I’m stubborn. When I hear my girlie girlfriends say Seagrass is the place for The Romantic Date or, *shudder*, the Valentine’s Day dinner I spin around and flee in the other direction.
Dude. So not the case. Ok, yes, look at the menu and gawk at the $15 appetizers and $30 mains.
It’s only offered on the non-prime time nights, Sunday – Thursday (and they are currently closed Mondays, but I think that’s changing in May).
Just $35 for three courses, based off their daily menu. So it’s not like everyone else is chowing the $30 waygu beef while you get yesterday’s coq au vin a la king. No, you get the waygu beef.
This includes a starter, a main dish, and a dessert. The portions, so I’m told, are a smidge smaller than the a la carte sizes, but honestly, it’s enough food. I was full. And it was delicious.
The first time I ate there:
My friend had the beet salad, sauteed local snapper, and raisin pudding.
Second visit was a big share fest with my dining companion.
* Kumumoto oyster shooter, ginger gelee, salmon roe, scallions, ale foam as one starter.
* Main – Sauteed wild seabass, sugar snap peas, leek soubise, pommes brunoise, tomato fondue, veal jus, basil oil. Can you tell I cut/paste this from their website? I really have no idea what soubise and brunoise are. My friend ordered this.
* Main – Slow braised Kurabuto PORK CHEEK, carrots two ways, pan fried polenta, braised shallots, tangerine foam, natural braising jus with thyme. There was also a juicy piece of pork belly, like an obelisk of bacon stacked on the polenta. This was an incredible dish, the pork belly was so tender. There was also a slow roasted half onion on one of the polenta disks that was sweet, tender, and still held its form. Loved it.
For dessert we both had the Valrhona bitter-sweet chocolate torte, in vanilla bean crust with candied orange zest and raspberries.
Both times the meal started with bread and butter, and a little amuse buche that was a spoonful of some kind of fish, and crisp slice of parsnip.
They source locally and very seasonally. They plate the food lovingly. The owners and chefs browse the tables to see how everyone is doing. It’s a family run business, but definitely not a “mom n’ pop” style place.
And yes, you can come here for a romantic date, or the mother-in-law meal. You know what I’m talking about.
I’m really enjoying the prix fixe options in this town, they keep getting better. Such a good deal. Add Seagrass near the top of the list.
This was supposed to be one of those working lunches, where we get together to get stuff done. However, the business partner I was supposed to be introduced to wasn’t there! So it became just regular lunch, and work got done back at the office.
I’d been to Buenos Aires once before in semi-recent times. A company dinner a year earlier. But never for lunch, so this group was keen to try it all out.
To start out, everyone enjoyed the bread basket and chimichurri sauce to dip it in.
Sean’s lunch was pastel de choclo, a dish of layers of fresh ground sirloin with olives and raisins and sweet corn with basil served in a casserole dish, $11. Gustavo said this was particularly good, he’d had it before. But today he went instead for parrillada de carne y verduras, a plate of mixed grill and vegetables, including skirt steak, short ribs, Argentine sausage, and grilled vegetables and pineapple, $16. Plus an order of sweetbreads, $4.
David and I got sandwich plates, each served with a choice of soup, salad, or fries, $10.
One was the lomito argentino, with sliced sirlion and french fries (left photo) and the other was puerkito chileno, or thin slices of pork slowly cooked with beer, served with lettuce, tomato, onion, saurkraut, mayo and mashed avocado. This had sweet potato chips on the side.
Overall, this is a gorgeous little spot, with a pretty courtyard and fountain. Santa Barbara has very few restaurants specializing in South American cuisine, so Cafe Buenos Aires is a gem.
Cafe Buenos Aires
The gang had just taken an exhilarating walk through the lower eastside to admire all the homes decorated with Christmas lights. This is my third year doing the annual walk with them and it’s always a fun and magical time. We load up our thermoses with hot spiced cider and trundle down the streets where some families have decorated their homes with masses of lights. It’s overwhelming.
