Friday, June 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

From beer-wine hybrids to grazing tables, recent trends show a lot of Central Coast character


This past year was all about alternative milks and nut butters.¬

Cannabis and/or CBD-infused food and beverages.¬

Flower flavors and bitter plant fronds in cocktails.¬

Salads, collagen-pumped foods, prebiotics, avocado toast, a√ßai bowls, and antioxidants.¬

Real butter is back, and we all seem to be comfortable cooking with ghee and coconut oil. That was 2019 in a nutshell.¬

I recently scoured Bon Appetit, Forbes, VinePair, Pinterest, and Global Food Forums for their biggest predictions and trend watches for 2019 and thought about how the Central Coast kept up with the rest of the country. It's interesting what our food industry caught on to, such as local sourcing, zero-waste cooking, fresh produce, healthy kids meals, and global flavors.¬

What I love about the Central Coast is that no matter how healthy we are, we still stand in long lines at that new Krispy Kreme in Santa Maria.¬

1. Eating at home¬

Forbes predicted 2019 would be a year of eating at home. The evidence was all over Pinterest: Low-prep, foil pack dinner recipes became the thing for busy cooks. On the Central Coast, the majority of the population are three- to seven-person households, and data aside, we know the cost of living in California doesn't leave that much left for eating out and working doesn't leave much time for cooking time-intensive meals. Slow cookers, Instant Pots, one-pan bakes, and foil packs it is.

2. Health, wellness,
meeting the makers

According to the market research company Mintel, "anti-aging" was out this year and "healthy aging" was in. In stores, co-ops, and markets, and on menus countywide, we saw more products that support health from the inside out, targeting the brain, bone, joint, muscle, heart, and eye health.¬

Alternatives to milk, flour, and anything else recently deemed "bad for you" abound, including oat milk and tapioca and cassava flour. Maybe you can thank the pegans out there for all of these fabulous alternatives. The new hot diet is both paleo and vegan: pegan! ¬

Across the Central Coast, these healthy trends became evident at the co-ops and small market grab-'n'-go sections. Locally grown, organic produce from farmers you know were on every menu and entirely organic storefronts popped up.¬

Speaking of knowing your farmers, that was another trend that Santa Barbara County furthered with its first Farm Day in September. Locals were invited out to North County farms and ranches to meet the people who grow our food.¬

3. Grazing¬

Apparently 2019 was the year of the noshing table. Charcuterie board classes were wildly popular, and wine tasting and food events across the Central Coast all began serving entire spreads of artistically curated "grazing" tables with imported and local cheeses, cured meats, olives, baguettes, and crackers. Online deli Cured and Cultivated, based in Paso Robles, delivers and caters such edible works of art in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.¬

4. Nice fats¬

Fats made a comeback this year. The keto, paleo, grain-free, and pegan diets infiltrated conversations so much, some of us couldn't help but roll our eyes. We saw these new integrations of fat sources in every local store and in the employee fridge, including keto-friendly nutrition bars crafted with MCT oil powder, coconut butter-filled chocolates, fat bombs, and a new wave of ready-to-drink vegan coffees inspired by butter coffees.¬

5. Next level hemp and
cannabis infusions¬

What happens when you legalize it? Hemp hearts, seeds, and oils are from Cleopatra's time, but this year the cannabis craze evolved into everything from waffle mix to dried pasta. A new interest in the potential benefits stemming from other parts of hemp plants had many new storefronts looking to explore the fruitful cannabis biz, while local laws permitted empty buildings in some towns to sell the stuff. Keep an eye out for such locally created products in 2020.

6. Make-believe meat snacks¬

Plant-based foods took on the meat-based snacking world of jerkies and pork rinds. Mushrooms played a key role in jerky snacks. You may have seen vegan jerky Lassen's and other natural markets. Even with all our vegan love, we live in a place where Wagyu beef and Templeton Hills grass-fed, grass-finished cuts are on restaurant menus‚Ä"and most days, I see bumper stickers reminding me to eat more meat, so I'll take that advice.¬

