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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.”
Jack’s Restaurant and Bakery has graced the streets of Santa Maria Valley’s Old Town Orcutt neighborhood for more than 45 years.
Fresh on the scene, however, are the new owners Chris and Terri Salazar who have introduced a Santa Maria Style Barbecue grill to the kitchen. Using authentic Santa Maria Valley red oak, the Salazars have their barbecue masters cooking up everything from their Tri-Tip Dinner entrée and Black and Blue Burger to the Santa Maria Valley Wrap featuring tri-tip, salad greens, bacon, avocado and more.
The Salazars have stayed true to the delicious home style quality cuisine for which Jack’s is famed. Best-loved favorites remain on the menu including the extensive breakfast options that are served all day, plus delectable lunch and dinner entrees — also up for grabs at any hour. Other big hits include their fresh-baked pies and cakes. From what we can tell it sounds like Jack’s still knows a thing or two about keeping its patrons happy and coming back.
Nothing goes better with Santa Maria Style Barbecue than Santa Maria Valley wines, three of which were featured at two U.S. Department of State events this month in Washington D.C.
The J. Wilkes 2012 Chardonnay (92 points Wine Enthusiast) was served at the U.S. Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit on May 4. The event was hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. Then, on May 13, J. Wilkes Winemaker Wes Hagen and J. Wilkes East Coast Brand Sales Manager Michael Phillips were invited to pour their 2014 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc and 2012 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir at a luncheon hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry in honor of Nordic leaders from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Norway.
These opportunities came about through a conversation that Hagen happened to have during an East Coast sales trip. “I was pouring at a tasting event and had no idea that I was speaking with Jason L. Larkin, the executive chef and events manager for the Office of the Chief of Protocol for the U.S. Department of State,” Hagen said. Larkin later extended the invitation to the J. Wilkes team and the rest is history. Hagen added what a wonderful time he had at the Washington D.C. luncheon and that he was struck by the friendliness of the ambassadors, prime ministers, lawyers and business people with whom he mixed. In the end he came away with a menu signed by Secretary Kerry that reads, “Wonderful Wines!”
“This menu will be framed and hung in the soon-to-be-opened J. Wilkes Los Olivos tasting room,” Hagen said. “Working with Chef Jason Larkin and his team at the State Department to pair three J. Wilkes Wines in two separate events has been one of the true pleasures of my 22 years in fine wine. I have confidence that our wines will continue to be used at State functions, and I also expect interest in J. Wilkes Wines to peak as a result.”
More than 50 years ago when Mili Acquistapace built Rancho Bowl in the Santa Maria Valley, he made sure that it featured a vast, custom Santa Maria Style Barbecue grill that was all-enclosed in a vented room. After all, per the culinary culture of Santa Maria, this was and is a major priority!
Today, Mr. Acquistapace’s grandchildren are running the operation and have done him proud by recently sinking more than $1.5 million into the property. They have also brought on board a new chef who has developed an expanded restaurant menu that, of course, includes a daily Santa Maria Style tri-tip sandwich complete with grandfather Mili’s famed sauce.
Equipped with a large banquet room that seats as many as 140 guests, Rancho Bowl regularly fires up its four-foot by 15-foot grill in order to accommodate weddings, fundraiser events and social parties and more.
With 32 bowling lanes, Rancho Bowl remains the largest bowling alley on California’s Central Coast. The renovation project has ushered the entertainment center into the modern age with new acoustics, lighting, projectors, sound systems, a two-level bar, outdoor eating area, landscaping and “easy touch” computer screens that feature a state-of-the-art scoring system. Players can even customize their screens with personal photos while they instant-message other players and enjoy access to Facebook, games and emoticons.
One of Santa Maria’s newest catering companies has launched a food truck that is burning up the highway.
Indeed, BBQ In The Stix, which specializes in gourmet grilled tri-tip, chicken and other side dishes made with local produce, is the creation of chef/owner James Gentry, who is Le Cordon Bleu trained and the previous executive chef for The Far Western Tavern, one of Santa Maria Valley’s most iconic barbecue establishments.
Together with grillmaster Ronny Cavazos, Gentry likes to serve local favorites garnished with a bit of his culinary flair. The two worked diligently to build a custom food truck that would accommodate a wood-burning grill. BBQ in The Stix offers everything from full dinner catering to a $10 boxed lunch that includes an oak-grilled certified angus beef tri-tip sandwich served on fresh ciabatta or an oak-grilled chicken and strawberry salad.
Sides include homemade salsa, a side salad of Babé Farms spring greens with farmer’s market veggies and balsamic vinaigrette, as well as freshly made potato chips and vanilla bean crème brulee. Gentry says this is just the beginning and hopes to have up to five food trucks operating in the next three years. Welcome Team Stix!