In Santa Barbara last week to check out some bass fishing possibilities and to review restaurants for my Foraging Angler column in California Fly Fisher. Best finds were Cielito, an upscale taqueria in downtown SB in the Arcada and East Beach Tacos on Anacapa St. Cielito had a great setting around a fountain with resident guitarist. House margaritas quenched thirst after hot day in Santa Ynez Valley chasing the wine trail and they worked with the food. Favorites were Duck Carnitas Tacos that had shaved Manchego cheese, Al Pastor Taco with marinated, charred pork and an grilled octopus and potato tapas dish. Expensive meal in a special place.
Each Beach Taco was in the SB “Funk Zone” next to a batting practice operation. Its open air under an awning and features their “triple play” offering of three tacos for $9.00. We shared bites from six. Top of the list was Batter Up, The Banh MI, Ahi Poke and Spicy Crispy Shrimp. Their Al Pastor, a classic, was the best of this type that we found in a week. Top quality ingredients and well prepared. A plastic cup full of wine was $6. Not bad, but bringing your own bottle of Santa Ynez Valley Zin or Syrah would have knocked the socks off those world class tacos. We wished that a place such as this was in our area. The Asia-fusion accents blended with subtle Mexican flavors raised this simple meal to another level.
A third find came from family friends Steve and John Dragonette of Dragonette Cellars. They steered us to Eat in West Buellton, near the Dragonette winery. This fabulous funky eatery was in an industrial area and packed with locals on a weekday. A simple thin crust pizza done in one of two wood burning ovens used fresh tomatoes, basil, and buffalo mozzarella to produce the best that we have ever had, including Europe! Part of the reason was the crust. I paired my share with a local dry Grenache rose. Their sandwiches and salads tempted also. Worth a visit every time.
After lunch we drove out to Alisal Guest Ranch to check on a BBQ Boot Camp and their private fishing lake. Next down rural Santa Rosa Rd towards Lompoc to see the famous Radian Vineyard that produces some of the best Pinots in California, including the outstanding Dragonette products that are making waves. The reason…those chalk cliffs that gave the soil that grows the fabulous grapes. Great photo op, but I hadn’t mastered new camera….worse than a smart phone.