Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick trip to Santa Barbara

A few weeks back my sister had the week off as her school had spring break. I had been itching to go to Santa Barbara so we decided to head up there for the day.  (It is only a few hours away and the hotel rates were outrageous not to mention the VRBO cleaning fees).

We left between 5am and 6AM.  Close to 6AM because we still hit some LA traffic.  Our first stop was this great little neighborhood breakfast/bakery that we discovered on our last trip.  The last time we went to Santa Barbara we both wanted to split a breakfast burrito and Yelp told us this was the place.  It is a hidden gem that serves Intelligentsia Coffee which happens to be my favorite.  The place is called Crushcakes and Cafe.  If you are in the area, I highly suggest going.  There is a great outside patio that is obscured from street noise by potted plants and a water feature.  Of course you can always eat inside which appears to be an old converted house.

Next, we headed to The Funk Zone.  This zone is fairly new to Santa Barbara and is quite worth checking out.  The Funk Zone is an area just south of State Street that boasts art houses, wine tasting rooms, and new inventive restaurants.  Check out what there is HERE. The best part is that the Funk Zone is a block away from the train station.  You can take the train up, wine taste and dine in the Funk Zone, and then take the train home.  Who needs to drive?

After we had walked a fair amount we headed up to Babcock winery.  Babcock makes some great wine, and not to mention the owner of Babcock also owns one of my favorite restaurant, Walt's Wharf in Seal Beach. I had called ahead to make sure they were open, something I highly suggest you do.  Some tasting room websites will say they are open but I have found that you need to call because sometimes those tasting rooms can be closed for a private event.  When I called I asked the gentleman on the phone if he had one other winery he suggested trying in the area and he said to try Dierberg and Star Lane because they made so many different kinds of wine.  At Babcock and asked the woman working the same question and she also said Dierberg and Star Lane.  We left Babcock and headed to Dierberg and Star Lane where our first impression was the rustic green barn overlooking a water-wise garden.

Inside we were even more impressed.  My sister and I split the tasting, as we did at Babcock, because I was driving.  The wines were from all over Santa Barbara county and did not disappoint.  Not to mention the woman pouring the wine was very knowledgeable, attentive, and had recent passed her first round of sommelier training.

We left Dierberg and Star Lane with a few bottle in tow and headed back to the Funk Zone.  We walked around a bit more before heading in to AVA Santa Barbara Vintners tasting room.  The tasting room had this amazing map of the Santa Barbara AVAs and I recognized it as I had pinned this map to one of my Pinterest boards.  The place was very informational about the AVAs and we got to taste wine from all over the county once more.

It was then time for our dinner reservations.  When planning the trip we could not decide between going to The Lark, a new restaurant in the Funk Zone my sister had go to, or to Wine Cask which is just off State Street and where I can honestly say I have had one of the top five meals of my life here. We opted for The Lark as I had never tried it and we were exploring the Funk Zone.

Restaurant review...
When walking by earlier I asked, "What is that place?  It looks so cool."  My sister laughed and told me it was The Lark.  I thought that was a good sign.  The menu is meant to be shared family style and the portions are on the smaller side, just an FYI.  The service was amazing and they were very attentive.  To start, we ordered the Caramelized Asian Pears and Red Kale.  I have to laugh because I chose this one.  I had previously told my sisters that "I don't kale." meaning that I did not drink the cooled and jump on the kale bandwagon until the next "superfood" came along.  I am indifferent to kale but disdain how much attention people give it.  That being said, I throughly enjoyed the salad.

Our next plate was the Yellowtail Hamachi Crudo.  I was a little disappointed in the dish in that the sauce overpowered the fish which flavor was all but absent.  The presentation of the dish was beautiful, but I think this is something that needs to be tweaked.  Also, this dish was suppose to have pickled fennel in which only two pieces had fennel and the chili flakes were absent.  Maybe the person who prepared the dish was new and forgot?

The dishes we had ordered previously were quite small but we thought that would be fine.  We were wrong.  Even our waitress had suggested another dish saying the portions were small.  Oh well, live and learn.  We ordered another dish at this point (we had not eaten lunch).  The last plate we ordered was quite uncharacteristic of us as it was a pasta dish.  There is only one place that I order pasta, but we took a chance.  We ordered the Farmers Market Pappardelle.  Let me just say, this was the best dish of the meal and I am so glad we took the chance.  This was a bit larger portion and the flavors just melded.  The Meyer lemon breadcrumbs mixed into the pasta took the dish to an whole other level.  If you are planning on eating at The Lark I highly suggest this dish.

All in all I say it was a great trip.  I cannot wait to go back and stay longer and have a bike ride!

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