Cambria vacation inspires central coast dreaming

Escape to Cambria by the Sea with three-day itinerary

Vacations affect your happiness and planning one can produce enough positive vibes to justify a three-day getaway. And, according to a 2010 New York Times article, the effects of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for up to eight weeks.

Cambria by the Sea is about 140 miles west of Fresno, CA, or 233 miles south of San Fransisco.

While I have led tours to New York City, Europe, and the central coast many times, I still get positive endorphins as I did drafting those trips more than 20 years ago. The key? Planning and dreaming about vacations before departure.

With today’s busyness and hectic pace, many long for sounds of seagulls, rhythm of the waves, sweet smells of pine forests, beach or bluff walks, and air as clean as mother nature intended.

So when a three-day window arose for Geena and I to enjoy Cambria, California, a pre-planned agenda helped ensure a relaxed, no hassle weekend. And, to top it off, planning and anticipating the vacation for a few weeks beforehand may be even more important to a feeling of relaxation than just the days away from home.

Cambria is a sleepy “just off the beach” town a few miles north of Morro BayCayucos and six miles south of San Simeon and Hearst Castle fame on California’s central coast.

Cambria’s pristine beaches, tide pools, wine tasting and forest, bluff and other docent-led Fiscalini Ranch walks are the perfect slow-pace agenda we wanted and longed for. We knew a leisurely drive could easily take a visitor to the Piers Blancas Light Station, Paso Robles wine tours, the Edna Valley and SLO County wineries or the college town of San Luis Obispo. But Cambria’s beauty, beaches, paths and slow pace was calling.

Moonstone Beach boardwalk at the north end of Cambria is a favorite spot for many visitors.

We wanted to escape to Cambria and take in its natural wonders.

And, central California visitors or Central Valley residents will tell you, there is PLENTY TO DO during a three-day mini vacation in Cambria, thank you.

Tip No. 1: Get to Paso early for a winery pit stop

While our Cambria getaway did not start until 9 a.m. Friday, we took care of a few last minute details, grabbing a coffee and pastry at a local java shop on the drive out of town. If you love the aroma of tea, coffee or a warm beverage on a cold morning, this adds to the anticipation and promise of a great start. In fact, the two plus-hour drive from Fresno to Paso Robles was made all the better with some hot black gold and a light, flaky and buttery delicacy.

Giornata Wines are within the Tin City development of Paso Robles.

Paso Robles wine tasting teaser:

We left early enough to arrive in Paso Robles and had time to stop in at one of the area’s wineries: Giornata Wines just off the CA 101 and Highway 46 interchange. They are a part of the new Tin City development. We called ahead and made sure winemaker Brian and/or wife, Stephanie, Terrizzi had the winery open. We were in luck and spent an hour tasting and purchasing a bottle of our favorite Sangiovese. We love their award-wining California-style Italian juice.

However, while there are hundreds of winery choices in the Paso area, and acknowledging Tin City is a destination itself, that was not our purpose for this trip.

Cambria: Day 1

One of the best feelings about arriving in Cambria is the sight of its wooded hills and tall Monterey pines. Motorists can enter the town via the first stoplight at Ardath Drive/Main Street as they travel the California Highway 1 (Cabrillo Highway) heading north.Turn right on Main Street to travel the whole town of Cambria, taking in the charm of its 19th century cottages, motels, turn of the century shops and quaint character in Cambria East.

Cambria history interlude

The villages of Cambria took their shape in the 1860s, and as lumber, ranching and mining interests increased in the region, the village became more prosperous, according to the Cambria Historical Society. And late in the sixties, it adopted the more dignified name of Cambria.

But it was not until Swiss dairymen set the pace for a major industry during 1880s that prosperity came to the region. By the turn of the century, Cambria was shipping over a ton of butter per day to San Francisco via the wharf at San Simeon. Cheese production is said to have averaged over a half-ton daily.

I appreciate Cambria’s past and enjoy the stories of settlers and their influence. Yet, our planned full walking tour of the historic East Village will have to wait for a future visit.

Cambria is divided in to two villages: Cambria East and Cambria West.

However, while we noticed spots on the walking tour map we wanted to visit, our first stop on this trip was the weekly Friday Cambria farmer’s market, just west of Main and Cambria, across the street from the Cambria Public Library at 1000 Main. This is about the center of town and a great way to meet the locals, area artisans and farmers. We spent over an hour wandering, chatting and generally slowing our pace. Even though we were there in mid January, a surprisingly wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, gourmet cheese, crackers and wine, local shellfish, coffee and fresh squeezed juices were available.

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Cambria businesses, shops and restaurants have quaint and charming facades, drawing the visitor to indoor and outdoor spaces.

Cambria East Village is where visitors will find shops, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries as well as Victorian houses dating back to the 1870s and its nature reserves. This is a place to take a deep breath and maybe enjoy the Historical Cambria Walking Tour.  We would return to its antique and specialty shops on Saturday.

Arrive in Cambria on Fridays by 2:30 p.m. for their farmer’s market. Buy local fresh produce, dairy, seafood, flowers, nuts, wine and more.

The Cambria farmer’s market is on Main across the street from the public library.

Cambria West Village has vibrant artist community including designers, artists, craftspeople and you will find special treasures you will not see anywhere else. There are no chain stores or restaurants. They along with the Farmer’s Market, as well as day spas and wellness centers are all locally owned and operated. You will be charmed by the eclectic array of shops from antiques to apparel plus unique gifts and specialty shops.

The key to a successful Cambria trip is to keep the itinerary simple. Walk the town, browse the shops with a coffee, tea or bag of confectionary in hand. We slowly made our way through the art galleries, local artisan, specialty, antique and craft shops.

Cutruzzola Vineyards tasting room is at the edge of West Village near Windsor and Main Street in Cambria. They are known for their Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

After an hour getting reacquainted with village life, we drove the short distance back to Cutruzzola’s Tasting Room and tasting room at the edge of West Village near Windsor and Main Street, just off Highway 1. While the tasting room is in Cambria, their estate vineyard is just outside of town, only a few miles from the waters’ edge.

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We met Reyna Jonas at the tasting room who shared the Cutruzzola story and wines with us. I was especially impressed with Cutruzzola’s Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

We spent over an hour listening to Reyna talk about the passion of local winemaker Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Cellars who has used time spent in the Napa Valley, the Australian outback, and the South African Cape to helped shape Cutruzzola’s wines. Owners Francis Cutruzzola and his partner Lisa Miller, longtime wine connoisseurs, moved from Sonoma County to the Paso Robles wine region, falling in love with the landscape, the people, and most importantly, the wine.

