Sushi Bar, Montecito, 6/27/22

exterior – 1295 Coast Village Rd., Santa Barbara, CA., 93108

Sushi By Scratch is part of the historic Montecito Inn and the concept of Chef Phillip Frankland Lee.  It is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the area and serves an Omakase 17 courses to 10 diners three times in the evening.  It is part of the Scratch Restaurant group with different concepts in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Austin. This dining experience starts 15 minutes prior in the hotel’s lobby with a welcome cocktail. (Parking is via hotel valet or they will direct you to the self-park lot).  With the meal you can order your own beverage or buy one of their pairing packages – house, sake, or wine – all $110.  We took the House pairing which served a combination of sake, cocktails and beer.   In hindsight, even though the pairings were well matched,  I would recommend getting your own bottle of something as the pairings felt over-priced.  Seating was comfortable and the 3 chefs preparing your bites were conversational and friendly.  The 16 items featured are on the wall in front and #17 is dessert.  Numbers by each entry are the price of each if there is time and you want another piece at the end of the meal.  The sushi is all outstanding and it is a fun experience that I recommend. Continue reading

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior –728 State St., Santa Barbara, CA., 93101

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been in business for 70 years, founded in 1949 by a husband and wife couple after running a health food store.  They were put off by the artificial ingredients and filler in ice creams and wanted to use seasonal ingredients as well as local milk and cream, fruit, nuts and produce.  The couple opted to not use any fillers, stabilizers or preservatives and use the European French Pot process.  In December of 1950 they opened their first shop.  They sold the shop to another Santa Barbara native in 1962 who expanded the locations and then it sold again in 1975 and lastly in 2012 when it underwent a major renovation of the systems, freezers and equipment.   Now in addition to 2 locations in Santa Barbara, they are in 4 other California cities and offer to ship anywhere.   Their State St. location felt pretty sterile considering all the ‘love’ this place has.  They had cone bowls but they were stale and not sweet enough.  The scoops seemed small but it turned out the server thought we wanted two flavors in one scoop, so that made sense.  Nevertheless, the ice cream was uninspired with a less than satisfying texture.  I do not recommend it. Continue reading

Bettina, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior – 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA

Bettina is in a neighborhood shopping center which is too popular for the parking available.  It’s a good-sized place with a large outdoor patio for additional seating.  Windows inside look out onto it as well as the parking lot. They specialize in naturally leavened breads, fine dining and simple dishes based on the owner’s visits to Italy.  Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations are helpful if you want a table, but a bar is inside with first come-first served seating.  Inside the bare wood tables are small and nicely spaced and music is in the background.  The service was helpful and efficient and the pizza was good. Continue reading

Caruso’s, Montecito, CA, 6/26/22

hotel – 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Caruso’s is in the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel on the ocean front of Montecito serving Italian-inflected coastal cuisine.  It is the fine dining option at the hotel.  The facility was complete around 2019 and definitely delivers the pampered dining experience.  They offer a 4-course tasting menu with at least 4 choices in each category and also a 10-course Chef’s Tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Executive Chef Massimo Falsini was not there but the kitchen was in the most capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Shibani Mone.  We chose the 4-course menu and had our own wine after a well-made Negroni cocktail.  The large white cloth-covered tables are well spaced and are serenaded by the sound of the waves coming ashore.  There are lots of outdoor heaters for when the sun goes down.  When you pull up to the hotel the valet will park your car and then be prepared for a bit of walk down to the beach front.  You’ll have to cross an active railroad track and finally down a flight of stairs, but it’ll be worth the trek, I promise. Continue reading

Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, 6/26/22

entrance – 900 San Ysidro Lane, Santa Barbara, CA, 93108

The Stonehouse Restaurant is inside a 19th century citrus packing house on the grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch.   Dining is on a green walled patio, an upper story ocean-view terrace or indoors by the wood-burning fireplace.  The contemporary American cuisine stresses fresh, local ingredients of Central Coast California and Santa Barbara in particular.  The San Ysidro Ranch property covers 550 acres and has hosted many celebrities including John and Jackie Kennedy who honeymooned there.  We were seated on their upstairs patio with beautiful views on 3 sides, white cloth-covered tables, and live guitar music downstairs for their Sunday brunch.  They offer lunch and dinner every day except Sunday when lunch turns to brunch which is a 3-course meal of your choice accompanied by an endless glass of champagne. Continue reading

Bouchon, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

exterior –9 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, CA, 93101

Bouchon calls itself the ‘wine country cuisine.’  They specialize in local ingredients, “as-fresh-as-and-as-local-as-possible”  and local Santa Barbara wines.  It’s a medium-sized place with a patio out front.  Inside the white cloth-covered tables are on a wood floor, music is in the background, antiqued mirrors are on the walls and the end of the room opens into the kitchen.  Service was helpful, particularly the knowledgeable sommelier, and the staff all were friendly.  The food was very good and I’d go back again if in the area. Continue reading

Cold Spring Tavern, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

main building – 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105

Cold Spring Tavern offers lunch and dinner at a stagecoach stop that dates from 1868, on the San Marcos Pass near Santa Barbara.  The place is filled with history and an amazing amount of detail is on their webpage <coldspringtavern.com> about the various buildings on the property and the furnishings within.   You can’t miss it as the cars are parked on both sides of the winding road for some time before you hit the place.  On weekends they have live music, a stand where you can buy their barbecue Tri-tip sandwich as well as an outside bar.  If you prefer table service there are a number of outdoor and indoor tables.  Lunch has a smaller menu than dinner, so I’ve included photos of both lunch and dinner menus.  Service was enthusiastic and efficient which really enhanced the dining experience.  The A/C is ‘open windows’ so we left smelling of barbecue smoke, which was no problem.  The onion rings are worth a trip alone but I would love to be able to try some of their dinner options too. Continue reading