7. Frozen treat power-ups¬

This was the year of Tesla popsicles. Even the classic Otter Pop was replaced with a healthy alternative. Innovative bases, such as avocado, hummus, tahini, and coconut water transformed regular ol' vanilla ice cream. Specialty frozen aisles now offer plant-based frozen desserts and ice creams with savory swirls of artisanal cheese, and here on the Central Coast, lactose-friendly Negranti Sheep's milk ice cream has longer lines at wine festivals than the wineries.¬

8. Sours, hybrids, and rebels

VinePair lists sour beers as a top drink trend this year. Do our local craft breweries have it? Yep. Central Coast brewers were on it before 2019. And they're also part of the hybrid frenzy: from beer/wine hybrids such as Firestone Walker's Rosalie to bourbon-barrel-aged wine. Let's not forget spiked seltzer waters and hard kombucha. And just as stylish this year in the area are low- and no-proof "mocktails," perfected by Central Coast-based Yes Cocktail Company.¬

Winemaker Doug Minnick, who co-founded the Garagiste Festival on the Central Coast, said that 2019 in wine was all about the hard-to-grow, rebel varietals such as the arneis.¬

9. Seaweed¬

Sea greens came in with the dinner tide this year, from seaweed butter to kelp noodles. Consumers are exploring varieties of algae and kelp with superfood properties. Puffed snacks made from water lily seeds, plant-based tuna alternatives with algae ingredients, crispy snackable salmon skins with omega-3s, and kelp jerkies are other ocean-based foods. Oak Creek Commons in Paso Robles even hosted a kelp cooking class this year, which included lots of Pacific Coast seaweed from a local company called Kelpful.¬

10. Upgraded snacks¬

Portable snack packages feature more ambitious bites, such as prosciutto and aged mozzarella and artisanal versions of classic snacks. New packaged snacks take us back to our treat-loving childhoods but with higher quality ingredients and alternative flours and oils. And keeping with the new diet fads, we now have cassava chips, macadamia nut butter, freeze-dried dark chocolate covered strawberries, and a√ßai bowls. Local wineries‚Ä"including Sanger Family of Wines in Los Olivos‚Ä"caught on to the trend in 2019, offering artistic grab-'n'-go lunches and snacks prepared by delis such as Cured and Cultivated.¬

Contributing writer Beth Giuffre is a snacker. Send tasty noshables to the editor at¬

Contributing writer Beth Giuffre is a snacker. Send tasty noshables to the editor at

Nibbles & Bites

‚ÄĘ Orcutt has the best cure for a bad case of the Mondays: food trucks. Yes, that's trucks plural. Head over to the Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House parking lot (in the Acorn Plaza at the corner of Clark and Bradley) on Monday, Jan. 13, to get your fill of fabulous fare from four trucks. Plus, there are several restaurants in the area that will also be open. This week, the trucks are Cubanissimo's, which serves Cuban cuisine such as yuca fries, tostones, black beans, Cubano sandwiches; Beau's Dogs, featuring Sonoran hot dogs and other sausages on pretzel rolls and buns; Lidos, which offers Philly cheesesteaks, hot pastrami sandwiches, curly cheese fries, and more; and AR Catering with its Mexican-inspired menu by Alex Reyes. The event runs from 5 to 7:30 at 4869 S. Bradley Road, suite 118. If you can't make it this week, mark your calendar for the second Monday of each month‚Ä"this is a regular shindig. Find the event on Facebook for more information. ¬

‚ÄĘ Love doughnuts but not necessarily for the first meal of the day? Then Riverbench Vineyard and Winery has a very happy hour for you. The winery is teaming up with God's Country Provisions in Los Olives for a sweet and savory pairing of wine with devilishly delicious doughnuts. Pre-ordering of the doughnut pairing is required, as they will be baked to order and picked up that morning. Ticket holders may come to Riverbench's vineyard tasting room any time on Sunday, Jan. 12, between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to enjoy the wine and food pairing flight. Tickets, which run between $10 and $25, are available on Eventbrite. Riverbench is located at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria. Visit for more information.¬

Associate Editor Andrea Rooks is looking forward to exploring new restaurants in 2020. Send menus to

Weekly Poll
What do you think about Aera Energy canceling its project in Cat Canyon?

It's a victory for the environment!
It's a loss of a lot of potential jobs that are needed in North County.
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The county should never approve another oil and gas project.

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