Monthly Archives: April 2011

England: How We Love Thee

In case you

a) were born yesterday, or
b) live under a rock,

today is a very special day for Anglophiles the world over because a certain Prince William and Kate Middleton were married.  (Yes, we got up at 4am to watch the celebration…didn’t you?!?)

In honor of this grand occasion, we’ve decided to list off some of our very favorite parts of English culture:

Fancy hats.  Remember Four Weddings and a Funeral?  Remember all those gorgeous, enormous hats in the congregation of each of the weddings?  Nobody pulls off giant hats quite like the English, and today was no exception.  We saw gobs of them clogging Westminster Abbey.

Cask ale.  From Wikipedia:

Cask-conditioned beer, often referred to as ‘real ale’, is brewed from only traditional ingredients and allowed to mature naturally.

The unfiltered, unpasteurised beer still contains live yeast, which continues conditioning the beer in the cask (known as ‘secondary fermentation’); this process creates a gentle, natural CO2 carbonation and allows malt and hop flavours to develop, resulting in a richer tasting drink with more character than standard keg (‘brewery-conditioned’) beers.

Real ale is always served without any extraneous gas, usually by manually pulling it up from the cellar with a handpump (also known as a ‘beer engine’). This is the traditional way of brewing and serving beer; only a few decades ago did filtered, pasteurised, chilled beer served by gas become normal.

The only place in the world where cask-conditioned beer is still commonly available is Britain.

Poetry and Literature.  By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861):

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

And from William Shakespeare (1564-1616):

O from what power hast thou this powerful might,
With insufficiency my heart to sway,
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds,
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.
If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of thee.

And from Jane Austen (1775-1817):

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Afternoon tea.  If ever a custom was inspired by God, it is that of taking afternoon tea.  To pause for a moment in the middle of the day, sip black tea (with milk, of course), nibble cakes and sandwiches, and enjoy pleasant conversation is a tradition we can definitely get hip to.

Rock ‘n roll.  No, the English didn’t “invent” rock and roll, but they’ve certainly perfected it.  Witness such musical genius as put forth by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Eric Clapton, and a little quartet from Liverpool called The Beatles.

Quirky humor.  Whether it’s Monty Python, P.G. Wodehouse, Absolutely Fabulous, or Shaun of the Dead, the English have a particularly biting humor that gets us every time.

Long Live The Brits!


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Spankings, pyrotechnics, whodunnits, and lambs fashioned from butter.

Spanking, flying bells, cross-country skiing, and fireworks?  They can only mean one thing: Easter!

While this holiday’s liturgical raison d’être is to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, countries around the world celebrate in widely varying customs.  Here, we explore a few of the lesser-known international Easter traditions with special thanks, as always, to the inimitable Wikipedia.

Czech Republic: SPANKING

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia and Slovakia, throw cold water on them. The pomlázka/korbáč consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four withies (willow rods), is usually from half a meter to two meters long and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking is not painful or intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women should be spanked in order to keep their health and beauty during whole next year.An additional purpose can be for men to exhibit their attraction to women; unvisited women can even feel offended. Traditionally, the spanked woman gives a coloured egg and sometimes a small amount of money to the man as a sign of her thanks. In some regions, the women can get revenge in the afternoon or the following day when they can pour a bucket of cold water on any man. The habit slightly varies across Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A similar tradition existed in Poland (where it is called Dyngus Day), but it is now little more than an all-day water fight.


The butter lamb (Baranek wielkanocny) is a traditional addition to the Easter Meal for many Polish Catholics. Butter is shaped into a lamb either by hand or in a lamb-shaped mould.


In Florence, Italy, the unique custom of the Scoppio del carro is observed in which a holy fire lit from stone shards from the Holy Sepulchre are used to light a fire during the singing of the Gloria of the Easter Sunday mass, which is used to ignite a rocket in the form of a dove, representing peace and the holy spirit, which in turn lights a cart containing pyrotechnics in the small square before the Cathedral.

The Netherlands, Belgium and France: FLYING BELLS

Church bells are silent as a sign of mourning for one or more days before Easter in The Netherlands, Belgium and France. This has led to an Easter tradition that says the bells fly out of their steeples to go to Rome (explaining their silence), and return on Easter morning bringing both colored eggs and hollow chocolate shaped like eggs or rabbits.In both The Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgium many of more modern traditions exist alongside the Easter Bell story. The bells (“de Paasklokken”) leave for Rome on Holy Saturday, called “Stille Zaterdag” (literally “Silent Saturday”) in Dutch.In French-speaking Belgium and France the same story of Easter Bells (« les cloches de Pâques ») bringing eggs from Rome is told, but church bells are silent beginning Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Paschal Triduum.

Netherlands and Northern Germany: HOLY FIRES

This holy fire was actually staged in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In the northern and eastern parts of the Netherlands (Twente and Achterhoek), Easter Fires (in Dutch: “Paasvuur”) are lit on Easter Day at sunset. Easter Fires also take place on the same day in large portions of Northern Germany (“Osterfeuer”).


