I received a massage from Nicky for my birthday, and after an unknown amount of time in massage bliss, we went out for a small dinner afterwards at Petit Valentien.
PV was one of the first restaurants in town to make small plates central to their dining experience, and one of the first places that indulged me in my small plate obsession in Santa Barbara. I wish I could go here more often, but their limited weekend lunch hours make it difficult. But evenings on the weekend are very doable, like this evening.
We simply needed to nourish our bodies with good fish and vegetables and shared three small dishes.
We had a simple salad, with mixed greens and green beans. Then cold blanched haricots vert with onion and tomato – a favorite of the night. Finally, a small plate of smoked salmon, capers and red onion with baguette.
We also had great parking karma this evening, with a space just outside La Arcada. That’s good birthday steez for ya. ;)
It should be fairly obvious by now that my most frequented restaurant in town is Kobachi. And why not. I live close by, the food is good, there’s so much to choose from on the menu, and the small portions mean I can dabble and order lots of little plates.
I came here for my birthday dinner, as I did the year before. Except this year I thought it would be a good idea to make a reservation for it and speak with the chef beforehand on a set menu to eliminate confusion over orders and prices for those who need to watch their dollars. I knew there would be a couple vegetarians – or pescatarians – attending, plus vegetables make the meal healthier and a little less expensive, so I requested Ken-san focus on vegetables and fish, with just a little beef, pork and chicken.
It worked out splendidly, and everyone at Kobachi put forth a wonderful meal that was stress-free for all attending. My friends also did me proud by 1. rsvp-ing and actually showing up. And 2. Showing up *on time*! Really, this is Santa Barbara, and when everyone on the rsvp list shows up, on time, it’s a minor miracle. I’m really blessed to have good and cool friends.
There were 20 of us, taking over the new expanded space with the murals. The Kobachi staff decorated the space with long tables, birthday table cloths and plates, and sprinkled everything with confetti. FUN! They also provided a gift of a few snacks, a bottle of shochu and oolong tea. It is my favorite drink there and now I could share it with all my friends.
Upon arrival, a buffet table had been laid out, with empty bowls containing a slip of paper with the name of the dish written on it. It felt like Christmas, knowing there would be a lot of presents to open shortly, and everyone was excited. I wasn’t able to take photos of everything, being distracted by talking to friends, but Ted Mills got most of the dishes, even if he had to get a photo of a small portion off his own plate. Generally, the portions were approximately like receiving a double order, but there were a few when there was one item per person, such as sushi rolls or oysters. Want to see the feast? Here goes!
First, are some salads. Seaweed salad, a mixed salad of cucumber, tomato and seaweed, and hjjiki – warm black seaweed salad.
Cold fish dishes included a plaste of salmon sashimi with a tangy carpaccio sauce, and tuna in a dark smokey sesame oil sauce. Also, slow cooked vegetables and mushrooms served warm.
Four fillets of aburi saba then made an entrance, and all the fine slices were quickly scooped up and consumed…a lot by me!
Rolls included a seared salmon with avocado and asparagus, a smelt roe roll, and some other roll that I did not eat, or get photos of. There was one grilled beef dish that delighted a few meat eaters, but it was also very filling! We also had grilled eggplant nigiri.
There was one fat oyster for every person attending, and platter of sauteed vegetables.
One dish I never quite identified (lower left) was piled with cooked marinated vegetables and I believe it was a sweet-sour chicken. If only I could remember the name, but I’m fairly certain I did not have the opportunity to eat it, or I’d remember more details. There was also a big tofu dish, but this plate was massacred by hungry friends before we could get a photo of it. Oops.
Now, we are happy and drunk. No chance getting a photo of the aji miso yaki. The picture on the plate is rather unappetizing looking, but trust me, it was yummy. These were snapped up in a hurry, I’m not sure I tried any myself!
One more round of sushi, with a piece of shiitake nigiri for everyone and it was time for dessert. My parents showed up partway through the meal with two homemade cakes, and a few more chairs (the restaurant had completely run out!). Their cakes were an almond cake, and an eggwhite pavlova. Yoko, my favorite waitress there, brought a cheesecake! Thank you, Yoko!
After blowing out the candles, we feasted on cake, chattered more, and then it was time to settle up the bill. I’m happy to say the folks at Kobachi got a nice tip. It was a great birthday dinner!
Kobachi Izakaya Dining
My friend Michael, co-owner of the Big Sur Bakery, came through town and we met up for dinner. He also generously brought some baked goods down with him that he passed on to me.
The chocolate croissant comes with two lines of chocolate, so this is great to split down the middle and share with someone without tearing up the fine layers of pastry. The croissant itself isn’t as light and flaky as others, but it’s made with quality ingredients and the denser flavor is unique.
The coffee cake was a very generous slice, and went well with some tea. It stayed moist for the next day as well, so I was able to share it with a friend. It was very enjoyable.
The ginger scone was a favorite, although it is more like a sweet American scone – almost cakelike – compared to traditional English scones. It was delicious to eat simply out of hand with no accompaniments and the ginger added a lovely zing to it. I brought the scone on my slight to las Vegas the following day and it was infinitely better than the stuff sold at the airports. Saved my life, it did!
Michael also gave me a loaf of wonderful multigrain bread that I would have loved to eat, but there wasn’t time before my trip. I gave that loaf to my parents, who are reported to have eaten it with butter and gruyere and enjoyed it a lot.
Thank you, Michael!
Big Sur Bakery
Shalene’s in town for Christmas, and we met up on a Sunday afternoon for brunch and a museum stroll.
We picked the Hungry Cat because it’s one of my favorite places for brunch, the cocktails are good, and their vegetarian option is not an afterthought on the menu. In fact, they are often so delicious I sort of wish I’d ordered it.
