Ojai Rotie – Lunch – February 21, 2021, Ojai, CA.

This is such a great way to have lunch or dinner. It is in a beautiful courtyard/patio nestled under a gorgeous tree. You order at their counter, they give you a number and you are served the most delicious picnic style food you will ever eat. Plus when I was there they were playing all Beatles music, which I just can’t get enough of.

Here’s What I tried:

Olive Pain Rustique – A 1.5-pound long-rise rustic sourdough loaf with oil-cured Moroccan olives. I was given this as a present in Togo. I toasted it with butter and was just astounded; it is an amazing loaf of bread.

Bread & Butter, their organic, slow rise Pain au Levain with a scoop of house made organic butter. Another fantastic bread, super crunchy crust, just loved it. If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing, it would be their glorious bread. They bake their bread fresh everyday, and it really is a modern miracle.

Rotie Chicken Meal, free-range, antibiotic and hormone-free rotisserie chicken meal includes 2 picnic sides, grilled Lebanese flatbread, pickled turnips and garlic sauce. The chicken has a very flavorful skin and the moist tender center; it is the best chicken you will ever taste.

Pommes Rotisserie (hot), Potatoes cooked in chicken drippings, lemon-pepper aioli. Nice cubed potatoes with the chicken drippings and aioli, it is out of this world.

Cardamom Carrot and red quinoa salad. With cardamom carrot, red quinoa, harissa, roasted chickpeas, sumac, and parsley. I have honestly never tasted this combination of flavors. It is healthy and just pops in your mouth, carrots never tasting this good.

Our Slaw, green cabbage, fennel, jalapeno, blistered peanuts, and cilantro-lime dressing. The cabbage is super crunchy and the peanuts add just the right amount of goodness, I had to keep coming back for more.

Caramelized Cauliflower, with turmeric, toasted pinenuts, golden raisins and baby kale. Oh my, another spectacular side dish, I would have to have this as a Togo item in my fridge at all times if I lived here.

Lamb “Kafta,” hand chopped on Skewer, with harissa & lebne
marcella white bean hummus. A super flavorful lamb dish that is an added protein must when you’re eating here.

Grilled Lebanese Flatbread, fire-grilled Lebanese flatbread, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with zahtar. I just can’t say enough about any of their freshly baked items, and the seasoning on this really sets this apart from any other type of flatbread you will ever eat.

Makela’s Fatouch, romaine, cucumber, radish, tomato, mint, parsley, green onion, flatbread, lemon, olive oil. A super fresh salad, and a great accompaniment with the chicken.

Owner Lorenzo is so charming and fun, he made my experience really great. He let me try whatever I wanted and filled me in with some of the facts about his 2-year-old restaurant, but the real star of the show is their food and amazing concept.

Ojai Rotie has created the perfect model for outdoor picnic dining. You’re under this gorgeous tree, in the beauty of this town and their stunning patio, what more could you want.

Ojai Rôtie

469 E Ojai Ave.

Ojai, California 93023

https://www.ojairotie.com/

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Stay at The Chantico Inn – February 21 & February 22, 2021 – Ojai CA.

Right on the path into downtown, this Inn is convenient and has everything you would need from a nice hotel without all the fluff and hype. You can walk just about anywhere and or take the trolley or bus. I took the train into Ventura and a friend picked me up, so I was without a car during my stay. But honestly it didn’t matter, I could get around just fine.

During usual times they would have a breakfast and a happy hour but due to Covid they have coffee and breakfast bars and juice in a cooler always there for you to drink. Chantico Inn happily makes you feel like home, their staff is very inviting and will take care of whatever you need. Not to mention their nicely heated pool and Jacuzzi which is just a lovely extra touch, the days I was there it was in the 80’s so taking a swim was so fantastic, I just loved it. I can only imagine how cooling it would be in the hot summer months, Ojai does get pretty steamy.

They gave me a wonderful room; it’s a King/Queen suite. It is a 4-poster bed, very large, with ceiling mirrors, and a queen bed in a separate room with an archway as a divider. There is also a Jacuzzi in the main room, so if you’re wanting a special romantic weekend this is the room for you.

The Chantico Inn has a bunch of great Amenities, pool, spa, fireplaces, private outdoor patios, WiFi – internet access, cable TV with premium channels, refrigerator/microwave/coffee maker, parking, pet friendly, mountain views, antique bed frames, marble countertops and stone basin sinks, antique oak wet bar, beautiful stained glass windows, jacuzzi tub.