They have two acres of Riesling and five acres of Pinot Noir in small blocks, utilizing multiple clones to develop depth and complexity in the wines. These are fabulous sipping and food wines. I am very impressed with Cutruzzola Vineyards and highly recommend these award-wining wines that score 90+ and above.

Cutruzzola estate Riven Rock Vineyard vineyard is located in a coastal valley just outside the town center, lies 6.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and just east of the town of Cambria. Seven acres of vines grace south-facing slopes in a cool climate frequented by ocean breezes and morning fog. Lean, rocky, marine-origin soils and steep hillsides produce very small yields of extremely concentrated fruit, while the maritime influence keeps the acids fresh and vibrant.

Tip No. 2: Slow your pace, set awhile with a coffee, tea or juice and people watch

We decided to meet up at Linn’s Restaurant in East Village for a coffee and pastry. And while we sat at a little table near the baked goods counter, it was so good to just sit and people watch. No agenda, no bustle. Just people watching, sipping and relaxing.


With art hanging close by at The Vault and other galleries, soft music playing, and two more days ahead of us, we spoke of a walk along Moonstone Beach, a leisurely hike on Fisalini Ranch, and wine tasting. It’s good to anticipate, even when its as close as tomorrow.

With daydreaming done and a visit to a couple of antique dealers discovering toys, dishes and furniture from our youths, we headed to Moonstone Beach and a walk along its famed boardwalk.

Tip No. 3: Walk Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is where a Cambria visit should begin and end. During its length, visitors will be guided along its 2.85-mile wooden boardwalk on an easy slope and with many spots to sit on benches, sink your feet into the sand or water or watch from the bluffs the surf, sea and ocean life. With viewing platforms and only 40 feet of elevation change, this is a must for anyone.

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Geena and I walked hand in hand, listening to the seals, egrets and rhythm of the waves. We  explored a few of the tide pools as well, finding sea anemones, spiny purple sea urchins, snails and crabs.

And with plenty of restaurants, motels and picnic areas, we ended up getting a drink at a couple of spots along the Moonstone Drive over the weekend. Try the Sea Chest Restaurant for great oysters and a glass of Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc. We also visited Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for a bowl of clam chowder and a citrusy zest of a Riesling. The lemon and lime cuts the silky, rich broth and starch in the potatoes. Cheers to good eating and relaxing with spectacular ocean views.

To get to the trailhead: From San Luis Obispo, drive 34.2 miles north up Highway One to Cambria. Continue through three lights and turn left at the traffic light onto Windsor Boulevard. Drive a hundred feet and make an immediate right onto Moonstone Beach Drive. Go 0.1 miles and turn left into the trailhead free parking area just past El Colibri Hotel. If you are coming from the north, Windsor Boulevard is 7.2 miles south of Hearst Castle Road.

Checking in to Cambria’s Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive

With dinner still two hours hence, we checked in to our hotel: The Fireside Inn right on Moonstone Beach Drive, overlooking the ocean and an entrance to the boardwalk.

With the USA recently posting Moonstone Beach as one of California’s Top 10 best, we just had to stay within walking distance. Nestled just off Highway 1, the Fireside Inn is perfect spot to get away from it all. Just footsteps away from the beach, our Superior King Oceanfront room had a fireplace, spa tub, and patio overlooking the ocean.

We loved lounging in the lush bathrobes, sipping in-room gourmet coffee. No problem getting a great night’s sleep on a Sleeper Mattress and luxurious bedding. In fact, a late night dig in the hot spa poolside was also a bonus!

Dinner No. 1: Madelines on Main Street

Highly recommended, we loved our evening at Madeline’s Restaurant in Cambria. Not only did our hotel recommend it but others in town as well. A wine shop and wine club by day (a good one at that), and fine dining each night, we were greeted at the Madeline’s door by owner and Chef David and seated. Loved the linen tables, finely appointed with flowers.

I took a few moments to browse the wine tasting shop as would return on my own. Many of the wines and dinner menu items are based upon locally sourced and seasonably available products. Chef Dave is proud to say “the best organic food and local wine is what’s grown closest to you – and it tastes better!” He’s been open for 13 years and by the way the restaurant was bustling and full, I’d say he will be on Main Street for some time to come.

Light music played in the back ground as we enjoyed our five course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($110 per couple). We added the wine flight ($40 per couple) and let our host guide us through local foods and wine tasting. We enjoyed our evening and recommend Madeline’s Restaurant and appreciate owner David Stoothoff’s hospitality.

First course: Caucus Red Abalone (Panko crusted, topped with lemon butter capers over arugula salad. This was paired with a 2015 Andrew Adam Pinot Gris from Edna Valley. Perfect. Second course: Wild forged Chanterelle mushroom soup (unspeakable deliciousness) with a Baker and Brain 2015 Grüner Veltliner from Edna Valley.

Third course: Pan-seared link cod topped with compound butter, blood orange and saffron sauce with creamy risotto and wilted greens. The 2014 Alban Central Coast Viognier from Paso Robles was outstanding.

Fourth course: Venison tenderloin with red wine jus and shallots with mashed butternut squash and seasonal vegetables. Chef David paired this with a 2014 Line Shack Cabernet from Paso Robles. The tenderloin was fantastic but when we didn’t like the pairing, he poured a glass of the 2014 Kamal Cabernet Sauvignon El Pomar District. Oh my, my food pairing became an immediate winner. Fifth course: We had a choice of homemade desserts and our choice of aperitif.

We had a most fabulous dinner! The dishes were all excellent and plated with attention to aesthetics, plus each side dish was delicious in its own right. All around attention to detail and the service was excellent. Definitely would return and try Chef Dave’s other seasonal menu pairings. Reservations are recommended.

Cambria: Day two

With a hot cup of coffee to go from the Fireside Inn breakfast room, I walked right over to Moonstone Beach boardwalk to catch the last rays of sunrise and watch day two begin. There is nothing quite like morning java with dawn and the beach to start one’s day. And while this mesmerizing scene could keep me there for hours, we were excited for a leisurely hike.

Our docent-led hike through the Fiscalini Ranch Monterey and California coastal oak forest also provided amazing vistas of the ocean and grasslands.

Tip No. 4: Hike the Fiscalini Ranch forest or bluff trails

A weekend highlight for us has to be our Fiscalini Ranch Preserve docent-led walk. While there are many to choose from, we met our guide Brian for a Fiscalini Ranch hike on the corner of Tipton and Warren in the Lodge Hill area of Cambria.

