Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Santa Barbara With Mom

My Mom's husband's annual pilgrimage is Hot August Nights, a 10 day classic car extravaganza in Reno. Mom and I usually use his trip as an excuse for a girls getaway, just the two of us and this year we spent a couple nights in Santa Barbara.

Our first meal was dinner at Opal on State, a warm little bistro. Starting with cocktails, I had the Mexico City (Hornitos tequila, cranberry juice, lime, and triple sec) and Mom had a ginger mandarin cosmo. Both were excellent and potent. We shared four courses: the phyllo wrapped tiger prawns with a coconut curry dipping sauce to start, followed by a caesar and a salmon encrusted with crab meat. For dessert, a fabulous jack daniel's bittersweet chocolate creme brulee.
Overall, Opal was just fine, not amazing but good enough. Highlights were the cocktails which were creative, delicious, and strong and the dessert. Our server was a sweetie, the rest of the staff were friendly and conscientious, and the space was warm and inviting.

On Saturday morning, after a long walk along the harbor, we headed over to the Tupelo Junction Cafe on State for breakfast. I had been once before with Germ so I knew Mom would love its homey interior and Southern-influenced dishes. We split the smoked salmon, scallion, and cream cheese scramble with a toasted bagel which was good, I just wished they would have mentioned that it's actually a bagel sandwich. Not a big deal but the scramble made the bagel slightly soggy and a tad hard to eat. But the flavors were there and, all in all, we both enjoyed it. A side of fruit made our breakfast a little more healthy, though Mom isn't a fan of fruit in general - crazy, I know!
After a big breakfast and a stroll along State, we made a stop at the Paradise Cafe, one of my all-time favorites, for a snack and a glass of wine. The Paradise is quintessential Santa Barbara: garden patio with flowers and wrought iron, sunny servers, leisurely meals of oak-grilled fish, steak, or their too good burgers. I pray to the restaurant gods that the Paradise never closes (unlike the Earthling Bookshop, my old love driven out by Borders...but I digress).

As it was 3pm with dinner on the horizon, we split the grilled shrimp served over red and green salsas. Beautifully and simply prepared, smoky from the oak grill.
For dinner, we were having a hard time deciding between the Palace, an old favorite and Square One, coincidentally doors away from each other. The Palace is always a rambunctious time with cajun cuisine in a New Orleans-themed setting. But Square One is fairly new, has an ambitious menu, and seemed like a must. Square One was able to fit us in last-minute so we hurried over.

The scene at Square One is serene and elegant yet laid back. Mom and I shared four courses: Sweet Corn Soup Three Ways, Little Gem Salad, Filet of Beef, and Duo of Bananas.

I'd say our favorites were the Sweet Corn Soup Three Ways - corn-bacon succotash, corn custard, spiced corn froth and the dessert. Not only did the soup look stunning, it tasted incredible. And the dessert was innovative, beautiful, and delicious.

The Little Gem Salad, with anchovy-caper relish, black pepper tuile, parmesan, and garlic dressing tasted suspiciously like an ordinary caesar. And the filet, wrapped with house smoked bacon, escargot bourguignonne, and pommes maxim, was sadly just ok. I'm glad we tried it, but next time we'll go for the party and the beignets at the Palace.

Dinner ended pretty early so we were able to stroll down to the Arlington for the last showing of the "Bourne Ultimatum" which, to the surprise of our guys, we loved. And the Arlington is just gorgeous.
The weekend's last breakfast, much to my mother's dismay, was a breakfast burrito at the Cantina in Isla Vista. I know some of my college ladies think Cantina breakfast burritos are heaven on earth and, truth be told, back in the days of hungover mornings they were pretty wonderful.
But now that we have Villa Corona in our back yard, I have to say our Cantina burrito was just ok. It did bring back memories, especially when followed by a lovely walk around IV, to the Co-op, down DP, and through Anisq' Oyo park. We ended up at Sands beach relaxing under the sun and relishing our time together.


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