City Guide: Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a destination vacation. This vacation can either be a quick weekend trip, a staycation, or your next romantic getaway. I drove up to this beautiful American Riviera to experience amazing wines, culinary extravaganzas, and hotels that made me never want to come back home. Santa Barbara is known for the place to soak up some rest and relaxation, and that was exactly what I got to do. Experiencing downtown SB, living the coastal life at The Goodland, meeting a culinary genius at The Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara, watching beautiful sunsets from my balcony at The Canary, drinking local wines at The Finch and Fork, this City Guide provides you with a detailed itinerary of how to plan your next getaway.
One of the best features of Santa Barbara is that they have Surf Air for your travel needs. Surf Air is a members only jet service that provides daily flights to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa, Palm Springs, Carlsbad, San Diego, Monterey, Las Vegas, and of course Santa Barbara. The beautiful private airport is perfectly situated in the middle of Santa Barbara to offer a short Uber ride to any of your go to city destinations.
When flying in to the Santa Barbara Airport to start my weekend getaway, I was greeted the moment I stepped off the 8 passenger jet by my first and last name. There was a group of lovely concierge staff to help me with my bags, provide me with cold beverages and snacks, and already had a car waiting for me at the front door. One of the great perks of Surf Air is how easy everything is. It took me 15 minutes to check in and walk straight onto the jet, and 5 minutes to walk off and into my vehicle. Because Surf Air partners with multiple rental car companies, all I had to do was call my personal members service host and let her know I would be needing a car, and it was there ready to go for me before I even landed.
This company is great for the go to business traveler needing to be up and down the coast of California, or for the weekend getaway girl ready to soak up some sun on the Santa Barbara coast or head to a wine tasting up in Napa.
Upon my arrival to one of Kimpton’s hotels, The Goodland, I was transported to a retro beach retreat. This pet-friendly property is close to everything you need, including staple landmarks such as Goleta Beach and State Street, but I found myself never wanting to leave my new home away from home. I excitedly walked the entire premises looking at all the unique art displayed, exquisite beach design, music inspiration, the Ramen Fest by the pool, and of course the restaurant and bar. Inside the lobby is one of the most intricate and beautiful interior designs I have seen. Everything is so uniquely placed and perfectly paired that you feel you’re in the comfort of your own home. The lobby has multiple lounge areas, a light brown leather s-shaped couch that sits perfectly beside the warming fireplace, a backgammon table kid and adult friendly and one of my favorites, VNYL the record shop. To note, one of my favorite things about The Goodland is their love of music and what they offer because of that. This small dark room with neon signs transports you to an underground club full of amazing albums ranging from Black Sabbath, Journey and Pink Floyd all the way to today’s top hits. Feel free to put a record on the record player, throw on those headphones, and enjoy your new music haven powered by Sono’s. The art decor brings about the perfect balance of beach, history and ambiance. With surfboards hanging from the ceiling, photos catering to bohemian and beach aesthetic, rural tapestries hanging on the walls and vintage cars on display in the driveway, The Goodland encompasses everything beach, boho and cool.
Meeting my new best friend at check in, sadly knowing this will be ending in a few short days, he shared with me information about the second annual RamenFest happening at the pool. Restaurants from all around Santa Barbara, and one from Huntington Beach all participated including; Outpost, Finch and Fork, Zimzala, The Hungry Cat, Wildwood Kitchen, The Black Sheep and Empty Bowl. Who was to be the next “Ramen King of Santa Barbara”? I was sure to help figure that out! I walked each tasting booth trying out multiple ramen dishes until I found my favorite, The Empty Bowl (sorry everyone). I couldn’t possibly eat all that ramen without some libations, so I found myself making friends with the bartenders. Outside the pool was a picture perfect Tiki Pop-Up bar serving original Sake creations created by Outpost Lead Bartender Chris Burmeister. Besides the amazing food, live DJ playing sick beats, and the incredible sake buzz, this event all started to support a great cause, No Kid Hungry.
I was able to check out all the rooms offered at the property, The Deluxe, The Courtyard Deluxe, and The Courtyard Premier, but lucky enough to stay in the Courtyard Premier room. All their rooms offer hardwood floors and coastal wood finishes, flat screen tv’s, record player with three album options, complimentary yoga mat, luxury Atelier Bloem bath amenities and top reading list books for when you want to lay by the pool or cozy up in bed. Lucky for me, I am a sucker for a pool and a patio. My room, perfectly located 10 walking steps from the pool entrance, offered a quiet patio where I could drink my morning coffee and enjoy my social hour wine from the lobby. When putting away the items from my suitcase I notice a sign on my bathroom sink that says, “Forgot It? We’ve Got it!”. The Goodland offers you a large variety of essential travel items in case you forgot to pack that extra razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, or even for us ladies… a curling iron. I won’t tell you what I forgot, but I will say that I called the front desk and within five minutes my item arrived.