Ojai is a lovely land of coastal oaks and lush groves of citrus, olive and avocados. The views are legendary, centrally located, close to first class restaurants and art galleries and within steps of the exclusive Ojai shopping arcade, The Chantico Inn has everything to make your stay a time to relax and enjoy this enchanting valley.

The city is nestled within the Ojai Valley, a tiny sun-drenched, east-to-west laying valley – 10 miles long and three miles wide that closely resembles the look and climate of either Tuscany or the south of France. Topa Topa mountain range is right there in full view from the hotel and just about anywhere in Ojai.

A place to unwind, Ojai, which takes its name from the Chumash Indian word A’hwai, meaning “nest” or “moon” is a special place with a long history of reverence and appreciation for agriculture, the arts, education and the human spirit. With its richness in physical beauty and cultural history, the valley attracts artists, entrepreneurs, activists and actors. The views are legendary. The sight from the top of Dennison Grade is so extraordinary that it was portrayed as Shangri-La in the legendary movie “Lost Horizon”. At the end of the day you are privileged to witness Ojai’s “pink moment”, when the Topa Topa Mountains display an otherworldly pink hue.

The Ojai Valley offers horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, rock climbing, shopping in historic downtown Ojai, theater, many art galleries, a skate park, yoga retreats, world-renowned spas, musicians, a whole calendar full of festival events you won’t want to miss, our natural hot springs, wineries and the Ventura County Wine Trail. You can also enjoy fishing for trophy largemouth bass and a waterpark with a lazy river at Lake Casitas and on Sunday you can enjoy our wonderful Certified Farmers’ Market.

There are so many amazing restaurants and family owned shops; you will need to come back again and again to experience them all.

My stay was relaxing; with their great beds you too will sleep like a baby. It’s the perfect getaway, close to Los Angeles, you can be there in less than 2 hours and step into an environment that will make you fall in love with Ojai’s subtle beauty. Whatever the occasion, think of Ojai as your quick relaxing getaway, you will be forever hooked.

Chantico Inn

406 West Ojai Avenue

Ojai, CA. 93023

https://www.chanticoinn.com/

* Note – Some content was taken off of their website.

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Dinner – Izakaya Tora – February 11, 2021 – West Hollywood, CA.

When owners Francis and Ben suggested I come in to do a tasting I was very happy. This is just the best-undiscovered specialized sushi and maki restaurant in West Hollywood, and Los Angeles. What a pleasure to try truly unique and delicious Japanese food at it’s finest, and right in the heart of one of the most fun neighborhoods in West Hollywood.

Here’s what I tried:

Miso Soup, a nice fragrant soup, made with fish stock, with tofu and seaweed, takes the chill off of the evening air.

The chefs did this special sushi mini combo for me:
Blue Fin Tuna Toro, Salmon Belly, Mackerel, and Tamago.
Each piece was surprising, using only the finest fish from many regions, each with unique sauces and toppings. They make their tamago fresh everyday and you can totally taste the difference, what a treat.

Tonight’s Special – Pork Gyoza, pot stickers with truffle oil sauce. These are fried to perfection, with the delicate truffle oil sauce – this is a must have appetizer item. It’s just that good.

Special Maki – Rock Shrimp and Spicy Tuna Roll. The tuna is fresh and a bit spicy, but the star of this show is the tempura fried rock shrimp on top, with a subtle mayonnaise sauce, it just is the best. They have a few wonderful mayonnaise sauces that you can ask for that go great with this dish.

Salmon Danabe, with rice, furikake, kizami nori, sesame oil, shiso, green onions, benishoga, masago, micro greens and ikura. This dish comes in a sizzling hot pot, so the rice is crispy on the bottom. Fresh Salmon with many Japanese fixings make for one elegant dish. It is full of flavor, with each bite my taste buds just exploded with happiness, wow.

Kushiyaki – Skewers – Scallop and Miso Chilean Sea Bass. Both of these were super tender and delightful, nicely cooked, and very light. A great menu item for Keto or protein dieters.

House Sake – served in a large vessel, delicious and warm, a nice accompaniment.

