Posts filed under ‘Local Flavors’
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!
Santa Maria Valley barbecue country is home to a number of iconic landmarks steeped in local lore and beloved by the ranchers and farmers who’ve put the region on the map. The Historic Santa Maria Inn is one such establishment. Since 1917 the inn has proven a welcome respite to motorists traveling along Highway 101 and to tourists seeking to experience the charms of the Central Coast.
This year, the inn has all kinds of news. With renovated dining areas in place along with a state-of-the-art kitchen, the inn has unveiled a complete revision of its menus, beverages and customer service standards within its food and beverage department. The weekly Sunday Grand Buffet has been replaced with a modernized a la carte brunch that features creative entrees such as Prime Rib Hash, Chilaquiles, Cuban French Toast with Plantains and Crema; Southern Crispy Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles; and the Santa Maria Barbecue Panini offering grilled tri-tip and linguica sausage on a garlic bread French roll with smoked Gouda cheese, caramelized onions and pico de gallo. This format is ideal for those who appreciate smaller portions and want to spend less. There’s good news, too, for those who pine for the old days as the classic buffet-style brunch is resurrected for a number of major holidays throughout the year including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. Of course the inn’s famous “bottomless mimosas” will continue to be offered for both styles of brunch.
In other news the inn’s Garden Room Restaurant is also sporting a new menu featuring entrees such as Santa Maria Mix Grill, Soy Rum Braised Pork Shoulder, Cedar Plank Salmon and Red Chili Hanger Steak. The property’s Olde English Tap Room has also undergone an interior redesign to emphasize its cozy, friendly European pub-style atmosphere. Meanwhile guests enjoy an intimate corner at the Wine Cellar & Martini Bar. The cellar offers an extensive selection of Central Coast wines as well as signature martinis and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Coffee lovers are also in luck as the inn’s 801 Café brews up Starbuck’s specialty drinks and Italian Sodas, as well as snacks and desserts. To top it all off, the inn’s new piano lounge invites guests to soak up the melodies of a player baby grand while they relax with appetizers and beverages.
The historic Santa Maria Inn, like Santa Maria BBQ, proves that good taste never goes out of style!
R.H. Tesene was not only legendary for his Santa Maria Style Barbecue skills, but also his generous spirit and community involvement. Today, his legend lives on at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, where he donated a “Barbecue Hall of Fame” exhibit that teaches children and parents alike about our local culinary tradition.
As noted in a recent feature in the Santa Maria Sun, “The BBQ Hall of Fame” exhibit was donated by Tesene, who originally showcased them proudly at The Beacon Outpost Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, a joint he built, owned, and opened in June of 1949. The brands you see in the exhibit have a fun story, too. Back when The Beacon Outpost was booming, Tesene noticed that his Sunday nights were slow so he decided to invite guest barbecuers (who were Santa Maria’s finest) who would by nature spread the word and invite their friends, who then invited their friends, and thus a thriving Sunday night was born from then on out. It was tradition for any guest barbecuer to “bring their own branding irons, heat them in the barbecue pit, and burn their brands in the block.”…These historical brands now hang in the Discovery Museum, and always will, as all Tesene wanted was a worthy and lifelong home for his treasured memories.”
Mr. Tesene was also the author of the book Santa Maria Style Barbecue, which is recognized as the authoritative guide to the history and methods of Santa Maria BBQ.
The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum is Santa Barbara County’s only children’s museum, and it features numerous exhibits that delve into our local wonders, such as agriculture (pictured here), barbecue, aerospace and nature. One new attraction is the second phase of the “Belly of The Whale” exhibit, which includes a new kiosk that houses a highly interactive educational video that teaches about whale species, their habitats and migratory patterns.
Another exciting development this fall is the October 1 arrival of the highly anticipated Mobile Oil Field Learning Unit (MOLU), a $1.2 million traveling exhibit that teaches children about how energy is created through oil exploration, natural gas and geology. The installation makes its California debut at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum before touring through Southern California schools and other museums in November.