We spent over 2 1/2 hours exploring the mostly level trails through through the Monterey pine and coastal oak forest. He was so knowledgeable about the geological, historical background of the area and most helpful with the flora and fauna of the preserve.

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The hours flew by as we strolled along paths with fresh wood chips. A few spots of standing water and mud but very walkable. At first Brian shared about the plant and animal life in the forest but weaved in appropriate talks on poisonous plants, tree insect and disease issues as well as information on native peoples and their history. We loved the walk from forest, to grasslands to amazing ocean views from the bluffs!

As it was January, much of his talk centered on mushrooms and other forest flora. His information was encyclopedia-eek and very personable and relational.

And while I absolutely loved finding and talking about nearly 20 variety of mushrooms on our walk, Brian brought us to where at least 10,000 Monarch butterflies congregated during their annual migration. At times hundreds were clumped together and suddenly they took off to fill the sky with their orange and yellow hues. This was a spectacular moment!

Be sure to read and make plans to sign up for one of five docent-led Fiscalini Ranch walks. These include a bluff, forest loop, grasslands and loop, special interests walks and school-related walks. Download a Fiscalini Ranch map for an idea of where you will travel. January through April are great months to return to the ranch as every couple of weeks the flora and fauna change dramatically. For instance, February – April are whale watching months.

After a yummy taco lunch from Boni’s Tacos, who by the way sets up on the corner of Main and Burton, we spent some time in Fermentations Wine Shop and The Vault Gallery. These are great examples of locals celebrating what they do best and we laud their efforts.

There are 10 wineries from Morro Bay to San Simeon along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. Cambria alone has five wineries. Can you name all five? Four of them have Main Street addresses and the fifth, Stolo Family Vineyards is on Santa Rosa Creek Rd.

Tip No. 5: Wine tasting in Cambria

Stolo Family Vineyards creates award-wining Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay varietals. They are located on Santa Rosa Creek Road.

Besides Cutruzzola Vineyards I mentioned earlier, we also visited drove out to Stolo Family Vineyards. We met up with Tina, the tasting room manager, and had a fabulous time chatting with her about the Stolo story and wines on a most gorgeous day.

Tina shared how owners Don and Charlene Stolo’s desire to escape southern California to Cambria to reset and relax. After 20 years of visiting the area, Don and Charlene decided that this would be the place to retire. They found it on the rural road of Santa Rosa Creek and purchased the 53 acres of beautiful coastal land with an 1880s farmhouse and a huge redwood dairy barn in 2002.

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The nine-acre Hillside vineyard was planted in 1998 under the guidance of renowned Rhone-style vineyard owner and wine maker, John Alban. Its varietals, clones and rootstock are an ideal match for the climate and soils on the property. This piece and their other vineyards are in a perfect spot to grown Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Northern Rhone Syrah. The Stolo wines are fabulous. I picked up two bottles and look forward to pairing them with future TalesoftheCork dinners.

We tasted through many of these and need to return to better appreciate this amazing winery. The property is gorgeous with plenty of room for picnics, parties and group wine tastings. Their first vintage was in 2004 and Stolo Vineyards has scored 90+ for many of their wines. Take the time to drive out to Stolo Family Vineyards and be sure to allow time to wander the property besides time for wine tasting.

With the afternoon winding down, Geena and I headed back into Cambria. We weren’t ready for dinner so a stroll in East Cambria sounded wonderful. It’s easy to stop and chat with shopkeepers and those doing much the same as us. We ended up browsing a couple of antique shops, sat at an outdoor table, chatting over a half sandwich, coffee and a smoothie.

Plus we also fit in a shorter walk along Moonstone Beach boardwalk to beef up our appetites for dinner. And while there were plenty of walkers and joggers, we found lots of spots to lose ourselves in the cool breeze, birdwatch and listen to the seals.

Dinner No. 2: Black Cat Bistro

We heard that chef and owner Mauricio Lopez and chef Joel Magana have created quite a name for Black Cat Bistro since 2002, so dinner day two was anticipated. The eclectic combination of decor and art in the small 45-seat three room bistro was originally a house built in the 1930s.

The Black Cat Bistro in Cambria provides intimate dining appeal with excellent service. Wood floors, lots of colorful fabrics, down pillows adorn the rooms.

Chef has taken great care in not only selecting local farm produce but in pairing the foods with local wines.The restaurant has a Wine Spectator award of excellence the last nine years.

We ordered a three-course meal off the Black Cat Bistro menu, beginning with New England style clam chowder. The Black Cat Bistro’s clam chowder has a reputation for this dish and previously won Best of Show and Chowder/Bisque Award winner at the annual Soupabration in Morro Bay in 2015. This was a no-brainer and definitely a beauty and bowl-licking good bowl!

Wine Enthusiast Editors awarded the Cutruzzola 2013 Pinot Noir Giacomino Reserve 94 points.  earlier, I had to open a bottle I received and paired it with my dinner choices. The was what I went there for so I had to pair it with the chowder, gnocchi and duck. Oh my gosh, this wine is a MUST for Pinot lovers.

After the earlier trip to Cutruzzola, I just had to open a Cutruzzola 2013 Pinot Noir Giacomino Reserve. I couldn’t wait to pair it with the chowder, beet gnocchi and duck. Oh my gosh, this wine is a MUST for Pinot lovers.

The Giacomino Reserve is a Wine Enthusiast Editors 94-point wine. The longer barrel aging in new oak is perfect. Aromas and flavors of blackberry and black cherry compliment the toasty oak, savory herb and earthy notes in a lush mouthfeel and finish. This is a fabulous wine that paired very well with all part of my meal.

The beet gnocchi and shrimp dish with shiitake, cremini, saffron martini cream, radicchio, asiago and sage was also tasty. Love the sauce and earthy flavors. The gnocchi was also recommended and did not disappoint.

Finally, the server recommended the Maple Leaf duck breast with mushroom red wine barley risotto, baby boo chop, cherry duck jus and thyme. I’m a weakling for duck so I jumped at it. My mouth still waters thinking about this pairing. Well done chef.

Geena ordered the sea scallops topped with crab, in a corn pudding, tomatillo cream, mushrooms, cilantro and butter. This is perfect for those seeking a top shelf seafood meal.  She paired the seafood with a Tablas Creek 2015 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (white Rhone blend). Without a doubt, a delicious pairing. Not counting the Cutruzzola Pinot, the bill was just over $88, plus tip. Again, well done.

