The sprinkles of salt to the breezes of Santa Barbara seem to be just the right amount. Beyond the sultry sands and the palm-fringed promenade, gourmet goodness is poured and plated in abundance, seasoned to perfection.
Fare fit for a queen, palate-pleasing wines and real, local food experiences make this pin on the map more than just sun, sand and sea. Better yet, all these foodie flavours await just a short 90-minute drive from star-studded Los Angeles.
Don’t just expect to eat well in Santa Barbara - be prepared to encounter a passionate foodie culture. A hot new food corridor, the menu lists are boundless and the restaurants rising into the hundreds.
Curious palates will relish regional specialties like California-Mexican cuisine and traditional Santa Maria-style barbeque. But the flavours span a broad range of influences, including Pacific fusion, zesty Asian and rich and tasty Spanish food.
To tick off a local icon, wander down to the Santa Barbara Harbour to see the fresh hauls coming in and on Saturday’s take in the action of the Santa Barbara Fish Market.
Away from the formality of Santa Barbara’s restaurant scene, agriculture flourishes in the fringing hills and paddocks. This means the chefs source their food locally – so you can bet it’s fresh – but you can too. Prefer to go organic? There’s plenty of that too.
Duck into the local farmers’ markets to stock up on fresh bites and soak up the atmosphere, or take to the winding roads and stop to rummage through bins overflowing with nature’s goodness at the farm gate. Fruits and vegetables, nuts, honey and colourful flowers – you never know what you’ll find.
In town, gourmet shops make the perfect stop to stock up on local olives, olive oils, deli meats, cheeses. Picnic, anyone?
When it comes to dabbling in drops of grapey goodness, Santa Barbara knows best. It is one of the United States’ top wine regions, adorned in winding vineyards and dotted with cellar doors and tasting rooms.
It’s the unique landscapes that does it; sage-green mountains enveloped in oak sweep down to the shoreline via ocean-cooled valleys, creating a multitude of microclimates.
Swirl and sip the wines you’ve come to know and love: great cabernet, chardonnay, velvety merlot and pinot noir. Then venture into mouthfuls of Chianti, racy syrah and perhaps even some biodynamic tipples. Local wine routes make it easy to get around, and for the beer-lover, a few key emerging breweries make for worthy extra stops.
The foodie fun doesn’t start and end with eating and drinking. More than just tasting the flavours, put those hands at work and see what it’s like to create them. Channel your inner Masterchef and pick up a few new skills to take home with you from a local cooking class.
Similarly, wine-appreciation nights offer a unique night out filled with learnings and samples to expand the realms of your palate. Culinary tours also offer a great way to get insight in to the foodie scene – especially if you make that your first port of call as a fabulous introduction to Santa Barbara.
Lastly, whatever time you year you visit, check the calendar – flavour-packed events are nothing new here!
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