So after a week’s stay in LA (which you can read about here), our next California adventure begins here.
We drove for about 2 hours north to Santa Barbara county. Here, we stayed at the Bacara Resort and Spa located right along the scenic Santa Barbara coastline.
Aside from the well-appointed rooms and the luxurious poolside, the resort has a nice beach with the perfect backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountain range all around.
The best dinner we had in this part of our trip was at The Stonehouse , located inside the well-known San Ysidro Ranch in the town of Montecito. This hotel ranch was named # 1 America’s Best Hotel in Forbes Traveler and #1 America’s Best Resort in Travel and Leisure.
The restaurant’s gorgeous open – air seating has an ocean-view deck, wood burning fireplace and heated floors all year round.
San Ysidro Ranch is consistently awarded by top travel magazines and highly regarded by some of the most well-respected organizations in the hotel and dining industries.
The Stonehouse advocates the “farm-to-table” dining philosophy. They make their own bread from scratch, use only beef that is grass-fed and free-range and grow their herbs and vegetables in their own organic garden. Yes, they do all these plus produce their own wine from their partner vineyard.
After a couple of days in Santa Barbara, we headed out again. This time, we had the chance to take the beautiful scenic route to Big Sur. The Big Sur coastline is world-renowned to have one of the most picturesque drives. Each twist and turn will lead you to a gorgeous view of the cliffside mountains and the vast expanse of the sea — urging you to just stop, look and listen — or in my terms : to stop, get down from the car and take endless photos! 🙂
Excuse the #shameless selfie here as I’m sure you understand how irresistible this postcard pretty backdrop is! 🙂
For some of you who have gone this way before, I know you will agree with me when I say that this is one of the most beautiful drives. This was one long drive I wished went on and on and followed me all the way home (and replaced our traffic congested, billboard – filled, “scenic” EDSA)!
Once we reached Big Sur, we made a stop at Ventana Inn, a resort highly noted for its amazing natural landscape, top-notch service and again, a fantastic in-house restaurant. This luxurious hotel was in fact recently included in Conde Nast’s Traveler Gold List for 2014. So yes, this is another “must-visit” when in this side of the coast.
The Restaurant (yes, that’s the name of the restaurant) boasts of a charming, rustic lodge dining room that offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Dining al fresco gives an unparalleled view of the majestic mountain range and the expansive sea all around.
The Restaurant’s menu is creative and diverse, constantly changing depending on the season and what’s available. Food as expected, was delicious – as they use only the freshest ingredients, all locally sourced from their farmers, fishermen and producers.
One good thing I noticed in this part of California, is how supportive and proud they are to showcase their local produce and their sea’s rich bounty. They would rather use their own rather than import products from elsewhere — something I think our local dining scene should follow.
We chose to sit outside to take advantage of the breathtaking scenery (although it was a wee bit chilly) and this is what we had :
Yellow Fin Tuna Crudo with melon, wasabi, seaweed and watermelon radish
California Farm-Fresh Egg with chicken skin granola, garlic scrape puree and hon shimeji mushrooms
Baby Beets, sugar snaps, baby carrots with fresh lime yogurt
Grilled Octopus with tomato broth, chili and sea beans
Petite Osso Bucco with porcini, fava beans and pea mash, pickled ramp and cherry peppers
Housemade Spaghetti Carbonara with smoked trout, bottarga, parmesan and bacon
California King Salmon with corn succotash, huitlacoche, lobster and apricot emulsion
Frangelico Chocolate Marquis with caramel corn, raspberry gel and chocolate sauce
At the end of our meal here in Big Sur, we were left with just a few dimmed lights and the dark blue sky dotted with twinkling stars. We chatted with the talented chefs, met new friends, bid goodbye to the then dark sea and unseen mountains. Most importantly, we left with happy hearts and full tummies, and drove away again — in the middle of the night, to our next destination.
The drive from Santa Barbara to Big Sur, was indeed long and adventurous but unexpectedly, was filled with a lot of beautiful twists and turns.
To see more photos from this trip, follow me on Instagram (#TSMinSantaBarbara and #TSMinBigSur)