Put the Black Cat Bistro on your list of dining to-dos the next time you are in Cambria or on the Central Coast. Reservations are recommended.

Cambria: Day three

The best way to ease into a last day of vacation is to already know where your coffee or tea is coming from, plan a spot to enjoy it and let most of the morning pass without a destination. We enjoyed the ocean view from our Fireside Inn patio. With choices like Sandy’s Deli and Bakery and Cambria Coffee Roasting Company in West village just a couple of minutes away, I didn’t mind driving Moonstone Beach Drive for fresh goodies.

Our view from the patio of the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive.

Tip No. 6: Visit elephant seals

A mid January through March visit to Cambria also should include a visit to the elephant seal vista point at San Simeon. This is a great way to explore north of Cambria with not a lot of extra driving, especially if a visitor would like to take one of many Hearst Castle’s tours the same day.

The Elephant seal population along the beach swells to over 17,000 individuals as the come ashore. Females give birth during January and February. These mammals spend eight to ten months in the open ocean each year and migrate thousands of miles twice a year to birth, breed, molt and rest on San Simeon area beaches. Tours to the area are organized by the Friends of the Elephant Seal. For a 30-90 minute docent-led tour and information about the elephant seal rookery, call ahead for reservation and visit them as they assemble at their San Simeon address.

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Geena and I drove to the elephant viewing area north of San Simeon. It is only a 20-minute drive from Cambria along some of the most gorgeous coastal scenery. The rolling hills and occasional sightings of whales off the coast or zebras on the Hearst Castle ranch make the 14-mile trip fly by.

The view of the elephant seal rookery from the viewing area north of San Simeon.

There is plenty of free parking at the elephant seal viewing area. Kiosks are stuffed with pamphlets and signage to help visitors understand what they are seeing. Friends of the Elephant Seal provide invaluable information both on site and online. Elephant seal males can weigh in at over 5,000 pounds and are as large as small pickup trucks. With babies born at 70 pounds and nearly four feet long, the whole spectacle is an amazing experience. We’ve been numerous times and are in awe each visit.

Walking the beach at San Simeon.

Looking ahead: March is also the perfect time to spot whales off the central coast from Morro Bay to Monterey. Book a whale watching excursion out of Morro Bay and/or a tour of the famed Piedras Blancas Light Station.  Take the time to visit their websites, call ahead and tour the light station or go whale watching.

In the past we also walked the pier at San Simeon Bay. There are also picnic areas and a great stretch of sandy beach. Be sure to stop in at Sebastian’s Store as well for your deli sandwiches and you might even taste Heart Ranch Winery offerings there.

Tip No. 7: Eat a Red Moose Cookie

Finally, we ate a late picnic lunch we purchased at Sebastian’s on a pullout along Highway 1, overlooking the ocean. Priceless. . . . and arrived back in Cambria by 3 p.m.

However, the coastal retreat weekend would not be complete without a stop at our favorite Cambria shop: Red Moose Cookie Co.

Red Moose Cookie Co. is one of Cambria’s hidden gems.

It’s as local as it gets and only two people make, market and sell the amazing Red Moose Cookies from an industrial park of all places. Using only love, butter and the finest ingredients, owners Roger Wall and Caren Hammond use their passion for cooking and baking to create memorable cookies for immediate consumption and for the ride home and beyond.

So with cookies in hand, a bag for the road and freezer once we got home, Geena and I decided  on one last stop before driving the 2 1/2 hours back to Fresno.

Tip No. 8: Scout lodging options for next trip

With another visit to Cambria already a given, a little pre ‘next trip’ scouting of one of Cambria’s most talked about lodging was the last item on the ‘check it out list’: Cambria Pines Lodge.

While nestled in the Monterey pine forest area of Cambria, Cambria Pines Lodge encompasses 25 acres or world-class gardens, therapeutic day spa, sparkling outdoor heated pool, soothing hot tub, lovely restaurant. We found the grounds and rooms to offer a peaceful, relaxing setting.

While Moonstone Beach is two miles down Highway 1 and Cambria’s Main Street is at the bottom of the hill, I’d love to stay at the lodge. The rooms are well appointed and the whole place exudes my earlier focus: I want to escape to Cambria and the Pines Lodge is a place to dream that escape.


After touring Cambria Pines Lodge, I could see why many desire its amenities and location despite not being on the famed Moonstone Beach Drive.

Their website promotes itself as a property which provides space for reflection, serenity, and rejuvenation. I walked the gardens and even in winter they  provide an inviting respite for travelers in search of peace and inspiration.

Just walking the grounds and hanging out in the common areas of the lodge provided ample reasons why another Cambria trip will be a successful retreat. There is yet so more to be explored in this quiet, serene, clean and peaceful environment.

Yet even with this being said, the Fireside Inn is a fabulous place to stay on Moonstone Beach. But whether you choose this ocean side spot, there are many other Cambria lodging options and hotel packages available on or on Facebook. Plus Cambria’s Trip Advisor page is also a great way to book hotels.

It will take many more trips to unpack Cambria’s offerings. Whether the villages will be my home base for day excursions or a place to settle for another three-day vacation, Cambria remains on my list as a best central California coastal escape.

Moon over Cambria’s Moonstone Beach.

For another perspective on a wonderful central coast wine experience with a base in Cambria, read travel writer Irvina Lew’s “Wines, waves and wonder along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.” And in addition to Moonstone Cellars in Cambria’s West Village, there are a host of other quality winery stops in the area. In fact there are 10 great wineries along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail from Morro Bay to San Simeon.

Traveling to Cambria
Cambria is 240 miles south of San Francisco and 240 miles north of Los Angeles. For information, contact the Cambria Chamber of Commerce (767 Main St.; 805/927-3624). Another great resource when planning a vacation to the central coast is

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Giornata Wines: Story behind top California Italian brand.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.


Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis

Ponderosa pine interior, menu highlights Old Town opening


After closing just after New Years and a full-scale remodel nearing completion, chef and Clovis restauranteur Chris Shackelford is ready to reinvent Trelio Restaurant, January 27, 2017.

With a brand new interior of custom designed and manufactured local Ponderosa pine food grade tables, paneling, wine cabinets and bar, Trelio is ready to open their doors and serve a new menu

Opening in 2006 as an upscale, fine dining establishment on Clovis Avenue in Old Town Clovis,  Trelio has evolved from regional american cuisine that not only represents the locally grown and produced bounty  of the San Joaquin Valley, but also the changing food interests of the Fresno area and its owner.

