John’s Santa Barbara/Carmel Birthday Celebration
Back from lovely California – hey, where’d the sun go? John and I had a whirlwind birthday weekend, flying into L.A. and driving to Santa Barbara on Thursday. After stopping in Malibu for a quick road-side, fish-shack lunch (fish tacos!), we drove on to Bacara, a lovely resort just north of the city of Santa Barbara. Rushing to unpack and enjoy as much of the afternoon as possible, I realized that…I forgot my camera battery! Noooooo! I had taken it out to charge, didn’t put it back, uuuuuugh. I luckily had my point-n-shoot stashed in my purse, but it barely had any battery power. I was only able to snap a couple of hurried pics the whole trip (you’re looking at ’em). Disaster.
I shook it off and we set out for downtown Santa Barbara, hoping to stumble again upon this cool little place we stumbled upon two years ago on a previous day-trip from L.A.(couldn’t remember the name or exact location). We didn’t find it so stopped instead at a sweet little hotel, where we had…the worst meal I’ve had in a long time. Nice wine, but a very un-fresh shrimp cocktail, followed by a salad of lovely greens drenched in a weird, thick, flavorless dressing. And for a main course, a seriously smelly piece of salmon – with lovely sauteed baby artichokes alongside. The manager comped the whole thing (very, very nice guy, felt terrible) and we walked out giggling at how bad it was. To ward off a completely inauspicious start to our trip, we bopped over to the Four Seasons Biltmore, sat in the gorgeous bar, had a tasty snack and glass of wine, and called it a night.
Friday, much better food experiences! First of all, we found the little spot we’d been looking for! Turns out it’s called Elements, and is still every bit as charming as we’d remembered. It was a perfect sunny 75 degrees outside (love California!), so we sat on the patio and nibbled tasty salads and sipped a delicious, cool glass of local white wine. We spent the afternoon driving around (checking out the waterfront, gorgeous neighborhoods, and impossible views – with ocean on one side, mountains on the other, definitely does not suck), hiking through the Botanic Garden (at left), and strolling through the beautiful Santa Barbara County Courthouse (pictured above).
We zipped home to freshen up, then back to meet our friends David & Dana Cremin, who drove up from L.A. to have dinner with us. The four of us settled in on the patio at the magical Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, just in time for the sun to set in the mountains. Sigh. Lovely spot, thank you David & Dana for setting it up. We split glossy, salty, grilled artichokes to start, halved and pressed hard into the fire, crusty black at the edges and brushed with balsamic vinegar to finish. Rustic deliciousness, they stole the show. For my entree I had silky-crisp roasted halibut with baby vegetables. David & Dana brought fabulous wine, we all sampled John’s birthday dessert, and well after dark we went our separate ways, hoping to get together again at some point this summer.
Saturday morning we packed up and hit the road, north to Carmel, to visit my aunt Jean & uncle Del in their new home in the mountains just west of the village. It was way too quick of a visit, but totally worth it to celebrate John’s birthday dinner with them and spend even a brief time at their lovely hacienda/ranch. Jean made a beautiful breakfast yesterday morning, then we set out for the San Jose airport. Yes indeed, we packed a lot of California into four short days!
Happy Birthday John!!!