Ben and Francis were co-workers previously at a Silver Lake eatery Osen Izakaye, very popular amongst the hipster Silver Lake crowd. They decided to open their own place in July of 2019, customers simply loved their cuisine, but with Covid closing many Los Angeles restaurants down for a period of last year and this year, they have had their hardships. Their model is fresh fish, which has to be served at their restaurant; it does not translate to Togo or delivery. So for every stay at home order they had to completely shut down. Now newly opened again for 2 weeks, they are slowly getting their return business. Ben’s adorable wife Kate was working hard the night I was there, they are short on staff now since they reopened, but it seemed to me that all the customers were well taken care of. By the time I left they were fully packed.

With food this good you know it’s only a matter of time before there will be lines down the block to get in. For the sushi lover you need to get over there now, and try perhaps the best sushi you have ever had in Los Angeles, and beyond, I am a true believer.

(Real Meaning of Izakaya: An izakaya is a place to go after work is finished to drink and share light snacks between friends or colleagues, similar to a British Pub or Irish pub, Spanish tapas bars, and American saloons and taverns. If we want to look into the origins of this type of establishment, one must look back to the Edo period (1603 C.E. – 1868 C.E.), in which a sake merchant who was serving a tasting of several of his beverages in the corner of his shop decided it would be a nice touch to also serve food. The Japanese word “izakaya”, is actually a combination of “i” (meaning to stay), and “sakaya” (meaning sake shop) – indicating that izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit in the premises to drink!)

Izakaya Tora
8908 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
818-288-5989
www.izakayatora.com

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Casa of Los Angeles Wine + Art 2021 – Saturday Feb. 6th – 7pm – Virtual Event

Casa of Los Angeles Wine + Art 2021, it is another year of this great event, this year virtual. The place to pick up the food and wine was at the Center for Early Education School in West Hollywood, which is literally around the corner from me, so that was a huge plus. They were so cheerful and organized and made my picking up all my goodies so fun and easy.

Now I am online watching live the show and art auction. Hosted by Ser’ Darius Blain, I plan on bidding on a few things. I just love that I can help a great cause and have something to show for its gorgeous piece of art, so exciting. I did this event live last year, which was at The Beverly Hilton and did my quota for the year as far as donations and silent auction, which were a pleasure and an honor. So, I am all in this year, past years and future years.

You are able to bid on over 170 pieces of artwork from prolific and emerging artists including Ed Ruscha, Shepard Fairey. Robert Kuo, Wrdsmth and many more, the live auction was very entertaining, and some great bargains happened with truly renowned artists.

Here’s what came in my Wine & Food Package:

Wine:

Jed Malbec 2021 Argentina, rich smooth, went so well with the Meatballs.

Pure Paso J. Lohr 2018 Proprietary Red Wine, going to try this one at later, with a nice steak.

Jed 2013 Torrente’s Argentina, this was an added bonus and will try this with a fish dinner.

Food:

I got the Standard Box:

Joy – Seasonal Asian salads, Seaweed salad and Soybeans, both were absolutely delicious, flavorful and healthy, just loved it.

Chef Carmen’s 3C’s – 3 Star 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese, this is by far the best Mac N Cheese ever, just over the top. I was trying to figure out what was added to this rich buttery flavor, just so amazing.
Rice & Beans, this was not listed on the menu, so I am not sure what to call it, but what ever it was delightful
Glaze and Pan Fried Cabbage N Onions, a very nice light vegetable dish, perfect with all of the other menu items.
Honey Cornbread, so good, just the perfect marriage of flavors and went so well with all the other delicacies.
Southern banana Pudding, another off the hook in my book, ate it all, no stopping.

Rao’s – Lovely Penne and Meatball, in their legendary meat sauce. The sauce is truly decadent, and the meatballs just melt in your mouth.

Café 86 – www.cafe.86.com- Ube Monster Truffles Fudgy Ube balls made with coconut cream cheese frosting, dipped in white chocolate and Oreos. Tis desert is just off the charts, what a treat, and yum! Ube Crinkles Soft and chewy ube cookies with crackled powdered sugar on top. Delicious light and fluffy, the flavor is like a sugar a cookie but soft and chewy.

Olipop Prebiotic Soda – looks very inviting will drink another time.

All proceeds benefit CASA of Los Angeles and their advocacy programs for children and youth in LA County’s child welfare system.

I am so blessed, to be able to be part of this event, helping all these kids and be able to write about it. Thank everyone who let me partake and I am just so happy I was able to taste, drink, view and bid, loved all of it. It really did not matter that it was virtual, I have been to their live events every year, but we have all had to pivot, and this event was just wonderful, they did a great job.

www.casala.org
www.casala.org/wineart
#wineand artla
#casaofla

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Stay at Villa Rosa Inn – January 12, 2021 – Santa Barbara, CA.

