Solvang, CA is a beautiful and quaint Danish Village nestled in the hills above Santa Barbara. Its a spot we have often made a quick detour to when on our way up to the Bay Area. A little pink box filled with pastries, cookies and tasty morsels was never a bad idea for a road trop. Michael and I decided to go to Root 246 in Solvang after a photo shoot we had the same day at the amazing Villa Sunstone. We photographed a beautiful intimate wedding and we thought it would be fun to stay in town for dinner before heading home. As we drove down Alisal Rd in downtown Solvang, the little Danish shop windows were glowing and the picturesque village exuded a cozy warmth. As we entered the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to see the interior starkly contrast with the exterior as it was decorated with a clean modern design. Who says a New York vibe can’t exist in a rural Danish like country setting? We ordered Bacon Wrapped Dates to start. They were like little nuggets of suckling bacon, sweet and dripping with a delightful sticky syrup. For our entree’s I ordered a twist on a Fried Chicken dinner and Michael ordered the steak. Both were yummy! For dessert I loved the twist on a hot fudge sundae. Gourmet ice cream with marshmallow cream on top that was brûlée’d. Terrific! We had a lovely time and would definitely come back again. Thank you Root 246! Or should I say “tak?”
Sorry for my unintended hiatus since the New Year. I have been thoroughly swamped mentally and physically and I it hasn’t been until now that I’ve had the time or have been inspired to write.
Michael and I were able to go see David O. Russell the other night at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. We fortunately live downtown so we are only 4 blocks away from the theatre and were able to walk there from our house. There is something super magical about that moment when you are childless for the evening and hand in hand with your love. Of course the moment would have been even better if we didn’t have that lingering guilt about leaving Gigi crying at the door when we left….
I digress. David O. Russel is famous for his most recent (and most amazing) films such as, “The Fighter” Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” What I didn’t know until Michael read his bio out loud before the show is that he also happens to be the director for “I Heart Huckabee’s” which has special significance to me. The film didn’t do that great in the box office and it was a sort of an off beat film that didn’t quite have the level of quirkiness to make it a “cult classic.” But when I was 22 and working at Cheesecake Factory I waited on two gentlemen who happened to be working on the film and invited me to the set. I was an “aspiring” actress (aka waitress) at the time and the offer to visit a REAL set was of course thrilling. I do believe that these guys had some kind of romantic interest in me (otherwise why the heck would they have extended this invitation?) but I was with Michael at time which I explained to them and which didn’t seem to phase them. I was extremely naive in my earlier years… So off I went to the set and David O. Russell was the first person I met. His hair was sort of shaggy and I seem to remember it being past his ears. He was holding/eating a sandwich and wearing a seer sucker suit. I was introduced to him and he ran up to me and hugged me say, “Hi, Anna from Cheesecake Factory!” I was very embarrassed to be addressed in this way because in my mind I would have preferred to have been a mysterious girl that was important enough to invite to the set of a major motion picture. NOT some girl from Cheesecake Factory that was picked up by the stunt guy. I also was pretty frozen after the hug and awkwardly shuffled my feet waiting to see what I suppose to do next…After that I was escorted to a trailer in which Jason Swartzman was residing during breaks and watched with him and some other members of the entourage clips from “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman. (This is starting to sound like a dream I once had but seriously its true…) I remember asking Jason Swartzman (who I hadn’t hear of at the time and would later become a huge fan of) whether he has seen “The Graduate” before and he said, “No.” He probably was being feciscious…I then mentioned quite philosophically how the last scene was the best scene in the movie. Another attempt at trying to appear more sophisticated than I was… When the shooting of the movie commenced I was introduced to none other that the great Dustin Hoffman. Actually, he introduced himself to ME by saying., “Hi, I’m Dustin” and shaking my hand. It was quite enthralling. Mr. Hoffman’s son was in the film and had a bit part as the valet. I remember they were filming his scene at the time and everyone was enamored by the effortlessness of his acting. In the scene, Jude Law was trying to valet his bike, and the line Dustin Hoffman’s son said was, “Its not a car its a bike.” After the line was delivered everyone laughed uproariously at his understated delivery.