A local dining landmark is now serving its legendary Sunday brunches with a modern twist (and a touch of Santa Maria BBQ!) as the Historic Santa Maria Inn has updated its brunch menu.
In a feature piece in the Santa Maria Sun, food and wine writer Wendy Thies Sell reports, “The long-standing, award-winning, and popular Sunday Grand Buffet will be replaced by a modernized brunch format, with many newly designed entrées and personalized table service.”
So what does that mean? It means a tantalizing array of culinary delights prepared by chefs Ryan Gromfin and Alex Araizaga: “The new à la carte menu includes Cuban French Toast with Plantains and Crema; Southern Crispy Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles; a Mexican favorite, Chilaquiles; Prime Rib Hash (two poached eggs, tender pieces of prime rib, caramelized with potatoes, onions, and peppers, topped with Hollandaise sauce); and the Santa Maria Barbecue Panini of grilled tri-tip and linguica sausage on a garlic bread French roll with smoked Gouda cheese, caramelized onions, and pico de gallo—a creation Gromfin predicts will become a signature dish at the inn.”
“The patron has the opportunity to select menu items depending on their appetite and how adventurous they are feeling,” says General Manager John J. Reinacher. “This format will allow people to order smaller portions without spending as much as they would on the buffet. Or to go crazy and try three or four dishes off the new menu.”
With menu selections like these, we’ll opt to go crazy! Bravo to the Historic Santa Maria Inn for taking its Sunday brunch to a delicious next level.
Where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue! Such is the case with the Santa Maria Valley’s Old Town Market. Located in the hamlet of Orcutt, Old Town Market makes Santa Maria tri-tip an integral part of its weekly offerings. Here, proprietor Mark Steller and his crew captivate both visitors and locals alike with the aromas and flavors of the market’s all-day Saturday barbecues. Located along a popular route for road cyclists, the market also caters to many long-distance travelers, some of whom are trying Santa Maria tri-tip for the first time.
Do you get a lot of people asking about Santa Maria Style Barbecue and what it is?
“We get people cycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles and even from Anchorage to Mexico City,” Mark says. “They smell the smoke and that’s how they learn about it.”
In addition to its extensive deli and fresh meats and produce, Old Town Market features a world-class wine department with hundreds of varietal selections from more than 70 local wineries, including tough-to-find boutique winery offerings.
Which wines in your store do you recommend pairing with Santa Maria Style Barbecue?
“Two wines that pair nicely with Santa Maria Style Barbecue are Rancho Sisquoc’s River Red, and also a Syrah by Golden Bear, a small winery,” Mark says.
More about wine and barbecue pairing can be explored at the market’s Saturday evening wine tastings, which feature a different local winery each week. Old Town Market is also renowned for its on-site antique shop, Gift Show happening on May 12 and Antique Sale with more than 30 antique vendors slated for July 21.
Do well-informed locals also frequent your market and events?
“Oh, that’s the majority of our traffic,” Mark says. “People who don’t have the time to cook enjoy grabbing their meal here, especially as our $6 tri-tip sandwich is a good value. Our team member, Josh, handles the barbecue here. He learned the art from his dad and takes great pride in it.”
Thank you, Mark! For more information on Old Town Market, visit www.oldtownmarket.net
While the Santa Maria Valley is renowned for its legendary barbecue and world-class wines, locally grown strawberries have emerged as the area’s top cash crop and enjoy their own annual showcase at the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which will be held this year on April 27-29.
The upcoming Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival at the Santa Maria Fairpark will feature strawberry varietal sampling, strawberry desserts, educational exhibits, live music, food booths and old-fashioned carnival entertainment.
But while the festival is the region’s ultimate berry bash, strawberries are a year-round draw in the Santa Maria Valley. From cross-continental distributor orders to regional chefs and people simply preparing for a family barbecue, it’s not uncommon for those in the know to go the extra mile to stock up on the refreshing fruit.
