Hey, it’s time for the Harbor Festival in Santa Barbara!
Most festivals in this area have been disappointing of late. There seems to be a greater representation of funnel cakes, yards o’ daiquiri, and kettle corn than the actual theme of the festival.
But not the Harbor Festival. Oh no. Its theme is seafood and there is seafood to be had.
I first heard about it when I was dining at Kobachi, and posted on a wall was a notice they’d be closed on Saturday because they’d be selling uni at the Harbor Festival. I credit Kobachi entirely for growing my love of uni, so when Saturday rolled around, heading down to the harbor was the top of my to do list.
The marina area was heaving with people, half were mingling and sitting, the other half were waiting in queues for all that glorious seafood. We saw paella, steamed crabs and lobster, lobster bisque, and…er, abelskivers. But it was mostly seafood!
The spiny lobsters had the crowds enthralled. Some were bigger than I’d seen in my life and I can only imagine how much they cost. For the teeming masses, we had to make due with the little lobsters. And while out on one of the piers, we spied some uni shooters. They cost $2 and were meh. No photos.
But while trying to get around the inexplicably long queue for Brothy’s clam chowder, we spied Kobachi’s uni counter. No queue! Fine, that is good for us, but disappointing that our fellow festival goers did not have the same appreciation. So we pulled random strangers into our queue with gushing enthusiasm for some fine uni.
Oh my, so good. We had one uni roll and an uni shooter each. The uni shooter lacked the quail egg that’s normally served at the restaurant, but it also cost 85 cents less, coming in at a mere $3 for this fine morsel. Both were utterly delicious, and the random group we’d pulled over to the uni counter got back into the queue for a second round.
I heard that the abelskivers and the lobster bisque at the festival were also good. And I also heard some friends got there early so they could sample everything on offer. I wish there had been time for that, but this uni was perfectly satisfying.
Note: some photos by Ted Mills.
Santa Barbara Harbor Festival
Our final meal at the convention, and this was not bad either.
There were a number of items available in the buffet, including a lot of salads, but my highlights were the cold prawns, and the chocolate dipped strawberries.
Overall, the food was good, better than expected. But I still like eating at restaurants of my choice than going to conventions. I was happy to be done for the day.
Welcome to the breakfast Bloody Mary Bar.
Hotel food, not as bad as you’d think. Especially in Santa Barbara, where tri-tip might grace the menu.
Santa Maria-style grilled tri-tip, nice and pink. Sadly, no salsa or beans or tortillas in sight. Instead we have a number of salads, biscuits and fruit.
Ah, business. I work for a corporation and sometimes a convention rolls around that I should attend. Luckily, this one was in Santa Barbara.
Here is an afternoon snack, not provided by the convention itself, but ordered in the bar of the hotel we were at.
Other convention food.
I’m quiet. Quietly eating, that is.
Life’s been busy and there’s hardly been enough time to pull photos off my camera, much less process and post them. But here’s a little snippet: I recently was lucky enough to attend the Taste of the Town annual fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. Approximately 60 local restaurants, caterers and wineries were there, providing tastes of their wares.
My stomach real estate is precious, and does not metabolize alcohol very well, so as much as I wished I could try everything, I did have to limit my wine sampling, but I did manage to try 80-90% of the food samples.
Top choices include Square One’s rabbit pate, Element’s caprese on flatbread, Ca’ Dario’s ravioli with brown butter sage sauce, and Pierre Lafond’s winegrapes (probably part of the display, but they let me taste them).
And who can resist Renaud’s chocolate macaroons? Always been a favorite of mine since his business opened in Santa Barbara.
The photoset is here on flickr. I hope it makes you hungry for more local food.
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
All biscuits come with gravy.
All your water service and bills are given by an old lady who walks a bit like a zombie.
They decorate their tiki-like carvings with big fluffy white beards at Christmas time.
An abnormally large fork and spoon is mounted on the wall above the counter area.
On some weekends you might get lucky and be treated with live lounge organ music.
I like this quirky place! Food is decent, although I don’t care for the ham in their ham and eggs.
Omelettes – good, pancakes – good, bacon and eggs – good. Specials include seafood breakfasty things that tempt me, but I’ve not yet had the chance to try them.
What to experience a few seconds of the music? Sure you do.Alphie’s Restaurant
This is the Chuck E. Cheese of Santa Barbara, meaning there are games to be played for tickets which are redeemed for little plastic prizes. So, good for kids!
The pizza was okay, nothing horrid, nothing super fabulous.
The ordering system still has me confused to this day. We ordered at the counter and were given a little flagged number to put on our table. Someone came along and took the number and walked it over to the pizza kitchen area, and that was somehow the cue to bake our pizza. So we put our reciept on the table, so they could still figure out our number, and they took that away too! I don’t even remember how the pizza eventually made it back to our table. Is this what fuzzy logic is all about?
The large pizza itself was generously portioned. One slice each and we were pretty much done. Leftovers galore.
Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta
They are open late, the owner is super nice, the chili cheese fries are TEH YUM.
Turn your dog into a combo meal for $2.50, or $3.00 if you want the beverage to be a beer. The combo includes the beverage and choice of fries, churro or giant pickle.
If you’re there at the right time, they also have fresh funnel cake. I was there at the right time and took a picture.
Extra kudos go to the owner, who has to put up with all sorts of drunken nastiness on the weekend nights, and yet every day is friendly and helpful. I haven’t even been there too many times and he recognizes me and hands me some discount cards.
Side note: if you look down at the ground at the entrance, you’ll see a colorful mosaic saying “GO FISH.” That’s from a former occupant of the space. I’m glad Mad Dogs kept the mosaic, it’s piddee.