I am sitting on State Street which has been turned into a pedestrian zone, eating a Yoga Pants Salad and drinking a Sunshine Spritz and talking to the delightful Paul of Satellite about natural wines. It is noon on a Friday in Santa Barbara. The salad is created from the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market offerings and the owner, Emma West, packed it with vegan protein to lure the patrons of the yoga studio next door after their sessions. The Sunshine Spritz is like an aperol spritz but two local vermouths replace the aperol. Paul gave me the recipe and I’ll make you one next time you come to my house. Better yet, come to Satellite the next time you are in SB.
Since I just had a “little” salad for lunch, I am happy to dig into Via Maestro’ fresh clams and linguine for dinner tonight with my new friends Lynn and Susan.
Via Maestro actually started as an Italian import business and then 20 years ago Renalto decided to showcase the products he had been supplying to restaurants by opening a restaurant of his own. It is a not well kept secret of every local I talk to.
So how do I choose where to eat and drink on Shirleyfest? I start by reading food blogs. Food bloggers have the inside scoop much more so than travel guides, TripAdvisor or Yelp. I almost never use those sources as they run to the touristy side of eating. I consult the travel writings of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian as I have calibrated those sources to usually be spot on with what I like. Then I talk to locals and most importantly when I like a restaurant I ask the chef where the chef likes to eat. I always keep a notebook and pen with me and you would be surprised how many chefs and restaurant workers have scribbled out fabulous places that I would never have known about.
But before food there is the cocktail hour. I learned of Test Pilot from a food blog. When my sister MJ came to town last week we headed straight over. I had the Millennial Falcon Fizz and MJ had the Spicy Margarita. Excellent! See happy sister below.
We proceed to dinner at Bouchon, recommended by several friends. Take a look at that bottle of wine behind me.
Remember in post #1 where I found a Santa Barbara Gruner Veltliner I loved? This restaurant didn’t have it on their list but our server agreed it is really the best so he went and found a bottle for us to have. The wine is the Tatomer Gruner Veltliner.
The day after Bouchon, MJ and I rode bikes out o Butterfly Beach and then my friends Tom and John joined Shirleyfest. We walked all over town before ending up at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company where I ate my first night in Santa Barbara This time I went for the fresh Dungeness Crab Louis.
All that walking led of course to needing sustenance so the guys had McConnell’s ice cream— which has been around for decades and is the finest ice cream in the world according to Time magazine. Organic eggs, grass grazed cows producing the milk and nothing added. I resisted that but broke down at Chocolate Maya. Maya is a Swiss woman, who 20 years ago, finding no fine chocolates in this area returned to Switzerland and studied under famous Swiss chocolatiers to return and open her fine chocolate shop. In talking with her we discovered we had both been in the same fine chocolate shop in Kyoto last year at the exact same time.
Hours pass before we all reunite at The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch for the most beautiful, extravagant dining experience in Santa Barbara. We are ushered to a table under a canopy of twinkly lights and start with a flatbread and cocktails. This is followed by amazing local halibut and Steak Diane and…..please stop me before I explode!
The next day we are going wine tasting at three wineries just north of here. You know what that means— gotta eat before tasting. We head to Industrial Eats in Buellton. It is a restaurant tucked into a re-purposed warehouse in the town made famous by the movie Sideways. The ingredients are all grown on the surrounding farms,
We first taste at Alma Rosa next door and then drive 10 minutes to Pence Winery , a 220 acre working ranch owned by Blair Pence, a Burgundy lover. His wines are esteemed Pinot noirs and chardonnays. The tasting is so beautiful as we are led past a pond and into a canyon for a private tasting with Mia.
We also do a very nice tasting at Melville Winery, but it is soon time to head back to Santa Barbara for a dinner overlooking the city at El Canto. It is straight up from where I am staying so MJ and I walk up and meet Tom and John. We feasted on whole Branzino while seeing the city glitter below.
The next day MJ and I hike for miles on Hendry’s beach and Tom and John meet us there after a long bike ride. We eat at the Boathouse Restaurant overlooking the beach. The hostess sends over a mud pie because we had to wait for our table and I think MJ and I got a teaspoon each.
That night we eat at Lark, a favorite for a long time. The Lark is named after the overnight Pullman train of Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910 to 1968. The octopus there is so tender!
Before MJ leaves we bike to a great brunch at Joe’s Cafe and make a stop at Oat Bakery, my very favorite in Santa Barbara. It is called a superfood bakery for its all natural ingredients but you would never know it. Lovely Anna is so helpful and suggests I get everything.
Now I am on my own and I know what I want to do. Go to Cold Spring Tavern. It was an old stagecoach stop in 1865 and is about 20 minutes drive away. In the 1800s drivers would change horses there and have a meal. It is a throwback in time. It is a beautiful drive there. I made a reservation and I am glad I did as even at 11:30 the place is getting crowded with interesting types. I get a great table out back and go for the special tri- tip sandwich with onion rings. Delicious!
I think it is time to call it quits on food glorious food. There are some great other places I have tried: like Tyger Tyger (Thai) and Los Agaves ( Mexican) but I think you are full now.
Tomorrow I am hiking to Inspiration Point and going to try to only eat lettuce all day!