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Have Taste, Will Travel

March 2012

Seven explorers gathered, many months back, in Orange Coast’s conference room. Having already identified the most alluring segments of the Coast for this month’s “Best of the West Coast” cover story, we drew numbers out of a hat to see who’d go where. The mission: Find the very best places—lodgings, restaurants, attractions—for our readers.

Yes, we actually get paid to do this.

But this was not some editorial staff bacchanal. We insisted that each traveler research thoroughly, explore exhaustively, and evaluate with the same discriminating standards our readers demand. “They’ll be making plans and spending money based on our recommendations,” I said. “Let’s make sure they’re good ones.”

We tested hotel beds and hiking trails, and sampled local breweries and restaurants; we bypassed tourist traps, but also identified a few worth the trouble. We tasted our way through wineries and gourmet cheese shops. I personally sampled a coastal Oregon chocolatier’s blood orange truffle—twice—before dismissing it as too ordinary to recommend, and decided that the state’s big coastal golf resort was less interesting than a luxe Rogue River fishing lodge. (It came down to the fireplaces. There was something soulless about flipping a wall switch to start the golf resort’s gas fire.) We’re confident in our recommendations, so you can be, too.

Also, here, you’ll find the untold story of Kelly Thomas, whose death last July followed a beating by Fullerton police officers. We stepped back from the ongoing controversy about the incident to focus instead on the years-long tragedy that preceded it: Thomas’ gradual slide into schizophrenia, and the impact it had on those who loved him. Theirs is a story that until now has been obscured by the case’s sensational headlines, but it’s one you’re not likely to forget.

Martin J. Smith

Illustration by John Ueland

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