I’ve had breakfast and lunch only – no dinner yet.
If you are staying at the Indigo Hotel, aren’t you the lucky one to have this food brought to you in bed. It would be such an incredible luxury.
But I simply walked in the door, sat the bar on two occasions and a small 2 top later on, and thoroughly enjoyed my meals nonetheless. Maybe it was because it was the first beautiful days of quintessential Santa Barbara weather (“Sunny. 72. Next update in 5 days.”) that broke everyone’s pseudo Seasonal Affective Disorder from the freezing temps of 2013, or maybe because it’s damn good food.
If it can be made in-house, it is. If not, it’s sourced from local purveyors and those names are available online, or ask.
My first visit, I had the two eggs any style, with bacon or sausage, potatoes and toast. I opted for poached eggs, it came in a pretty bowl with a sea urchin pattern. The house bacon is sweet and smokey, not salty. Potatoes were delicate little roasted things. $10.
My friend had the tomato braised Niman brisket with poached egg and potatoes, a tender mass of good things. $16.
Second visit was lunch with a very hungry friend, we got loads of good things.
* Mushroom pizza – made with local mushrooms and truffle oil. This is good to share with a friend. The truffle was not overpowering. I’d like to try their other pizzas, I just love the fresh char and smoke on crusty bread.
* Panna cotta – very enjoyable of the desserts we got. At first my friend seemed critical of the dish, it wasn’t apparently jiggling in a way he would have expected. But in time he admitted it was good. I liked the touch of seeing lots of vanilla seeds throughout the dish. I’d get this again.
Third visit was another breakfast, less than 24 hours after I’d had lunch. We tried the crab and eggs benedict, the breakfast sausages, and another cinnamon roll. All were delicious, and the sausage made in-house, but now that I’ve had both bacon and the sausage, I’ll stick with the housemade bacon. It is so good.
Everyone working there was extremely nice and knowledgeable. Sitting at the bar is a pleasure, where you can look up in awe at the variety of liquor available. I’m eyeing up the Negroni. But that’s for another visit.
Anchor (adjacent to the Indigo Hotel, with a street entrance and hotel entrance)
Let’s try something new. I’d never been to Olio e Limone before. Yeah, that’s right! Let’s also take a few risks and try going there at 8 pm on a Saturday night without a reservation.
You’d think we’d fail, and you’d be so wrong. But we did arrive with a queue going out the door. We murmured amongst ourselves that we might not get in without the reservation and maybe we should think about going to another Italian restaurant just on the east side of Victoria St. This makes the smug couple in front of us turn around and say, “oh, if you don’t have a reservation for here, you are not getting in. And that other place is no good.”
All condenscending like.
Then something amazing happened. The woman at the front desk said there was one open 2-top left and beckoned us in. We left the couple standing there at the front and were promptly seated, all smiles and eyes sparkling with happiness. Maybe a little smugness.
The restaurant was packed, elbow to elbow. I didn’t bother with photos.
To start: Carpaccio di Bue. Thinly-sliced raw beef tenderloin, goose liver paté and celery hearts with Olio e Limone dressing. Uber tender, the beef fell apart like pate itself, which I scooped up onto my spoon or a slice of ciabatta. The goose liver was so smooth, like a Michael McDonald song. It was my favorite part of this small plate. Underneath it all was the tender slivers of celery.
Main: Ravioli d’Anatra ai Funghi Porcini. Housemade duck ravioli with creamy porcini mushroom sauce. Oh, hell yeah. You had me at duck. Why is duck such a luxury item in the US? Ducks are everywhere! Just look at your nearest park. What’s the deal. We need duck nuggets and kentucky fried duck, and duck fajitas. But duck ravioli will do. These were DERICIOUS, and quite substantial little pasta pillows. These are also the favorite item of our waiter’s, he said so while we were waffling over the menu earlier in the evening. I’d agree, I really enjoyed them, I had to contain myself while eating them, like not using my fingers to scrape up the last of the sauce, or licking the plate.
My dining companion again got one of the specials, a sauteed sole in butter and lemon, which included some greens and potato on the side. Pasta was also tempting, and so initially there was a lot of indecisiveness over what to pick on the menu. Our waiter saved the day – he said we could get half portions of pasta. DONE. So all at once, three large plates appear before my one friend containing the fish, the vegetables and a portion of pasta that looks way bigger than a half. Sorry, I don’t recall what it was! I was too busy face down in my DUCK ravioli, but only in the most dignified lady-like manner.
There’s no way we had physical room for dessert, but there’s mental room and we feasted on the extensive options our waiter recited to us. Next time, dessert FO SHO. Maybe two! But I was as stuffed as my raviolis. Good times.
