Creative Commons photo by Janet Eastman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week

Sunset Staff  – September 30, 2019 | Updated October 1, 2019

Splish, Splash, Sloshed

I spent a few days this week soaking up some rays, restorative mineral springs, and more than a little wine at Lithia Springs Resort and Wine Garden, in Ashland, Oregon. Surrounded by hilly oak savannah and sitting atop a natural mineral springs, the water is plumbed right into the rooms so you can soak in privacy (and while watching TV, if that’s more your speed). Best of all, I got to take a personal tour of the gorgeous Edwardian-style gardens onsite, thanks to head gardener/actual flower fairy Jan Cunningham. While I sat in the wine garden one afternoon, I saw an acorn woodpecker splashing around in a fountain, which was pretty much the most magical thing ever. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

Lithia Springs Resort and Wine Garden
   

Some Sweet Bees-ness

On a recent apple-picking expedition at Chileno Valley Ranch, I was pleased to discover that Bloomfield Bees Honey was also offering a honey tasting onsite. Honey tasting…as in tasting more than half a dozen varieties of honey. I’d never heard of such a thing! As the very friendly person from Bloomfield explained, each honey was derived from a different flower and as such produced a different flavor—much like terroir does with wine. Admittedly, this guy had my kids at “honey” (it’s glorified sugar, after all)—but my grownup palate was intrigued by the prospect of going on a taste journey. And so we tried every variety, progressing (much like a wine-tasting flight) from the very light and citrusy orange blossom to the earthy star thistle to the delightfully complex wildflower. Perhaps the clear favorite among my family was the blackberry variety, which begins with a mild flavor until your palate gets hit with a berry note at the very end. Much like a fine wine. You can find Bloomfield’s farmstand at 1295 Bloomfield Rd., Sebastopol, CA. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

A White-Glove Resort in Los Cabos 

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

The Waldorf Astoria just opened its first property in Cabo, and it’s simply stunning. Taking over the already-plush Resort at Pedregal—famed for its cliffside Farallon restaurant with an edge-of-world vibe—the 24-acre pad is everything you’d expect from a Waldorf hotel. It’s got a 12,000-square-foot spa themed around the phases of the moon, massive suites with private plunge pools, personal concierges, and a bottle of Clase Azul tequila waiting in every room. Now, I’ll admit it: I have a big crush on Los Cabos. Not the Cabo-Wabo you remember from spring break, but the supernaturally beautiful fisherman’s village with a killer art scene and farm-to-table restaurants. You find this when you venture past the main drag. And, that’s exactly what Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal celebrates. Unique programming includes farm dinners, boat rides to nearby reefs, and voluntourism opps helping at a local school. Who’s coming? —Stephanie Granada, contributing travel writer 

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal
   

Upgraded French Bread Pizza 

For the past couple years L.A.-based food journalist Karen Palmer has been popping up around town with her Pain Pizza concept (pain being the French word for bread), serving brilliantly elevated versions of that nostalgic, childhood staple in bars, restaurants, farmers’ markets, butcher shops, and wine stores. Her high-low take uses hipster baker Bub and Grandma’s bread but hews to the quartered pepperoni aesthetic popularized by Stouffer’s. This Tuesday evening she’ll be slinging her cheesy quarter baguettes at Santa Monica wine shop Ester’s alongside flights of Italian wine. I can’t think of a better early autumn weeknight outing in L.A. —Hugh Garvey, executive editor

Not Just for Children

Sure, it was almost 100 degrees at my house a few days ago. And I’m fully an adult. But the calender says it’s fall and I can have hot chocolate if I want to. (Besides, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where heat waves regularly turn to cocoa weather faster than you can say “whipped cream.”) I’ve recently gotten hip to a hot chocolate mix from Sacramento-based Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. The mix comes in reassuringly adult-looking tins that are full of small pebbles of chocolate that you stir into hot milk. The resulting beverage is rich, creamy, and perfectly sweet without being cloying. Top it with marshmallows if you want, or mix in a little booze like brandy, Baileys, or—my favorite—Amarula. We won’t judge. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

Rainbow (Trout) Connection

There’s a prerequisite to working at Sunset, and it’s fly-fishing. I had my first experience in one of the best places for it: Sun Valley, Idaho. The fine folks at Silver Creek Outfitters took me out to Big Wood River with one of their amazing guides to teach me the basics—I even caught two beautiful rainbow trout.  And, because I was terrified I would drop my phone in the river, I left it in the car and had a nice digital detox for 4 hours. —Jasmine Perez, digital director

Good Food, Good Times

Over the weekend assistant food editor Maya Wong and I participated as judges in the Good Food Awards blind tasting. It was my fourth year as a judge, tasting the amazing goods sent in by food purveyors from around the country with categories from spirits to snacks to confections. This year I was on preserves patrol, tasting jams, jellies, fruit pastes, conservas, and more; in past years I’ve tasted hundreds of beers, and nibbled on dozens on pickles. It’s an all-day event on the weekend, which takes some commitment, but it’s always a good time. Food industry luminaries, company owners, media, and chefs are all part of it, and it’s fun to see familiar faces all in one place each year. After the tasting, the highest scoring products will be vetted for the awards’ sustainability standards, finalists will be announced in November, and winners will be announced in San Francisco on January 18 at the Good Food Awards Ceremony. This, in turn, is followed by the Good Food Mercantile, where visitors can taste and buy products from winners and others. It’s feel-good food at its finest. Ellen Fort, food editor

Luggage Free Luggage Shipping Service

I’m a recent transplant to the West, and looking forward to a powder-filled Winter. Unfortunately, my quiver of boards remained woefully East-bound until this week—when my snowboards, boots, and accoutrements arrived at my door thanks to Luggage Free, one of a myriad of delivery services offering door-to-door schlepping. The company also moves golf clubs, skis, and other types of specialty luggage, and insurance starts at $1000. Oversized luggage, up to 82 pounds, comes out to only $143 within the United States, with door-to-door service and e-mail notifications tailored to you along the way. Compare that against up to $200 for overweight bags on the plane and the service makes a whole lot of sense. —Matt Bean, editor in chief

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