Something very special happened this past weekend and it had nothing to do with large men wearing lots of protection running around the grass and taking breaks every 40 seconds. It has everything to do with turning a year older and having super awesome straight up baller friends.
First, I remembered that Greg and Rob in the past had flown into town in Greg’s plane to have lunch. On Saturday I whimsically sent Rob a message, “Ya wanna?” and they’re all like, “Dude! Hells yeah.” Meanwhile, a third friend Mike who caught wind of the action going down is all, “Psst, I want in, but keep it on the DL.” **
What resulted was Greg and Rob flying into town at noon on a private freaking plane, I collect them at the Atlantic airport for private planes (they get free coffee and fresh baked cookies there, did you know that??) and we go to Via Maestra 42 for lunch, where Mike’s already waiting at a table for us. Surprise!
And what a fabulous lunch we had. How quickly we forget that Santa Barbara has some nice Italian food outside of the popular spots downtown. Via Maestra is a small gleaming gem in the mid-late century of uptown suburbia. It’s tiny inside, reminiscent of European bistros, waitstaff that are proud of their product and their positions, and quick to give great recommendations. Our guy pimped his caffe lattes very well.
The boys went the more traditional route of ordering main dishes. But I started with San Pellegrino bitters, as Via Maestra is one of the few places I know that serves it. So nice of them to put it in a fluted glass with a slice of lemon.
And while they feasted on the house salads their main dishes come with, I have a more substantial dish called the Tricolor Salad (but spelled in Italian). It was a baby green salad with candied walnuts, dried fruit, prosciutto and blue cheese. Beautifully presented and substantial, a meal in itself, especially if you’re ordering dessert (hint of things to come).
Food came generally at once, so while I was digging into my lovely salad, the main dishes came out for the manfolk. Mike is fond of pesto, so he ordered bowtie pasta with pesto sauce. Greg succumbed to my recommendations and ordered the pumpkin ravioli with brown butter sage sauce.
Rob, the hungriest of the bunch and also the primary moneybags of the meal, got one of the specials: grilled salmon and crisp tender greens. Oh, it looked really great!
For dessert, I opted for a small selection of sorbets, and Greg and Rob shared the profiteroles. All of Via Maestra’s gelato and sorbet are imported from Milan. We also bowed to the pleasant pressure of our waiter and ordered his special caffe lattes. Yes, they were beautiful and delicious. Thank you.
Then Mike drove home to LA, and Rob and Greg piled back into Greg’s Cessna and flew home! And I ate some of the chocolate chip cookies at the airport. Then, because I’m officially old and crotchety, I went to bed at 8 pm.
Via Maestra 42
** conversation not verbatim
Here’s the Scoop is an ice cream parlor that not only serves up the best variety of gourmet flavored ice cream and sorbet in town, made in-house, but they source all their fruit flavors seasonally from our local farmers markets.
Last weekend I’d had their incredible cherimoya sorbet and the mixed berry Buttonwood merlot at the Edible evening gala, and this weekend was their Valentine’s special: a hot fudge sundae using a heart shaped chewy brownie, a scoop of ice cream of your choice, whipped cream and a good drizzle of hot fudge, $8. There’s also a special treat offered to people who subscribed to their newsletter that really sweetened the deal. You’ll just have to join their email newsletter to get in on that action.
Two of us went, and I got the marscapone gelato, while my friend got the espresso gelato.
The judgement: no leftovers. The brownie was chewy, quite firm, and the ice cream and hot fudge softened it up. It was bigger than it looked and we were so full after this late afternoon “snack” that we skipped dinner.
Happy Valentine’s Day-ish!
Here’s the Scoop
I heard about a special event through Edible Santa Barbara.
Each of the chef’s desserts were paired with small scoops of the ice cream shop’s gelatos and sorbets.
Now, I knew that Here’s the Scoop made all their own gelato and sorbet in-house, and specialized in seasonal market fruits (try the pluot in summer), which the other gelato shops don’t do, but it’s rare that I make down Montecito way. Logistics and all that.