Trelio sous chef Thomas Stempien, left, and chef Chris Shackelford chat in the kitchen during dinner prep on re-opening night, Jan. 27, 2017.

And, while the central Valley’s dining options continue to expand and contract, often between the whims, perception and the harsh realities of economics, Trelio has been a stabilizing force in the Clovis dining scene even as owner and chef Chris Shackelford adjusted to both his and patrons’ expectations and desires.

“(In the beginning), we slowly migrated from being the ‘French Laundry’ of the central Valley to being more of a farm-to-table restaurant and comprehensive dining option in a European style,” Shackelford said. “That being said, we also enjoy the ties to regional cuisine of America.”

Trelio’s is food and wine centric. Every entrée and small dish they create is from scratch, including baking their own bread. As the restaurant has evolved and grown, owner  and patrons alike place an emphasis on cooking, food and wine pairings.

“There are a lot of correlations between our menu and the wine offerings as well as correlations between the wine list and the food we serve,” Shackelford said. Styles and ingredients may change but our core is European.

“The food is a mix being that I have a French core technique, but we create homemade pasta dishes, seafood, steaks, wild game to tapas dishes that might be found in Barcelona,” Shackelford continued. “Heck, nothing is off-limits. We might even offer a Mexican dish or even offer Armenian or Persian.

And as the San Joaquin Valley has such a diversity of people and culture that have made the area one of the greatest agricultural industries in the world, Trelio has made it a point to be relevant and reflect that diverse cuisine with a distinctly European flair.

The new Trelio dining room is completely refurbished with Ponderosa pine tables, banquettes, paneling and a new bar milled from Sierra foothills trees above North Fork.

However, Shackelford and the new Trelio is adjusting its focus even as the chef and owner battles complacency in and out of the kitchen. He said he needed to change things up and began to change the menu about a year ago.

“We decided to shift the restaurant in what I believe to be the trending style to smaller plates, less expensive dinners,” he said. “We’ve basically been doing much the same for the last 11 years and decided to shift our focus.”

Trelio used many of the 70 dead Ponderosa pine trees from Jim Shackelford’s (Chris’ father) property to form the furnishings in the restaurant, including the tables.

When the Shackelford brothers opened the restaurant in 2006, Chris quit his job and jumped in. This time he wanted to be more methodical in his vision for Trelio.

“I’ve been planning (changes) now for about six months with construction going on for about three months (furniture being built, etc.),” he said. “We are losing a few tables as part of a quality issue. We want to be full every night, keep our costs under control (food, staff) and be core, quality oriented.”

While the old Trelio had 12 tables, the 2017 version will only have eight including two sets of banquettes (up to 10 on each side for larger groups). The new menu is designed to be less expensive (up to 50 percent cheaper) and the portions are downsized by 20 percent to allow people to try other courses.

“The goal is to serve customers so they will not be overly full and be able to enjoy multiple dishes over an evening,” Shackelford said. “The menu is expanded, larger than it used to be. These options will be able to be put out (created) at a quicker pace. Simpler styles and more quality oriented dishes.”

Chef, Sommelier and owner Chris Shackelford has changed the Trelio menu to reflect new techniques, expanded and less expensive offerings.

Besides special events, wine tastings, holiday and winemaker dinners, Trelio is also offering a new take on dinner in the dining room.

“I wanted a way to develop dishes or introduce new techniques to the staff, so three to four times a month, we we do ‘bar dinners,'” Shackelford said. “We only have four-five seats at the bar for longer and specialized wine paired dinners hosted by me, the sommelier and chef.”

He went on to explain that this would be an extended prefix menu, a rare opportunity to experience an artistic version of a dinner that will most often be theme oriented. Examples might be a Cajun dinner during Mardi Gras to a French dinner on Bastille Day.

Those who are interested in a bar dinner will sit with guests at a beautiful 16X4-foot custom made solid natural distressed Ponderosa pine top complete with rustic wood edges cut from father Jim Shackelford’s property in the Sierra foothills above North Fork. He had over 70 dead and/or dying trees and hired The WoodShed of Clovis to mill and manufacture the bar, tables, open wine cabinets and paneling that now graces Trelio’s interior.

The whole interior is custom and brilliant in its natural state of light reddish-brown, grey/blue hues as well as the knotty highlights and nail or insect holes associated with each tree. The Woodshed contractors completed all the fine woodwork in a refurbished Trelio to complement the new grey color scheme.

Trelio’s menu is expanding and besides offering more dishes, the entreés will cost less and be 20 percent smaller.

While Trelio is already booked through Feb. 4, reservations are already filling up beginning  Feb. 7. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday and guests looking for a relaxed, upscale dining experience that is centered around handcrafted food, an Wine Spectator award-winning wine list and personal service should consider Trelio for dinner.

Upcoming events on Trelio’s calendar include a Winter Wine Tasting, Feb. 4; a special Valentine’s dinner, Feb. 11 & 14; winemaker dinner with David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars, Feb. 23. The dinner at the bar special series begins Feb. 28 for “Fat Tuesday at the Bar.” Please call ahead for availability and reservations.

Look for Trelio Restaurant near the Clovis Gateway to the Sierras sign on Clovis Avenue.

Reservations are recommended as Trelio will only seat 32-36 patrons per evening. Call (559) 297-0783, visit Trelio Restaurant on the web or use ‘Seat Me’ via Yelp. Trelio has seating times Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Trelio is located at 438 Clovis Ave, Clovis, CA 93612.

Today, Chris Shackelford continues the Trelio Restaurant tradition and acts both as Trelio’s sommelier, chef and owner. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 13 years old under a variety of central coast restaurants and chefs and at Erna’s Elderberry House for nine years before opening Trelio in 2006.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.


Bella Frutta hosts food truck hub each weekend

For nearly three months Bella Frutta on Willow and Shepherd has hosted food trucks, creating a local food port similar to other west coast cities.
For nearly three months Bella Frutta on Willow and Shepherd has hosted food trucks, creating a local food port similar to other west coast cities.

While Portland, Seattle and San Francisco all have local meals on wheels (food trucks), traditionally Clovis/Fresno has been served mostly by taco truck vendors. However, in the last three years, street food mania is roaming across the Central Valley, boasting mobile dinners that have diners returning to curbside cash and carry.

