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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Beachside wine festival and luxury resort lounging in Santa Barbara, California


The sun rose to partly cloudy skies in Oxnard, CA. The waffles called my name at the Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor. I went for a not-so-decadent waffle and topped it with strawberry preserves and a dollop of whipped cream. Hot items like sausage scramble and breakfast potatoes were served along with a nice array of tropical fruit like pineapple and papaya.

After breakfast, we explored the hotel grounds and found a gas fire pit. This would be nice after sunset to relax with a drink and/or make s’mores for dessert. After a bit of work and relaxing, it was time to head out to Santa Barbara for the Beachside Wine Festival at Chase Palm Park.

Arch Rock served up Snapper Ceviche. The fish was tender and not rubbery. The flavor was just right, not too salty and not too sour from the citrus. Rating: 4/5

Benchmark Eatery served up a Pulled Pork Slider (a mini version of their Pulled Pork Sandwich). The pulled pork was tossed with house-made BBQ sauce and topped with coleslaw in a brioche bun. The pork was tender and not overly sweet. Rating: 3.5/5

Island Brewing Company served up Island Pale Ale. Tasting notes: Strong hoppy flavor; Full-bodied; Slight bitter bite on the end of the palate. Rating: 4/5

Brophy Bros. served up an Oyster Shooter with cocktail sauce and horseradish. The concept was great, but there was way too much cocktail sauce. This resulted in the flavor of the oyster being completely lost. Rating: 3.8/5

Santa Barbara FisHouse served up Local Rockfish Ceviche. Fresh rockfish was marinated in lemon juice with homemade pico de gallo salsa which was very flavorful. But the rockfish was rather mild. Rating: 3.8/5

Casa Blanca Restaurant &Cantina served up roasted pork with peppers & onions. The pork was totally overpowered by the spicy flavor. This really needed to be served with a starch component like rice or beans. Rating: 3/5

Figueroa Mountain Brewery served up their Danish Red Lager. Tasting notes: Clean, crisp, and refreshing. Rating: 4.5/5

Nana’s Kitchen served up carne asada and pollo street tacos. Homemade tortillas were made fresh and meat was cooked on a flat top grill. The carne asada taco had a really good seasoned flavor from the marinade and grill. The pollo taco included melted queso. It tasted like a taquito before frying. The chicken was nicely seasoned and the creamy cheese worked well. The salsas were also very fresh and flavorful. Rating: 4/5

Enterprise Fish Company Santa Barbara served up Creamy Lobster Bisque with Puff Pastry. The lobster bisque was creamy and rich with a beautiful creamy orange hue. The puff pastry was a buttery, crispy accent that works well with the bisque. Rating: 4.5/5

Del Real Foods served up a variety of their products including Carnitas and Beef Tamales . The Carnitas had an authentic Mexican flavor with fried exterior and tender interior. The Beef Tamales had just the right amount of masa with plenty of flavorful shredded beef inside. Rating: 4.5/5

Gelson’s Santa Barbara was on hand providing a huge array of cheeses like boursin, supreme brie, Havarti with dill; fruits like grapes and apples; fig preserves, sliced French bread, and crackers. The perfect accompaniment for wine tasting.

I’a Fish Market and Café served up Ceviche (in VIP area). The fish was a little rubbery and, overall, the flavor was very sour. Maybe a little less citrus juice in the mix would help. Rating: 2.5/5

Foragers Pantry served up trail mix bars (in VIP area). They had a crispy texture with a sweet, nutty flavor. Rating: 5/5

Crazy Good Bread Co. served up Fig Masala and Lavender breads (in VIP area). The Fig Masala Bread was mesmerizing with its crusty exterior and nutty sesame flavor on the exterior. The interior was soft and elastic with sweet fig flavor permeating through the bread. The Lavender Bread had a beautiful dark brown exterior. The lavender aroma was apparent but does not have a strong flavor within the bread. Rating: 4.5/5

Il Fustino served up Hummus on cucumber slices (in VIP area). The hummus was very creamy and not too acidic. The cucumber slices were a great serving vehicle to get the best bite and also pushed the hummus flavor forward. Rating: 4.5/5

Flagstone Pantry served up Mango Gazpacho (in VIP area). The Mango Gazpacho was the perfect balance of savory, sweet, spicy, acidity. This would be perfect on a warm summer day as an appetizer, palate cleanser, or even blended as part of a hand-crafted cocktail. Rating: 5/5

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar served up Northern Thailand Curry “Khoa Soi” sans noodles on rice. It was probably too difficult to serve noodles at an event like this but the curry would have definitely been better on noodles. The rice was okay, but the curry sauce would have stuck to the noodles much better for a silkier mouth feel. The aroma and flavor definitely spoke Thai with its creamy texture and curry spices. Rating: 4/5

