Monday, January 15, 2007

Weekend in Santa Barbara

We just came back this afternoon from a weekend in Santa Barbara, CA. They had some really great restaurants and wine and here are a few of my thoughts and comments...
We started our visit by meeting up with my mother-in-law, who lives in Santa Ynez Valley, on Saturday night to go to Brothers' Restaurant at Mattie's Tavern in Los Olivos. I have heard great things about this place but this was my first personal experience. Mattie's Tavern was built in 1886 and used to be a Stagecoach stop way back when. Today it's a restaurant owned by brothers Matt and Jeff Nichols.
I started my meal with the Tuna Tartar with Avocado and Yuzu Sauce, served with Wonton Chips. The tuna was fresh and very nicely balanced with nice acidity from citrus juice. A perfect start.
For main course I had the Prime Filet with Caramelized Onion Potato Gratin with Stilton Cheese Port Sauce and medley of Green Beans and Baby Carrots (my husband and his mom ordered this as well). The Filet was done exactly according to my request and the Potato Au Gratin was to die for and paired perfectly with the not to concentrated port and blue cheese sauce. I will order this again. After this I was stuffed and declined dessert until I heard what their special for the night was. A Trio of Chocolate. Now, it is impossible to be a chocoholic and decline this kind of dessert, no matter how stuffed you are. Dessert arrived and it had a Mini Chocolate Cake with Ganache, a Chocolate Creme Brulee, and a Chocolate Macadamia Nut covered Ice cream Lollipop. The cake was good but a bit to dry and cold, the Creme Brulee was simply amazing, and I finished it all. The Lollipop was a nice finish with the cool ice cream.
Overall a great evening and I will return again and again.

Sunday night we went to a favorite of ours in Santa Barbara, Elements. This is pretty much a standard for us when we go down to S.B. Sometimes (not always) fabulous. but always really good. The restaurant is right across from Santa Barbara Courthouse, the most beautiful building in town. Fantastic architecture! We were lucky and got a table by the window for an amazing view over the lite up Courthouse. If you think it is beautiful daytime, just wait until the lights come on at night...

I started with the Deconstructed Ahi Poke with Yellowfin Tuna, Yuzu Sesame Dipping Sauce, Taro Chips and Seaweed Salad. A great fresh, not to heavy start to your meal. The Filet here is always a safe bet and so is the Halibut with Coconut/Curry sauce but I felt like something different and decided to try the Tandoori Spiced Lamb Shank with Marsala Yogurt Sauce and Gingered Basmati Rice. The lamb was really tender and the sauce had a nice spiciness to it. This was a very good dish, not great though. But absolutely worth trying if you are a big fan of lamb. My husband had the Hoisin BBQ'd Free Range Chicken with Chive Mashed Potato and Beurre Blanc Sauce, which he really enjoyed. For dessert I had the Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Vanilla Brandy Sauce, and my husband had a scoop of their Dulce de Leche Gelato. Both were a great finish to the meal. We rinsed all of this down with a bottle of the 2003 Foxen, Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir from Santa Ynez. A really good Pinot with great balance between the dark berries and tannins. A bottle we find ourselves drinking over and over again.
These are just two of many outstanding restaurants in the Santa Barbara area. Keep your eyes open for more reviews as we usually go there about once every/every other month.

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