After the success of Taco Truck Throwdown 2 at Chukchansi Park at the end of August 2012, four trucks continue to make a name for themselves beyond downtown Fresno. While tacos make up the daily menu, each are creating a niche that has patrons standing in line. The Bella Frutta property hosts four food trucks each Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and often on Sundays on the corner of Willow and Shepherd.

While Bella Frutta is known for its fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil, gift baskets are available year round.
While Bella Frutta is known for its fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil, gift baskets are available year round.

Vincent Ricchiuti, Director of Operations at P-R Farms, Inc. , says Bella Frutta’s family fresh produce store is teaming up with four Valley food trucks to create the best weekend urban dining option in the two cities.

“After seeing the success of urban dining during trips this past year to San Francisco, Seattle and Portland,” Ricchiuti said, “I thought why can’t the Central Valley create a hub and food port? The area grows almost all the ingredients that make up great food, so why not make it happen here?”

And as it happened, it seems creative minds were working independently of Ricchiuti three years ago. All four food trucks who line the parking lot of Bella Frutta began independently creating delicious meals ala San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

Dustin and Kristen Stewart, graduates of San Francisco’s Le Cordon Bleu, wanted to open a food truck in the Big City that specialized in local and organic ingredients. But combined with the need to purchase a truck and the $10,000 start-up fees, opening a food service on wheels proved impossible. So they decided to move to the Central Valley where most of San Francisco’s food trucks’ “local ingredients” came from.

Kristen, born and raised in Dinuba, California, convinced Dustin the San Joaquin Valley would be a natural place to begin. So the couple began to search for, buy and refurbish a taco truck they found in Selma. They dubbed it . . . “Dusty Buns.”

Dusty Bun creations are all made from scratch, including the original Eggman w Niman Ranch Ham (top left), -Linguica Chili Fries w/ Rumiano PepperJack and (right) and the original Original Dusty Bun-Mary's Organic Chicken slow roasted in our Chipolte sauce with a California sesame cabbage slaw.
Dusty Bun creations are all made from scratch, including the original Eggman w Niman Ranch Ham (top left), -Linguica Chili Fries w/ Rumiano PepperJack and (right) and the original Original Dusty Bun-Mary’s Organic Chicken slow roasted in our Chipolte sauce with a California sesame cabbage slaw.

“We found our food truck working the farm fields selling tacos,” Kristen said. “It was bright pink and we repainted it bright green and gold. While the colors weren’t exactly what we wanted, it works; the citrus and California color scheme are a perfect match for who were are. While we never sold to field workers, we did meet some of the farmers. Later we began our business selling on the streets of downtown Fresno … after we got our zoning clearance. Wishon downtown was our first beat.”

Dusty Buns is a kitchen on wheels. And, according to husband Dustin, the married couple of three years makes everything they sell from scratch. Their EggMan sandwich has a freshly baked bun, a slice of Niman Ranch ham, aged white Cabot cheddar cheese and a local fried egg from Page River Bottom Farm. Downright delicious and unique.

“We have someone come into our Dusty Buns Bistro near Fresno High and make all our buns in-house,” Dustin said. “We make all our own sauces for the sandwiches and coleslaw, grind maize for our tacos; we even make our own ketchup for the side of potatoes. And whatever we don’t make, we buy from local farmers or businesses who also only use the finest local ingredients. We promote local farmers who pursue organic and/or bio-dynamic practices.”

Kristen and Dustin Stewart made the commitment to Dusty Buns in Fresno after moving from San Francisco nearly three years ago. They own the Dusty Buns food truck and Dusty Buns Bistro near Fresno High.
Kristen and Dustin Stewart made the commitment to Dusty Buns in Fresno after moving from San Francisco nearly three years ago. They own the Dusty Buns food truck and Dusty Buns Bistro near Fresno High.

Kristen said the truck and bistro only use vegetables and ingredients that are in season or can get them locally through Balakian Farms. Their Dusty Bun sandwich uses Mary’s Organic Chicken slow-roasted in their homemade Chipolte sauce. Currently their dicon sesame cabbage slaw uses purple cabbage, purple onion and a specially prepared herbed aioli mayonnaise. Most sandwiches are $5. Side orders of bistro fries, soup du jour and market salads add $4 each. In the days to come, they will also offer a boxed lunch for offices. Any sandwich + any side + any sweet OR fruit juice for $10 (miniumum order in $20).

The Dusty Buns Bistro is just north of The Tower District at 608 E Weldon Ave., Fresno, CA 93704. You might catch their Bistro bus driving to Cru Wine Company in Madera selling lunch boxes or look for them in Fresno’s Tower District during the Mardi Gras Parade! Their menus and photos are posted daily on the Dusty Buns Facebook page and change with the seasons. Call (559) 486.2867 now to book a weekly office delivery or special event!

James Caples owns what he calls a “brunch truck” since November 2012. The former corporate restaurant manager chose to alter his career path last year after his daughter died. Caples said his Benaddiction food truck focuses on eggs and breakfast-style sandwiches. Everything on the truck is named after a song in some form or another. Some after classic rock, some from more modern songs. That is why their logo is the egg and bacon guitar.

Each of Benaddiction's egg sandwich creations are named after rock songs or artists. James Caples started the food truck in November 2012 after the death of his daughter.
Each of Benaddiction’s egg sandwich creations are named after rock songs or artists. James Caples started the food truck in November 2012 after the death of his daughter.

“Benaddiction has two primary segments,” Caples said. “We focus on breakfast and our specialty is an eggs benedict breakfast sandwich served on an English muffin. It has a fried egg with hollandaise sauce. We can do this six different ways with different proteins and vegetables. My favorite is called ‘The Weight.’ It has pulled pork, bacon and BBQ sauce along with a fried egg and hollandaise sauce.”

Caples gave much of the credit for his truck being at Bella Frutta to Vincent calling him out to be a part of the truck event.

“I appreciate Vincent because he called me and invited me out,” Caples said. “This is unheard of in Fresno because we usually have to fight for our locations. Vincent and Bella Frutta have been so great to invite these trucks out, making sure we have a place to sell.”

The Weight is Caples' favorite Benaddiction sandwich. It has pulled pork, bacon and BBQ sauce along with a fried egg and hollandaise sauce on a English muffin.
The Weight is Caples’ favorite Benaddiction sandwich. It has pulled pork, bacon and BBQ sauce along with a fried egg and hollandaise sauce on a English muffin.

Benaddiction sandwiches or entrées cost $5 to $9 and they will occasionally create a special sandwich that costs up to $10. Caples and his wife Natalie own the truck and have hired a classically trained French chef, Jason Valencia, to create unique sandwiches.