I had stayed here back in October and manager Tia gave me the same room. The room has a patio that sits close to the pool and is just the best location for me in the hotel. There is a big bathtub that has a nice large outside view, but it is still private. The décor is very beachy, and you are down the street from the beach. This hotel is just a home away from home.

They still have a paired down version of their daily complimentary breakfast, as well as the use of their common area, which has a lit fireplace, and a dining area with a microwave. It has many amazing features, and some super cool interiors, mostly antique fill the common areas. Lots to look at. There are only 18 unique rooms, done in Spanish Colonial style. The amenities include a spa and a swimming pool in their very cozy courtyard.

There were not many people in the hotel, but when you meet someone in their common area their story was always interesting. Many people use this hotel as a transitional stay to move into the area. I have met 2 different customers that were waiting for their permanent residence in Santa Barbara while staying at Villa Rosa Inn.

Villa Rosa Inn
15 Chapala St.
Santa Barbara, CA. 93101
805-966-0851

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January 13, 2021 – Breakfast and Lunch – Chad’s, On The Beach – Santa Barbara, CA.

Debbie Neer from The Franciscan Inn & Suites suggested I try Chad’s because owner Chad Stevens has a great back-story about this legacy known as Chad’s, On The Beach.

I told my counter server Wyatt Newman that you could not have a better job. He gets to look at the beach while taking and delivering orders at their outside cashier area. The beach is right there, across the street but still right there in plain view. What could be better, their food!! Grub that is straightforward, it’s great American Coffee shop type food that takes me right back to my Childhood. I remember coming here and to a few other locations as a child and always enjoying this hearty food.

Here’s what I tried:

Special Breakfast Sandwich, The dancing chicken sausage. A two chicken sausage that is topped with caramelized onions, eggs, and a creamy mustard sauce. This is a very hearty sandwich, with great flavor. It is jammed packed with lots of eggs and 2 chicken sausage patties. It’s a big sandwich; I would split it with a friend, just because it’s way too much of a sandwich for me for breakfast. Or cut it in half and eat it the next day for breakfast. However you eat it you will be very impressed with its size and yumminess.

Entrees:

Eggs Benedict. Poached Eggs, Canadian Bacon, English Muffin, and Hollandaise sauce. Their Hollandaise is just off the charts, smooth creamy, rich, and just delicious. They cook their eggs soft, with the yokes spurting out and the bacon is just perfect.

Breakfast Classics:

Two Eggs, with Bacon, pancakes, home potatoes. I love a classic breakfast and this one did not disappoint, a great way to start the day.

Lunch:

Santa Barbara Burger, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, bacon, avocado, and jack cheese, with fries. A huge juicy patty with all the fixings, if you’re craving an amazing burger then this is for you.

Chicken tenders with onion rings. I am an onion rings fanatic, Chad’s does them old school. Big rings chalk full of nice breading, it for sure fills the void. The tenders are equally as good, big large pieces for big appetites.