Olio e Limone
It’s time to start off-loading old routines and making new ones. With the passing of an old friend – my First Thursday tradition of getting dessert at a little restaurant that has now closed – I had to begin looking for a new one. There are many places I enjoy grabbing a small plate or dessert. Needless to say, it should be a work of art since it is First Thursday, an evening devoted to appreciating art.
My First Thursday companion and I share an interest in good food and pleasant company. Lately, we’ve walked around the exhibits, joined the Art Walk crew, walked away, rejoined, then wandered off in search of food. We’ve huddled in galleries, made notes of what’s on the wall and who’s looking at them. We run into friends. Then the magic starts.
First, we step into La Tour. For only having five chairs, and for it being First Thursday, it’s a miracle when the last two seats are invitingly open. Graham knows me now and is respectful of my limitations. He gives me half a glass, tonight it’s a “very special” rosé. My friend goes with a tasting flight and finds everything beyond pleasing. That’s the joy of sitting with Graham. Tonight he’s playing Toro y Moi on vinyl, both 2010′s Causers of This, and 2011′s Underneath the Pine.
After my glass, he adds a splash of just one more, something he thinks I will like. An Italian Müller-Thurgau 2010, Südtirol-Alto Adige. Of course I don’t know it, duh! But I do like it. Instantly and deeply floral scents, like a bouquet of flowers for your mum on mother’s day. But crisp and dry to the taste, but not too sweet. Oh what, $17 a bottle? I’ll take two. Graham wraps them up for me to pick up later, once I get a bite across the street. We give up our seats to some friends from the CAF and the woman who performed at their Forum Lounge that night.
We could get the $35 prix fixe at Seagrass, and Reuben first assumes we will. But no! Tonight we are in a la carte mood and we are hungry. Tonight, no holding back. But also, no pictures! :) I’m just going to enjoy the food.
Our amuse buche is one little bite of raw halibut on a silver spoon. We are excited!
We both get the Kukomoto oyster shooter, with ginger gelee, salmon roe, scallions and ale foam. It was too hard to share one of those the last time we came.
Next, the special that night, to commemorate Cinco de Mayo: a tamale with foie gras whipped into the masa, stuffed with tender stewed pork. It is topped with fine dice of bright white jicama and a brilliant green cilantro juice that makes my mouth tingle.
Then, piccata of Hudson Valley foie gras, with caramelized unagi, blood orange “pudding,” English peas, carrot puree, and emulsified olive oil. This is beyond good, I love unagi in just about any shape or form, and this was set upon foie gras lightly seared outside and pink in the middle.
I had been eyeing up my main dish for some time, but since I’d been going prix fixe it hadn’t previously be available to me. It seemed so simple, but also a decadent splurge. This was a bowl of house-made spaghettini with bottarga de mugine (mullet), lemon zest, parmesan and parsley. Bottarga is the sun-dried roe of mullet, something I’d only heard about from the spoof British series Posh Nosh, where the Hon. Simon and Minty Marchmont explain it is the “cashmere of fish” and only best acquired from the source, directly on the docks of Sardinia. “We do our bottarga run in March.” I did mine on this First Thursday. The pasta dish was tender and creamy, still a little toothsome. It was briny and tangy from the lemon and bottarga grated in. At times it was almost too salty from the fish and the parmesan but overall it was excellent. And just $12! Ripert is right, good food can be affordable.
Finally, champagne and butter poached Main lobster, with smoked hanjuku egg, Nueske’s apple-wood smoked bacon, fava beans, brioche crostini, sherry sauce accented with tomato and a hint of curry. Oh. Dear. This so was good! The bacon was deeply smokey and imparted the flavor into the fava beans. The tomato was a great balance to the richness of the butter and lobster. This dish was available as a first course for $22, or a main for $44. The small plate, along with all the other bits we got was enough. We did not even need dessert.
But we did still get a dainty toasted coconut macaroon and a little shortbread cookie each at the end of the meal.
It was not a busy night, everyone else was out partying it up for Cinco de Mayo, so Reuben, Robert, and even Joshua in the kitchen were able to come out to chat with us. The tamale was Joshua’s creation it turns out. Foie gras in the masa! How cool is that.
Our bill was just over $100 before tip, including one glass of good white wine for my friend. At about $55 a person, we feasted and walked out in a dreamy giddy state. Thinking back, we could have gotten a couple margaritas each in a loud bar or club for about the same price. Instead, we had a fabulous dining experience.
Passing through La Tour to grab my wine, we stumbled upon some winemaker friends who initially look at us walking in the door like intruders of their secret space. But everyone relaxed, hugged, and chattered for a few moments. Then it was time to go home.
Opal has been around for a long time, although not always known by this name, but definitely in the same location.
I was here for a business lunch, and one diner and his family have been longtime patrons of the restaurant. He provided some good recommendations.
To start, the group shared the crab cakes, and the seared ahi salad/nachos.
Some nice looking items elsewhere on the table included a housemade basil fettuccine with prawns, a scallop and spinach salad, and housemade tomato linguine with seafood. As for myself, I had fat sea scallops with green salad and small boiled purple potatoes.
Just look at those colors. How festive! It’s almost like mardi gras. But it’s not, it’s Opal.
It’s First Thursday! That means browsing the galleries and studios downtown, checking out the art, listening to some music, catching up with friends, and grabbing a bite to eat at Square One.
Pink recommended the grilled apricot salad, mizuna, manchego crisp, champagne vinaigrette.
This was followed by:
Some friends who are #1 fans of food brought us here for dinner on a Saturday night. We also got the prix fixe with assorted supplements.
Damn. It was my best meal in Portland. Tabla brought out the subtle purity of its ingredients and the wines paired well.
On the chalkboard near the front door is a list of all the local source companies that contributed to the menu. The chef went to the main farmers market that morning to pick up fresh items.
The 3 course dinner is a deal almost too good to be true. $24?? Even with maximum supplements (worth it), the food hardly goes higher than $35 and the smaller plates by no means left us hungry. In fact, I needed a small box to take a good portion of the 3rd course home.
But first! An amuse buche. Er, I don’t remember what it was! But trust me, we ate it happily.
I started with the trio of fish. Fresh crab, black cod and mackerel. It’s hard to say which was best, they were all standouts. The group did enjoy the combination of the mackerel with fresh apple slices, though. This dish had a $5 supplement, two at our table got it and everyone loved it.
2nd was the paglie e fieno. Paperthin, nearly transparent pasta with steamed manilla clams, shallot, white wine, house cured guanciale. The clams were sliced thin, allowing me to get a bit of the shellfish in every bite. The guanciale added some smokey umami. I liked it a lot, but it was essential to stir up the dish quickly upon the dish being set down because pasta was so thin it would stick together without constant lubrication of the sauce. A must for clam lovers. I actually enjoyed the black pepper fettuccini with cauliflower cream and aged balsamic that someone else at the table ordered, but that is because I am a bigger fan of balsamic and cauliflower than I am of clams.
My main was grilled coulotte steak with garlic cream, beluga lentils, sylvetta arugula, and horseradish salt. With a $3 supplement. The beef was cooked exactly to my specifications, somewhere between medium and medium rare. Loved the lentils, which were dainty and creamy. I was told they have hard cooked egg yolk mixed in to attain that creamy texture.
Elsewhere on the table: baby octopus (above), two kinds of pasta (below), and duck confit (far below).
I don’t recall the wines we had, but it was two bottles on Tabla’s recommendations. The first was a wine that was delicious with the table olives. And btw, the olives were great, too. Three distinct flavors for the green, purple and black olives. Yum. I should have dipped the bread from Pearl Bakery into the olive bowl, but completely forgot – there was enough food on the table to keep me occupied.
For dessert, I wanted to skip. I was too full. But our group of four decided to share one dish. The one with chevre in a cheesecake, and we picked it because we did not want something overly sweet. For that, we had a small glass of dessert wine, I was told it was local and prepared to the effect of eiswein. Sweet, but not cloying. A favorite beverage of the night!
With all the alcohol consumed (LOTS), the tab did add up. But the prix fixe with moderate supplement and a good glass of wine for under $50 is outstanding value for the quality of food that you can either study and discuss with the staff or simply stuff in your gob.
I recently had lunch at Via Maestra 42, and near my table sat a man who had a 25 pound tub of Italian flour brought to him. It’s hardly an item one orders from a menu, so it got my interest. It came to pass in conversation that he was private chef, and would be holding a wine and pasta demonstration evening in town, as part of a month long event called Epicure SB.
I’d heard murmurings of the event, yet had seen very little advertising for it. And a while back I’d glanced at the website, and there was very little information available at that time. Browsing the site now, there considerably more listings available around town, starting with a grand kick-off during First Thursday that included a number of free events. Primarily, though, the special events cost money, as these were special dinners by local restaurants. Most were in the $60-$100 range, which suddenly made the $30 price to attend the wine and pasta evening quite reasonable.
We attended the evening of 8 October, held at the Hayward Center demonstration kitchen near downtown Santa Barbara. I was worried it wouldn’t have many participants, but the turn-out was decent, about a dozen people.
