The California Questionnaire: Gabe Garcia VC_Questionnaire_GabeGarcia_Supplied_TierraSur_2014_Herzog_Visit280-3478569776-O_1280x640
Courtesy of Tierra Sur

The California Questionnaire: Gabe Garcia

The California Questionnaire: Gabe Garcia
The acclaimed chef and Oxnard native shares some of his California favourites.

“For me, cooking is an expression of the relationship that I have with the growers, with my team, and with the people who enjoy our food,” says Gabe Garcia, head chef at Oxnard hotspot Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars. “I want to honour all of the hard work that it takes to grow and produce these ingredients. I want to reflect that care and dedication in the effort that my team and I put into each dish.”

Garcia’s culinary vision is evident in inventive dishes like Lamb Chorizo con Huevo and a Farfalle served with beef neck ragu, grilled broccolini, and toasted pine nuts. And because Tierra Sur is located within the West Coast’s largest kosher winery, you can pair your food with some wonderful wines, including a variety of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley.

1. Where do you live? My home is in Oxnard.

2. Why there? I am a third-generation Oxnard resident—I was born and raised here. Also, our weather is the best on the West Coast.

3. Who or what is your greatest California love? As a chef, I would have to say our agriculture is my greatest California love. Avocados, citrus, strawberries, and grapes are incredible here, and they’re all right in our backyard and locally sourced for our menu.

4. What is the biggest misperception about Californians? I’d say that the biggest misperception is that we all know how to surf and use the word “dude” all the time. (Some of us do, though.)

5. What is the stereotype that most holds true? We have amazing Mexican food.

6. What is your favorite Golden State splurge? It used to be In-N-Out Burgers but now it would have to be Tito’s Tacos in Los Angeles.

7. Time for a road trip—where are you going? Even though we are only one hour north of Los Angeles, I like taking road trips to San Francisco on the 101, stopping in Los Alamos or Paso Robles for a bite to eat. If I want to stay close to the ocean, though, I stop in Pismo Beach or Cambria. Also, Napa isn’t too far. We have a lot of incredible destinations right at our fingertips.

8. If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I would say the farmers market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Or, of course, Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars here in Oxnard.

9. Best California song? Let’s start with Sublime’s “Badfish,” then The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” and last would be Tupac’s “California Love.”

10. How would your California dream day unfold? In my perfect dream day, I’d wake up in a beach hotel with an ocean view. I’d have a pastry from Porto’s Bakery and hit the road in some kind of convertible. Hopefully, I’d be heading to a live funk concert or a car show that has short rib burritos from Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ Taco Truck. Then, I’d watch the sunset on a hill or mountaintop with my wife and daughter, finishing the night by a campfire with some friends and family. Completely California dreaming.

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Alex Farnum

Discover the Central Coast

Your next stop, San Luis Obispo, may just be the perfect embodiment of the Central Coast. With its nuanced food and wine scene, rich history, and a decidedly mellow vibe, SLO (as the locals call it) is a must-see. This college town also features a slice of ranch culture—thanks to the area’s Santa Maria-style barbecue—and has ranked in past surveys as one of the happiest cities in America.

The spirit of downtown SLO is captured in Mission Plaza and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which dates back to 1772 and overlooks the plaza. Explore the mission and its museum or show up on summer Friday nights for live music on the plaza. Year-round the first Friday of the month offers Art After Dark, with downtown SLO galleries opening their doors for wine tastings, snacks, and chats with local artists. A few blocks away, every Thursday evenings, you can find the city’s farmers market, a showcase for San Luis Obispo’s culinary landscape, including local tri-tip, tamales, craft beer (sample those at The Libertine Brewing Company), and the acclaimed clam chowder from Splash Café. Enjoy the locally sourced scene more intimately at Novo Restaurant & Lounge, which pairs a globally inspired menu with an idyllic creek-side setting.

Be sure to pay a visit to the 110-room Madonna Inn when you are in town. You can finish the day with a slice of the famed pink champagne cake and then retire in one of its quirky themed rooms, such as the Caveman, the Love Birds, and the Fox & Hound.

SLO delivers the goods on the wine-tasting front. Bottles bearing the world-renowned Paso Robles appellation can be found only about 30 miles away. But don’t miss the nearby Edna Valley region, in particular the Chardonnays of Edna Valley Vineyard and the Pinot Noirs of Tolosa. Then, check out the under-the-radar wineries of Arroyo Grande Valley, including the sparkling wines at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery.

San Luis Obispo County—a.k.a. SLO CAL—is home to an array of cool small towns, too. On your way into SLO, try the epic tri-tip at Jocko’s steak house in Nipomo, explore the dunes at Pismo Beach, and then say hi to the lounging sea lions off the coast of Avila Beach. Other essential stops as you then head north toward Hearst Castle include the harbour village Morro Bay, beachy Cayucos, and picturesque Cambria, set on beautiful seaside bluffs.

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Miles of coastline, sunny hills, relaxing wineries

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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

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