Posts filed under ‘Local Flavors’
They say that “savory and sweet go hand in hand,” and that is definitely true here in the Santa Maria Valley.
Besides local cattle ranches and the myriad of eateries offering our famed Santa Maria Style Barbecue, Santa Maria Valley is also known worldwide for its delicious homegrown strawberries.
This year, our region celebrates the beginning of the strawberry harvest (and the region’s top moneymaking crop!) with the 27th Annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival happening Friday, April 25 through Sunday, April 27 at the Santa Maria Fairpark.
This family friendly berry bash features strawberry varietal sampling, strawberry desserts, educational exhibits, a farmers market, cooking demonstrations, agricultural displays, wine tasting, live music, old-fashioned carnival entertainment, and, of course, barbecue.
This year’s theme is “Taste the Fun.” Come on out and experience how the Santa Maria Valley’s uniquely moderate coastal climate is a perfect match for many crops, especially strawberries!
The Moxie Café, a new Santa Maria eatery opening in April on West McCoy Lane, is aiming to do just that. Their motto: “Eat Well…Be Well.”
Owned by Hardy Diagnostics, a local company known for its medical supply success story, Moxie has taken health to an expanded level by offering a café menu based on fresh, quality fare. Believing that nutritious food should taste good, The Moxie offers tempting rotisserie chicken; tri-tip; soups; salads; sandwiches; gelato and more . . . all without unnecessary, empty calories. In the words of Moxie: “We pledge to never tempt you with excessive fat and sugar laden meals.” That means no fryers, no sodas, and no junk. Just wholesome good food.
The Moxie “scene” is pretty hip, too. Outfitted with WiFi, charging stations, television screens, a fireplace, patio and private conference rooms, the restaurant encourages customers to hang out and work, or to socialize with a group. Meeting spaces are fully equipped with whiteboards, conference telephones, screens and projectors.
A big Santa Maria welcome to The Moxie Café!
It just figures that Santa Maria barbecue country would inspire a top-shelf meat market. Welcome to Woody’s Butcher Block, a neighborhood market and deli providing premium high-end meats and cheeses.
Proprietor Tim Woodbury brings with him 28 years of experience in the food service industry and a love for quality. He says he would rather be out of stock than provide an inferior product. Woody’s carries only meats selected from the top 20 percent best of the product.
In addition to endless cuts of meat (including tri-tip of course!), artisan cheeses and specialty deli sandwiches, Woody’s offers a range of yummy provisions, including locally made spices and sauces by Cowboy Flavor and Monkey Spit.
“Life happens around the kitchen table,” says Woody, and he wants his customers to make the most of it. Woody’s is located at 700 E. Main Street, Suite 104 in downtown Santa Maria.
The most famous ingredients of the classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue menu are tri-tip beef, native red oak, locally perfected seasoning and homegrown pinquito beans. All of these items originate from right here in the Santa Maria Valley.
But there’s another lesser-known item on the official menu that deserves some recognition: tossed-green salad.
Now, how did salad sneak onto a barbecue menu?
Well, the answer is evident in the rich agricultural landscape of the Santa Maria Valley, which is one of California’s premier farming regions.
In the most recent crop report for Santa Barbara County, lettuce alone accounted for more than 13,000 planted acres. Bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, celery and spinach are among the other vegetables that are plentiful in the valley.
So it only makes sense that the ranchers and farmers who popularized Santa Maria Style Barbecue also found a way to include local greens as a tried-and-true component of the official menu.
So when firing up the red oak, don’t forget the greens!
Add a locally grown wine and a fresh Santa Maria strawberry dessert and, well, you have one of the world’s most distinctively local dining experiences. Now that’s Santa Maria style.
Indeed, when getting set to attend the next barbecue soiree, what better way to adorn oneself than with Santa Maria-made Ammo Wear bullet casing jewelry! Creators Byron and Patricia Bartlett have been handcrafting this unique line since 2011, and just this month launched a Kickstarter Project, which is a “crowd funding” platform that invites backers to support small startups.
All Ammo Wear is made by hand from spent casings. Primer cups are removed and the casings and primer cups are then thoroughly cleaned. The bottom of the casings are cut off, sanded and all sharp edges are removed before assembly. Any leftover scraps are recycled or repurposed into jewelry.
“My first earrings were made from .45 automatic Colt pistol casings that I saved after shooting my grandfather’s Colt Model 1917 revolver that he used in France during WWI,” Byron says. “I still shoot that old revolver from time to time, but can’t shoot nearly enough ammo to supply all of the casings that we need. So, now we purchase spent casings to meet demand and offer a more varied selection.”
Byron adds that they just love customer feedback. “Our favorite comment so far is, ‘If you don’t buy it, you’ll want to shoot yourself.’”
Once upon a time in the 1870s, the young little town of Santa Maria was called “Central City” because of its location halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The name was eventually changed to “Santa Maria,” because the mail was often mistakenly sent to Central City, Colorado.
