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Support your local farm 

I have a great deal of respect for San Luis Obispo’s food and wine community because of everyone’s constant efforts to extend a helping hand. And it’s not about wineries and restaurants patting each other on the back for their own financial gain. Our charitable restaurateurs and vintners have always supported local farms and farm workers.

That’s what motivated chef Robert Root to come up with the idea of creating a new event last year he named “Pallet to Palate.” It’s a food and wine

click to enlarge GET FRESH :  Enjoy the finest local produce, socialize, and support a wonderful cause at the second annual Pallet to Palate benefit - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • GET FRESH : Enjoy the finest local produce, socialize, and support a wonderful cause at the second annual Pallet to Palate benefit
celebration that not only spotlights our local agrarians; the proceeds benefit local schools and charities. Root, now chef at The Manse retirement home in downtown SLO, was formerly executive chef at Orchid at the Inn at Morro Bay, where the first Pallet to Palate one-day event took place. Root saw it as a way of focusing the consumer’s attention on the local farmers who provide our chefs with the freshest fruits, vegetables, quality beef, fish and cheese, and giving our hard-working farmers the respect they deserve.

I was there for the inaugural event in May 2007 and was delighted to find it crowded with foodies and locavores. The latter are those who make an effort to eat only food from their local “foodshed,” which means buying from farms and producers within 100 miles of their homes. Their intent is to gain a greater connection to their food sources and support the local economy, which also means avoiding processed foods and chain restaurants.


“There are very few events, except the farmers’ markets that focus on the farmers who grow local produce,” Root said pointedly. He noted that some chefs still don’t support local farms. With this event Root, among other food industry people, is working toward making everyone aware of local farms. “We decided to grow this event into something that can really make an impact, creating more outreach for our small farmers to both the community at large and chefs at local restaurants.”

The first Pallet to Palate was an epicurean event and yet the entry fee was comparable to fast-food prices at merely $10 per person. Guests feasted on delicious, creative dishes by chefs from the Black Cat, Lido, Orchid, and Papillon restaurants; rustic breads from Skipping Stone Productions; and freshly picked fungi from Oak Hill Mushroom Farm. Some of the chefs cooked food per order at the table while we watched: Black Cat owner-and-chef Deborah Scarborough prepared impeccably fresh abalone from the Abalone Farm in Cayucos. We were also offered a nice selection of local white and red wines we could buy by the glass at reasonable prices. The first event benefited the Paso Robles Culinary Academy.

This year, the entry is priced slightly higher but still is quite reasonable for this worthy cause. That means you can bid more during the silent auction for such enticing treats as an overnight stay at a local resort, gift certificates for local restaurants, and collectible bottles of wine. A note to any other businesses interested in helping this fundraiser: Pallet to Palate is still accepting donations for the silent auction, including local foods, wine, dining certificates, hotel rooms, jewelry, clothing, or art. This year, the proceeds will benefit the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

Chef Evan Treadwell at Lido in the Dolphin Bay Resort, who participated in Pallet to Palate last year, noted: “Many restaurants still don’t use fresh local products and we need to get these products to every restaurant’s kitchen. This isn’t a new movement in our nation but it’s the wave of the future. From the farms to the restaurants, we have to be more responsible for the planet and the people.”

Dinner Series

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
 Up to 15 SLO County restaurants are participating, including The Apple Farm, Big Sky Caf», Black Cat Bistro, Cove, Lido, Marisol, and others, offering a prix fixe meal of three or four courses for $40 per person or less, depending on the restaurant (the menu price doesn’t include wine or beverages). Every meal sold provides $5 for the Food Bank. Their menus will feature the foods of a specific local farmer or food specialist, including local favorites such as the Abalone Farm, Ralph Johnson Farms, Oak Hill Mushrooms, and Rutiz Family Farms. You can make it an unforgettable meal by pairing it with a SLO County wine, each one of the participating restaurants’ wine lists offers local wines that meet the requirements of locavores.

There are two events offered on Sunday, August 17, at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. The first is a conference featuring a cooking demonstration and lunch from 12:30 to 3 p.m. by the Cliffs Resort’s chef de cuisine at Marisol, Gregg Wangard, demonstrating the preparation of dishes using fresh products from three local farms, which you’ll enjoy afterward for lunch. Chef Ann Cooper, a food educator known nationwide for her work in grade school cafeterias, will be speaking on the topics of healthy eating and sustainably grown produce. This seminar and lunch is offered at an amazingly cheap price of $15 per person. The second event features a gala reception and dinner with a silent auction to raise more money for the Food Bank for just $60 per person. Held at Marisol restaurant in the Cliff’s Resort, the dinner will be prepared by five local chefs, each of whom will pair with a local farmer to create a meal using that farm’s produce or specialty food. Each of the five courses will be paired with a local wine and an acoustic guitarist will entertain throughout the evening.

A farmers market-style grazing event, modeled after the first Pallet to Palate, will be held alfresco at the Cliff’s Resort in Shell Beach, overlooking the azure Pacific, on Monday, August 18. Each table will feature a chef and a farmer, 25 tables altogether, who have worked together to create a delicious treat. There will also be tables featuring premium wineries, including Donati, Eberle, Edna Valley Vineyard, and Windward. I predict more of our generous vintners will be eager to help support this locally-focused food and wine event.

For complete details about participating restaurants, farms, wineries, the Food Bank, participating in it, or reservations


You can reach the “New Times” Cuisine columnist at


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