So what makes the Santa Maria Valley one of California’s and the nation’s top strawberry producing regions? The answer lies in the same temperate coastal climate that produces remarkable Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in the neighboring vineyards. In fact, local strawberries bring in more than twice the revenue of broccoli, the area’s second place crop, and three times the earnings of wine grapes, which rank third.
Strawberries from the Santa Maria Valley are consequently prized for their consistent quality and juicy sweetness. Combined with Santa Maria Style Barbecue and local wines, they offer a regional flavor experience like no other. So if you can’t make it to the Strawberry Festival, make sure you at least stop by one of our local produce stands sometime for farm-fresh berries. One local favorite is the Daren’s Berries stand right off Highway 101. Bon appetit!
In the Santa Maria Valley, our wines are renowned for offering remarkable quality. In fact, three local wines were named to the top ten slots of the Wine Enthusiast’s most recent list of Top 100 wines worldwide. Better yet, they valley is particularly celebrated for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, two varietals that are excellent accompaniments to traditional holiday fare.
We asked some of our friends in the Santa Maria Valley wine country for their recommendations, and here’s what they had to say…
According to Sherrill O’Neill of Wine Country Orcutt, “Many wines pair well with holiday meals because there are a variety of foods on the table. Sparkling wine, like Goat Bubbles from Flying Goat, adds a festive note to any meal; our wonderful Santa Maria Valley Chardonnays, such as Sierra Madre Estate Chardonnay, add elegance to a meals featuring poultry; or one of our many local Pinot Noirs make excellent food pairing partners with everything from turkey to prime rib. For dessert, consider a late harvest Viognier with pumpkin pie or a Port with Pecan Pie.”
Mark Steller of Old Town Market in Orcutt chimed in, recommending Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner or Riesling, Costa de Oro Pinot Noir, and Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir as excellent choices for the holiday dinner table.
Liz Addamo of Addamo Estate Vineyards added, “Riesling is a delicious wine to serve with your turkey dinner!”
Colleen Thompson at Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards suggested the 2009 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Rose or 2008 Lucas & Lewellen Brut Sparkling Wine with dinner, and the 2010 Lucas & Lewellen Nectar de Viognier with dessert.
And Gary Burk, proprietor and winemaker at Costa de Oro Winery, recommended his 2009 Estate Pinot Noir from Gold Coast Vineyard, adding, “Pinot Noir is great with a variety of things on the plate. And, at Thanksgiving, there are a lot of things on the plate!”
So head out to a local winery or one of the aforementioned markets today or before Christmas to add a little local flavor to your culinary festivities!
Santa Maria BBQ and the Santa Maria Valley are once again in the spotlight as SkyWest Magazine devotes a full page travel feature on the region in its latest issue. SkyWest Magazine is the in-flight publication for SkyWest Airlines and United Express.
Aptly headlined “Valley of Variety,” the story explores the magnificent diversity of the Santa Maria Valley visitor experience, including barbecue, wine, nature, culture and family entertainment. As the story states, “This historic picturesque area an hour northwest of Santa Barbara lures visitors off the beaten path with plenty to see and do.”
Among the story’s featured attractions are the treasures of the Santa Maria Museum of Flight; the children’s delights at the Discovery Museum; the towering ocean views of the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes; the “naturalists nirvana” of Los Flores Ranch Park; and the relaxed appeal of the local wine country: “Santa Maria Valley offers visitors an unpretentious opportunity to meet with winemakers at more than a dozen tasting rooms, all set among the valley’s rolling hills and lush landscape.”
Of course, Santa Maria Style Barbecue also takes center stage in the story, including a photo of Cowboy Flavor’s Billy Ruiz cutting into a steaming piece of tri-tip.
Thanks to SkyWest Magazine for their high-flying coverage of the Santa Maria Valley!