Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Santa Barbara Classic

When Santa Barbara locals want to go out for a treat, Ca' Dario is almost always on the top of the list of choices.
Above is the mixed baby lettuce salad. Fresh and spicy!
Whole grilled Branzino. I really think the picture speaks for itself. They do fish so perfectly! Look how moist it is!?
If you don't mind a little restaurant hustle bustle then Ca'Dario's will delight you with its delicious classic dishes and old world atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Barbara's Luxury Hotel, The Bacara

This past weekend, my friend Caroline and I ventured out to the Bacara Hotel to check it all out and the food there. It's been under new ownership for a bit now, which has made locals happy as the previous peeps weren't all that kind to locals. Personally, I enjoy hotels during the holidays as they are all decked out with beautiful decorations so I was happy to scope that out.
We ate at the Bistro located near the pool, with view to the ocean...and the oil rigs...
We shared the Tuna Tartar to begin. The tartar was very fresh and the lemon zest mixed in there was, well, zesty! And tasty.
I then enjoyed the mussels prepared in a Pernod, tarragon sauce. The mussels were fresh and that oceany-sweet I enjoy so much. There were fries served with it, which were fun to dip in the delicious sauce, but weren't fries to write home about.
Caroline enjoyed the crispy skin salmon on potato puree and tomato confit and artichoke. She really enjoyed it. I took a taste and the salmon was moist and the puree smooth.
The service was great, but a the verge of being excessive. The prices for food were what we expected - being at a luxury resort hotel with ocean view and all....but the cost for the iced tea and the espressos we had was very high. $5 for an espresso?! Yikes.

Overall, a lovely lunch at the Bacara Bistro. Good place to treat yourself to a little vacation in your home town. The holiday decorations, by the way, were beautiful - large silver bulbs mixed in with bare branches and Monarch butterflies. Plus, they do tea tastings there, which I will soon be venturing back to discover.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The New Mimosa Restaurant in Santa Barbara

On this cold, drizzly night I met my mom at Mimosa in downtown Santa Barbara. Mimosa was located at a different location for many, many years...way off the beaten path in an old, drab atmosphere. I was excited to learn of their new location on State Street, look, and jazzed up menu.
I was welcomed in by two lovely waitress/hostesses and a warm ambiance. The simple yet elegant look works nicely in the space and their location in the middle of downtown must be bringing loads of visitors. The menu is split into appetizers, mains, and small plates. We shared one of their small plates just because it sounded really interesting - Stilton and Lavender Savory Cheesecake, on fresh arugula and lemon vinaigrette. Yep. It was called cheesecake, and had the consistency of a cheesecake, but I still may not classify it as a cheesecake. It was quite good. I enjoyed the strength of the lavender and the subtleness of the Stilton. Heads up as the small plates are, as they are called, small.
My mother enjoyed the stuffed mushrooms for her starter. Stuffed with spinach, onions, and Fontina with a Balsamic reduction. Judging from her ooo-ing and aw-ing, I think she liked them.
As I was still chilled, I enjoyed the onion soup. Very satisfying and deliciously onion-y. The cheese and bread on top just really does it for me. I am a salt LOVER, but about 3/4 of the way through I started to feel the saltiness was too much. However, I finished it anyhow...yum.
Quack. As my main course I chose the duck served in a Port reduction with pears. I found the pears to be my favorite flavor combination with the duck. The veggies on the side were quite buttered, but I seem to have a complex about broccoli on my plate...even if it's the best broccoli, I just have this odd reaction to it and I love broccoli. I think I must have been traumatized by undercooked, tasteless broccoli vegetable sides all too often, or something...Other than that, I really enjoyed it. My mother and I both chose the Bordeaux by the glass to accompany our meal.
The desserts were quite tempting, but just no more room. For next time!
The waitresses were very nice and helpful, but not overbearing. They were well informed and if they didn't know the answer to my odd question, they did not hesitate to go in the back and ask, which I admire very much.
I'll be going back, as I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to eat, as many things intrigued me. Plus I heard about their dessert special for today (which they had run out of) that involved chocolate and bacon...yep...I'm going back...

Mimosa  - 714 State Street

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fall in California

Saluti Cellars near Placerville on a gloomy Thanksgiving Day

Lake Natomas
Near Old Town Sacramento
New vs Old
The view from Treebones Resort
Yurt at Treebones Resort - pick your yurt wisely...
Little waterfall and rocks off Salmon Creek Trail
One of the first adult male elephant seals to hit the sand right off Pacific Coast Highway 1 for this year's mating season...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Bit of France in Sacramento