The Hungry Cat is one of the few restaurants in town serving Natura water. It is a water filtration and carbonation system so that regular tap water can be used. Go Local! Anyway, it costs about $2.50 for the water, with unlimited top ups. We got the fizzy water. We also shared the Greyhound Proper cocktail, using fresh squeeze grapefruit juice and their housemade candied grapefruit peel. Yum.
Shalene got the strata, which was lovely and delicious. And while the photo of it looks good, it just won’t upload to flickr, I have no idea why. So, sorry, no strata photo for you. I will say: I wish I’d ordered it, too.
Not that my meal was bad! No, it was good, too. I ordered the Cobb salad. It is, by far, my favorite Cobb salad in Santa Barbara, made with wonderfully fresh ingredients: crab, shrimps, eggs, avocado, house-cured bacon, peeled citris fruits and market greens. Really really good!
The brunch wrapped up with a saunter through the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Sundays is free day!
Good dumplings, good prices, long queues and the risk of selling out.
Those are the good and bad things about the Dumpling Inn on Convoy. Valerie has discovered how to mitigate the bad parts: she orders take away on the phone, zips over to pick it all up, everything’s ready to go.
Two orders of veggie fried rice, with lots of leftovers for snack on later.
Two orders each of steamed fish and chive dumplings, and of pork fried dumplings. Orders are large, usually 8-10 dumplings per portion, usually around $7.
Mmm, my full assemblage of dumpling heaven. All the above listed items, plus sauteed greens and another deep fried dumpling that I cannot recall anymore (but it was good).
We paid about $87 for this large takeaway order, intending to feed 5 people. There was significant leftover.
Dumpling Inn (Kearny Mesa)
Sunday was a small and casual dinner at Jonah’s with a couple friends. Nicky was back from her trip to southern France and Switzerland and brought a lovely assortment of macaroons for us to try. I brought Jonah some peaches from my garden.
We ate tray-baked salmon, rice, and spinach with mushrooms. Nicky also brought a green salad. The wine of the evening was pinot grigio.
Afterwards, a showing of Young Frankenstein on an outdoor screen at the Wheelhouse downtown. Weather and company was perfect!
The Wheelhouse is currently showing a movie with bikes in it every Sunday evening. Show up at 8:30 pm, the film starts at 8:45, and people are encouraged to bring chairs, and also snacks and drinks to share. Information here!
Drew returned from jetsetting about Europe the night before, and I met him at the airbus with a Freebirds chicken monster burrito. If that’s not a perfect “welcome back to America and Santa Barbara” gift, how about this:
We met for lunch in the lovely borough of Goleta, at the big box shopping center, and ate a pallet of American food.
First, Hollister Brewing Company for a hamburger. Half a pound of kobe beef, fried medium rare, with a pile of fries.
Look at all that glistening meaty goodness. All those sweet memories of delicate flaky pastries in Vienna and Berlin are unabashedly quashed under the mass abundance of the savory American plate.
Moving on to the next business at the big box shopping center, a whacking great huge brownie from Anna’s Bakery.
Finally, a smoothie, from Blenders. No picture of that because it just looks like a cup with a straw in it, but I would like to point out the double bonus Americana: smoothies AND our complete inability to comprehend math and decimals.
Well, okay. Maybe Blender’s does only want to charge a third of a penny for additional supplements, but the cashier’s receipt doesn’t seem to indicate so. Putting decimals on cent figures really irritates me, I swear it’s going to send me to an early grave. And anytime I have tried to explain it to the shop worker or business owner, they do not get it. At all. Where is David Horowitz when I need him? Fight back, I tell you, fight back! Or give up and just whinge about it endlessly to whatever captive audience I can corner.
After that we lolled around for bit, feeling the food coma set in. Ah, Goleta, such a good land.
Heyo, it’s Michael’s graduation party! Good times, good friends, good food.
Heather made this hummus combination dip that had the folks going gah-gah for it. Half standard hummus, and half hummus with peas and mint. Delicious! The hosts also made a batch of sangria that could sate the thirst of many many people. I heard a comment that it wasn’t that strong, but that’s probably why I liked it. Me no high alcohol tolerance.
She also grilled some lovely figs, stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. This was my favorite of the evening. I can’t stop thinking about them now.
There was way more food than I could possibly photograph and still eat and be social. I didn’t take the last photograph here, either Kia or Ted did.
Later, a pinata was smashed open by the children. I was told that the following sugar high was a fascinating sight. But I’d left by then, for one more food event to wrap up the lovely day and night.
Nathan and Erin offered to share their sausage-making gear with me. We set aside a Friday evening for a big sausage fest, making piles of sausages for grilling on the spot and for freezing for later.
We had chicken and pork, which were first coarsely ground. Then we added seasonings. We used natural intestines for casings, which came from the Whitefoot Meat Market on Milpas. Nathan and Erin did the following with the chicken:
* Sweet curry with apricots, parsley and spices.
I took charge of the ground pork and made two experimental recipes.
* Thai chile sauce with fresh lemongrass and garlic.
Additional friends were nearby to assist with chopping, grinding and extruding. They also kept us stocked with beverages to get us through the hard work. Thank goodness for friends!
I tried my hand at nearly all the tasks, including the sausage twisting. I tried to make my sausages like the ones I had in england, about three inches long. Good times!
Finally, there were plenty of people on hand to help us eat them. But really, the sausages got even better after a day or two when the flavors began to mingle more with the meat. The curry sausage the next day? Oh so good. That, and the Thai chile sausages have been delicious sliced and served in lettuce wraps.
The full photoset of the sausage-making is here, including some video. Best viewed as a slideshow.