Santa Barbara, CA
Sam and I spent a hot minute in this city when we lived in LA, but that was enough to make Santa Barbara our second port of call. From the wharf to the tasting rooms to the hikes to the small plates to the outstanding municipal airport, we were blown away with our experience in this town of a smooth 91+ thousand residents.
Contrary to our first go ‘round in Monterey, we were feeling a little cocky as we pulled into the Sunrise RV Park (just off of exit 95A, 101 north). So cocky in fact, we actually drove up to the check-in office this time, instead of parking around the block and walking in. Baby steps remain the theme of our journey. Backing in is still a work in progress, but we were fortunate to have the assistance of a retired air traffic controller this time and his help cannot be overstated.
Once we had Boat locked up and leak free, we set out for some well deserved sustenance. Cruising State Street on a Saturday afternoon lent to many a food option but we were feeling sandos so we found ourselves at “Pickles and Swiss.” A namesake for the wife, and a “Norm’s,” for yours truly. Per usual, Sam made the superior pick but was kind of enough to go halves-ies. We spent the rest of the afternoon recon’ing food/drink options for the next three weeks and getting ready for our first visitor.
Our Favorite Part of Oregon flew into SBA on a Tuesday morning. And with him, came three straight days of torrential rain. Thanks, buddy. The three of us made the most of it. During the days, I’d act as chauffeur/errand boy. By night, we took advantage of our advanced scouting and Sam and I were able to share a side of us seldom seen in the wild:
Marchand--If the duck liver mousse wasn’t complimented by a basket of the best toast I’ve ever had, we wouldn’t have gone four times. Seriously, the toast in this town is off the charts. There must be a special school, or something. Anyway, if duck liver mousse isn’t your thing, that’s fine. We might not be friends anymore, but Marchand still has plenty to offer. A wide selection of local wine, diverse charcuterie, little gems, and strawberry jam were also table staples.
Smithy--Sunday mornings start late in Santa Barbara. We found ourselves here by default as it was the only restaurant open at 10am. Even though we were the only patrons, the food was solid and turned us onto Kunin’s Phoebe 2.0 Rose. More importantly, we came back for dinner and the three of us shared about two small plates too many, but what are you going to leave out? The burrata, brussels, and radicchio? No. The pappardelle and chanterelles? Of course not. Grilled prawns with white beans and chimichurri? Pffft. The bavette steak with caramelized onions and worcestershire butter? No way. That’s dessert meat. We’d order everything all over again.
Outpost, Part of Kimpton’s Goodland Hotel--Technically in Goleta, but worth the 15 minute drive. Asian inspired steak tartare (I know...usually overdressed with sesame oil), was perfectly seasoned and served at the correct temperature. The pork belly bao buns arrived at our table fresh out of the steamer and the vinegar slaw provided just the right balance to the salty pig. Bonus points for the, “Some Like it Hot,” cocktail--combination of passion fruit and habanero infused tequila.
“Name Redacted”--This is clearly a young chef. The idea is there, but the overuse of compressed apple with both a crudo and pork belly sous vide screams, “Trying too hard.” Let the food speak for itself and we’ll come back. Until then though…
Once our over-indulgence was complete, we had to say goodbye to our friend but look forward to running it back sooner than later.
The next few days went as most go. A chilly Saturday spent ATV’ing at Pismo (technically Oceana) beach--really not that bad once you get the hang of the gear shift. A sunny Sunday spent shucking our own oysters, with an uni back, at Jolly Oyster in Ventura. A short hike to a vista over Santa Barbara proper. A longer hike in Gaviota to a vista over a fogged-in Pacific Ocean. The obligatory stop at an actual ostrich reserve on our way to Solvang. Wine tasting in Solvang (which is basically Leavenworth’s older, more established brother). Tasting room hopping in the Funk Zone. Discovering flap meat--had no idea how cheap and delicious it is (thanks, Ralph’s). Taking dog for early morning walks along the water, doing our best to avoid much calmer canines that had clearly learned to embrace the socal chill. Sam bought a sweatshirt. I bought two hats; one for form, one for function.
As we’re living that stream life full time, there were still grown up responsibilities to tend to. I started a new job, complete with flying in and out of SBA for training--my first municipal airport experience; which wasn’t half bad. While not work related, Sam had to do the same and we enjoyed comparing notes on just how tiny the planes were and complaining that pre-check only let us keep our shoes on--still had to remove liquids and laptops. The nerve...
With a full five weeks under our belts, we’re finally settling into our new lifestyle and feel more comfortable with the routine by the day. Gone are the fears of black tanks, coin-operated laundry, community toilets, and whether or not Boat and her cargo will be safe at RV parks. Obviously we still have a lot to learn and happily listen to any advice the more seasoned road warriors have to offer, but we’re on the right track and couldn’t be happier. Our time in Santa Barbara was over too soon and we’ll definitely be back. Malibu, here we come.