We can’t not write about our recent trip to California that we are most certainly riding a high from. This was the first trip in … a long while … that we went on just for fun! No weddings, no holiday commitments, just friends to see and good times to have!
We’ve been planning a trip to visit friends Natalie and Ryan in beautiful San Luis Obispo since 2019 (James reminds Sheila) and it finally came together! James and Natalie met at the climbing wall at Boston University, and have been lucky to remain in touch in the ensuing years — through plenty of cross-country moves, big life changes, and (of course) through the endless climbing stoke that started their friendship to begin with.
Upon our 9 PM arrival at the SBP airport, we were met with palm trees and warm coastal winds. Our hosts were kind enough to retrieve us and bring us to their house. Before even going inside Natalie showed us a “historic” palm tree that was taller than many buildings we see in Denver. Oh yes — it felt very California already.
Outward Wines Is The Best
On night one we were treated to the most magnificent curry that chef Natalie wiped up. Ryan talked us through the wine that he was pouring, and we tried our best to differentiate all of the different flavors we were talking about. Why were we spending so much time talking about wine? Why was there a beautiful copy of The Sommelier’s Atlas Of Taste sitting out on a side table? Natalie and Ryan have spent the past few years creating and curating incredible organic wines under the name Outward Wines. We had originally splurged on two bottles of Outward in 2019, right before moving to Denver — one that we enjoyed for our last dinner with the Murrays before setting out, one with our new hosts when we arrived. To say that those two initial bottles changed the way that we drink and think about wine would be an understatement, and when we found out we’d successfully bought a house, we decided to celebrate by becoming part of their “El Capitan” wine club offering. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to receive wine from our friends.
It rained overnight, which is uncommon in that area, and by morning the sky was a perfect shade of blue. We started the day off with coffee and group yoga, followed by sourdough toast (that we had brought from Denver) adorned with fun toppings like local avocado! (We learned that SLO has maps of historic and free fruit trees, and that Nat’s first apartment here featured one of those avocado trees out front). We also had homemade orange juice that Ryan made using oranges from the tree just outside their apartment.
After an extremely lavish morning, we were off to the day’s adventures!
Bread Bike Bakery
We first learned about Bread Bike Bakery from an article in Patagonia’s newsletter, so we were pretty excited to check it out! As it turns out, SLO is a small world and Natalie and Ryan know everyone including the founder and head baker, Sam. Sam has been making bread in the same naturally leavened style that we do at home and uses ancient grains and locally milled flour… YUM. Though we wanted to buy absolutely everything in the store (the bakery itself was beautiful) we walked away with a spelt and wheat baguette and a “California Chocolate Chip” cookie. With sustenance acquired, we headed to Bishop’s Peak.
We hiked a local mountain from which we could see the ocean, Cal Poly, and many of Natalie and Ryan’s favorite adventure hills. The weather was incredible as we wound up the switchbacks to the mountain’s top, and it was fun to see some boulderers along the way. It was pretty windy up at the top, so after enjoying the view for a bit, we continued on our way!
After the hike we all split the chocolate chip cookie from Bread Bike and it did not disappoint. This was merely the jumping off point into an incredibly decadent lunch; we got some supplies from Nat and Ryan’s place, then headed off to one of the “dog beaches” on the coast — as happy doggos ran around us, we enjoyed our picnic of cheese, the Bread Bike baguette, olives, carrots, dips, and more. The meal was capped off with a thrilling taste of “Pet Nat” (pétillant naturel), one of Outward Wines’ upcoming Spring product releases. Looking forward to being able to enjoy this wine again soon!
After all that activity it was time for some downtime … or, in our case, continuing to chat it up as afternoon blended into night and dinnertime rolled around. Before we knew it, chef Nat had once more whipped up a gourmet meal for us, and the evening flew by as we enjoyed our food, conversation, and wine. There’s something very special about being able to share a meal with friends; maybe it’s just because that’s also our favorite way to spend time with others when we’re not adventuring, but the process of making, serving, and enjoying food has a rhythm of its own that’s hard to recreate in a restaurant.
The next morning we rinsed and repeated with more morning yoga and a group meditation. Ryan made us all coffee again and we sipped it as we discussed the day ahead. Then we headed to Cayucos for brunch!
Wow. This was a special spot. We don’t have any photos because by the time our food arrived we couldn’t think of anything else except enjoying every bite. Their blue corn waffles were out of control and they did not skimp on smoothie portions. We ordered…
- Weirdos Waffle | fried banana, peanut butter, Niman Ranch bacon ends, maple syrup, grass-fed butter (skipped the bacon 😉 )
- Rancho el Churro | cinnamon sugar, butter, HK whipped cream, dulce de leche, more cinnamon sugar!
- Gorda Greens| spinach, kale, chard, banana, ginger, spirulina, apple, coconut water, coconut shreds
We left with full bellies and happy faces. Next we were off to a classic post-brunch activity — to see some cool cairns at Morro Rock! We also saw a few otters flipping around and enjoying the day.
Next up — we headed to see some poppies along the coast.
Point Buchon State Marine Reserve
The local nuclear power plant is being decommissioned and the power company is working with park officials to preserve this area’s natural beauty. You do have to sign in to explore Point Buchon but compared to the coastal areas right around it (which were super busy!) it was quiet and peaceful.
Wrapping Up Our Trip In Style
We transitioned from outdoor adventure to indoor fun and headed to The Pad — Natalie and Ryan’s climbing gym, enjoying an awesome afternoon bouldering session. From there we headed back to the house and got ready to cruise around town! We all hopped on bikes and explored SLO’s downtown, stopping in for a cocktail at Granada. We all got something different but split two appetizers and Sheila is very eager to try to recreate the Brussels sprout dish that had dried cherries. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed that stop.
However, we couldn’t miss our final chance to dine at home with Natalie’s amazing cooking! We had a wonderful last evening together. We were supposed to get back to Denver midday Monday, but battled through an extremely delayed flight and being re-routed through Seattle. After that casual eight hour delay, we were back at home with Buckwheat, reflecting on what an amazing time we’d had — and when we can get back to SLO!