In Norway, in addition to staying at mountain cabins and cross-country skiing in the mountains and painting eggs, a contemporary tradition is to read or watch murder mysteries at Easter. All the major television channels run crime and detective stories (such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot), magazines print stories where the readers can try to figure out “Whodunnit“, and new detective novels are scheduled for publishing before Easter. Even the milk cartons are altered for a couple of weeks. Each Easter a new short mystery story is printed on their sides. Stores and businesses close for five straight days at Easter, with the exception of grocery stores, which re-open for a single day on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  In Finland, Sweden and Denmark, traditions include egg painting and small children dressed as witches collecting candy door-to-door, in exchange for decorated pussy willows. This is a result of the mixing of an old Orthodox tradition (blessing houses with willow branches) and the Scandinavian Easter witch tradition.  Brightly colored feathers and little decorations are also attached to birch branches in a vase. For lunch/dinner on Holy Saturday, families traditionally feast on a smörgåsbord of herring, salmon, potatoes, eggs and other kinds of food. In Finland, the Lutheran majority enjoys mämmi as another traditional Easter treat, while the Orthodox minority’s traditions include eating pasha (also spelled paskha) instead.

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Spring Fever: Where Will It Take Us?

It’s spring and we’ve got wanderlust!  Something about green hills, blossoming trees, and sunshine gets us thinking about where we want to book our next vacation…

Chanae: Egyptian Pyramids.  Why?  I love all things ancient and would love to see hierogplyphs, tombs, treasures, and the Nile.

Jamie: Bali.  Why?  My mom and I are talking about staying at the Surf Goddess Retreat which is a surf, yoga, and spa “boutique holiday adventure” for women that looks completely amazing.

Linda: South Africa.  Why?  I want to experience the sights and sounds of a proper safari in Africa.  I wouldn’t mind experiencing the tastes and aromas of a good Pinotage or South African Chenin Blanc, either!

Jaime: West India.  Why?  Indian food is my new favorite cuisine to cook at home.  I’d love to get my hands on some authentic garam masala while absorbing India’s beautiful textiles,  beaches, and of course, Bollywood movies!

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We heart Rhônes, and here’s why.

With Hospice du Rhône coming up later this month in Paso Robles, we’ve had Rhône-varietal wines on the brain.  For some time now, a handful of wine writers – WE’RE NOT NAMING NAMES – have predicted and even announced the death of Rhône wines.  They say Syrah has seen better days, Viognier’s too hard to pronounce, and Grenache will never gain traction in the marketplace to become a heavy-hitter.

With all due respect, we say hogwash.

Witness the list of Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of 2010.  Notice anything interesting?  Four of the top ten are Rhônes.  That’s right: Rhônes are here to stay, and here’s why:

  • Tons of personality.
    Drink an inky Bandol from the south of France, a berry-laden Garnacha rosé from Spain’s Navarra region or a peppery Syrah from Washington State and taste the phenomenal range of aromas and flavors that Rhône-varietal wines can offer.


  • Plays well with others.
    Rhône wines encompass a whopping 22 varietals, in contrast to Burgundy, which offers just Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  With such a broad pallette to use, winemakers can use everything from Bourboulenc to Counoise to Roussanne to present a blend that is well-rounded and complex…or they can delve into the subtleties and nuances of just one varietal such as Marsanne or Carignan.

  • The most exciting California producers.
    If you know anything about the Sine Qua Non or Saxum labels, you know that the Rhônes tend to attract the most exciting, progressive winemakers.  But have you heard of some of the newest young producers, such as Herman StoryCabot or Shane?  If not, you don’t know what you’re missing.

  • Incredible value.
    Sure, Zaca Mesa Winery is our client.  (You know, full disclosure.)  But have you tasted their wines lately?  And have you seen the price tag?  Complex, award-winning, estate-grown Syrah and Rhône blends for $20 to $42?!?  It just doesn’t add up, but who’s complaining?  Not us.

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Celebrity Chef Cat Cora to Join Sunset Magazine at *SAVOR the Central Coast 2011*

New Event Venues and Details Announced for Second Annual Destination Food & Wine Event


San Luis Obispo County, CA — Sunset Magazine ( is thrilled to announce Cat Cora as the featured chef at the 2011 Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast celebration of food, wine, and fine living.  Ms. Cora will present a seminar on cooking with local, seasonal ingredients during the Main Event at the Santa Margarita Ranch and will be in attendance at the Paso Glow on October 1, 2011.

First schedule and venue details were also announced this week, including an exclusive reception at the Central Coast’s crown jewel, Hearst Castle. Additionally, the classic California vibe of the Pismo Beach Pier will serve as the backdrop to the Sunset 2011 Western Wine Awards Gala.
Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast will take place throughout San Luis Obispo County from September 29 through October 2, 2011. Over 7,000 visitors are expected to attend this year’s event and enjoy the beauty, bounty, and flavor of this largely unspoiled region.

