanzarite take a break from the food to travel back in time.

We learned how to break down lamb. We learned how to make sausage. We learned how to pickle. And, of course, we did it all while sampling local beers, wines, and bites. This, of course, is the romanticized “Central Coast lifestyle” that so many tourists wish to slip into, even if just for a weekend. That lifestyle also includes “no traffic,” which will never cease to blow visitors’ minds.

For those who didn’t get the chance to savor the bounty—or attend the multitude of adventure tours that spanned Hearst Castle to zip lining to winemaker dinners—I’ve got you covered. A few goodies from my rollicking romp through Savorland:

First, culinary goods can feel really good on your face. Yes, I consumed a lot of fabulous food, but it was refreshing to stumble upon Oluv Skin, which uses their Paso Robles-based, estate-grown olive oil as a base for their luxurious, natural beauty and skin care products. The lip balm is so good you will want—and probably could—ingest it.

Next: Your wine glass does matter. I feel vaguely elitist saying this (does it help that I am a lowly freelance writer?), but, thanks to a seminar on the topic, I learned that this fact holds credence. I witnessed a ho-hum oaked chardonnay transform into a butterfly when poured into just the right, bowl-shaped glass! On a budget? Upgrade to a single Riedel syrah glass, friendly to about 1,000 grape varietals.

I love it when folks hand out recipes, and I will definitely be replicating SLO-based Niven Family Wines’ Baileyana Harvest Gimlet, mixed with the winery’s Tangent albarino and True Myth cabernet, Re:Find Gin (more on that local producer in this week’s drink picks), lemon juice, ginger simple syrup, and ice. Two words: Dangerously good.

Not only were the folks at Roxo Port dressed as storybook Gypsies, they were also joyfully pairing their 2009 Negrette Cienega Valley port with goat cheese. The combination is explosive—perfect for an after-dinner holiday ritual.

Lastly, I now harbor a huge crush on Cambria-based Centrally Grown food truck, which aims to “Sustain the Simple Life” through connecting watering mouths with locally grown, ethically sourced food. Our introduction came by way of a perfectly-crafted cup of abalone ceviche topped with Morro Bay avocado. That romance, I am sure, will continue to blossom.

Hayley Thomas can be reached at hthomas@newetimesslo.com.

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