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Nov 5, 2010 01:45 PM

Typical food and/or appetizers of Santa Barbara well Cali generally I suppose!

Foodies please HELP. My friend is moving to Santa Barbara on November 9th-suddenly and unexpectedly. We live in Toronto Canada and thought it might be fun to try to make at least 2 savoury and 1 sweet item that might be typical "party fare" of California.
Here as the weather changes (colder) we are big on chacuterie platters, big cheeses, chocolate and pastry based sweets.
I was thinking of making tuna or salmon tartar but that feels kind of pedestrian to me. I was toying with fish tacos but- YIKES for 30 people as an appetizer??? I am overwhelmed.
Suggestions and ideas gratefully accepted.

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  1. California is extremely diverse, so there is little "typical" food here. That said, Santa Barbara has a strong tradition with Mexican (well, Cali-Mex) food, so tacos would be good. You do not need to make a big production out of it, make-your-own taco bars are pretty easy. You can grill and cube some steak and some tuna (better than salmon, which is from up by you anyway), dice some onions and mix it with cilantro, and provide 6" corn tortillas (2 per taco is traditional). You can add cheese, sour cream and guacamole if you like, but the meat, onions, cilantro and lime is all you need). Provide some good red and green salsa and you have all the fixings.

    If you want to go a little bigger, tri-tip is a cut of beef that really took off from the Santa Barbara area, so if you can get a cut, they are 1 1/2 lbs or more, bbq it up, slice it, and serve it on soft rolls with some bbq sauce. For drinks, Santa Barbara has a very good wine region just north, so there are lots of excellent "Central Coast" wines you can buy of the red and white variety. You can be more specific looking for wines immediately in the region, but any Central Coast should be OK.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ocshooter

      Just thought of something I wanted to add to my post above... I've had tuna tartare served on light, thin, not-too-heavily spiced tortilla chips. Delicious!

    2. First of all, what a kind and thoughtful friend you are for putting something like this together. You're a good friend. I know you'll miss your him/her but think how fun it will be to visit him/her in Santa Barbara! That being said, I'm from Southern California and even went to college in Santa Barbara so I have a particular affection for the area. I think your idea of a delicious tuna tartare that can be served on little crostini or some other type of light yet savory underpinning is a good one.
      My second thought is to google a recipe for a "Mexican-style" shrimp cocktail. I love a well prepared shrimp cocktail like the ones you find in good Mexican restaurants (by good I mean the more authentic hole-in-the-wall places, not necessarily the Mexican chain restaurants). They usually come served in a tall "sundae" type of glass and include cooked shrimp, chopped red onion, diced cucumbers, cilantro, avocado, lime juice, ketchup, and horseradish. Those are the basic ingredients and I'm sure you can find a recipe online. I've made this a number of times and it always gets rave reviews. You can make a huge batch and people can serve themselves into those smallish, squatty, clear plastic cups. Good luck and have fun with your party!

      1 Reply
      1. re: schmoopy

        Just thought of something I wanted to add to my post above... I've had tuna tartare served on light, thin, not-too-heavily spiced tortilla chips - delicious and just a little different.

      2. You could do a modification of fish tacos. Chunks of halibut sauteed in a bit of oil with a mild salsa, served on a chip, perhaps. A very Santa Barbara touch would be shredded cabbage (red or green) and shredded carrot on top. Most restaurants here don't serve tacos with a ton of stuff on top. Onions and cilantro and lime are common for chicken, beef, or pork tacos.

        Wine country cuisine is another way to go. You could do some wine pairings with your cheeses!

        If you want seafood you could do rock shrimp or spot prawns. They are caught locally and served in many of the better establishments.

        What a nice idea for a send-off!

        4 Replies
        1. re: iamgirlfriday

          Thanks to everyone! I knew you would help to make things clearer! I am going to make an improviso taco bar with the tartar and corn chips and cabbage etc toppings. What do Californians like for desert?

          1. re: Donna Nutella

            As someone who grew up in the area my favorite dessert is more tacos. Flan would go with your Mexican theme but I personally don't care for the stuff after suffering through it as the only dessert at local Mexican restaurants growing up.

            Maybe you could work some CA wine into a dessert? Otherwise, some selection of fruit could be nice. The area has soem of the best in the world.

            BTW, it'd be hard for you to do, and it looks like you've settled on something else, but Santa Maria BBQ (aka tri-tip) is the most distinctly Santa Barabran food you can find. You should make a point to try it out on a visit, served with pico de gallo, beans, and crusty garlic bread.

            1. re: Donna Nutella

              Anything with fresh berries or seasonal fruit would work.

              1. re: Donna Nutella

                I'd be hard pressed to pick a dessert that's distinctly Californian. I think you can pretty much serve whatever you think is yummy and that you think your friends will like. That being said, creme brulee is always nice, as is a fruit tart of some kind. I recently had some amazing chocolate raspberry brownies. They were drizzled with white chocolate and topped with chopped, salted almonds. It had that salty/sweet thing going on and they were delicious. Best of all, it was a Giada de Laurentiis recipe that you can find online and it used a boxed brownie mix and raspberry jam. They're called "Chocolate Raspberry Bars with White Chocolate and Almonds." It looked super easy and they were delicious and a little different.

            2. California style pizza a la Wolfgang Puck can be sliced as an appetizer. As far as desserts go, I always see a trio of sorbet on menus, but that might be a little hard to serve at a party. Whatever you decide, have fun.

              1. ok so- for desert I have decided on white chocolate cups filled with a small bit of lemon curd, whipped cream and raspberries.
                Also the honoree loves fruit crisp so I will make individual apple crisps. I don't feel confident about the tri-tip so instead I found a recipe for a "cobb salad dip" - with toasts. should be good no?
                you people are amazing.
                I can hardly wait now to visit SB and try the tri-tip for myself!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Donna Nutella

                  The white chocolate cups and lemon curd sound really good. And they'll look so pretty too! The Cobb Salad Dip sounds good too. Let us know how it all turns out. Have fun!