Now, those of you who are looking for either your long vacation get away, a local staycation, or just want to get out for a night The Goodland provides multiple unique activities. On Mondays, the property offers roasting S’mores by the outdoor fire pits and lounge couches. I recommend pairing with an Irish Coffee from Good Bar. On Wednesdays, they have trivia from 7pm - 9pm. Every Thursday from 7pm-9pm they have live music where different artists from different genres come serenade you with their tunes. For this, you’ll have to check the property’s calendar, but on specific Friday’s they hold outdoor movie screenings. This is great for a romantic date, a family outing, or just want a relaxing night on the property. One of my favorite activities is the Saturday and Sunday morning yoga class from 930am to 1030am. I headed out to the pool to get my morning zen on and then nama-stayed there for a few hours after class. If yoga isn’t quite up your alley, there is an amazing state of the art fitness center open 24 hours or feel free to hop on one of the public bikes available at the front desk and cruise over to the beach.
The last meal of my stay at The Goodland was brunch. Brunch on a weekend at The Goodland isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. I thought about doing room service but when you see all the guests and restaurant patrons guzzling down hair of the dogs, eating griddle pancakes like they’re going out of style and seeing show stopping Benedicts, I had to get involved. Guests see dishes coming out left and right and turn to their neighbors to ask what they ordered. The brunch favorites were Market and Traditional Benedict, Chilaquiles, and the Cast Iron. Of course, the tables had sides of bacon, chicken sausage, and the original Pop-Tart.
Good Bar + Outpost Kitchen
Centrally located at Kimpton The Goodland holds two culinary destinations, Good Bar and Outpost. Outpost Kitchen offers ingredients sourced from local farms with a menu catering to coastal California cuisine. When looking through the menu, I thought, “How do I decide?”. But my answer was simple, try everything. If you are someone who loves the Raw section on a menu, go for the west coast Oysters with pickled chili, and apple mignonette. They are great whether you are doing lunch or dinner or even a quick drink. I also ordered the Ceviche for one of my poolside snacks. It was fresh and cool and paired with the plantains, was a creative palette sensation. For lunch, I ordered the Good Burger that came with beer mustard, aged cheddar and fries, but of course, I added the sunny side up egg. What is a burger without an egg?
My go to salad pick was the Kale Salad tossed in a pomegranate vinaigrette, sprinkled with spicy peanuts, and flavored with red onions, cranberries, and queso fresco. I’m someone who eats Kale way too often that when I see it done in a different way I must try it. For dinner appetizers, I recommend the Bone Marrow and Burrata. The Bone Marrow was a perfect portion that included salmon rillettes, cilantro chimichurri, salmon roe, watercress and toast. The Burrata hit the coastal mark paired with roasted beets, nori, sprinkled sesame seeds and drizzled with a miso-honey vinaigrette. Outpost has a section called For the Table which is great for sharing, but of course, I’m not much of a sharer and will order off that section anyways because it has the word Guacamole in it. This isn’t your ordinary Guacamole. Outpost brings you a plethora of ingredients to make your own Guac! You can choose from mango, walnuts, tomato, cilantro, jalapeño, and tomatillo. For my main dinner course, I ordered the White Bass and Flat Iron Steak. When I see the words “cashew mole” on the menu I have to try it. Beautifully plated, the White Bass was perfectly paired with red quinoa, cashew mole, red peppers, and fava beans. To me, this is by far one of the best items on the menu. How could anyone end a meal without dessert? Not I, so I moved over to the fire pits outside the Outpost Patio, ordered myself a nightcap and waited for the Mexican Spiced Chocolate and Kaffir Lime Flan. The Flan had a chocolate crumble and marinated strawberries on top that just sent it to the next level.
Let's talk drinks. Good Bar has a variety of wines, beers, and cocktails to cater to everyone. Whether you’re looking to play a round of pool, sit in Good Bar’s patio, or indulge yourself in the dimly lit bar, Good Bar is perfect for any occasion. For example, their signature cocktail Buckshot which is Bullet rye whiskey, ginger, honey, fresh lime, and IPA is great for happy hour paired with their grilled chicken oyster skewers. When wanting to relax by the fire, I recommend their Honey Ryder made with Herradura Blanco, solemn blood orange liqueur, singani 63, angostura, and flamed orange peel. My favorite of the trip were the Wild Horse Pinot Noir, Municipal Winemakers Riesling, Madewest Brewing Pale Ale, and Mexican Air Patrol.