Finally, I was introduced to Jude Law and in my final attempt to seem cool, collected and important I commented to him that he had a beautiful son (who was on set as well). He looked at me for a long pause and then turned away without making a comment. Great. While there were many more moments that could have been told I’ll stop there as this is really about my recent experience in 10 years later hearing David O. Russell speak about his career, films and personal life.
David O. Russell of today is much like the David O. Russell 10 years ago. He was extremely personable, likable and down to earth. One of the first stories he related was on how he started. He use to bartend for fancy parties often at Jackie O’s house when he was first working at being a director. Evidently he served Martin Scorscese one night after his movie “Good Fellas” had come out and told him that he’d like to be doing what he is doing someday. Marty Scorscece said, “I’ll have a vodka tonic.” Evidently he didn’t begin his career until after he was 30 and had spent his 20′s getting a degree and teaching ESL. One of his first opportunities in filmmaking was a grant he received to do a movie about a chinese restaurant owner that planted hidden microphones at his patrons table to listen in on their conversations and give them personal and inappropriate fortune cookies. Evidently that idea never panned into anything but he made a completely different film had to give the grant money back (since he never completed the original project). Fortunately his film was eventually bought and so he was able to pay the money back. Years later during the filming of “I Heart Huckabee’s” his son began to have serious problems and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The ultimate failure of Huckabee’s along with the divorce from his wife and son’s problems all helped him gain personal experience that lead him to his later films success. “The Fighter” about a failed boxer and his brother trying to make a comeback struck a chord with him because of his failure in “Huckabee’s.” He said that if he hadn’t failed to a degree in directing he would never have had the personal connection to “The Fighter.” ” Silverling Playbook” was based off his experience with his sons bipolar disorder and those hard and daunting moments he went through. I greatly appreciated his being transparent about his successes and failures and all the experiences along the way that have shaped him into the person he is today. I personally feel like my life is mostly a collage of embarrassed failures. I don’t say this to garner any sympathy or fish for complements but to be real about my own humanness. And I felt a connection with the recounts of his life because he’s had very real triumphs and failures just like the rest of us. I loved how when asked by the interviewer if he likes doing one type of film more than another his reply was, “I feel grateful to make a film period. So I love making any film.” Or his response to whether or not he enjoyed film festivals he said, “If you don’t love to award shows and festivals then you’re in the wrong business.” I was a fan of David O. Russell without knowing it purely from loving his recent films. Now I’m a fan him from a personal standpoint. His genuine nature, example of perseverance and down to earth qualities made the evening not only lovely but also insightful.
With the wealth of seemingly limitless restaurants, spa’s and other vacation amenities its hard to pick the best of the best in Santa Barbara. So I’ve done it for you! Below are a few of my favorite haunts that have never disappointed no matter how many times I’ve frequented them. Check them out and I hope to bump into you sometime on your next Santa Barbara visit.
Best Restaurant for Overall Experience: Palace Grill
Palace Grill is a ragin’cajun restaurant off of State Street in Santa Barbara that is always there when you’re ready for a good time. The list of things that excites me about this restaurant is almost never ending but let’s just start from the beginning. As you walk up to the restaurant you’ll hear musicians entertaining the diners waiting outside for a table and you’ll see Errol (the general manager) glad handing and treating the hungry diners to some cajun crawfish popcorn. (Delish!) As you walk into the restaurant your senses will be filled with enticing smells from the jambalaya, gumbo and étouffée cooking in the back. As you find your seat you’ll be greated by the friendliest waiters you’ve ever met and will receive a basket of muffins boasting such flavors as “black strap molasses” and “apricot and honey.” You’ll be fencing with your forks to secure your favorite until you realize that this is just the beginning and they’ll bring you as many muffins as you want anyway. My favorite dish is the crawfish ettoufee which has a rich sauce filled with cajun spices and poured over rice with a side of steamed veggies. The delectable crawfish coupled with the trinity of New Orleans (onions, bell pepper and celery) give such a powerful flavor combination I just keep coming back for more. Despite my stomach being filled to the brim there’s always room for a warm chocolate soufflé, right? Or if its lunch time its almost impossible not to order their beignets. And just as you are about to finish the music swells and the waiters come around to all the tables toasting to Louie Armstrongs, “Its a Wonderful World.” And guess what? It truly is.