“Our most popular specialty is a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork bacon and ham,” Caples said, “and includes a fried egg with BBQ and hollandaise sauce. While we do not offer any sides with the sandwiches yet, that is in the plans. Wanted to create a strong sandwich foundation first and then grow from there. We make the best egg sandwich in Fresno.”

The full Benaddiction breakfast and lunch menus are online on their web site. Additional photos and menu ideas are on the Benaddiction Truck Facebook page. For more information or to reserve a special event, call (559) 269.1968.

Not to be outdone by the two trucks on either side of them, Tako BBQ Fusion creates Korean fusion meals which barbecues meats and fuse them with other international food items. Originally from New Jersey, owner Tony Mullings and his Korean culinary-trained wife, Eun Joo Mullings, saw what was happening in L.A. with Kogi BBQ and believed they could replicate that success. So in April 2012, they started Tako BBQ.

After reading the food truck business was doing well in L.A., owner Tony Mullings and his Korean  culinary-trained wife, Eun Joo Mullings, started Tako BBQ in April 2012.
After reading the food truck business was doing well in L.A., owner Tony Mullings and his Korean culinary-trained wife, Eun Joo Mullings, started Tako BBQ in April 2012.

“While I was in marketing as a retail employee,” Tony said, “I wasn’t satisfied working for someone else. My wife, Eun, had been to culinary school in Korea and had worked for restaurants but also wanted to try something different. We read what others were doing in the food truck business in L.A. and the Bay Area and decided to strike out on our own.”

Their Kalbi (short rib) taco ($2) is ricco size with two small corn tortillas, seasoned ribeye meat topped with a sesame seed oil sauce and Korean spices, has become a staple for many of their customers. The spices give the taco depth and the meat is seasoned all the way through. This is a wonderful way to introduce a new twist on a local favorite. The Bulgogi and spicy pork tacos are also a great option. The Gogi burger is marinaded ground beef with jack cheese and a Korean spices seasoned salad in between the buns.

Tony said the favorite items off the truck are the chicken burritos ($6), the Gogi burger ($6) and the Korean cheesesteak: a Korean Philly ($7). Each has Korean spices, salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing.

Tako BBQ Fusion creates Korean fusion meals which barbecues meats and fuses them with other international food items. The Gogi burger has marinated meat with Jack cheese infused with Korean seasoned salad in between the bun.
Tako BBQ Fusion creates Korean fusion meals which barbecues meats and fuses them with other international food items. The Gogi burger has marinated meat with Jack cheese infused with Korean seasoned salad in between the bun.

“We have been having a lot of positive comments about being out at Bella Frutta,” Tony said. “I like being on this corner because there is a lot of traffic and folks stopping to purchase items at Bella Frutta. So while the customers are here, they also come up to the trucks and add some food to go.”

The Tako BBQ web site is still under construction at the time of publication, but return to it in the weeks to come for more information and menu options. There are lots of photos of their food and menu on the Tako BBQ Truck Facebook page . However, please call (559) 473.3961 to book a party or reserve the truck for a special occasion.

While folks are eating their lunch or early dinner at the other three food trucks, the line builds for dessert or picnic favorites at the Crumb Snatcher Goodies food trailer. Owners Bob and Terri Brookshire create award-winning chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and her Grandma Dot’s spice cake all in the mobile trailer.

After losing her husband in a tragic accident, Terri married Bob Brookshire in 2009. Today the two own and operate Crumb Snatcher Goodies.
After losing her husband in a tragic accident, Terri married Bob Brookshire in 2009. Today the two own and operate Crumb Snatcher Goodies.

Like the other food trucks parked with them, the Brookshires are still new to the mobile food gig–two years. Both Bob and Terri called each other their best friends and it was easy to see. However, their story of sweet breads, cookies and goodies is only a small part of their four-year married tale.

Fresno Bee writer Bethany Clough wrote in a June 7, 2012, article, “Eating out: Baking helps widow heal, thrive,” Terri is alive because of divine providence and an angel of a man who did not know her 4 1/2 years ago.

After a horrific car accident killed her first husband, Brad Issac, in May 2007, Terri was left with ankles that were mangled and wheelchair bound for months. And as Clough describes in the article, Terri believes God gifted her a second life with a man of faith and a second career: baking.

A registered nurse by day, Terri Brookshire has been baking since her childhood. Today she creates award-winning cookies, cakes and breads through her Crumb Snatcher trailer.
A registered nurse by day, Terri Brookshire has been baking since her childhood. Today she creates award-winning cookies, cakes and breads through her Crumb Snatcher trailer.

While Terri was recovering from her injuries, she baked to while away the hours.

“Baking was my therapy,” Terri said. “It helped me get through the hours of being alone. But I prayed God would send someone to help me.”

Months later, Terri needed a ride home from the hospital and her best friend asked her dad to pick up Terri and bring her home. In the days, weeks and months that followed, they fell in love and started Crumb Snatchers. Their chocolate cookies, carrot cake banana and pumpkin breads have all done first place honors at the Big Fresno Fair.

However, don’t be fooled by a trailer that has been only operated for two years. Terri has been baking since childhood, baking apple pies to earn extra money during the lean times of the last decade. Her months in rehab. gave her time to hone her skills.

“I love working the weekends out of the trailer with Bob,” Terri said. “We bake everything right here and sell it hot and fresh. We’re serving brownies, cookies and cakes and give out fresh coffee with any baked goods. In fact, while the chocolate chip cookies are our specialty, the snickerdoodles seem to go off the shelves really fast.”

For the last 15 years, Terri Brookshire has won first place ribbons at the Big Fresno Fair for her baked goodies.
For the last 15 years, Terri Brookshire has won first place ribbons at the Big Fresno Fair for her baked goodies.

Today, Terri still works 32 hours a week as a labor and delivery nurse at Kaiser Permanente. However, Terri and Bob make time to be involved with CartHop Fresno food trucks that meet up two or three times a week. Terri said they meet with other trucks near Applebees at Friant and Fresno streets on Tuesdays and Fridays on the Fulton Mall.

“While CartHop is a good gig for us to be involved with, our time spent at Bella Frutta is much different,” Terri said. “When Vincent met us at the River Park Farmer’s Market, he asked to taste our cookies. He was so encouraging and doesn’t expect anything out of us except that we have insurance. Vincent and the Bella Frutta staff are great people to work with. So expect us here on the corner of Willow and Shepherd every Saturday and some Sundays at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.”