Cielo Spa is a boutique day spa tucked away off State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara. Winning multiple “Best Day Spa” awards it is known for its custom spa packages, relaxing body treatments, and of course, primp and pampering. If you are on a romantic getaway, I recommend going for the Couples Massage including candlelight and fragrant oils to fuel your senses. If you just want to treat yourself, go for the classic Swedish massage. This is perfect for the person who likes light to medium pressure and just needs to work those tension knots out. If you’re looking to revitalize your skin, Cielo Spa offers oxygen-infused facials, eco-friendly facials, and a Vitamin C Facial. Each facial is custom catered to your skin type and the type of results you are looking to achieve, outside of utter relaxation. In regards to Primp and Pamper, treat your body to an Eifelfango Mud Treatment. This mineral clay is from the volcanic region of Germany and promotes circulation and muscle relaxation. Warm compresses are applied and warm mud is massaged onto your body, followed by a wrapping in a Mylar blanket. This treatment leaves your skin purified and detoxified.
The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
Overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, I walked onto the patio seating of Bella Vista at The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Engulfed in decadent decor, roaring firepits, and the sound of the waves crashing onto Montecito’s Butterfly Beach, I was ready for a dinner I would never forget. Executive Chef Marco Fossati truly encompassed the art of culinary cuisine and top chef. Bella Vista, being the only restaurant in Santa Barbara (1 out of 12 in California) licensed to cure its own meat, being a farm to table restaurant, and having everything made in house, I knew my taste buds were in for a treat. To start the evening I was brought a variety of bread in a basket, a bottle of wine, and Formaggi E Salumi (selection of artisanal cheeses and house-cured meats). I felt as if I left Santa Barbara and escaped to Europe. For appetizers, I was lucky enough to try the Insalata Mista, Polpo, and one of Chef’s new creations he was trying out an Ahi Tuna Tar Tar. The Insalata Mista is a bed of organic greens topped with crunchy vegetables, garnished with Drakes Goat Cheese and drizzled with a walnut sherry vinaigrette. If you have never had octopus before, I recommend driving to Santa Barbara to try this dish. It is beautifully plated grilled Octopus, roasted tomato, taggiasca olive and red pepper. My first introduction to Chef was his delivery of the Ahi Tuna small plate. He let us know that he liked to bring out some dishes that aren’t on the menu yet to get a sense of the guest’s response. Chef didn’t just bring this dish to my table, he brought it to a few other tables as well. I watched him interact with the guests and it was so lovely to see this type of environment. You could tell the guests truly appreciated getting to meet the man behind their meal. This was something that went on a lot through the night and it was a beautiful moment every time.
The next item on my agenda were plates of pasta. Let me tell you, the Tagliatelle Vongole is life changing. Manilla and Littleneck Clams sautéed in Garlic, White Wine, and sprinkled with Parsley. The Short Ribs “Ravioli Del Plin” made with spinach, brown butter, sage and sugo d’arrosto was rich and distinct. Of course, I couldn’t skip on the Secondi and Sides. The Chicken was juicy and rich with flavor. The roasted carrots, chicory and carrot top puree really added for the October seasonal taste. My second choice was the Pan Seared Salmon with parsnip puree and farro salad. For side dishes, I ordered the roasted beets, brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower. A few glasses of wine later, it was finally time for my favorite part of the meal, dessert. All night long I had seen this decadent and stunning chocolate soufflé walking past me and the scent was unbelievable. Now was my turn to have it. Every chocolate morsel and sauce that poured out of this cake was worth every calorie. I would have ordered two if I could have.
My one hour planned dinner turned into a multi-course four-hour event that I will always remember. The food tasted so fresh and left you feeling so light. It’s truly amazing how different food truly tastes when eating everything made from local ingredients and in-house.
I was so inspired by Chef and his passion for food and the culture that I sat down to do an interview with him.
How does your Culinary background in Europe inspire your Santa Barbara menu?
I come from the Italian Riviera and Santa Barbara is the American Riviera. I grew up a 5-minute walk from the ocean, and Santa Barbara is on the ocean. The climate is similar, the lifestyle is similar, i.e. going to the harbor and buying fresh fish from the fishermen. We used to go down to the harbor and buy the Gamberoni Rossi from Monterosso (red prawns) but here in Santa Barbara we have the spot prawns. Besides all of these similarities, working in Italy, Paris, London, and Berlin to name a few, taught me the love of using fresh herbs, spices, a good rich fatty butter for cooking and an outstanding extra virgin olive oil for finishing dishes. We are trying to not use more than 3 ingredients per dish to keep them simple and always using what is in season, connecting as much as possible with our local sources and this can be done in Santa Barbara.