From Owner Chad Stevens: Chad’s, on the beach, is a Santa Barbara landmark. It is more than just a famous restaurant. Sambo’s is a real piece of Santa Barbara history. Sambo’s, on the beach, is the original and only remaining location of the once great national chain of 1100 restaurants, founded in 1957 by Sam Battistone 
Sr. and F. Newell Bohnett. From its opening day over fifty years ago, locals and tourists from all over the world have enjoyed the experience of quality food, at reasonable prices, in a family friendly atmosphere, with a picturesque view of the Santa Barbara harbor. Sambo’s, on the beach, is the same today, as it was when it opened, thanks to Chad Stevens, the grandson of Sam Sr. who has assumed the responsibility of owning and operating the business as a tribute to the founders. To him, his grandfather was not only an inspiration, but a great entrepreneur with a Horatio Alger success story. Sam Sr. was born in Santo Stefano di Sesano, Italy, a village so small, it is not even listed on most maps. He and his mother were brought to America when he was six years old, after his father had come ahead to find work and opportunities for his family. He found a job in the coal mines of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania, where the family settled into their new life. Sam Sr. tried working in the mines as he grew up. As he watched his father toil in these difficult conditions, he decided there may be a better life in some other occupation. After high school, he and two friends hopped a freight train for California, where they heard there was work available after an earthquake. One friend changed his mind during the trip and headed home. The two remaining, with little money and clothes, kept going. Arriving on the West Coast stone broke. Finding out that the damage they were told about did not exist, Sam Sr. trudged the streets until he found a job as a dishwasher in a Glendale restaurant. The owners offered him a place to stay in their home. It was at this restaurant that he met his future wife, Ione, who had come to Los Angeles with her brother from Irene, South Dakota, and was working as a waitress. They married and had three children, Sam D., Dona and Roger. During WWII, Sam Sr. moved his family to Ventura, where he worked on the base loading ships. After the war, he went back to work in the restaurant business, first in Ventura, and then buying his own place in Santa Barbara. For many years Sam owned and operated a small cafe called Sammy’s Grill in downtown Santa Barbara that was open 24 hours a day. Sam Sr. cooked from 6 am to 6 pm and Ione worked the graveyard shift, coming home to get the children off to school each morning. In the mid fifties, a pancake house opened in Santa Barbara that was very successful. This idea intrigued Sam.The idea of selling breakfast meals all day was exciting. A plan was put in motion to find a location to try this new concept. Using the knowledge he had acquired by working in several different restaurants, and his understanding of what the customers liked, he began to look for a location and develop a menu. He was friends with a talented and innovative restaurant designer and equipment salesman. They began working together on their ideas and developing plans. They found a place that was available on the beach. The location seemed perfect, even though two other food operations had not been successful in the same site. Everything started to come together. They decided that they would combine their names, Sam and Bo, from Bohnett, and name the new restaurant Sambo’s. Since the theme was going to be a pancake house, they built the concept around the famous Helen Bannerman book, Little Black Sambo. The story fit perfectly, with Sambo’s, on the beach, opened on June 17, 1957. The cooks were Sam Sr. and his son Sam D. The main waitress was Ione. The other employees came from Sammy’s Grill. The menu offered six pancakes for 40 cents, served with tiger butter and maple or boysenberry syrup. They introduced the soon to become famous, 10 cent cup of coffee, with unlimited refills. Many other items on the menu helped make Sambo’s the place to go for both locals and tourists. The theme was emphasized. With paintings by artists, depicting the story and adventures of Sambo and his tigers. Beautiful fixtures and an open cooking station provided customers the opportunity to watch the cooks prepare the food, and enjoy the fun atmosphere, that was part of this new concept. Marketing ideas, such as wooden nickels, good for a free cup of coffee, were passed out to bring in new customers. Sambo’s became known as a place that cared about their customers, with quality food at great prices, and excellent service. This theme was to become the format for the chain as it grew across the country. Because of the immediate success, it became evident that another location should be found. In order to build a strong management team, an innovative concept was introduced, which was called “Fraction of the Action”. Within a few months, a manager was brought in to operate the first restaurant. He was offered an opportunity to invest $20,000. and become a 20% partner. A local restaurant owner, who had just sold his business, jumped at the chance to become involved.“Fraction of the Action” became the format that developed a strong management concept for the growth, and has been copied by many others over the years. When the second Sambo’s opened, exactly one year later in West Sacramento, a manager partner was found for that operation. The “Fraction of the Action” concept expanded, by allowing the first manager partner in Santa Barbara, to invest in the second Sambo’s as well. This was the beginning of an important and unique element that was followed with the opening of each new restaurant. Over the next ten years, new units were added. By 1967, there were 59 Sambo’s in six states. At that time, Sam Sr. and Bohnett decided to retire from active management. It seemed only natural that Sam D. take over as president. Even though he was only 27 years old, he had been active in developing the chain by moving to Oregon to open the first Sambo’s out of California, expanding the Northwest, and then moving to Miami, to start the expansion of Florida and the Eastern part of the country. He put together a management team with a more aggressive approach to expansion. In May of 1969, Sambo’s shares were offered to the public. This move encouraged an even more accelerated growth. During the next ten years, over 1000 new Sambo’s were opened, with over 55,000 employees nationwide. In addition, Sambo’s developed a major distribution facility, the most extensive in-house operation in the industry. This division had over 100 large trucks delivering food and paper products to each restaurant across the country every week. This complex, just outside of Santa Barbara, also housed the accounting operations for the chain, and a training center for new managers. Bohnett designed beautiful corporate offices that were located with the flagship restaurant on State Street. In 1979, a major New York hospitality company purchased the Sambo’s chain to combine with other companies they were buying, including Motel 6, which was also founded in Santa Barbara. Over the next several years, they became concerned with Sambo’s name, and started changing all of the restaurants to Seasons. They also placed management in control that was not familiar with the needs for an extensive middle supervision program, used by most major chains. Instead of having district and regional managers over a limited amount of units, they decided to place the responsibility of each 100 restaurants under only one individual. This had a major effect on operations, and within four years, they took the company into bankruptcy. By that time, there was only one Sambo’s left. The original one, on the beach, in Santa Barbara. Since the initial sale, Sam D. had tried to buy this Sambo’s back, to keep it in the family, and operating just like when it had opened in 1957. He had been rejected several times, but continued to pursue the purchase, until they agreed. Today, Sambo’s, on the beach, is operated by Chad and his wife Michelle. Like his grandfather, Chad applies his flare for personal attention and his commitment to quality products and exceptional service to every aspect of Sambo’s and Chad’s experience. Chad and Michelle are proud of this heritage and pleased that Sambo’s has remained a family owned and operated business for over fifty years.

