I was featured in The San Francisco Chronicle—both in print and online on August 12, 2018. Pinch me! Many thanks to Deb Wandell for this spotlight, it was such an honor. Enjoy!
It’s easy to feel like an underachiever when you hang around with Kendra Aronson. At 31, she’s a blogger, founder of the Central Coast Creatives Club and go-to web designer for the area’s top restaurants.
She’s also the designer, writer, recipe tester, stylist, photographer and promoter for “The San Luis Obispo Farmers Market Cookbook” ($35 at Omnivore Books in S.F. and www.slofarmersmarketcookbook.com), inspired by the storied market that shuts down several downtown blocks of Higuera Street from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday. More than 70 farmers from the Central Coast sell everything from fruit to flowers, but there are also vendors selling ready-to-eat foods, live music on each block and shops that stay open late.
Aronson was a freshman in language studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and new to the idea of seasonality when she visited the market for the first time. “I remember having strawberries there and losing my mind,” she says.
A few years later, as a graduate student in San Francisco, she was shopping at the Ferry Building and came across “The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Cookbook.” The lightbulb went off. “I thought: This needs to exist for SLO, and I need to be the one to do it.” She bookmarked the idea.
Three years and a successful Kickstarter campaign later, she produced the cookbook. It features 60 seasonal recipes as well as profiles and short stories about local farmers and chefs. There’s also a shout-out from her idol, Alice Waters.
Aronson’s enthusiasm for all things SLO keeps her tapped into a community she loves to share with visitors every opportunity she gets. Not surprisingly, a visit to the market is at the top of her to-do list.
“Everyone is so friendly and genuine and they really support small local mom and pop,” she says, adding, “It doesn’t hurt that it’s beautiful here. We have the mountains and the ocean and its sunny most of the time. And then the food, obviously.”
Here she dishes on more San Luis Obispo County favorites.
A few favorites
General Store Paso: “The one-stop shop for unique gifts and local provisions for the epicurean in your life. They carry an extensive collection of cookbooks, picnic blankets, cocktail mixers, cooking oils, spice blends, kitchen linens, wooden spoons, sheep’s milk ice cream sandwiches — every item in this shop sparks joy, including the women behind the counter.” 841 12th St., Paso Robles. 805-226-5757, www.generalstorepr.com
Grow Nursery: “A retail plant nursery tucked away in the sleepy downtown of Cambria, truly a hidden gem. They specialize in rare and unusual succulents, handmade pottery thrown by local potters on the Central Coast, breathtaking mineral specimens and a wide variety of air plants.” 2024 Main St., Cambria. 805-924-1340, www.grownursery.com
Fish Gaucho: “You have two opportunities to cash in on happy hour at Fish Gaucho: 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and every night 9 to close. Enjoy the lively atmosphere and epic food portions, paired with their incredible craft margaritas and flights of Tequila or mezcal (over 140 to choose from).” 1244 Park St., Paso Robles. 805-239-3333, www.fishgaucho.com
The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar: “Wet your whistle with these original seasonally driven cocktails mixed up by their award-winning mixologist, Robin Wolf. Every cocktail ingredient is carefully considered: from atypical fresh squeezed juices (carrots, kiwis, cherries) to her own handcrafted bitters with culinary combos like rose and pink peppercorn, or grapefruit and habanero chile.” 835 13th St., Paso Robles. 805-221-5727, www.hatchpasorobles.com
Ember: “When a Chez Panisse alum opens up their own restaurant, you know it’s going to be a success. Chef-owner Brian Collins serves Italian-inspired, seasonally driven, wood-fired food five nights a week, dinner only, no reservations. It’s absolutely worth the wait.” 1200-E Grand Ave., Suite 101, Arroyo Grande. 805-474-7700, www.emberwoodfire.com
Rutiz Farms: “There is always something fun happening at this adorable farm stand: U-pick berries and flowers, summer corn roasts and wood-fired pizza featuring fresh produce. A salt-of-the-earth crew supplies many of the top-notch farm-to-table restaurants in SLO County and Los Angeles, too.” 1075 The Pike, Arroyo Grande. 805-481-3582, www.rutizfarms.com
Montaña de Oro: “MDO — as the locals call it — is like a little slice of Big Sur but with a fraction of the traffic. The jagged coastline features postcard-worthy coastal plains, steep cliffs, powerful waves and secret coves. The trails are loved by all: mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders and nature enthusiasts.” 3550 Pecho Valley Road, Los Osos. 805-528-0513, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=592