The neighborhood is so popular with its holiday lights that the trolley service in Santa Barbara runs a very successful Christmas light circuit at night, and they are *sold out*. Half a dozen or more trolleys cruise through the neighborhoods, chock full of happy people, gawking and sometimes cheering at all the lights.
After the walk through the cold night air, we’re hungry. After a very brief conversation, really there’s nothing to debate, we agree on La Colmena, a favorite amongst this group. They are open until 9-9:30 pm and it’s only 8:30. We race over!
Jon and Matchoo are fans of the Alhambres plates. These are plates with a big mess o’ meat and goodies on them, and a pile of tortillas, and you assemble your tacos to your liking. You get four tortillas, but order some more because there’s enough filling to make about 5 tacos. These cost about $7.50 so if you gauge the normal price around $1.65 each, you’re saving by getting the plate and filling the tortillas yourself.
Jon got his own alhambres plate, while Matchoo, Say and I shared two plates between us, as we weren’t as hungry.
We picked the asada alhambres plate (upper left photo) and the lomito alhambres plate (upper right). They came with more than just meat.
The asada is spicy grilled beef with onions and assorted grilled peppers, some are a little spicy. Then topped with cheese.
The lomito alhambres is grilled pork with mushrooms and onions, topped with cheese. I like this one the best, as I’d never had the mushroom combination before and their juices flavored the pork and onions so nicely.
We got four tortillas per person, so 12 for the lot and we used them all. The fillings were gorgeous and delicious, very juicy and flavorful. Conversation was reduced to grunts of pleasure and requests to pass the tortillas or salsa or napkins. And everyone gobbled up the salsas, which were their usual awesomeness with varied and complex flavors. The hottest one, btw, is the creamy red/orange. It is HOT. I like the pico de gallo mixed with the marinated onions.
Alicia went with tacos, and now that I’ve tried the alhambres, I prefer the tacos as well. The alhambres is great if you love a larger quantity and really like one item. I like variety, so I can’t have as much of just one item. I’ll will stick with the tacos going forward.
Jon and Alicia come here often, they really love it. They’ve confirmed that the happy hour tacos are still just $1 each, but they are a little smaller in filling and have only one tortilla. So it’s not a straight up 65 cent discount for the same amount you’d get during regularly priced times. Still, it’s a bargain and they still come here often. As do I!
Oh hey, do you want to see some of the Christmas light photos? Sure you do.
Taqueria La Colmena
Shang Hai’s one of those places that’s been around for decades, but had little appeal to me because no Chinese restaurant can be as good as my mother’s cooking. I never once ate there when I went to school a couple blocks away.
There’s the one style of vegetarian food where the splendor of fruit and vegetables is the focus, and there’s the other style of vegetarian food that attempts to mimic the taste and texture meat with soy based dishes. Shang Hai is the latter group, with an impressive menu of popular dishes, as both a meat and meat-not-meat option. We made a selection of meat-not-meat dishes and a couple meatless dishes devoid of meat-like substitutions.
First, we had the orange chicken-not-chicken. This was soybean chicken in orange sauce, with water chestnuts and baby corn. The chicken had the look, texture and taste of chicken, we all thought it was pretty good.
Our second faux meat dish was sizzling beef-not-beef with broccoli. This one looked very much like tofu – being firm rectangular chunks – but still had the flavor and texture of slow-cooked beef. People weren’t especially fond of the dish, but I thought it was alright.
I’m going to say this third dish was a more pure vegetarian dish because it did contain tofu, but the tofu wasn’t intending to mimic a meat. This dish was Chinese greens and baked tofu. The focus of the dish was indeed the fresh vibrant greens – had the baked tofu been taken out, it wouldn’t have diminished the dish at all. We always like fresh greens, so this was a favorite.
Finally, one pure vegetarian dish, fully embracing the flavor and texture of natural ingredients, it was eggplant, fungi and slivered pickled radish. We really enjoyed this too.
So, our decision was made – we liked vegetarian dishes made of vegetables trying to be vegetables more than vegetarian dishes of vegetables trying to be meat. But we also agreed that the extensive meat-not-meat options was admirably vast for this city and a great place for those who opt to have a meat-free lifestyle.