Bistro Michel, located in downtown Sacramento, is quite a treat! The menu is very much like one you would see in France.
Above is a Salade au Crottin de Chavignol - a warm goat cheese salad with lardons and tasty croutons all over frisée lettuce. The salad was perfectly dressed in a light vinaigrette and the lardons were extremely flavorful. In my opinion, there could have been more cheese and less of the rest, but I adore cheese so am biased. I enjoyed a glass of Chablis with my salad.
Jeff enjoyed the duck gizzard and lamb tongue salad with persimmons. Mmmm...duck gizzard.
Next! Duck liver mousseline. Need I say more? We enjoyed a glass of cremant de Bourgogne with this dish.
Delicious pan seared Hawaiian fish (I apologize as I have totally forgotten the name...) which resembled halibut in flavor over zingy spinach and fingerling potatoes...and capers on top. Oh, and that brown butter goodness you see there in the dish. A wonderful white Rhone wine to accompany it and I was quite content.
For Jeff? Pork shank. Incredibly tender! To accompany his meal, Jeff enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from Provence, not Burgundy! It was quite good!
Dessert: Valrhona chocolate mousse with orange vanilla cream...filled with orange zestiness and chocolate impact.
Cheese after chocolate? Well, the very kind owner was there and graciously insisted we have a bit of cheese. Not one to say no to cheese, we obliged. Jeff mentioned I love stinky cheeses so Tête de Moine was an obvious choice. Isn't it beautiful? It's a round piece of cheese that is cut with a blade that is stabilized in the middle and swung around the cheese cutting thin ribbons. The black pile there are preserved young black walnuts from Ukraine...unlike anything I have ever eaten...still nutty, but quite sweet and chewy.

Our experience at Bistro Michel was wonderful. The staff was very kind and knowledgeable and the owner went above and beyond to show us a good time. He truly cares about his establishment and the quality of the ingredients and service.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Random Eats in Sacramento

For Thanksgiving this year I headed up North to the Sacramento area. I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a food culture there. Here are some of my findings posted here, as well as in posts in the coming days...

After a lovely bike ride around Lake Natomas, we stopped in Folsom for lunch at a cute cafe called Karen's Bakery and Cafe (705 Gold Lake Drive). I couldn't decide what to order there as it all seemed quite enticing. I decided on the Ratatouille tart with poached egg on top. The crust was made of whole wheat and the ratatouille filling was delicious, especially with the runny yolk running all over it. My only complaint was that it was rather tiny and I was starving. Karen's has a lovely outdoor patio where you can see part of old town Folsom, which has become, I am told, much more Disneyland-esque than before...
That night Jeff and I joined his parents at Paul Martin's American Bistro, located in Roseville near Sacramento. Located in a strip mall, I had my doubts, but the instant we walked in, those doubts disappeared. Paul Martin's has what I would call a luxury industrial look to it, with high ceilings with exposed pipes etc. and large open booths and a family style high top table for the Happy Hour crowds. The place was bustling. We sat at the bar where a most delightful, sincere staff of bartenders made us feel very welcome. I chose an Acme Pale Ale as my beverage and enjoyed it a lot.
Seen above is a 3 mushroom, mushroom soup. YUM. It was so unbelievably mushroom-y.
I followed the stellar mushroom soup with the Butcher's Block, as they called it - salumi and cheeses from Northern California accompanied by olives and a couple caper berries. Oh piggy goodness. Each meat melted in your mouth. The ultimate in indulgence, really. The cheese came from Point Reyes and there was one very goat-y goat cheese, one blue that tasted like a gorgonzola, and one hard cheese which tasted a lot like a Comte. Looking forward to eating there again...I was going to write-so as to explore the rest of the menu-, but really I might just order the same things again as they were so satisfying!! Turns out there is also a location in El Segundo as well as in Irvine...Roseville being the original location...(1455 Eureka Road)
In East Sacramento there is a little breakfast place called Orphan. (Orphan is an orphan business which is a small operating business unit, which does not integrate into a larger business sector.) And let me tell ya. It is amazing. What you see below is the Platas Verdes. That green goodness you see there is their homemade tomatillo sauce. It was so amazing that I am drooling on my keyboard right now just thinking about it. Under the green are two poached eggs over two super fresh flour tortillas with black beans and jack cheese between them. That tomatillo sauce made the dish. On top of it, this only cost $8.50!?!? Amazing. If you want coffee, they only serve drip coffee and offer up some super delicious ones at that. They even roast their own beans. The servers and staff are super genuine and kind. No fake smiles here. Get over there and eat this...or anything on the menu, really. Yum.
It is open 365 days a year, so you really don't have an excuse not to go: 3440 C Street M-Th 8-2pm, Fri-Sun 8-3pm.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Coast at the Canary Hotel

On a mellow Wednesday night, my friend and I wandered into Coast Restaurant located in the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara. We both had been to the rooftop bar and pool area many times and the restaurant only once each, many moons ago. As we walked in, we were delighted to see a live jazz band all set up. We sat at the bar reveling in all the standards we love. The menu had quite a few enticing things, but all we needed was a snack so we chose the charcuterie platter which had a couple types of salumi and a whole little jar of pate (gotta work on getting accents on this thing...). It was exactly what we were looking for. Though, personally, I think the plank could have used more than 2 cornichons...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Incredibly Satisfying Sushi

Oh Arigato...you make my tummy so happy. I have blogged about this Japanese restaurant before, but I just adore it so much! Dining there is very satisfying. Pictured above Hankimo Hotate - Monkfish liver on thinly sliced scallop served up sushi style. The foie gras of the sea! The fattiness of the liver with the sweetness of the scallop truly create a fantastic flavor combination for the taste buds.
Uni from Santa Barbara is shipped all over the world. We are so lucky to be right smack dab in the world's source of Uni (along with San Diego). Sea urchin roe over rice wrapped in seaweed. Divine and tastes of the ocean.