Terri and Bob Brookshire can be contacted through their personal Facebook page beside the Crumb Snatcher Goodies Facebook page. For more information on The Crumb Snatcher Goodies trailer, contact Terri or Bob at (559) 297.0178 or (559) 360.7630.


Bella Frutta continues to sell its own freshly harvested vegetables, nuts, and fruit that are locally grown on the family farm since 1946. Today Patrick V. Ricchiuti and his son Vincent represent the third and fourth generation of agriculturalists who continue that tradition in Clovis.

“While we grow most of our own produce at Bella Frutta,” Vincent said, “we partner with area farmers to sell produce and merchandise. We grow heirloom tomatoes, squash, peppers in our own garden behind the store. Right now we are selling citrus and apples grown by our farms and soon we will be offering artichokes and strawberries from the coast.”

While Bella Frutta has sold fresh farm produce since the mid '40s, they now grow and bottle their own olive oil under the Enzo label.
While Bella Frutta has sold fresh farm produce since the mid ’40s, they now grow and bottle their own olive oil under the Enzo label.

The Ricchiuti family also partners with Fresno State’s Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market , selling their ice-cream, milk and sweet corn when in season. The newest addition to the store is their Enzo Olive Oil Co.. The olives are all estate grown and Vincent is the miller. He presses the olive oil and is certified. You can also visit them on their Enzo Organic Facebook page or watch ABC30’s AgWatch Video, “New, locally produced olive oil earns award” (August 15, 2012).

However, it is the partnership with the four food trucks that has Vincent excited.

“I love having the food trucks here each weekend,” Vincent said. “When I travel out of state and see the other truck food ports are doing, I know we have something similar here. I reached out to our local food trucks via Twitter. I believe we now have the best collection of food trucks in the Central Valley.

“I don’t charge them because it’s a win-win for all of us. There is an urban dining option in north Fresno/Clovis. I was looking for cross-pollination of customers to bring in more business and now we have created a food destination. We all not feel the competition is good. I think the customers appreciate the variety and, with more options available, more people are coming to our ‘experiment.'”

For more information on Bella Frutta Bella Frutta , contact Vincent Ricchiuti at (559) 298.8290 or drive out to Bella Frutta : 1959 N. Willow Ave., Clovis, CA 93619. The email address is

READERS: Have you tried the meals on wheels trucks or been to Bella Frutta? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article.

For more TalesoftheCork stories, scroll to the top of the menu bar or read The Grape Tray reopens in Fresno’s Opus I Center .

Celebrate Fresno Restaurant Week(s)

The Fresno Regional Independent Business Alliance (FRIBA) was formed in late 2010 to educate, market and inform the public on the importance of supporting locally owned and independent businesses. One result of this group is Fresno Restaurant Week, now in its second year.

Actually it’s Fresno Restaurant Weeks, but whose counting.

Chef, Mike Shackelford, often visits with Trelio patrons each evening after serving the main dishes. Located in downtown Clovis, Trelio is one of 25 Fresno area restaurants participating in the two-week promotion.

In an effort to educate the area community about independent local restaurants, FRIBA along with six sponsors, have listed 25 eateries for the 2012 Fresno Restaurant Week, July 20-Aug. 3. Amy Huerta, who works for the City of Fresno as the Local Business Initiative Manager, says that FRIBA serves all kinds of local businesses; Fresno Restaurant Week is just one way to grow area commerce and provide traction to develop the organization.

“I work for the City of Fresno, promoting independent businesses,” Huerta said, “and while I am not paid by the city to assist FRIBA, I do work with local business owners on how to develop the organization. My role is to help strategize Fresno Restaurant Week, including managing the promotion and media. I also partner with the organization to find innovative ways to educate our community.”

All 25 restaurants have paid a $500 fee in a cooperative marketing action plan. Huerta believes FRIBA not only has tremendous growth potential for the sponsors and businesses who participate, but also sees the organization developing and expanding to include other smaller cafes, bistros or restaurants who could not afford this year’s promotion.

“The impact of events like Fresno Restaurant Week are so important to understand. It’s an example of local businesses banding together in order to promote each other, and by doing so, improve the local community.”
–Amy Huerta, City of Fresno’s Local Business Initiative Manager.

“We are only a start-up organization,” Huerta said. “While we sent cards of ‘Save The Date’ to over 200 restaurants and actually visited many of those, not all could participate. We hope to expand Fresno Restaurant Week to twice a year. Hopefully more will be able to participate and the cost per business should go down. Our hope is to include even more smaller independent owners.”

According to Huerta, the $500 fee the 25 restaurants paid is projected to provide about $12,000 in advertising. Each participating restaurant posts a poster listing all participating eateries. They all put aside competition for the power of group marketing.

The auto industry learned a piece of this strategy years ago when they banded together and now can be located in auto centers rather than spaced miles apart.

Piazza Del Pane has a $22 pre-fix dinner menu which includes an appetizer, choice of entree, dessert, and a glass of wine.

FRIBA is not just for restaurants. According to their FRIBA’s web site, “Research shows that when a dollar is spent at a locally owned and independent business, on average that dollar will re-circulate three times the amount of money back into our local economy when compared to that same dollar spent at a chain business.”

This is true whether purchases are made from one of the local farmer’s markets to the guy who repairs shoes. A list of the FRIBA membership is on their web site; each pays $150 annual fee.

“The impact of events like Fresno Restaurant Week are so important to understand,” Huerta said. “It’s an example of local businesses banding together in order to promote each other, and by doing so, improve the local community. This is a great, innovative way for the people of Fresno and Clovis to try restaurants they wouldn’t normally visit and try new things. And it is good for the restaurants to try new price fix menus.”

Other cities across the country have organized restaurant weeks, including New York City and San Francisco. In fact, the Open Table, an Internet restaurant reservations site has a special web address just to organize Restaurant Week Specials and Prix-Fixe Menu Offers from Coast to Coast.

So Fresno County, while the chain restaurants like Denny’s, Outback Steakhouse or Olive Garden might be your favorite, consider opening up your wallet or purse for one of the locally owned independent diners, bistros, restaurants or cafes. Invite a friend or couple to join up for a night on the town. Most of the Fresno Restaurant Week participants have their special menus posted online. Scroll down to review each one, choose a place to eat and make a reservation. The coffers of Fresno County will be glad you did.


In an effort to educate the area community about independent local restaurants, FRIBA along with six sponsors, have listed 25 eateries for the 2012 Fresno Restaurant Week, July 20-Aug. 3. (Illustration used by permission)