Moving on! It’s time to visit Roger and Vanessa and their little girl Georgina in Oxford, and it’s the last leg of our trip. We arrived just in time for the quintessential meal we’d been pining away for the most, a Sunday roast.
Hurrah for Sunday roasts!
Rather than go to a typical pub, and we’d been to plenty by this time, Rog and V selected Quod Bar and Brasserie on the high street. This suited for a posh Sunday roast. It wasn’t be as homey, but the quality was excellent, the portion was larger than expected and the plating was lovely.
The chef’s suggestions (i.e. specials) were to be taken seriously. The day we dined, the special roast was beef with yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and steamed veg. The price of the chef’s suggestions was slightly lower than its counterparts on the standard menu by perhaps a pound.
The chef’s suggestion for pudding was pannacotta with fresh raspberries and mint. Shared with our friends, it was gone quickly.
The atmosphere was open and airy, with dark wood tables and big windows. It’s very photogenic.
ps. happy 4th of July, Yanks!
Oh woe is me. I ate at Kobachi and didn’t have my camera with me.
I assumed I’d be eating off the menu with my friend Cynthia, but we arrived at opening and it wasn’t busy, so I thought I’d try to ask for omakase and they did it. It’s hard to even remember what I had, as most weren’t menu items. But I’ll try.
Initially the waitress asked if I wanted omakase at $30, $50 or $70. I’d never been asked to choose a set price before and figured it was a new request from the kitchen. I’ve been asked what my price was before and I never wanted to say. I’ve never felt the omakase was out of my budget. But whatever. I said $30 per person, there was two of us.
First: egg tofu topped with a slice of wasabi, served in a thin, sweet broth. I’ve had the egg tofu before, topped with salmon roe. The wasabi seemed more like a fine sliver of chile, but the waitress said it was wasabi. It certainly had the heat similar to horseradish. The tofu was very soft and delicate, it almost should have been eaten with a spoon as it fell apart easily with chopsticks. But it’s not wasted, all the small pieces could be sipped at the end with the broth.
Second: sashimi wrapping baby argula, with a drizzle of red chile sauce. I did not know what was fish was. The chile reminded me of sriracha. The sashimi was a long piece that bundled the greens together. It was a fun mouthful, and crunchy.
Third: Thick tuna sashimi with a sweet miso glaze, and grilled spring onions. There was a smokiness in this dish that made it my favorite of the night. Fresh melty fish, the sweet coating of miso and the peppery flavor of the spring onion went really well together. This portion was three ample meaty pieces.
Fourth: Sashimi selection. Two slices each of salmon, tuna, hamachi, kampachi and something else I do not recall. Delicious.
Fifth: Grilled beef. This is my favorite beef, with good umami from the marinade. Five hot and juicy bite-size slices.
Sixth: Grilled fillet of hamachi/yellowtail. Soft and tender, yet very meaty.
We were both very happy.
Kobachi Izakaya Dining
In the evening, our convention food was served at Ealings Park, in uptown Santa Barbara. The appetizers were pretty good! For convention food.
Me, I enjoyed the tacos and sliders the most.
We chatted and networked, as you do at conventions, until the sun went down, and then did our best to stumble down the hill in our business clothing and heels, back to our cars for the next round of convention outings.
I had a pound of organic ground beef, and a lot of head scratching over what to do with it. I’m American, and ye olde standards are: hamburgers, lasagna and tacos. I didn’t feel like making hamburgers and I didn’t have the starch items for the other two options. Not sure I’ve ever made ground beef tacos either. That’s strictly a taco bell thing for me.
Oh yeah, I could have made chili. But that escaped my mind.
* 1 onion
Peel and finely chop the carrot and onion. Heat the fat up in a large pan over medium heat and lightly fry until the onion is translucent.
In a separate large pan, peel and chop the potatoes and boil them until tender. Drain. Mash until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
In a baking pan, spread in the ground beef mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to rake lines in the potato for additional toppings to adhere to, like dabs of butter or finely grated cheese.
Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes until hot, bubbly, and the topped potato is golden.
Yummy! Leftovers at work are just as good.