This was worth the trip. Here’re descriptions of the three desserts on offer, pulled from Edible SB’s posting and Here’s the Scoop’s newsletter:
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: Toasted Almond Shortcake, filled with Strawberry Sorbet, with a Strawberry couli and balsamic reduction drizzle, topped with vanilla bean whipped cream.
CHEESE BOARD: A Ricotta Cheesecake with an Olive Oil Citrus Cookie and Pink Sea Salt.– Paired with Almond Gelato, Blood Orange and Mixed Berry Sorbet.
MOTHER’S DAY TREAT: Vanilla Bean Angel Food Mini Bunt Cake with Rose Water Glaze.– Paired with Pistachio Gelato, Mango and Lemon~Lavender Sorbet.
Each cost $7.95.
We got the strawberry shortcake and the cheese board, the photos are of our actual dishes. We did not get the mother’s day treat, and this photo is of the display dessert in the freezer case. It sure did look good and I did try some of the lavender lemon sorbet separately.
My favorite of the evening was the cheese board, I loved the citrus cookie base and the pinch of salt made all the flavors pop. The blood orange sorbet was intense and delicious, and the owner Ellie Patterson said it’s one of the most popular flavors they offer.
These desserts are available all weekend! You might want to call ahead to confirm if there is a special window of time the chef is preparing, as this Friday event was only 7-10 pm.
If you don’t have time this weekend, or just want a simple scoop of frozen treat, I recommend the lavender lemon sorbet. It’s LOVELY. Nik got a medium cup with a waffle cone, containing vanilla bean gelato and the lavender lemon sorbet. He seemed pretty happy.
Here’s the Scoop
We whiled away some free time in Silverlake. An attempt to visit the spice shop was fail, turns out it’s closed on Tuesdays.
Finding a place with wifi was also a blocker. Most of the places that advertised it, either their wifi was broken or we simply could not get it to work. Oh well. We had gelato and espresso instead.
Pazzo Gelato (Silverlake)
We had it on good authority from one of T’s friends that the best espresso and gelato to be had in Vegas came from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Somewhere on the ground floor. Jean-Philippe’s seemed to fit the description, although we were not able to confirm it right at the time. Still, it was on the ground floor, it had espresso and it had gelato. We gave it a try.
The espresso was good. It was not amazing. Maybe it’s the best in Vegas, but I have had better espresso elsewhere. What wasn’t good was their flan. It was an impulse purchase and wholly regretted. It was dry and tasted stale, we threw most of it away.
But the gelato, now that was good! Worth the visit. We had a mixed cup, of chocolate and dulce de leche. Yum!
And do you know what else was amazing? Jean-Phillipe’s is home to the biggest chocolate fountain in the world!
That’s right. The biggest chocolate fountain in the world. It goes over your head. It’s funny, at standing height you initially walk past the display, thinking it’s some static show of platters of gooey chocolate behind glass. Then you realize it’s moving. Then you realize there’s a damn hell a lot of chocolate moving around on these platters and you wonder where it’s all coming from. So you look up. THEN you realize the chocolate is pouring down from the ceiling above you and you’ve been standing underneath this incredible cascading display of dark, milk and white chocolate flowing through runnels and platters and you’re like WHAAAAAAAAT???! It’s rad.
Photos by Ted Mills.
A Whole Foods has finally opened in Santa Barbara. Its grand opening week was mayhem, with people queuing up at 5 am for assorted small freebies. I finally visited it on a Friday afternoon, between lunch and evening shopping traffic.
This is another hangout from ye olde college days. My mates and I started coming here for the alternative scene, lattes and gelato after spending evenings in the Mission Bay area. It made us feel uber cool.
There’s still a good vibe around the cafe tables, and it’s just down the block from el Indio. So even though we were full of yummy tamales and fish tacos, I popped in for a small cup of ice cream. I wasn’t the only one thinking the same thing. It was past 9 pm and the queue was almost out the door, everyone wanting ice cream on the warm summer evening.
The small cup can fit up to two different flavors. I opted for the chocolate and spumoni.