Best Massage: Float
Walking up to Float off of State Street in Santa Barbara you get the feeling that this location is an island unto itself. Surrounded by, well…nothing, this structure is still standing after what must been years of the former neighborhood being converted to large structures and space for parking. As I walk in I’m greeted by friendly staff and a modern clean interior design. After changing into a robe, I’m escorted upstairs to the waiting area. With a large vaulted ceiling adorned with a beautiful glass ball chandelier and a roaring fire I can tell I’m going to quite comfortable. I get some magazines, hot tea and trail mix and get busy relaxing. I’m then introduced to my masseuse and we walk back downstairs (this time through the garden) and into the massage room. There is beautiful natural light streaming in and some lovely relaxing music playing. As we get started I can tell that not only am I going to be getting a relaxing massage but a much needed one. Float offers their Float Signature Massage that includes some deep tissue as well as swedish elements. Evidently my neck and lower cranium needed a bunch of work (probably due to my hours of staring my computer screen) and after the massage was over I felt like I was still, well…floating. Thanks to strong hands and a soothing environment, I would recommend Float to anyone.
Best Burger: Paradise Cafe
Paradise Cafe has been a local staple in Santa Barbara since the 80′s and its signature burger is still going strong. Cooked over an oak grill this mouthwatering delight packs in the flavor with its layered perfection. First start off with a fluffy onion bun slathered in thousand island dressing. Then add red onion (grilled on the oak grill!), melted cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce and of course the premium beef burger and you’ve enter burger heaven. With a side of crispy fries or a side salad (or both!) you have one well rounded meal. Not full yet? Grab a slice of their espresso chocolate mousse pie and I guarantee it won’t disappoint.
Best Skin Care: Peaches Skin Care
Peaches Skin Care win’s my vote for best facials in Santa Barbara. Peaches is no ordinary skin care establishment. Its THE final word on skin care and is making it a point to show results for their clients through organic and natural means. At Peaches they believe that the body already has all the potential for healing already built inside of us. We just need a little boost to get on the right track for long lasting beautiful skin. Peaches advises on working on the skin over time through purchasing a series of facials that are highly reduced in price so that achieving the ultimate complexion is affordable. After my first appointment I was throwing away my liquid makeup and replacing it with mineral powder that doesn’t clog the pores or cause wrinkles. Over the course of my facial series I was slowly given new cleansers, masks and and moisturizers that would aid in getting rid of old skin cells building up over time to show the new skin underneath. Peaches carries their own line of specially formulated products that are not only organic but don’t have any preservatives either. This means that you can’t keep them on your shelves for years which is a GOOD thing. Its sort of like putting foods full of preservatives in your body (think donuts, chips or anything you can find at a gas station) which aren’t good for you and neither are the face cleansers that last forever. So with all these tools at their disposal, Peaches is delivering what humans have been searching for since the dawn of time. The fountain of youth.
I’m thrilled to be included in the new Shop Moxie local blogger site. This site is a really brilliant idea that takes reviews from the local bloggers from awesome cities and gets really good quality reviews from their local restaurants and shops. Here is what they had to say about my blog.
“It’s no secret that many of the blogs in our program have amazing pictures. Some like Anna, the author of Costa Kitchen who is an accomplishedphotographer in her own right, blend their professional personal interests to transform them into works of art. It’s no wonder her blog caught our eye for its amazing imagery.”
Check out the full article and join in the fun. And stay tuned for my upcoming article to be featured on Shop Moxie for the Top 10 Best in Santa Barbara!
