When you're passionate about your work, it shows in the end product.
When it comes to food, you can taste it.
Melissa Redell sees thousands of tourists come through Solvang Bakery every year. But she doesn't pander. She makes the best baked goods she can.
Danes came to Solvang decades ago and created a small town with windmills, gift shops and Danish bakeries. Redell's family is Finnish, but they fit in and make a mean almond butter ring pastry.
What's a Danish town? It has some old European architecture, but it's not that different than how Shipshewana markets Amish. The local culture is reflected and sold. In the case of Solvang, the town of about 10,000 people between Los Angeles and San Francisco attracts those wanting to cycle up and down the mountains and those interested in an ethnic flavor. It's a quaint little town with about five bakeries that offer the European flavors laced with butter.
Over at Solvang Brewing Company, the craft beer revolution is alive and well. And John Flesher knows how to pour and pint and tell a tale or two. The place sells thousands of pints a week. And the brewers keep playing. An English brown ale is improved when they soak red oak chips in Jim Beam and add it to the brew and then call it "BB Gun."
Down the road at Beckmen Vineyards, Tom and Steve Beckmen are making biodynamic wine.
In the past, biodynamic wine could mean some sort of hocus locus that didn't necessarily result in good wine, but at Beckmen, they use "certified organic with the Farmer's Almanac" to produce some stellar vintages. Neil Redmond, the tasting room manager, explained the viognier, the grenache, the syrah and how it comes together at the winery.
"You want to capture that moment in time," he said of when the grapes are ripest.
Those on the Dining A La King group ate a lunch prepared by Bell Street Farms, a small market nearby the Los Olivos winery in the Central Coast region of California.
"I want to share so I can taste more," said Emily Nelson as she got lunch of sandwiches, salads and cookies.
Down the road at Bridlewood Estate Winery, a Gallo property that makes a range of wines, the group tasted chardonnay, rose, syrah and pinot noir before touring the winery. Lindsey Jessup educated the group about how wines are created from harvest to barreling to bottling. It's both an exact science and something inexact. "In the wine industry, if you ask a question, the answer should be, 'It depends,'" she said.
How's the weather on the Central Coast of California? It depends, but it's been warm and sunny part of the time.
How's the wine? Generally good with a great dose of education.
How's the food? Great so far.
How jealous are those in Indiana? It depends.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.