Sometimes you just have to get out of the City of Angels on a Hawaiian aircraft so that you can conveniently savor the West’s best barbecue.
Allow us to explain…
In short, a new commercial aircraft route has opened up from Los Angeles to Santa Maria on Mokulele Airlines.
It all kicked off last Saturday with (what else!) a celebratory Hawaiian-style barbecue at Santa Maria Public Airport to christen the new route.
Mokulele Airlines is a family-owned and operated air carrier based at Kona International Airport on the island of Hawaii (note that they have not opened up flights from Santa Maria to Hawaii, just to Los Angeles).
What’s really cool is that while the fares are competitive (one way as low as $65 per person!), the Mokulele fleet is composed of small Cessna Grand Caravans, which seat only nine passengers. Talk about flying in style—that is, Santa Maria style!
So if you live in the greater L.A. area and are hungry for Santa Maria Style Barbecue but can’t bear the thought of the drive, just hop aboard a Mokulele flight, rent a car or Uber, and hit our barbecue and wine trails for a uniquely delicious weekend!
One of the coolest things about Santa Maria Style Barbecue is how indigenous the menu is to our region.
Indeed, the meat is cooked over coals of red oak, a type of oak that proliferates right here on the Central Coast. The meat is rubbed with a locally developed mix of salt, pepper and garlic salt. One of the signature cuts is tri-tip, a unique triangular cut that was popularized by a local butcher more than 50 years ago. And the menu includes slow-cooked pinquito beans, which are grown exclusively in our region.
Talk about local flavor!
But there’s another item on the official Santa Maria BBQ menu that may seem more generic at first glance, but that can be just as local in practice: tossed green salad.
The notion of tossed green salad may conjure up a plate of random greens purchased at the grocery store—but there’s a chance that those greens might have been grown right here in the Santa Maria Valley!
Indeed, both head lettuce and leaf lettuce are among the top 10 crops grown in Santa Barbara County, which is one of the most agriculturally productive counties on the coast (Santa Barbara County agriculture contributes 2.8 billion to the economy), with most of the farming taking place in the Santa Maria Valley.
And so it is that even your tossed green salad can be part of the uniquely local taste experience that is Santa Maria Style Barbecue, particularly if you are intentional about seeking out locally grown greens.
P.S. To find local greens at their freshest, consider heading out to the farmers markets every Friday in downtown Santa Maria.
Here in the Santa Maria Valley and across the Central Coast, tri-tip rules the ‘cue.
Indeed, you see this homegrown cut of meat everywhere here, from restaurant menus to local grocers to farmer’s markets.
But elsewhere? Not so much. Take the Motor City in Michigan, for example…
In a recent excellent feature on Santa Maria BBQ food writer Susan Selasky of the Detroit Free Press writes, “Recently I was reminded of a cut of meat not every grocery store or meat cutter carries: tri-tip. A local grocery store was featuring tri-tip roasts on special for $4.99 a pound. It’s the first time I could recall seeing this cut of meat advertised like this locally. Generally, I always found tri-tip hard to come by — especially where I live. Even some meat stores that I frequent often don’t carry it.”
This is a story that plays out across the nation. While tri-tip is certainly much more known today than just five years ago (in some small part due to this blog, we’d like to think!), it still often ranks as a secret cut for those “in the know.”
As Selasky writes, “Tri-tip is a tender cut of meat that comes from the bottom sirloin. The Santa Maria Valley region, in California’s central coast, claims to have discovered the cut as well as its storied style of barbecuing over red oak. To protect their claim to fame from copycats, the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce copyrighted the Santa Maria Style Barbecue recipe in 1978. The Santa Maria-style of barbecuing dates to the 1800s when local ranchers would host a Spanish-style barbecue for their cowboys. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the tri-tip made its way into barbecue fashion.”
That’s a perfect (and accurate) summary of our local culinary tradition, and so we say hats off to Ms. Selasky for turning her readers onto the delights of Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
When it comes to exciting tennis events, Santa Maria knows how to spice up a tournament by throwing a festive Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Take the 38th Annual Santa Maria Open.
Happening September 3 – 5 at the scenic Santa Maria Country Club, this beloved competition draws ranked ATP and WTA players as well as local tennis buffs who enjoy challenging play in a relaxed, small town environment, plus prize money in open divisions totaling $25,000.
A highlight of the event is the signature Santa Maria-style barbecue held Saturday night for all players, their families, sponsors and Santa Maria Country Club members. The tournament is free to the public and spectators are encouraged to cheer on the hot shots!
If there was ever any doubt that the Santa Maria Valley was a tasty place chock full of exciting entertainments, they have been thoroughly erased by the Santa Maria Sun’s latest “Best of Northern Santa Barbara County” edition, which serves as a compendium of all that is awesome around these parts.
The Sun’s annual “Best Of” edition revolves around a range of categories from dining to recreation to shopping, and showcases the best of the best, as voted by local readers. Along the way, it offers a ton of tips for getting the most out of your next visit to the valley.
Needless to say, Santa Maria BBQ is well represented in the dining category, with Shaw’s Steakhouse earning the title of Best Santa Maria Restaurant, and Hitching Post being crowned with Best Overall Restaurant.
Click here to read an online copy of the Santa Maria Sun’s 2016 Best Of Northern Santa Barbara County issue.
Here at the official Santa Maria Valley BBQ Blog, we not only like to tell the world about our legendary homegrown barbecue style—we also like to keep tabs on what others are saying about it, and how the word is spreading.
One of the most impressive examples this summer is a piece by Eater Los Angeles, which details “12 Impressive Stops for Central Coast Barbecue in California.”
(Now, we would like to quibble with the wording, because “Central Coast” here is really just code for “Santa Maria,” but hey, it’s just a headline, and the situation is rectified early in the story with a firm nod to Santa Maria Style Barbecue.)
What’s great about the piece is that it provides an easy-to-follow itinerary for not only enjoying Santa Maria BBQ here in the valley, but also in neighboring areas that have also embraced our culinary phenomenon, including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
Of course, the heart of the map includes such local icons as Shaw’s, Hitching Post, Far Western Tavern and Jocko’s, but also some relative newcomers. In all, as the headline promises, a full dozen stops are represented. Check it out here.
In what is the first-ever Italian magazine to specialize in the subject of barbecue, editor Bob Schwartz, has chosen Santa Maria Style Barbecue as the cover story for his premier issue of BBQ Magazine.
“Instead of the usual Kansas City ribs or brisket, we wanted to start with something a little more obscure, but just as impressive,” said Schwartz, an American expatriate from West Virginia who has committed himself to publishing in Italy. “We decided to do a full-length feature on the entire Santa Maria Style Barbecue menu, plus informational sidebars on the history of the region.”
Schwartz has done just that in the “numero 1” issue of BBQ Magazine, which is published in Lessolo, a city in Northern Italy about 30 miles north of Turin. Schwartz timed the publication’s release with Italy’s summer festival season, which begins in early June and launches a popular time for dining outdoors.
The 54-page online spread features a sophisticated layout with articles on chefs, grills, barbecue history and many recipes accompanied by mouthwatering photography.
So how has the new magazine been received thus far? “I’m getting a lot of collaboration (and respect) from members of the Italian barbecue community,” Schwartz said. “Santa Maria offers so much history and local color, that I think using Santa Maria Barbecue as the magazine’s first feature was a wise choice.”