The photos on the wall really tell the full story, from Chad’s grandparents serving behind the same counter that is there today, to all of the remarkable maps and photos of the Santa Barbara waterfront, from many years ago until now.

This is coffee shop royalty and I am so happy that Chad has continued on with his great legacy, for his family, for the locals, friends, and tourists, I am hooked!

Chad’s, On The Beach
216 W. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara, CA. 93101
(805) 965-3269
chadscafe.com

* Note – Some content was taken off of their website.

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Dinner Opal Restaurant and Bar – January 11, 2021 – Santa Barbara, CA.

My friend Julie Star suggested this restaurant, she told me it was one of her favorites and that the Phyllo Wrapped Tiger Prawns are something otherworldly, she was right. I just loved their divine food, owner Richard treated me so good, I have to go back when dine-in continues, to try their food alongside their stunning atmosphere. For now Togo was good enough for me. I am pleased to say that all of my fingers and toes are up, meaning all digits give Opal my approval.

Here’s What I tried:

Salads:

Pesto Sautéed Bay Scallop Salad, with toasted pine nuts and fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano on baby spinach with roasted garlic dressing. This salad is so unique, you would not think to put cheese on seafood, normally it is a big no no, but on this wonderful menu item it works. The freshness of the spinach and the flavorful scallops are a must have.

Appetizers:

Shredded phyllo wrapped tiger prawns, with a coconut curry dipping sauce, Napa cabbage, mandarins, toasted almonds, julienne vegetables, mango, sesame vinaigrette. This is their signature dish; you will see in their own words the history of this glorious appetizer. From Opal Restaurant: Opal restaurant and bar created its now-signature appetizer for the occasion of Julia Child’s 90th birthday. This event was held on the grounds of the world-renowned Music Academy of the West, in Montecito, California, and was set up festivals-style, with 20 or more of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants in attendance, each with its own booth and special dish created for the occasion.

Our Chef, Felipe Barajas and co-owner Tina Takaya came up with a marvelous dish, our Shredded Phyllo Wrapped Tiger Prawns, Flash-Fried with a Coconut Curry Dipping Sauce. Very well received on the day, in the days following we found ourselves suddenly besieged with requests from our guests who had attended: “Where is that great appetizer you served at the Julia Child’s event?”

We knew we had created a great dish but we didn’t realize how popular it was going to be until we started getting so many requests to have it at the restaurant. . We looked at each other and said; “I guess that dish is going on the menu tomorrow.” Our chef created a wonderful Asian salad to accompany it and voila, we had a new signature appetizer, which, to this day is the most popular appetizer on our menu, and a favorite on all our caterings and banquets.

Pan Seared Fresh Crab Cake on a sesame Beurre Blanc, with tender wild red deep-sea crabmeat cake, a drizzle of Wasabi cream, fresh mango salsa and crispy potato strings. This is a fresh take on this restaurant staple, its small but mighty, a great appetizer.

Pasta:

Seafood Pasta with homemade basil fettuccine with homemade pesto, tomatoes, and fire roasted red pepper and smoked mozzarella cream sauce. Their homemade basil fettuccine was my favorite part of this dish, is just out of this world

Pizzas:

Wild Mushroom Pizza. with pesto, goat cheese, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, red tomato. arugula, watercress, truffle sea salt. A very hearty pizza with incredible mushroom flavor, another must have.

Entrees:

Herb Grilled Filet Mignon, 6 oz. – with whipped truffle butter, Yukon potatoes, sautéed broccoli, green beans, a Port Wine-Marsala and wild mushroom cream sauce. The steak was tender and delicious; the cream sauce added another dimension to the overall flavor of this marvelous steak.

