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Solvang/Santa Barbara restaurant suggestions for east coast foodie couple

Hi everyone!
I just thought I'd report back on our trip to SB and the Valley. We had a fantastic time and experienced some delicious food!!

Many of the places we considered for SB were closed since we were there on Monday, but got to experience La Superica for lunch which was out of this world! We had the La Superica Especial (#16), a pork & veggie tamale, and a chorizo taco. Everything was so authentic and fresh. We really really enjoyed everything. The guac was the best we've ever had.

And we did Bouchon for dinner that evening -- which we loved! The service was great -- our waiter wrote down a list of his recommended vineyards & wineries to visit in Los Olivios, Solvang & Santa Ynez/Santa Maria, which was helpful. For Apps: heirloom tomato tower and a SB spiny lobster w/puff pastry. Both were great -- tomatoes at the height of their season and very flavorful; interesting to compare the SB spiny lobster to the Maine lobster we're used to here on the east coast. For entrees: Seabass w/fennel crusted fingerlings, root vegetable slaw & olive tapenade; And Ahi crusted w/herbs de Provence, roasted tomato sitting on a bed of whipped chick pea mash. For dessert: McConnell's!!!!!! We had the lemon zest and coconut flavors. THE BEST ice cream by far we've ever had. We weren't sure we'd have time to make it to McConnell's so we decided to opt to have it at Bouchon and we're so thrilled we did -- definitely the best ice cream!

We did Renaud's for an almond croissant and egg sandwich on the way out of town the next morning and they were both delicious -- especially the pastry!

In the Valley, we had dinner at a friends house Tuesday night and tried Los Olivios Cafe for lunch Wednesday. It was solid -- very tasty & needed! break from all the tasting! And for our last dinner Wed night, we opted for the Ballard Inn. It, also, did not disappoint. We tried the Hamachi Sashimi and the Venison Carpaccio for appetizers. Both were extremely flavorful and seasoned perfectly. For entrees we had the Miso Glazed rack of Lamb with garlic noodle & chinese black bean demi glace; And Pan Seared Duck Breast with sweet potato puree & balsamic reduction. Our server mentioned the duck breast has never come off the menu because it's so popular - which is why we decided to try it figuring there might be something that set it apart from other seared duck breast dishes out there, but we didn't think there was. It was delicious, but rather ordinary and we wished we had tried one of the seafood options for the other entree as they may have shown off the chef's inventiveness and creativity a bit more.....Our bad choice on that, but regardless everything was great. The ambiance at the Ballard Inn is so charming and cozy, as well - which we really enjoyed!
Thank you all for your help planning this trip!!
Cheers!

Nov 09, 2009
keknight in California

Solvang/Santa Barbara restaurant suggestions for east coast foodie couple

I just found out the restaurant at Ballard Inn is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and those were the 2 nights we have booked for our stay in Solvang :( I'm considering adjusting our plans so that we're in SB Monday and Solvang Tuesday/Wednesday just so that we can go to Ballard for dinner!! The chef there has worked with Ming Tsai from Blue Ginger here on the east coast, which happens to be one of our all-time favorite restaurants.

The reason I've shied away from Grappolo (althought it sounds great!) is because our family has an Italian restaurant and we cook Italian predominantly so when we go out to eat we tend not to go to Italian restaurants as much. I guess I should've mentioned that in my original post - sorry about that.

I just also came across Pierre Lafond's Wine Bistro as a possibility. They happen to be doing a wine dinner the night we had planned to be in SB -- "Passport to the World of Wine" featuring Pinot Noirs from CA, New Zealand, France & Austria. $25 for tastes of 5 wines paired with a small bite. I thought it sounded kind of nice, but haven't heard much about that particular restaurant on your board?? Plus if I change our travel plans so that we can go to the Ballard Inn on Wednesday then it wouldn't work to go to this place for the event.

Oct 16, 2009
keknight in California

Solvang/Santa Barbara restaurant suggestions for east coast foodie couple

My husband and I are Boston Chowhounds and we'll be visiting this area for 3 nights in early November (We're staying in Solvang at Hadsten House for 2 nights & in SB at The Harbor House Inn for 1 night).

We'll have a car -- and while we often enjoy the busier, more happening restaurant/nightlife areas in a town (sounds like State Street is SB's "mecca"), we also don't mind driving off the beaten path for hidden gems!

We enjoy all types of cuisine -- Our favorite restaurants tend to be those that practice a farm-to-table philosophy...utilizing local ingredients whenever possible -- for fresh, in-season, simple, yet innovative flavors & dishes.

Your board has been tremendously helpful so far. I think I've narrowed down the list of places we're interested in based on some of the posts I've read and now, I would really appreciate any additional feedback or thoughts you all might be willing to share!

For the 2 nights that we're staying in Solvang, I'm thinking about the Ballard Inn and Root 246 at Hotel Corque. My only concern is that both of those seem relatively high-end, and we'd prefer to do 1 dinner at a mid-tier place (unless these are both 'must-tries' then we'll splurge!) Any thoughts on substituting one of these for the Los Olivios Cafe or some place else? Would driving down to SB for dinner and then back up to Solvang be a pain?

For the 1 night in SB I'm having a harder time narrowing down....
Bouchon, SeaGrass & Downey's all sound fantastic for a higher-price point...
Tupelo Junction sounds unique and intriguing....
Jade, Stella Mares, Julienne, Blush, Opal & Jane all sound good....some inventive/creative, others more standard, but all good?!?!

For pastries, looks like we'll be trying Renauds and we are huge ice cream lovers so I guess we need to try McConnell's? And for lunch sounds like La Superica Tacquiera is a fan fave?

Any help with these dinner spots would be much appreciated! We're looking forward to our visit!! Thanks so much!

Oct 15, 2009
keknight in California

Portland, Maine - Rehearsal Dinner Spots?

Does anyone have any recommendations for a party of about 50 people in downtown Portland?

We're thinking of hosting our rehearsal dinner at one of the great restaurants downtown. We've been to (and love) Fore St, 555, Bresca, Katahdin, Back Bay Grill, Street & Co, Hugo's, etc....but only moved here a few months ago so we're not sure which ones (if any) host small private parties of this nature.....any recommendations?

Thanks!!

Jan 14, 2008
keknight in All New England Archive