What are some of your favorite items on the menu and why?
Ravioli del Plin "beef short rib ravioli, brown butter and sage, fresh 24th month aged parmesan. It is an adaptation for the classic "del Plin”, a typical dish from Piedmont where half of my heritage is from. It is an example of an earthy/meaty dish with an elegance in their simplicity. Another dish soon to come is the Aghiotta fish stew, typical from Sicily, tasty and rich in flavors thanks to the black olive from Taggia (Liguria), a soffrito of celery and fennel, and to add the saltiness the Pantelleria Lilliput capers.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
It comes from working in different parts of the world, working with different chefs, and acknowledging that there are different ways to see and manipulate the same ingredient. I love to learn about different cultures and people, and thinking in my mind "what if"...I use this method or that ingredient or condiment to change an old way to prepare a dish.
Why did you want to become a chef?
I love cooking because it makes me feel free. Cooking is an art you do only if you are passionate and willing to sacrifice time and youth for a purpose. Is a never ending emotion.
Who inspired your passion for food?
Mia Famiglia, specifically Nonna Teresa (grandma), the classic old style Italian woman. Growing up I watched her get up early every morning, go to church, go to pick up the essentials; fresh baked bread and focaccia, fresh Milk, fresh fish on Fridays, and return home to cook for the family. I would watch her cook in her cast iron pan (that no one could touch or clean, but her). She used that pan for specific things from roasted potatoes, fish, and Milanese. She taught me how to cook a roasted chicken in white wine, stuffing sardines with a mixture of bread, egg, parmesan, marjoram, and garlic, then pan frying them, as well as, making homemade pasta and ravioli. I loved staying up with Nonna and my Papa into the early hours of the morning making ravioli. But most important even if very simple her fantastic marinara sauce. Till now used for different purposes.
What are your next culinary goals with The Four Seasons?
I believe in people and helping grow and develop my team. I strongly believe that if everyone works together everyone can learn from each other. I look to push my colleagues to be out of their comfort zone so they too are challenged and can learn. What I would like to do is be the first Regional Executive Chef in the company to oversee multiple hotels. Being an Executive Chef is not only about cooking, but leading and managing a team and an operation.
There is nothing more iconic in Santa Barbara than the legendary Downtown Santa Barbara. To write a Santa Barbara City Guide and not include all the intricate little coffee shops, where to find the best Acai bowls and hidden boutique gems for shopping would be a travesty. Let’s start with Backyard Bowl. With a few different locations dispersed around SB, Backyard Bowl is the go-to place for Acai bowls. They offer a variety of bowls, smoothies, and breakfast bowls. This is either a great pick me up midday exploring or a great way to start your Santa Barbara adventure. If you are looking for a good cup of joe, look no further than The French Press, Handlebar Coffee Roasters, or Good Cup Downtown. Granted, downtown Santa Barbara does have some of your everyday stores you could find at the mall down the street, but the architecture and outdoor shopping experience blow mainstream out of the water. Some of the local boutiques to stop into are Lovebird Boutique & Jewelry Bar, Diani Boutique and Dear Diary. If you are looking for a quick lunch stop, head over to Silvergreens. Everything is made with locally sourced ingredients. Grab a Turkey, Bacon & Avo sandwich, one of Kyle’s burgers, or the sunny side up bowl. If you are looking for more of a sit-down lunch head to State and Fig. This is a perfect place for a glass of wine, caesar salad and Fig and Pig Panini. Some of Santa Barbara’s staple restaurants are The Lark, Jane and Los Agaves Restaurant. The Lark is a one of a kind fine dining experience. Located in a former fish market this urbane eatery offers a new American flare. Downtown offers full day adventures, morning strolls, or a fine dining experience. It caters to everyone and anyone.
Escape life and travel to luxury at Kimpton The Canary. In the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara, this beautiful hotel offers world class wine, stunning views, farm fresh cuisine, a rooftop pool, and elaborate rooms. I was lucky enough to be able to stay in one of The Canary’s Premier King Balcony rooms. This picturesque suite offered views of mountains afar and the beautiful downtown Santa Barbara below. The Mediterranean-inspired room holds a king sized four post canopy bed lined with luxury linens, hardwood floors, and a luxury bathroom with a tiled bathtub and shower. The first thing I did was jump straight into that bed. I usually miss the comfort of my own bed when I travel, but I definitely called the front desk to see if I could take that mattress home with me. One great moment though was when I walked to the check-in counter and the first question asked was, “Can I offer you a glass of wine?’. I was brought over a lovely glass of red, my bags taken from me, and escorted to my room. One of the notes that really stand out about The Canary is the guest service. While unwinding in my luxurious new spot, I hear a knock at the door and when I opened it I was greeted with an assorted cheese plate, bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries. To quote Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things”.