Dessert:

Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart, with fresh whipped cream and a vanilla bean crème anglaise. The chocolate explodes in your mouth, what a great way to end my remarkable meal.

My dinner was all Togo, and was staged at The Franciscan Inn & Suites. It is just the most exceptional food I have had in a long while. When you take the trip to Santa Barbara make sure you order dinner from Opal Restaurant and Bar.

Opal Restaurant and Bar
1325 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 966-9676
opalrestaurantandbar.com

* Note some content was taken off of their website.

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Via Maestra 42 – Birthday Dinner – January 10, 2021 – Santa Barbara, CA.

When I asked owner Renato to be a part of my Birthday celebration, he gladly said yes. He is such a dear man, generous and talented, his food is always off the charts. Via Maestra uses the finest authentic ingredients. Renato is also an importer of Italian products, All Italia Imports, so you know everything is fresh and done in perfect Italian style. Via Maestra has been opened since 2000, a true Italian staple in Santa Barbara.

I tried to order things that I didn’t try the last time I was there in October.

Here’s What I Tried:

Bruschetta di Pomodoro, with chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic on grilled ciabatta.  There is something about this delicious starter, it’s just the marriage of all of the ingredients and flavors, that really rock my world.

Antipasto Sampler Platter, From their deli case: Butter bean with tuna salad, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, mixed olives, farro grain salad, tomato & mozzarella, green beans and sopressata salame. This is a super simple and very tasty way to enjoy a little bit of everything in their deli case. I thoroughly loved this antipasto appetizer.

Linguine con Gamberoni, with tiger shrimp, fresh tomato, saffron and arugula. The shrimps are just perfectly cooked; they pop in your mouth – what a delicious pasta dish.

Angel Hair alla Bolognese, skinny pasta tossed with their homemade slow cooked beef and pork ragu’. Their Bolognese sauce is very authentic, the perfect recipe and so delightful with the angel hair pasta.

Salmone ai Ferri, with grilled fresh wild salmon, finished with tangerine extra virgin Agrumol. The salmon was simple and tasty; the addition of the tangerine and extra virgin olive oil finished it off the right way.

Polenta ai Funghi Porcini, I did try this the last time I was there and just couldn’t get enough, so I had to try this again. The flavors are just wonderful; I will crave this dish forever!

I had two of my gal pals with me to celebrate and we ate in the Breakfast room at The Franciscan Inn & Suites, which was the perfect place to enjoy this very classy dinner. It was a super elegant Birthday celebration with all of the bells and whistles.

Via Maestra 42
3343 State Street
Santa Barbara, California 93105
805.569.6522
Monday – Saturday – 8:30am – 8:00pm
Sunday – 1:00 – 5:00
https://viamaestra42.com

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The Franciscan Inn – Hotel Stay – Sunday – January 10 & Monday – January 11, 2021 – Santa Barbara, CA.

When my contact over at The Franciscan Inn & Suites gave me the info on her gorgeous Santa Barbara property it was in 2020, and they were doing some renovations. When I figured out what to do on my Birthday – January 10, 2021, I thought I should contact Debbie Neer and see if I could do a stay at The Franciscan Inn & Suites. She said yes right away, so I was so extremely happy. Debbie told me that it would not be the most perfect stay because of all of the Covid restrictions, but I opted to go anyway. Their daily breakfast and happy hour had stopped, and the pool was open but not their Jacuzzi. Debbie said that once I check in their staff would not clean my room or come anywhere near my room for the duration of my stay. All of this was just fine with me. I really wanted to celebrate my Birthday regardless of Covid and how high all of the case numbers were in Los Angeles, and Ventura County. I figured I could be just as safe in Santa Barbara as I would be at home, I was right. This hotel is right down the street from The West Beach in Santa Barbara, and what better way to be safe during a pandemic, go to the beach and naturally social distance. The scenic views are astounding; so was taking in all of the fresh ocean air. My stay, given all of the restrictions was truly wonderful, just the perfect Birthday getaway. Debbie said that when things get better she would have me back for the full experience.

My room was large, and sublimely elegant, well appointed with a huge bathroom. This is Debbie’s favorite room. Super easy access seeing that it is on the first floor and on the street, super close to their parking lot. The king bed was super comfortable; the large flat screen TV was the best just what the doctor ordered.

