Santa Barbara is a slice of paradise along the Southern California coast – maybe that’s why Oprah and Michael Jackson and tons of other well-known personalities built homes there. You can enjoy the sun where the mountains meet the sea, then head inland a few miles to a more rugged terrain where wineries dot the countryside. Following my time in San Francisco with high school pals, I headed to Santa Barbara to catch up on old times with Jeannette, a good friend and neighbor during our years of mothering young children in Princeton.
On the night of my arrival we dove right into a gourmet dinner at a lovely restaurant called “Stella Mare’s,” courtesy of Jeannette’s mother and stepfather, who couldn’t have been more gracious.
We started with drinks. Mine was something called a “blueberry lemonito.” It was made with blueberry vodka, lemon and lime juice, simple sugar, mint and lots of crushed ice. Wish I had one right now. I couldn’t resist the appetizer of ripe figs stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled till crispy. Sorry my photo was not so great. Visualize instead. But you can get a gander at my main course, a dish that pleased the eye before it reached my palate. You’re looking at sea scallops in lobster cognac sauce next to a tomato, poached lobster and butternut squash flan. Perched above that are spears of roasted asparagus and crispy carrot shavings. It tasted every bit as scrumptious as it looks and sounds.
The next day we were off to wine country with a couple of Jeannette’s friends. For you movie buffs, this is the region where “Sideways” was filmed. One of our stops was Sunstone Winery, where these shots were taken:
Then it was off to a lavender farm. It looked like Provence and smelled divine.
But back to the wine-tasting – here are some of the scenes along the way:
We arrived at Rusack Winery, where wine-tasting was accompanied by a perfect picnic lunch assembled by Jeannette (far left):
On the way back to town, we stopped off at Los Olivos for a tasting of olive oils and vinegars:
Jeannette and I headed off the next day to a place I’ve long wanted to visit – the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The complex of buildings and gardens, designed by architect Richard Meier, is every bit as wondrous as the artwork within.
But the artwork within also was captivating, from illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance altarpieces, to Monet’s impressionistic bridge:
On my last day there we had breakfast at the beach and meandered along the sea:
And of course we had to give a nod to the city’s heritage, touring the courthouse and old mission with its Spanish-influenced architecture:
Thanks Jeannette for being the perfect hostess in your beautiful city: