I love finding places of interest that are not considered mainstream and are somewhat off the beaten track….pretty much anywhere I travel.
In my hometown I sometimes stumble across a little hidden gem that is noteworthy. Then I’m excited to have discovered something new but they always seem to get found out. As in me posting this right now. Here are a few rare places I’ve come across in the past:
Of special note was the time the car broke down in a place outside Davisville,Texas. First thought was “this is a major drag.” Then my travelling companions and I ended up spending a few nights at an historic and quaint b+b with great tex mex and discovered cowboy poetry. Who knew cowboys could be so sensitive? They came from all over the country and read original poems, some set to music in local venues around town. Now THAT was something I’ll never forget! They were amazing and I would go back for more of
them cowboys that.
Another time was camping in the Poncho Villa State Park in New Mexico and just walking across the border to have authentic Mexican food in a cute little place in…Mexico. There are a lot of other places way too numerous to mention but the short of it is …..it’s always a pleasure or at least a surprise to come across the “little finds.” Like Marfa, Texas which is a little art mecca.
Which brings me to CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY (which only has a teenly little bit to do with Marfa):
Everyone is familiar with Napa and lesser known Sonoma has reached it’s peak and has become quite established by now. Then there’s Solveng, the tiny Danish town just outside Santa Barbara where the movie Sideways was filmed (I did a post about Solveng not so long ago). So tell me “why did I come so close but yet so far to miss this little dusty backwater town with the nickname “Lost Almost”: a former stagecoach stop with a single main street on the fringe of the Santa Ynez Valley?? Properly pronounced Los Alamos. You know I saw the sign for it too (darn!). According to Condé Nast Traveller (CNT) it’s a small town big on flavour.
The once-sleepy Los Alamos (pop. 1,954) now sees a steady stream of wine-country visitors and day-trippers, many of whom are so taken with its languorous, wine-stoned cowboy vibe that they end up spending the night even if their car doesn’t break down.
You know some of these towns get a bad rap where people believe they attract mainly boozers. Okay; it truth be told perhaps they do. But did you know that where there’s great wine there’s great food. Honestly all of these California wine regions tend to have outstanding cuisine. I even have friends (who like to drink wine) who came a long long way to visit Napa (I did a whole post specifically on Napa for them) and they ended up not even going to one single winery. They ate and explored the beauty of the wine region itself. I have firsthand experience in the food versus wine there because I love grocery shopping in the small towns in and surrounding Napa. They definitely attract Foodies (the debate is still on whether I’m really one or not) and I brought back stuff I can’t find at home. So on to LOS ALAMOS not to be confused with “the Alamo” (This new L.A. – I’ll see you sometime soon, I promise):
A town re-invented (taken from an article by CNT “CALIFORNIA’S NEXT GREAT FOOD & WINE DESTINATION”
The town’s re-invention is due largely to a tight-knit community of creatives, many of them Los Angeles refugees, who came to Los Alamos in search of a second act. There’s Bob Oswaks, who ran marketing for Sony Pictures Television and now mans the ovens at Bob’s Well Bread, his artisanal bakery in a renovated filling station. There’s Jamie Gluck, a former fashion advertising exec who spends his days in a ten-gallon hat at the helm of Bell Street Farm, a rustic-chic lunch spot with a phenomenal crispy porchetta. Across the street, journalist turned winemaker Sonja Magdevski runs Casa Dumetz Wines and the nearby Babi’s Beer Emporium. And just down the block, in the 1880 Union Hotel, the sepia-toned, taxidermy-bedecked Wine Saloon is overseen by actor Kurt Russell, whose own GoGi pinot noir is served at the bar.
How on earth did this happen? The first glimmers came in 2004, when Clark Staub—a 20-year music-biz veteran and erstwhile Capitol Records VP—opened Full of Life Flatbread on the west end of Bell Street. With its obsessively sourced local ingredients and massive 900-degree wood-fired oven (blessed on its first lighting by local Chumash elders), the restaurant was soon luring chefs and epicureans from all over the state—and putting Los Alamos on the map as a tiny but legitimate food destination.
You’re killing me right now
A decade on, Los Alamos is again being transformed by an influx of young proprietors and entrepreneurs eager to put their creative stamp on a town they see as having Marfa-like potential (see??) . Zac Wasserman, the 27-year-old winemaker behind Frequency Wines, is part of the recent surge. “Los Alamos is a blank canvas—you feel like you’ll be able to impact its future and grow with it,” says Wasserman, who first considered nearby Los Olivos but found the town too expensive and oversaturated. Opposite his tasting room, the once-scruffy Alamo Motel (a 1950s relic) has been reinvented by motelier group Shelter Social Club. Now, with a stylish spot to stay the night, Los Alamos is seeing its cool-kid cachet grow. Which raises the question: How long can it hold on to its pioneer-town charm?
For now, despite the drumbeat of new development, Los Alamos retains its egalitarian mix of silver-fox boomers, plaid-shirted millennials, and denim-clad ranch hands. (This is a place where a cherry-red Cobra roadster might be parked beside a dented pickup with peeling Sarah Palin stickers.) And there are still discoveries to be made—like the biodynamic Martian Ranch & Vineyard, run by Nan Helgeland, who’s married to screenwriter and director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River). Typical of Los Alamos proprietors, Nan is no dabbling weekend hobbyist: During the harvest, she’s up at 3 a.m., tending to her vines. Pay a visit and she might take you around her produce garden, show off her Irish Dexter cows, or point out a red hawk’s nest. As often happens in Los Alamos, you may linger a bit longer—and drink a bit more wine—than you’d planned.
Sounds like my kind of crazy, eccentric, wonderful town to eat, drink and dawdle. Better go before it gets too well known and too fou fou.
The full article written by Emily Poenisch includes places to eat, drink and stay:
My blog post about MARFA, Texas:
My blog post about SOLVENG, Ca:
My DESTINATIONS folder (more to come):