I did some Togo orders from some great local restaurants. The staging was done in the lobby where they usually have their daily complimentary breakfasts. It has a comfortable interior, with big oversized chairs, and a nice fireplace to set the mood. Their staff was very safe, friendly and accommodating.

The Franciscan Inn & Suites has a lovely pool, set at 82 degrees. The weather was just perfect; I luxuriated in the sun, and got some exercise swimming.

All and all this was a great Birthday treat for me and very much appreciated. A nice small country style Inn – 1 block away from the beach in the most beautiful part of California, what more could you ask for?

The Franciscan Inn & Suites
109 Bath St,
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 963-8845
franciscaninn.com

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Cuban Cultural Icon José Alberto “El Ruiseñor” Nominated for Best Latin Tropical Album – “Mi Tumbao”For the 63rd Grammy®Awards!

January, 6 2020 – Hollywood, CA. ———–The 63rd Grammy Nominations were announced on November 24, 2020. The astonishing surprise was the Nomination of Cuban born José Alberto “El Ruiseñor”, Nominated for Best Tropical Latin Al-bum “Mi Tumbao”. The excitement is building and it could not have happened to a better man.

The original Grammy date of January 31, 2021 has been moved to March 14, 2021, for health and safety reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in Los Angeles.

José Alberto Tamayo Diaz, aka The Nightingale. Born into a musical family, Jo-sé’s parents played a key role in his musical journey; his father was a tres player and his mother was a singer. At fourteen years young José flourished as the leader of the Cuban based band, Grupo Rock Lasser; his charisma and populari-ty spurred his passion, and the rest is history. José Alberto has dedicated his love of Cuba through his music. A win for José Alberto in March would make him the first solo Cuban male vocalist to win a Grammy in 21 years, since Chucho Valdez in 1999. El Ruiseñor confesses, “The Grammy Awards are way up there, it is the Oscars for music, winning a Grammy award would mean a lot to my country.”

Hailing from Bayamo, the capital city of the Granma Province of Eastern Cuba, “Bayamo is my life”, Alberto admits proudly in reflection of his group BNM, Ba-yamo National Movement. For over 30 years, Jose has thrived as a prominent citizen of Cuba, and has constantly worked hard for his city, his music and his valuable culture. As the most internationally awarded solo artist of Granma, José Alberto El Ruiseñor has dedicated many songs to his fellow countrymen. With the pandemic numbers growing, he curated an online philanthropic concert, to recognize the efforts of doctors and nurses titled, “Cuba Saves”, broadcasted from his own backyard. Before the pandemic he was keeping up with his hometown roots by performing every Saturday in the main street of Bayamo.

The album title, “Mi Tumbao” translated to “swag” or “grace to move,” transcends the listener into the origins of Cuban music, and the raw roots of his Cuban na-tion. The album breathes three decades of artistic life, composed of Guaracha, Son, Salsa, Cumbia, and Merengue. Homage is vibrantly paid to his influencers and godfathers of Cuban music; Sindo Garay, Ñico Saquito and Miguel Matamo-ros, all who were introduced to him by his father. The album has 10 illuminating, action packed tracks, some unpublished and others adaptations of known Cuban classics. In the feature track “Emigrante” (Immigrant), José narrates the over-looked struggles of migrant life with pure vulnerability, through lyrics such as “This has to change, down ambitions, there is only one heaven in this world, why so many divisions.” A timely song meant for acknowledging all the current prob-lems brought on by controversial governments. In contrast, José transforms the internationally known anthem, “Lagrimas Negras” (Black Tears), to more of an inspired traditional salsa.

The project is backed by English label Tumi Music. With legendary A&R director Mo Fini at the helm, the UK based label specializes in authentic and original mu-sic from all corners of Latin America.

José Alberto’s innate vocal techniques, and the ability to relate to the common man through his music, will captivate and inspire any and all of its listeners.. Miracles do hap-pen and this time it’s all rolled up in a profoundly talented troubadour, José Alberto; he is a force to be reckoned with. If you’ve never heard his music before, now is the time to listen; make yourself a cubano and a cafecito, take the old Victrola for a spin, your feet will do all the work. José Alberto’s contagious rhythmic vocals are going to get you!

José Alberto:
facebook.com/josealberto.tamayodiaz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4QtJHV589M
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QqQbjv4t_w
Tumi Records:
www.tumimusic.com
Media Inquiries:
Jodi Jackson
JJ Entertainment
323-356-0797
Joddith@aol.com

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