The chef was John Fernandez, owner of a private catering and teaching business, A Tavola! And our wine hostess was Carolyn Turner of Carina Cellars in Los Olivos. Throughout the evening, John prepared six pastas and sauces, and Carolyn poured six wines. It was very enjoyable and educational to me.
For each pasta dish, Carolyn introduced a wine, and poured for the group. Our area tends towards pinot, but Carina Cellars sure can do syrahs! Really delicious stuff.
It was an evening well-spent, and my own pasta making skills have greatly improved since then.
John and Carolyn ran the pasta and wine demonstration for two additional evenings, one in Los Olivos and another back at the Hayward Center a week later. I’ve heard the Hayward Center one was sold out. As it should have been.
The full photoset of 95 images is available here, on flickr. It includes the names of the pasta dishes and its wine pairing.
I came here for a lunch during the work week, and sat in the patio area. It wasn’t overwhelmingly busy and the staff were attentive.
It’s good that Goleta has a few more options where you can feel you’re dining rather than merely eating, even if the food is not fine-style dining. I like some linen tablecloths and napkins every now and then. This was one of those now and then moments.
I ordered an entree of filet pieces, mushrooms and buffalo mozzarella in a cream sauce with some kind of wine reduction swirled into a plate of fettuccine, it was simply called fettuccine pasta. Laura was eyeing up a sandwich in the lunch menu but I coerced her into getting chicken picatta which she claims she was grateful for the persuasion.
My portion didn’t look all that big, but I could only eat half and took the remainder home for another meal. My cream sauce seemed a little underseasoned, although if taken alongside a bite of steak it balanced. But you can’t have steak with every bite. I fixed the situation easily enough with a little sprinkling of salt.
The waitress brought a basket of garlic bread to the table, so I guess that was gratis. There was an olive oil cruet available to drizzle and dip, yum.
Prices were very reasonable for lunch entrees, ranging $12-14. Ours were each $13, plus a little extra for an additional side of vegetables for Laura’s dish.
The view outside was first of a gentle fountain and horticultural accents. But just beyond it is a Chili’s on one side and a McDonald’s on the other. Hmm, dangerous feng shui if you ask me.
There is a long story about this dish, that I won’t get into. What I will say is that its influences come from having fresh local ingredients on hand, and some guy named Chris Skinner that I’ve never met.
Over the weekend I found myself with 10 ounces of fresh fusilli pasta, bought at the Saturday farmers market in downtown Santa Barbara, and a packet of pancetta from Fresh and Easy. I whipped up the dish in less than 30 minutes, using a recipe provided by the above mysterious C. Skinner, with a few alterations.
1 Tb butter
Add butter and oil to a large skillet or pan, on medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add chopped garlic, as much as you want.
Add chopped pancetta to pan.
Meanwhile, set some salted water for pasta on to boil, and boil the pasta until al dente.
Once the pancetta has released its fat, turn the heat down, and add the chopped onion, and chopped fresh rosemary to taste. Cook until the onion is transparent, but not browned.
Add 1/4 cup white wine and bring to a boil. I used some Bonny Doon Pacific Rim riesling.
Turn the heat back down to low and SLOWLY stir in the half and half, and the yoghurt. Do not cook this, just stir to mix and heat it through.
Add the peas to heat through, perhaps 5 minutes.
Add drained, cooked pasta to the carbonara sauce.
Toss, add grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, up to 1/4 cup.
Serve in bowls, sprinkle with additional chopped rosemary, salt & pepper to taste, and with more parmigiano-reggiano in a bowl to pass around.
Notes: the recommended recipe used cream, and also chicken. I had neither, hence my alterations. I also forgot to add the peas. No big, it tasted fine.
Finally, it is preferred that you don’t drop your serving on the floor, so I don’t have to give up half of my portion, but sometimes these things happen. If the above occurs, set the nearest dog to tidy up the mess.
The ambiance is like a cozy fairy-light place that reminds me of Christmastime year-round. And at Christmastime, the fairylights go from “lots” to “scarily over the top.” At least, that’s what I’ve seen walking by the restaurant in the past.
Finally went there for the first time this weekend. I like the big booths, and the dark atmosphere that encourages intimate dining – could be with family, or a date. Either way, go with people you like to be with.
I had a veal dish, that came with soup or salad, and a portion of penne carbonara. Loved the pasta, it was amply packed with finely slivered bacon. The salad greens were crisp and fresh. I did think it was a little heavy-handed on the dressing – next time I would ask for the dressing on the side.
Service was very attentive, from the hostess to the buser. Perfect on all counts.
A special touch of the night – women received a long stem white rose. Sure, it was probably for mother’s day, and we were simply on a dinner date, but who am I to decline the gift of a flower?
Chase Bar & Grill