Arigato Sushi - 1225 State Street, open nightly, no reservations

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dinner in Montecito

This past week, my mother and I revisited a restaurant my family and I used to dine at years ago. It's been around for a long time, as long as I can remember. I have a very vivid memory, from when I was quite little, of sitting out on their patio on a sunny day being sung Happy Birthday to in Italian by the waitstaff. (Note: I finally have the new iPhone 4S and the camera on this baby is awesome...no more blurry, poorly lit photos! Hurray!)
Pane e Vino feels like a local's Italian joint. The inside space is quite small and though there are tablecloths and fabric napkins, there is quite a causal feeling to the place. The outside patio is wonderful in Spring and Summer, but they do have heat lamps if you should feel like dining al fresco.
For our first courses, my mother and I shared the Bresaola con Rucola and the Vitello Tonnato, which always sounds crazy since it's thinly sliced veal with a creamy tuna sauce...but believe you me it sure tastes wonderful.
My mother made the best choice for her entree - Dorade Royale in this insanely fennel-y sauce. Check out those roasted tomatoes.
Ironically, this Dorade from across the nation looked and tasted more fresh than the local halibut I chose as my main. Though my entree choice tasted good, it was nothing to go out to dinner for....it was my fault for choosing poorly though...always listen to your mom!
We shared a little dish of strawberries with sabayon sauce for dessert.
Pane e Vino is a Montecito staple and is a great spot for dining with the locals and enjoying classic Italian dishes. The prices are normal for Santa Barbara, but depending on what you order you might feel the value is either spot on or totally off. One thing that really struck us as interesting were the wine glasses...they are thicker glass, taverna style glasses which would be just fine in a taverna, but in a fine dining situation it takes away from that special out-to-dinner feeling one yearns for...

Pane e Vino - 1482 East Valley Road # 5, Montecito, Open daily lunch and dinner, no lunch on Sunday

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Santa Barbara Museum Cafe

Table for two in wonderful outdoor setting with museum building as backdrop please? Done! I am loving that the Museum Cafe - World Bistro is serving food out in front of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The patio area is open and a bit higher than the street which means you don't get car exhaust in your food, but you still benefit from great people watching and that European feeling of eating outside on bustling streets.

On top of it, Chef Brenda Simon (there since 2008), has really created quite the menu with unique dishes as well as classics like a baguette ham and butter sandwich. My mother and I had a tough time choosing what we wanted as everything looked enticing. I enjoyed the Cafe Salad with olives, walnuts, and sun dried tomatoes with some shrimp on top. A lemon pistachio (I know!) dressing alongside, which was nicely lemony and actually pistachio-y, and it was a party of flavors!
My mother gobbled up the Salmon Salad Nicoise and said it was just right. *Please note that they cannot serve wine up on the patio, much to my mother's dismay, but luckily she didn't mind in the end as it was so wonderful sitting in the open air and in a truly Santa Barbara location.
Unfortunately, we had no room for dessert, but check out what we missed out on! I love the playfulness of the menu. I did enjoy a few cups of coffee from my very own French Press. Miles, our young server, was a pleasure and very kind even after going back and forth from the normal cafe, which is inside through the Museum gift store.
 While I waited for my mother I took a few shots of the museum...pretty picturesque indeed!
Museum Cafe - 1130 State Street, Tuesday-Sunday 11:00 till no more lunch eaters.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ink Sack in Los Angeles

On a quick visit to LA recently, my friend and I stopped to grab a bite at Top Chef winner, Michael Voltaggio's, new sandwich place called Ink Sack, on Melrose Avenue. Ink Sack creates delicious, unique sandwiches for the locals who work there or walk by. There are no chairs, just a few tall tables to stand at and eat. We ordered our sandwiches TO-GO and actually, don't faint, found a park within walking distance to eat at! There had been a marathon that weekend and the streets were empty. Melrose did not have one car on it. Quite apocalyptic really. At our new found park, we sat on a bench listening to the sounds of the mini waterfall beside us. The sandwiches are quite small, so we had ordered 3 to share - each at around $6.

We enjoyed the Cold Fried Chicken with house-made ranch dressing and spicy pepper sauce sandwich first. The buns on all the sandwiches are super fresh and flavorful. The fried chicken was surprisingly crunchy and the chicken moist. The house-made ingredients really make a difference!
We then tried out the Spicy Tuna with miso-cured albacore tuna and sriracha mayo. It was like a super fancy tuna sandwich, but packed with flavor and a lovely amount of heat. House-made pickles too!
The third one, Maple Turkey Melt, was my personal favorite. Roasted turkey with sliced camembert, mostarda, and arugula. Yum.
After our lovely picnic, we ventured over on foot to Urth Caffe where I enjoyed this almond milk latte. Isn't it neat? Happy Halloween everyone!