Green Star Coffee served up Iced Coffee made with Certified OrganicColombian. It was strong with a nice nutty flavor. With cream and sugar, it was clearly the drink of choice during the brief coastal rain squall. I felt like I was in Hawaii. Rating: 4.5/5

Firestone Walker 805 is a light blonde ale with a clean taste. Rating 4/5

Rutherford Ranch Winery served up 2013 Scott Family Estate Pinor Noir (in VIP area). Tasting notes: Fruity and dark cherry aroma; Dark cherry flavor with a subtle dry finish. Rating: 3.5/5

Rori’s Artisinal Creamery (in VIP area) served up a variety of ice creams. Serious Dark Chocolate had a rich chocolate flavor with a light and fluffy texture. Salted Caramel tasted like eggnog with creamy, rich salted caramel flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

As the Beachside Wine Festival came to a close, the patrons slowly exited down the picturesque beach boulevard, smiling and satisfied. Because it was still early, we still had time for another stop in our culinary excursion; one that promises to be quite extraordinary.

Bacara Resort & Spa Bar has a new buzz and it’s not from the alcohol. Newly appointed Executive Chef Vincent Lesage has taken the culinary reigns at Bacara, French born and experienced in 3-Star Michelin restaurants. He oversees Bacara Resort’s six dining experiences, including a new signature restaurant opening in spring 2016. His technique and presentation skills shine brightly on the Bacara Bar menu. Let’s take a look at some of the offerings:

Pacific Oysters on the Half Shell ($18) is served with a tarragon-champagne and shallot mignonette. The oysters are creamy and slightly briny. The mignonette accentuates the creamy and buttery flavors of the oysters. Rating: 4.5/5

Ahi Tuna Crudo ($20) is served with Persian cucumber, radish, avocado, citrus passion fruit vinaigrette, sriracha aioli, and shoyu with a truffle oil float. Artfully presented with sashimi rolled and lovingly twisted on the serving board between sliced cucumber and avocado. This is some of the best ahi tuna sashimi I’ve had in a long time. It was sweet and just melts in your mouth. For an amazing flavor combination, dip a piece of sashimi into the shoyu and truffle oil. The flavor is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before! It’s definitely mind-blowing! Rating: 4.8/5

Grilled Shrimp Tacos ($18) topped with cabbage, radish, microgreens, jalapeno, and served with mango salsa. The shrimp is perfectly cooked and retains a good snap. The presentation matches summer with the yellow, orange, purple and green hues. But there is a creamy element missing from this dish; like a chipotle crema or aioli. Rating: 4.3/5

Artisan Cheeses ($24) is a board of three artisan cheeses, fig jam, dried fruit, nuts, and crostini. The selection of boursin, brie, and Humboldt Fog are perfect for summer. Creamy, buttery, bitter, sweet flavors all meld with soft, chewy, and crisp textures. Rating: 5/5

Neapolitan Flatbread ($14) is wood-fired flatbread topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and EVOO. The flavor profile is similar to what you would find in Italy – natural essence of the produce and cheese. A sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper would have enhanced the flavors a little more to balance with the thickness of the flatbread. Rating: 3.5/5

The Mrs. Si Margarita ($17) is made with Patron Silver, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and Laetitia Sparkling Rosé. A portion of the proceeds from this cocktail will be donated to Dream Foundation. It is definitely a lip smacker. The lime is flavor forward with the tequila on the back of the palate. It could be a touch sweeter. Rating: 4/5

Coastal Caipirinha ($13) is made with Leblon Cachaca, lemon, mango puree, mint, pure sugar cane, and Amaro Averna mist. Imagine if you could put a tropical getaway in a glass – refreshing, fruits from the tropics, and sweet like sunshine. Rating: 4.5/5

Blacklist Punch ($12) is made with Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum, pomegranate, and ruby grapefruit. Like a quote from one of my favorite movies, Lost in Translation, “For relaxing times, make it Blacklist Punch time.” This drink definitely matches this resort with its luxurious and coastal feel. Rating: 4/5

As the coastal sprinkles turned on and off like a light switch, the fire pit was aglow. The sunset was a beautiful sight from the Bacara Resort and wished we didn’t have to leave. We drove back to Oxnard beating the last rays of sunset for a picturesque view of the Channel Island Harbor marina. It was a beautifully luxurious ending to our last night in Santa Barbara. But still more adventures to come tomorrow.

To view more photos from this trip, visit OC Food Diva's Facebook page.

For more information:
Upcoming events:

8301 Hollister Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93117, United States
Reservations: +1.805.571.3018
Hours: Monday through Thursday from 4pm to close; Friday through Sunday from 12pm to close
Parking: Valet

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