A few days ago Michael and I both got facials from the amazing Diana Lund at Peaches Skin Care in Santa Barbara. Michael had been bugging me to make an appointment for us (which I never did) and so he finally called and after much back and forth with the front desk we got in. Michael was first to go while I was with the baby and then we switched. The facial was suppose to be an hour and a half. An hour and a half goes by and no Michael. An hour and forty five minutes goes by. Still no Michael. Finally after two hours he arrives glowing and excited about his experience. I just KNOW that he’s been up to something and can’t wait to hear Diana tell me how it went. You see, Michael is unlike any other man I’ve ever met. He’s intense. He’s interesting. He’s detail oriented. So I could only imagine how his facial must have gone. When I arrive Diana apologized for taking so long and mentioned that Michael had, “a lot of questions!” As we delved into the facial she was very curious about Michael as he evidently was asking such in depth questions that she had to pause and think about how to answer them. She told me she had never had another client (male or female) ask her as much as he did. She gave him a recommended face cleaning routine to do in the morning and at night. Evidently he told her he really wasn’t going to do the night time routine as he knew himself and didn’t want to set himself up for failure. She was speechless. Evidently no one had ever flat our refused to do her recommended cleansing system. Ironically, each night Michael does a thorough detailing on his teeth which includes flossing, brushing with his mechanical tooth brush and mouth wash… My facial on the other hand was the exact opposite of Michael’s in that we mostly chatted about life, babies and Michael’s interesting personality traits. By the end she apologized once again that she wasn’t as thorough explaining the process to me as she was to Michael. Of course, I could have cared less as I was pretty sure she knew what she was doing and had no problem executing the recommending cleansing system. When I got home Michael inspected my face and promptly told me I looked two years younger. Oh my wonderful husband. He has a way of driving me crazy with his little intense spurts and then very soon thereafter makes up for it by being something that no one else can be. Him. At the end of the day I’d rather have a husband that notices that I got a facial and comments that I look two years younger than one that would never notice at all. Michael your my BFF….
San Ysidro Ranch is the secret hideaway of all secret hideaway’s. Gaining notoriety for housing the Kennedy’s on their honeymoon (yes, THOSE Kennedy’s) it has the reputation of luxurious seclusion. Fortunately you don’t have to stay there to enjoy their beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant, Plow and Angel. Although Michael and I don’t frequent this sort of restaurant on a nightly basis we felt we could splurge for our anniversary. As we drove up to the entrance the path was illuminated by lit olive trees with a carpet of lavender underneath. The night air was crisp with hints of the nearby ocean mixed with the misty mountain fog as we walked through the rose arches that lead the way to the restaurant. The outdoor dining area was situated under a canopy of tree’s with hanging chandeliers made out of dried gourds. The mood was a quiet bustle that was relax but still had a note of austerity as if only a certain type of person would know to eat at Plow and Angel. Not the most comfortable type of setting for me but I played it off as if I was suppose to be there as best I could. We skipped an appetizer and ordered our main course first with anticipation of having enough room for dessert. I chose the Roasted Shelton Farms Half Chicken and Michael decided on the Short Rib special. (Surprise surprise! Short ribs are his go to choice). Both were delicious and expertly made. We also had a side of brussel sprouts which were a disappointment seeing as I have an affinity for my own recipe. But alas, all was not lost when our Baked Alaska arrived and was immediately set on fire. Dinner and a show! We feasted upon this delectable treat with gusto and even took the half melted remains home in order to attempt an encore later on. (sans fire) All in all its hard to beat Plow in Angel due to its high level of ambiance, charm and of course good food.
I heard about Mozza Osteria from a few different places and just had to try it. I saw Nancy Silverton (the owner) at a book fair at USC and she did a little Q&A with Michael Voltaggio and of course they talked about this restaurant and its concept. Nancy wanted to create a restaurant that had the same sort of idea as sushi bar but with cheese instead. She got Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich on board and they created Osteria Mozza. A client of mine corrected my pronunciation when I mentioned it so just so you know its pronounced “Moe-za.” I was ignorantly calling it “Mah-za” this whole time. smile. This restaurant is the sort of place I could move into and eat cheese as a full time profession. A whole lot of deliciousness is going on here… When we sat down we of course looked over the menu and made a decision on a appetizer. When we tried to order the server abruptly stopped us and told us we couldn’t order yet. She had to explain everything about the entire menu first and custom design our experience. It was very sweet how into this food designing she was.
We started with a fresh Buratta from the place in Italy where it was originally invented. Um…this was freaking awesome. It came on some garlic toast which was yummy but overwhelmed the cheese a bit. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to share with Michael but I did….