The Canary offers many different amenities and services to better your vacation. The Rooftop Pool and Deck are magical. It is also the only Rooftop Pool in Santa Barbara. The pool is accompanied with a pool bar serving cocktails all day long. The roof is great for taking photos, watching the sunset, or catching some rest and relaxation. The Canary is pet-friendly so if you do bring your pup it's only a 1.5-mile walk to the beach if you want to choose ocean over the pool. Each room you will find a complimentary yoga mat, so if you happen to stay at The Canary during the weekend, they offer Saturday morning yoga classes on the roof. If you are someone like me who loves the Spa, Float Luxury Spa is Canary’s local premium spa partner. The spa is only a block away, but they do offer in-house spa treatments. I had a morning massage before my check out and it was the best way to end my Santa Barbara trip.
Finch and Fork
Finch and Fork conveniently located next to The Canary is one of Santa Barbara’s fresh and clean California cuisine.
Finch and Fork play homage to timeless American dishes all while adding a modern twist. Execute Chef James Siao truly has his signature on this Menu. He is known for pairing no more than six ingredients in a dish and writes a love letter through his food. Each dish was intricately plated and created an artful aesthetic you almost didn’t want to eat because it looked too beautiful. Chef works closely with Santa Barbara farms and fisherman and it’s what makes him a community favorite.
My dinner at Finch and Fork was an absolute delight from service to dessert, it was a great experience. The first item of the evening was the Smoked Skuna Bay Salmon Dip served with freshly made potato chips and an order of the West Coast Oysters. Next item of business was the Hamachi Crudo. This definitely is a fan favorite, made with celery root, granny smith apple, yuzu and dill. The theme of the night was Granny Smith Apples. The way the chef really utilizes the seasonal and local ingredients are inspiring. He takes specific fruits and vegetables such as granny smith apples and pairs them with unique herbs, spices, meats, seafood and cheeses. It really takes your taste buds to a new palette level. I truly am a strong believer in farm to table so when I see a menu full of delicious fresh ingredients it’s hard to just make one selection. Finch and Fork have a Farm to Fork section that caters well to vegetarians or looking to pair your entree with some fresh vegetables. I couldn’t decide between the caramelized cauliflower made with crispy capers, lemon and breadcrumbs, the roasted brussels sprouts with Marcona almond, shaved pecorino, and roasted in maple bacon vinaigrette, or the butternut squash soup because how can you not during Fall. My solution was to try it all! I ordered the soup to start and the rest to accompany my beautiful entrees. If you are going to pick anything off this menu please choose the Sea Scallops. They come delicately placed on a bed of corn salsa topped with avocado and marinated in a chorizo vinaigrette. My next runner up is either the Pork Chop or Rainbow Trout. Being completely satiated I mustered up the strength to order the S’more Pot De Crème and a cup of coffee. Low and behold arrived a beautifully plated house made marshmallow with a graham cracker crumble smothered in chocolate sauce. If I am to eat S’mores this is the only way I’d like to.
Let’s talk alcohol. Finch and Fork have a variety of craft cocktails and wines. They have a beautiful bar and ambiance that I would recommend stopping inside for just if a drink if you aren’t able to stay for a whole meal. If you are someone who enjoys Gin, I recommend The Witch’s Back. It is made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Strega, Pamplemousse Rose, Lime, orange bitters and served up. I enjoy whiskey and tequila so my picks are the Sucker Punch and House Barrel - Aged Manhattan. The Sucker Punch served in a highball glass made with pineapple, lime, agave, tiki bitters, Mandarine Napoleon and Herradura Reposado.
I was able to experience a wine tasting during my visit to Finch and Fork with Point & Line Wine. What started as a mention of the types of wine I enjoy turned into a dinner pairing and tasting. Point and Line Wine started when four wine professionals all met by chance. They make their craft wines straight from the fruit of Santa Barbara. It was great to experience a variety of their wines from Chardonnays to Pinot Noirs straight from the beautiful city itself.
There definitely are a variety of places to eat, drink, and stay at when visiting Santa Barbara, but I must say this is definitely one City Guide to try out.
Written by Kiley Coleman