Saturday, July 20, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 20

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

EATS: How appear on a talk show about food (and make sure you get enough to eat)

Rebecca Rose

I was recently invited to participate in a filming of the locally produced food-themed talk/lifestyle show Taste Buds. Hosted by Teri Bayus, Taste Buds is a fun and informative look at Central Coast dining featuring on-location filming at some of the region's best and most popular restaurants. The show lets viewers get an inside look at their favorite spots through stories shared by the chefs and owners themselves, all while chowing down on some of their best dishes.

Filming on the second season of the local lifestyle show Taste Buds is underway now, hosted by Teri Bayus, a local media personality, writer, and entrepreneur.

For the episode of Taste Buds I participated in, I was invited to join Teri and her friend Meagan Friberg to enjoy some (very) good wine and (even better) food at The Great American Fish Company in Morro Bay. 

Full confession: I've done television appearances before but never where I was asked to eat and discuss food. I had a mini panic attack, envisioning clips of myself shoveling forkfuls of lobster into my mouth and spitting food everywhere as I tried to talk through a mouthful. What a horror show. My first promise to myself was to not let any camera catch me eating, period. That turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, for reasons I will get to in a moment.

When we arrived, we first set up outside. Filming anything amounts to a lot of "sit around and wait," but at least with a food and wine show, that waiting involves wine. I was offered a rosé (probably to help the host and guests remember my name), which was a perfect sipping wine to accompany a seafood tasting.

The Great American Seafood Company in Morro Bay features cioppino, a fish stew that originated in San Francisco and draws heavily from similar Italian dishes. The stew typically involves a little of everything from the “catch of the day,” such as scallops, salmon, crab, mussels, clams, and prawns.

One thing to remember when drinking wine on camera is production crews are a stickler for continuity. Every time I downed a sip of my delicious rosé, a production assistant had to rush over and wipe off the lipstick and refill the glass (poor me). As you can see, it's a hard life being in front of the camera.

The Great American Fish Company is owned by George League, whose family owns and operates a string of successful restaurants on the Central Coast and beyond. Once we had finished up our wine toasts, the "taste buds" and Bayus were off to check out the kitchen and meet League. League is a character himself and has a wealth of stories from the past five decades in the restaurant business that could keep you entertained for hours. 

League got his start with a fleet of abalone ships, making his way as a commercial fisherman until the product literally dried up, leaving him with few options. From there, he decided to try his hand at the restaurant business, facing a series of rejections from banks until an old college friend put in a good word with a local banker. Ever since then, League has been a fixture in the Morro Bay restaurant world, with his family following suit.

These are just a few of the things I learned while filming. The idea of Taste Buds is to enjoy a casual meal while getting to know the guest, all while several cameras are filming literally every single thing coming out of (and going into) your mouth. So no pressure at all, really. 

Seared Ahi tuna salad is featured on the menu at The Great American Seafood Company in Morro Bay, recently the site of a taping of the local talk show Taste Buds. The venue elevates the classic dish by incorporating beets and a mango salsa.

Back to that earlier point about eating. You'd think getting a chance to sit around and film a show like this would be an easy way to fill your belly with delicious food. Think again. To film the transitions, the restaurant manager brought in a new tray of food each time. Once we had passed around the dish and each of us had taken a bite or two and shared our thoughts, boom, the dishes were whisked away and the table wiped down so we could film another segment with a new dish. 

The secret is to sneakily take as many bites as you can before the next shot. Our courses were decadent and remarkable, so it was very hard to say goodbye to them as they were shuffled off to the table where the crew got to chow down on them (they totally deserved it for all their hard work).

We started with a lobster bisque, which I think might be one of the best bisques I have ever had in my life. The recipe is more than 40 years old and one that the venue keeps tight lips on, like most of their dishes. A good bisque is creamy but not overpowered by cream, well seasoned, and rich with the taste of fresh seafood. You don't want to taste soup, you want to taste the essence of the crustacean the bisque is made with. The Great American Fish Company's lobster bisque is so well balanced and has a perfect velvet texture that it's hard to imagine a way to improve the dish.

We were next treated to a seared ahi salad, which was full of a lot of surprises. The tuna was expertly seared; the outside had a warm and flavorful crust with a good balance of heat from the peppercorn while the inside was still raw. I love the contrast in the textures and flavor in this dish, with the sweetness of the mango salsa paired perfectly with the subtle spice in the fish. The dish was also served with beets, which is a brilliant idea as it matches the consistency of the fish so well. 

After being served a massive king crab leg–which I was terrified to attempt to eat on camera but did anyway–we had a rather remarkable piece of fish, simply yet elegantly prepared. The mesquite grilled halibut is flaky and ridiculously fresh; the smokiness of the mesquite serves as a great way to take the edge off the fish flavor, for those who may be averse to eating seafood. There's a nice element of heat in this dish, too, one that finishes at the end, leaving your palate unscathed.

By the end of a few hours of filming and talking about seafood, it could be easy to run out of things to say. Plus, in between segments, you always have to stop and redo your hair or makeup and most importantly make sure your teeth don't have any stray bits of food stuck between them. Halfway through filming, I was wearing butter from the crab down the front of my shirt, so I was pretty much a lost cause. But it was still fun to sit down and play celebrity television star, if only for a few hours.

And yes, I am always perpetually ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille. 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose does not sign autographs but will take a selfie with you. Contact her at

• Pork scallopini (pictured lower right) from my favorite Santa Maria restaurant, The Century Room at the Santa Maria Inn, is a memorable and refined dish suitable for any palate. Served with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and capers and finished with a demi-glace sauce, the dish is a good dinner bargain at $22. Plus, the Brussels sprouts are crisp on the outside and fork tender in the center. Try it at 801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria.

Pork Scallopini

Root 246 at Hotel Corque is offering a pretty intriguing prix fixe menu during the upcoming Danish Days festival in Solvang. For $28, they will offer three courses, including a starter of a traditional dish called Smørrebrød, which is smoked whitefish, pickled shallots, and fresh dill served on rye bread, and an entree of Flæskesteg, a roasted local pork dish with cabbage and potatoes. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

• Poke bowls have arrived at Hill Haven Provisions. Made with ahi or salmon, the bowls include avocado, edamame, pickled ginger and/or cucumber, watermelon radish, wakame, masago, and sesame seeds dressed in their housemade ponzu sauce. Here's hoping the poke bowl trend continues in the Santa Ynez Valley. Visit Hill Haven at 448 Atterdag Road, Solvang.

Thai Villa in Nipomo has one of the best tom kah soups I have ever had. Served in a huge bowl, the dish comes loaded with mushrooms, lemongrass, cabbage, and a perfectly balanced broth made with chili paste and coconut milk. It's enough for two, unless you want to be greedy and take home what you can't finish. I'm not saying that's what I do at 626 W. Tefft St.

• The 2015 Santa Maria Valley pinot noir by J. Wilkes is the kind of special local wine the region is famous for. Receiving 90 points from Wine and Spirits, this pinot was also hailed by Wine Spectator as "rich, savory, and open-textured." A two-pack with the winery's 2016 Santa Maria Valley chardonnay is available online for $52 at

Weekly Poll
What do you think of the changes Santa Barbara County made to its cannabis ordinances?

It was too early to make any changes. The industry is still new.
The changes were necessary. Cannabis farms are ruining our quality of life.
The changes are too restrictive and could stifle a growing industry.
More changes are needed to address the odor problems and other issues.

| Poll Results