Then came the pasta course. Obviously the pasta is homemade here and was delectable and amazing. Most of all it was simple with a delicious red sauce and parsley. We gobbled that right up as well…
For our main course I ordered the Grilled Whole Orata (picture above) and Michael ordered the Braised Beef Short Rib (not shown. I think the short rib was down his gullet before I had a chance to snap a shot). My orata was super yummy. It was stuffed with fresh herbs and the grilled lemon really brought out the flavors of the fresh and flakey fish. Even Michael loved it and he isn’t a seafood fan. Michael’s short rib was succulent and delicious. We were both very happy and satisfied with our main course and at this point were slipping into a peaceful food coma.
Finally, I ordered the cannoli’s for dessert (it was my birthday) and they were pretty ho hum. I looked at the Mozza website before writing this post and it seems they were taken off the menu. It looks like others felt the same way as I did about this dessert. I don’t know what it is but I’m not a huge cannoli fan and am always confused when I try them. Why aren’t they better? The outside shell seems dry and not sweet enough. And the inside doesn’t hold up the how thick and crunchy the outside is. I thought that if I ordered cannoli’s at Mozza that would be the true test of whether or not I really like them since its such a great restaurant. I guess I don’t really like cannoli’s! But I don’t think it was the chef’s fault… Cannoli’s are just sort of blah in my opinion. But I doubt I’ll stop my quests to find one that I like so if you have any recommendations send them my way.
Michael and I overall had a great experience at this awesome restaurant and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back anytime. Located in West Hollywood its a bit of a jaunt for us from Santa Barbara but I’m sure it won’t stop us in the future. Thanks Nancy Silverton for creating this beautiful experience. We can tell it came from your heart.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Blue Cheese Burger
My friend Joy and I go out to lunch about once a year. Joy is a wedding coordinator in town so we communicate and see each other a lot at events and other industry gatherings. Other than that we usually only spend time together once a year for lunch and this year Joy suggested Julienne. I had walked past the restaurant for years but never actually tried it due to my small fear of new restaurants. (My mind is like, “What if its not good and I could have just eaten some place I know and like!?”) Thankfully Joy suggested this gateway lunch and it was great! I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich and Joy had the Blue Cheese Burger. Both were delicioso and I really enjoyed the atmosphere.
Evidently the restaurant is owned by a husband/wife team that started in 2008 despite all the economic turmoil that was going on at the time. They are located on the corner of Santa Barbara and Canon Perdido in downtown Santa Barbara. I was also impressed that their menu is made up of local and sustainable ingredients. They didn’t even serve diet coke which I wasn’t a huge fan of but I respected their dedication to keeping it natural. (They did have those natural sugar coca colas in the glass bottle so I had that instead….) I like that they are directly across from the Royal Presidio which is a historical landmark and a cool structure. It gives the diner a nice view to look at.
I have yet to go to Julienne for dinner but I’m confident that the “offerings” will be just as tasty and enjoyable.
Okay, this pictures is making me so hungry for Tupelo Junctions vanilla bean french toast that I’m actually going to stop writing and go eat something yummy so I can get through this post…
I’m back and I made chocolate protein pancakes which were gross but at least I’m not starving…. (I’m doing a boot camp at the gym where I have to eat a lot of protein and I didn’t use a recipe…so there you go.)
Anyway…Tupelo Junction is one of the best freaking places to eat in Santa Barbara, no joke. The morning after we moved back to Santa Barbara in March of 2010 we walked down to Tupelo to celebrate. And we felt like we had made one big journey home. This place is BOMB. Its southern comfort food that hits you on all cylinders. Above is the vanilla bean french toast sitting in a pool of raspberry puree and topped with whipped cream. Its like biting into a slice of heaven with paradise on the side. The crunchy crispy grilled bread with the soft center swimming in sweet deliciousness is to die for. Michael gets it pretty much every time since he is the worlds biggest sweet tooth. I usually opt for the savoring options…
The red beans and rice with spinach, tomatoes and corn taunted me for years. But I just couldn’t stop ordering my favorite pulled pork sandwich. Finally I got up the nerve to order it and MAN its good! At first glance that combination just didn’t seem like it would be all that great but goodness me they know how to build depth of flavor. Its now my favorite thing to get there.
Other must try items:
Fried Green Tomatoes with Dill Dipping Sauce
Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fried Pickles on the Side
Fried Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds
So if you are in Santa Barbara you HAVE to go (and make sure you call me so I have an excuse to go too!)