5 California Tastemakers Who Have Elevated Their Art — And You’ll Love Tasting Their Results
At Five Pawns, we make it a point to get out of the office occasionally to experience and revel in some the best that California has to offer: food, drink (adult beverages), and the sublime enjoyment of partaking in both.
Recently, we snatched up our favorite CYNC device, grabbed our keys, hopped into our ride to head north. We enjoyed the coastal scenery and the journey to locate the absolute best tastes and flavors we could find.
Like you, we believe that we know what’s exceptional and what isn’t, and we’re willing to pay for it. We choose to spend our hard-earned money and valuable time on experiences over merely buying things. It makes us happier. In doing so, we most often eschew the big names, mainstream brands, and big locals. Instead, especially this time, we were determined to search for other tastemakers who were like us. Purposefully small, driven by perfection, and who always put their customers’ experiences first and foremost in their mind and their mission.
So after driving 135 miles north from our headquarters in Irvine, California, we arrived at the lively beach community of Santa Barbara, California.
Dessert shouldn’t always be left for last, that’s why our first stop was for something superbly sweet. We went to the hip and stylish Santa Barbara Public Market to arrive at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, where ice cream perpetually rules. We are always on the search for a unique, interesting, or different ice cream experience that challenges, pushes the boundaries and explores new taste frontiers. Rori’s did all of this and more for us. The passionately inspired owner and ice cream legend, Rori Trovato, personally crafts all their ice cream, cookies, cones and candy recipes that go into every one of their amazing products. He spends long hours developing the flavor balance that makes Rori’s flavors so unique and memorable. The intensity of the ice cream’s flavors had us hooked at first taste. We were overwhelmed with senses and experienced the back notes of the remarkable tastes. We savored the black pepper pistachio, wild berry chocolate crisp, and pineapple whip. All of them were excellent.
Rori’s Artisanal Creamery
After our late afternoon ice cream affair, we desired something more mature, adult, and something that would pair perfectly with our artisanal crafted Five Pawns products. Some exquisitely distilled gin, vodka, and straight bourbon whiskey spoke to our unsatisfied cravings at that point. We then walked to Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” where we discovered Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, a small boutique scale craft distillery that produces to die for spirits, using locally sourced ingredients. Ian Cutler is armed with a Master's in Chemistry, an 80-year family tradition of distilling in California, and more passion and determination than most. Ian has been able to produce his brilliant 33 Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a testament to the year that Prohibition ended, as well as premium vodka, gin, and other liqueurs in his 800 square foot distillery. When asked what drove him to do what he does, Ian said, “I love watching people when they first try my spirits. Their discerning looks and serious concentration melts away after their first sip, then their eyes light up, and a smile appears. I helped create that. I would not give up distilling for anything. It’s my passion.” We agree with that sentiment entirely. That is how we feel when someone tastes Five Pawns for the first time.
Cutler’s Artisan Spirits
Later we hit the road again, driving north through Santa Barbara County’s stunning vineyards to continue our taste exploration of California. Along the way, we were extraordinarily lucky to find one of our very favorite wines in an exclusive and remote wine shop: a rare bottle of Paul Lato’s Kokoro, a 2013 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. An amazingly beautiful wine made from what winemakers call the “Heart-Break” grape, this Pinot was elegant, pure, and truly finesse-driven. (Warning: It is usually nearly impossible to locate Paul's highly coveted wines unless you are on his mailing list.) Born in Poland and later working in Montreal, Canada as a sommelier, Paul Lato had a burning desire to move to California. He rolled up his sleeves, saved a bit of money, and ended up in California to work harvest. Paul was determined to learn from the best of the best to make some of the most acclaimed and admired wines in the entire world. Fifteen years later, his wines are coveted by the likes of Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, Wolfgang Puck, legendary Master Sommelier Larry Stone, and untold other oenophile wine luminaries. Paul has been able to remain humble, focused, and determined to work diligently in the vineyards and in the cellar to create wines that are as remarkable as they are without precedent for people to experience and enjoy.
Paul Lato Wines
About two and a half hours north of Santa Barbara, one of the most decorated brewers in America is encamped in California’s grape-soaked rural town of Paso Robles. Matt Brynildson, the bearded brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewing Company, makes some of our favorite beers. Under Matt’s technical eye, Firestone follows a strict classical approach of not having a huge portfolio. Instead, he concentrates on crafting just a few core beers, which for them has been extraordinary pale ales. “The best brewers learn how to use the hop to create depth, illusion, euphoria and love,” according to Matt. We agree. Hats off to Matt and the team at Firestone for fixating on producing approachable brews with both balance and drinkability.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
We saved the best, most immersive experience for last. We decided to end our California taste expedition on a crescendo at Teague Moriarty’s Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters, a small yet mighty 28-seat restaurant located in the toney Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco is about 435 miles north of Five Pawns headquarters, but the trip was worth the experience. From the out-of-this-world wine list to the perfection of the seasonal, seven-course fixed menu, everything was perfectly orchestrated to prod the senses and please the palate. We can relate to Teague Moriarty on a personal note as well. While his work at the restaurant is never quite finished, Teague knows how to unwind. On his days off, you’ll probably find him surfing at Ocean Beach or spending quality time with his lovely young daughter.
Sons & Daughters
Our work at Five Pawns is never finished either. Once we are caught back up in the lab and at the office, we'd like to discover more stellar finds. Until then enjoy every moment.
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