In honor of this tidbit of history, an increasingly popular bistro in downtown Santa Maria sports the name Central City Market. Specializing in comforting classics that are innovatively prepared, Central City Market is inspired by the farming, ranching and vineyards of the Santa Maria Valley. It has a wine and beer list that is fun to peruse as well.
Perhaps this is why the bistro has introduced “Wine Down Wednesdays,” when patrons may enjoy 50 percent off bottles of wine from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Delectable appetizer specials also abound during these hours. And, of course, the bistro has not forgotten Santa Maria’s famed barbecue.
The traditional Santa Maria BBQ is featured as “The Daily Hot Plate” dish each Thursday. This $14 meal consists of sliced tri-tip, pinquito beans, mac ‘n cheese, salsa and a garlic roll.
Founded on the Central Coast in 2008, Santa Maria’s Monkey Spit Hot Sauce is the result of accidental genius. It all went down when starving musician Paul Smith decided to make soup out of a pile of peppers that his parents had given him. When the soup turned out too spicy, Smith began experimenting, and, voila, five years later Monkey Spit has grown into a burgeoning line including the Original hot sauce; the fresh and sweet Red Jal; the hot and thick Gorilla; and the “stupid hot” Atomic Monk. Monkey Spit takes pride in keeping things simple, natural and likes to “baby” the sauce to maintain the utmost in flavor and taste.
And in a nod to the homeland of Santa Maria Style Barbecue, the company launched its “Monkey Mop” BBQ sauce last December, stating: “The Central Coast is home to some of the best BBQ in the country. In fact, tri-tip cut beef was born on the Central Coast, where us monkeys like to call home. In honor of the Santa Maria Steak and Sunday afternoon BBQs at the park, Monkey Spit Hot Sauce is proud to announce our new BBQ sauce: Monkey Mop BBQ.”
Monkey Mop quickly went on to win a silver medal at the National Barbecue Association Awards last spring.
Today, Monkey Spit can be found in a variety of Central Coast markets including Old Town Market (its first customer); Kay’s Country Kitchen; and Jack’s Restaurant. The Monkey has even made it to the shelves of Pooki’s Cookies in Pahoa, Hawaii.
The Santa Maria Valley may be famous for its homegrown dry-rub barbecue, but if you want to change things up, you now know who to monkey around with!
When it comes to local flavors, you might say that the Santa Maria Valley is famed for both its savory and its sweet offerings. Yep. Some regions have all the luck.
Indeed, Santa Maria Valley’s reputation for mouthwatering barbecue shares the spotlight with its top crop: strawberries.
According to a new report, strawberries remain the top moneymaking crop in Santa Barbara County, with the vast majority of the strawberry acreage being in the Santa Maria Valley.
The latest Santa Barbara County Crop Report shows strawberries valued at $441.4 million in 2012—three times the value of broccoli, which occupies second place. Officials say that strawberries are in greater demand on a global scale, and that new varieties and better shipping methods are making it easier to meet the demand.
Perhaps the best news is that strawberries pair beautifully with barbecue, and strawberry pie continues to be the dessert of choice for a classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue meal.
Be sure to visit one of Santa Maria Valley’s popular roadside strawberry stands, or check out the annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which happens each April. And don’t forget that many interesting strawberry facts may be found at the www.santamaria.com under “Visitor Information.” Sweet!
The Santa Maria Valley is home to Santa Barbara County’s new “foodie mecca” according to a new feature story in the Santa Barbara Independent, which turns the spotlight on the hamlet of Old Town Orcutt just south of the city of Santa Maria.
Story author Matt Kettman writes, “From wine tasting rooms and gourmet kitchens to pizza, pasta, pies, and pubs — not to mention rumors of a sushi joint and tapas bar on the horizon — Old Town Orcutt is steadily evolving into a genuine foodie mecca.”
The feature takes note of several tasty destinations, including Old Tow Market (click here for our earlier interview with the market’s owner Mark Steller), Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, the Far Western Tavern (specializing in Santa Maria BBQ) and others.
It’s all yet another reason to make California’s BBQ Capital an essential stop during your next visit to the Central Coast!
Deals on dining are always a good thing, especially when you’re in California’s Barbecue Capital…
On that note, he Santa Maria Valley Visitor & Convention Bureau has just announced that locals and visitors alike are invited to savor and save as participating restaurants and wineries in the Santa Maria Valley offer special discounts from January 13 – 20, 2013 under the banner of “DineOut: Santa Maria Style.”
During this period, eight Santa Maria Valley restaurant and winery establishments will offer everything from two-for-one tastings to 15 percent off a meal (restaurant discounts exclude tax, gratuity and alcohol). The public is encouraged to mention the “DineOut: Santa Maria Style” promotion when wine tasting, dining or making a reservation.
The event dates were chosen to coincide with California Restaurant Month, a successful statewide promotion that benefits food and wine establishments during the winter season. Participating restaurants are The Garden Room Restaurant at the Historic Santa Maria Inn; The Vintner’s Bar & Grill at the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria; Rooney’s Irish Pub; and Straw Hat Pizza. Participating wineries include Foxen Winery and Vineyard; Cambria Winery; Riverbench Winery; and Byron Winery.
Click here for more information. Bon appetit!