Cat Cora, the featured celebrity chef for Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast 2011, is arguably America’s most famous female chef. Ms. Cora is most widely known as a regular on Iron Chef America, though she has long been a popular television personality, appearing on NBC, The Food Network and PBS. Outside the kitchen, Ms. Cora is the President and Founder of Chefs for Humanity, a not-for-profit organization comprised of culinary professionals working to fight hunger by providing food nutrition, education, emergency food relief and humanitarian aid worldwide.  Recognizing Cat’s altruistic determination in the food world, UNICEF named her a nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.
Available information on the 2011 Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast schedule is as follows:

  • Thursday, September 29: The four-day event kicks off in grand style with an opening soirée at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  A perfect blend of vintage grandeur and artful opulence, Hearst Castle will provide the elegant setting for an evening of artisan cocktails and prestigious small-lot wines from some of the producers who have put the Central Coast on the map.  From the castle’s stunning perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this will be a rare opportunity to relive the epic days of William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin and Marion Davies.
  • Friday, September 30: A day for agricultural and culinary exploration: Take tours across the Central Coast’s wildly diverse landscapes to witness abalone and oyster farming, winegrape harvesting, goat cheese-making, olive harvesting and pressing, and more. At sunset, enjoy the Sunset 2011 Western Wine Awards Gala on the Pismo Beach Pier.
    • Sunset 2011 Western Wine Awards Gala, one of the weekend’s most important events, will be held on the Pismo Beach Pier to honor the West’s best vintners.  Join Sunset editor-in-chief Katie Tamony, wine editor Sara Schneider, and Sunset’s panel of professional judges including Western wine writers, sommeliers, and wine makers, as these prestigious awards are unveiled.
  • Saturday, October 1: The highly-anticipated Main Event at the Santa Margarita Ranch, where visitors can taste wine from over 200 Central Coast producers, indulge in delicious dishes prepared by over 30 chefs using local ingredients, walk the specially-planted 2-acre kitchen garden, sit in on seminars conducted by Sunset’s expert editors, and wander the 20,000 square-foot pavilion celebrating all things Central Coast.  Other highlights on October 1 include:
    • Featured celebrity chef, Cat Cora, will present a seminar on cooking with local, seasonal ingredients.  
    • SAVOR the Mission Plaza,” an al fresco dining experience in the heart of one of California’s most vibrantly alive cities, features the talents of San Luis Obispo County’s best chefs and the flavors of its award-winning wines.
    • The “Paso Glow” event takes advantage of Paso Robles’ warm fall evenings in City Park, which will be transformed into the site of a magical, illuminated reverie as gifted local chefs join Cat Cora to create a memorable culinary evening, and winemakers and farmers celebrate the delicious abundance of the Central Coast beneath the moon.
  • Sunday, October 2: The Main Event in Santa Margarita continues, followed that evening by a magnificent Grand Finale, details for which will be released in the coming weeks.

Tickets for the 2011 Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast event will go on sale May 5, 2011.  For more information, please visit

Sunset Magazine has partnered with the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau to launch Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast. For more event information and ticketing, visit, or call 800‐768‐6653.  Become a fan on our Facebook page:, or follow us on Twitter (@SavorCC).  Ticket proceeds and sponsorships are considered donations to the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Convention Bureau, a 501 c 6 non‐profit tourism organization promoting San Luis Obispo County.

About Sunset Magazine
Sunset Magazine is the premier guide to life in the West, covering the newest and best ideas in Western home design and landscaping, food and entertaining, and regional travel in 13 Western states. Sunset and are part of the lifestyle group of magazines and websites published by the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

About Cat Cora

In 2005, Chef Cat Cora made television history by becoming the first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. The mother of four boys has authored three top-selling cookbooks, opened three restaurants in partnerships with Macy’s (CCQ), Walt Disney World Boardwalk Resort (Kouzzina by Cat Cora), and her newest venture, Cat Cora, which opens in the Virgin Terminal at San Francisco International in April 2011 as well as launched her own collection of wines, entitled Coranation. In January 2011, Cora launched her first line of cookware with Starfrit, Canada’s leading purveyor of eco-friendly cookware and kitchen gadgets, and introduced her Cat Cora’s Kitchen line of olive oils, vinegar, cooking sauces and tapenades by Gaea, the leader in Greek specialty food products. Cora will release her first children’s book, Suitcase Surprise for Mommy (Dial Books, 2011) a sweet and comforting tool for kids and parents to use when Mom or Dad have to travel, in March 2011.  Cora is the co-host for Disney’s “Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora” and “Hasty Tasty” web series. She is currently shooting a pilot for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) where she travels around the country helping families in need of a healthy lifestyle change.   In 2004, Cora, an avid philanthropist and UNICEF spokesperson, founded Chefs For Humanity in response to the tsunami disaster in Indonesia.   This not for profit organization has partnered with Share Our Strength as well as the World Food Programme to provide nutrition education and hunger relief worldwide. For more information please visit,  and follow Cat on Twitter (@catcora) and Facebook.


About the San Luis Obispo Visitors & Conference Bureau

The San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau promotes San Luis Obispo County through advertising, marketing, public relations and group sales.  Its member base is comprised of over 500 tourism industry-related businesses including lodging properties, restaurants, wineries, golf courses and retail stores.  For more information on the VCB, please visit or contact Molly Morrison Cano at 805.781.2531 or

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