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Nov 15, 1999 10:28 PM

Los Olivos, Santa Ynez restaurants

  • b

Is anybody interested in an update of restaurants in this area? Things are changing rapidly for the better. I just returned from a week-end there and tried 3 new restaurants. All 3 were at least an 8 out of 10. There are also over 50 wineries currently in the area. I think it is going to be the next Napa. I tried 2 amazing Cabernet Franc's too. This area is on a tear.

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  1. Always interested. Please give us a full report!!

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    1. re: Barb. H.

      The restaurants that we tried this trip were:
      Grappolo in Santa Ynez- We had a smoked chicken salad with pine nuts, many types of field greens, sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. It was huge and very fresh. It had a mayonaise based dressing. The pizza was a Margarita, cooked in a wood fired oven with a cracker crust and a sauce made from fresh homegrown tomatoes and high quality mozzerella. It was light as a feather and delicious. The chef also brought out bruscetta to start with more of the homegrown tomatoes and fresh baked bread.
      Missimi in Los Olivos- We started with a salad of grilled veggies, nice grill marks but moist juicy flavorful veggies in a viniagrette. I tried the polenta with fava beans and sausage. Nice triangles of fresh polenta with good sausage and a compellingly good tomato based sauce. The bread they serve is sliced country ciabatta type bread.
      Cabernet Bistro in Solvang- When Le Prynees closed in Santa Monica years ago I was saddened because I loved the room as well as the duck (4 versions on the menu and many off the menu). We were strolling down the street in Solvang when we saw the the formerly boarded up pizza place is now an elegant bistro. The menu mentioned that the chef "Jacques" and his family owned Le Pyrynees. The menu is very similar but I think his cooking has even gotten better. I started with a simple mixed field green salad in an excellent viniagrette and then had the duck in a cassis sauce strewn with currants. It was not too sweet but a wonderful balance of sweet and savory and very little fat. His portion was half a duck and I finished every morsel. My wife had sliced lamb loin, done perfectly medium rare, tender and flavorful. On the plates were a puree of bananna squash, a fried piece of zuccinni in an egg batter and a potato puff. They were OK but no big deal. Dessert was a slice of Belgian chocolate mousse terrine with lady fingers. A very small but very intense jolt of chocolate. Excellent end to the meal.
      Brothers in the Storybook Inn Solvang- These 2 brothers cooked at many fine restaurants in Los Angeles including Spago. They use the breakfast room of the B&B to serve dinner. The menu is small but everything I have tasted there is perfect. The lamb chops and the fillet mignion were very high quality, flavorful meats and they were cooked perfectly medium rare to my specifications. We started with the potato-leek soup which was heavenly. Smooth and creamy with lots of vegetable flavor. Many people order the rissotto as my wife did. It is creamy and perfecty cooked. For dessert we had the warm chocolate souffle cake. It is not a souffle but one of those undercooked brownies with a molten center. It isn't hard to make but when it is warm from the oven it is quite enjoyable.

      On this trip every meal was perfect. There are a few more new (to us) places in the area that we will have to investigate but we were only there 2 days.
      The other places are Cafe Chardonnay in Ballard (inside the Ballard Inn) Vintage House in Santa Ynez, and the restaurant inside Fess Parker's Wine Country Hotel. He was the chef at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. I will need another trip to check these out. Which restaurants should I skip though? I really believe that these places are as good or better than their counterparts in L.A. They don't have Valentino or Le Orangerie but these are places where lunch is $20.00 for 2 or dinner is $60.00. For this quality it is a bargain and then some.