The folks behind the counter were clearly under some pressure, dealing with the queue of impatient hipsters and squealing indecisive children. My ice cream was a little too soft and a little too sloppily prepared for my liking. Not that I had any expectation that was different based on my 10+ year old memories of the place. I only remember feeling hip and cool being there.
I’m all grown up anyway. I now know that hip and cool comes from within.
Caffe Gelato Vero (Mission Hills)
Our third and final destination on the spontaneous downtown food tour, and we almost didn’t make it. I hemmed and hawed for a while, and finally gave in. I needed cool refreshment for dessert.
The interior is a bubblegum crisis. Sickeningly pink, and the staff dress like hoochies. But that’s not necessarily bad! What matters is the frozen treats.
Their ice creams and sorbets are made off-site. LA, I think. They provide samples. Their chocolate sorbet is reputed to be amazing.
I’ve heard people grouse about the price, but for quality ice cream, I don’t balk. Also, the prices for the larger sizes are not expensive. You can mix flavors in the medium and large sizes. And you get a cute (recyclable) container to take home if you wish. I did.
Small size $4
No gelato for me this day. I got a medium container with pink grapefruit and limone sorbets.
Past post: 17 June 2008
A downside of growing up in the same city I reside in as an adult is that I still see areas of town as I saw them years ago. And the Loretto Plaza/San Roque Plaza areas I have never associated with anything classy or fancy. It’s the home of the Farmer Boy diner that crazy Mary Birdie ate at and Federal Drug that used to display all their best incontinence products and aluminum walkers in the window.
In the spot where Via Maestra 42 now resides, I knew as Swenson’s as a child. Then Rich’s ice cream. And it took me ages to come to Via Maestra, where I didn’t have high expectations. I mean, there’s a 7-11 across the street and the whole place is a strip mall.
But it’s now my third time – I have written about my first – and for each time I had a quality experience. The place is small, you can’t really do anything about that. But bistro style eating and lounging I recall in Europe is much the same. It’s probably us that’s too fat. Anyway, I really can’t fault them for anything. My service has always been really good, genuine. Usually 3-4 people look after me, and just to be clear, I’m an average person. I respect the waitstaff like they respect me. The service I get here rocks.
On order for the evening:
Bread – char grilled, drizzled with olive oil and sliced into little pieces.
Dining companion had a glass of Toscolo chianti and the pollo valdostana, which was a chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto alongside truffled mash and veg. Think of it like a chicken kiev but cured ham instead of the butter sauce. And my dining friend, we’ve known each other since kindergarten in SB, he lives maybe 2 blocks from here, he worked at Rich’s at a teen, and he hasn’t been to Via Maestra either. It’s not just me that’d mostly written off San Roque.
Nice note: sitting outside, even for being along the side walk of the strip mall, is pleasant! Because they have lined it with planter boxes of flowering hedges. It’s not big and beautiful, but it’s so much nicer to look at those vines than crazy soccer mom crookedly backing her dinged up dirty minivan into the parking space 4 feet away from your table. (some parts of San Roque will never change)
If we keep heading in the same direction, with Gelson’s, Renaud’s, Via Maestra 42, even Jeanine’s a little further up the mall, San Roque’s soon going to be better than the sum of its parts.
Via Maestra 42
Here’s the scoop, peoples: this little shop in Montecito serves up gelato and gourmet sorbet. For this kind of frozen treat, it is my top pick in the Santa Barbara and greater SB area.
This is locally owned, locally run and locally sourced. Flavors vary with seasons, with fruit coming straight from the farmers markets. The first time I came here I had fresh Pluot sorbet. PLUOTS!
It’s good, it’s honest, your gelato or sorbet comes in pretty cups. On a sunny day with some friends and their kids after a day at the beach or playing croquet, this is the life.
A pity it’s not in the best location. You’d think a Coast Village Road address would be some pretty passage way filled with flower boxes and strolled by the leisure class. Instead, it’s in this sunken strip mall area that feels a little damp outside. So just focus on the incredible local yumminess of your sorbet and you will be in the happy place.
The owners are very responsive to feedback. My question to them – when can I buy their stuff outside of Montecito?
Here’s the Scoop