by Tina Swithin

For the past 28 years, I have been in awe of the many wonders of the Central Coast. San Luis Obispo County never ceases to amaze me as there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered at every turn.
This week I was invited to tour The Abalone Farm in Cayucos and to be perfectly honest, I went into the experience wondering, "What exactly is an abalone?" I've tasted this delicacy in restaurants but didn't really think past the delicious morsels dancing on my palate.

I arrived at The Abalone Farm to the site of hundreds of raised abalone tanks overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Morro Rock. I am thoroughly convinced that these little sea snails have one of the most stunning views around. We were quickly greeted by Brad Buckley, Sales and Marketing Manager, who, as it turns out, is somewhat of a legend in the abalone world. He was delightful from start to finish and nothing short of a walking encyclopedia on abalones.

We were told that The Abalone Farm happens to be the largest aquaculture facility (18 acres) of its kind in the country and it produces over 100 TONS of California Red Abalone each year.

As we toured the facility, I gained a new appreciation for abalone and for the love and dedication that Brad has for The Abalone Farm.

Each area of the farm contains a different age group of abalone from the tiniest babies that you have to strain to see up to the 25-year old massive abalones. The abalone are nurtured and cared for over a period of four years before they are taken to market and this particular farm distributes around 1,000,000 abalones per year.

If you haven't visited The Abalone Farm, I highly recommend a tour which you can do from June through September. All of the details on the tours are located on their Facebook page but generally, tours run on Thursdays during the summer and begin promptly at 10am. While you are there, be sure to check out the wall of abalone shells- it's amazing!

In Cayucos-by-the-Sea, the Cass House Restaurant Chef Jensen shares his secret to preparing simple and delectable abalone."This is a simple recipe for deep fried abalone. The batter itself is a great all purpose fry batter excellent for fish, onion rings, and other vegetables," explains Chef. "At home, I eat the fritters with lemon and sea salt, but you can eat them with almost any dip that would be appropriate for fried fish."

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