Wednesday, February 23
Yesterday marked the end of our time in Santa Barbara. And what a good time it was!
For our last morning, we drove around town a bit (drooling over houses as we went) and then visited the Santa Barbara Mission, also known as the Queen of the California Missions. The buildings, gardens, church and cemetery were all beautiful. And the view was unbelievable. The door at the back of the chapel looks straight out to the ocean. It certainly puts one in a meditative mood.
For our last meal we had lunch at the Wine Cask. This was by far the fanciest restaurant of the three we tried – the tables and decor were lovely. And they had this wicked cool wall of wine bottles…we were all mesmerized by it. Our food was great and Nate had his favorite food from the trip…a Croque Madame. The bourbon caramel bread pudding was downright divine.
Big thanks to the Santa Barbara Visitor’s Bureau for helping us plan such a fabulous trip to their beautiful town! We can’t wait to return!
Tuesday, February 22
Is there a more beautiful town in the United States than Santa Barbara? I’m really not sure there is. And I lived in San Diego for 7 years, so that’s saying something! The landscape is amazing, the coastline gorgeous, the weather lovely, the architecture stunning…I’m running out of adjectives, so I’m just going to stop there. We are loving it here and we only have half a day left. It went by far too quickly!!
The Canary Hotel provided us with one free night and one night at a media rate. We could have stayed at another hotel for free both nights, but the call of the canary was too strong. We gave in. And I’m so glad we did. The hotel is in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara and is beautiful.
Our room is beautifully decorated, with gorgeous dark wood floors. And there’s plenty of space, even with all our stuff and four people.
And the rooftop? We could live there. There’s a heated pool, hot tub, tons of great tables and chairs for hanging out, and a 360-degree view of Santa Barbara. Absolutely gorgeous at sundown. I’m so glad we splurged a little to stay here. We’ll never forget it!
Yesterday we went to the Santa Barbara Zoo for half the day, aptly nicknamed the “Zoo with a View.” They weren’t kidding. The zoo is lovely, with great views of the ocean and the mountains. We at lunch on a beautiful lawn overlooking the twinkling waters of the Pacific Ocean. And it was a nice manageable zoo – the girls could walk the whole way, we saw all of their favorite animals, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly huge. It was a really fun time.
Let’s talk food, shall we? The first night Olio’s Pizzeria treated us to dinner. Our waitress was telling us that the couple who owns Olio’s Pizzeria also owns the fancier restaurant next door called Olio e Limone. They opened up the pizzeria to provide a more casual option. It is a fun space and was bustling with people. When we arrived at 6:00, the restaurant was already full, and when we left at 8:00 it was packed with a line out the door.
We had some really delicious food at Olio’s. We ordered a burrata appetizer that was served with the tastiest prosciutto we’ve ever had. Top the burrata and the prosciutto on their garlic-rubbed country bread and you are transported momentarily to heaven. Oh wait, we’re in Santa Barbara, so we’re already in heaven. But you get my drift. The girls couldn’t get enough meatballs, so it was a bummer that you only got three with the appetizer. But they were three thoroughly-enjoyed meatballs.
The pizzas are great. Awesome crust and lots of great flavors. There’s a lot of pizza in the world, and theirs holds its own. Of course I had to try their cannoli…it was, well, interesting. Different than any cannoli I’ve ever had. SUPER creamy, I wouldn’t have believe it was ricotta if I hadn’t read it on the menu. And not very sweet, which was also a surprise. It was yummy, but you have to eat it not expecting a traditional cannoli.
The restauarant was family-friendly – there were other kids there and I felt that my kids were welcome. However, there is no kids’ menu and no crayons. And service, while super friendly and helpful, was slow. Dinner and dessert took two hours. Kind of long for the girls, but they did surprisingly well.
Aldo’s Fine Italian Restaurant
On our second night, another popular spot Aldo’s Fine Italian Restaurant treated us to dinner. The restaurant has all the traditional Italian dishes you would expect, plus a few fun dishes like a pork chop cooked in a dried cherry sauce that sounded really good. I ordered the baked scallops cooked in a light cream sauce with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach, as recommended by the waitress. She was right – the dish was delicious. Surprisingly light given it is baked in cream, and the vegetables were cooked perfectly, nice and fresh-tasting.
My favorite aspect of the food was the sauces. The mushroom and artichoke appetizer was in a delicious white wine sauce, the sauce on my scallops was wonderful, and the mushroom sauce on Nate’s steak was also super tasty.
Of course I had to try their cannoli, too. I’m a little obsessed. It was more traditional than Olio’s, which I think is a good thing. The owner and I agreed, though – nothing beats a cannoli in the Northeast! All the desserts were quite tasty. Cate gobbled up the chocolate raspberry mousse cake – I could barely get a bite in!
Like Olio’s, the restaurant was family-friendly. There was a kids’ menu and crayons available, which is always helpful, and they are willing to do 1/2 portions of most pasta dishes if your child feels more adventurous. I appreciate that. The waitstaff was super nice and helpful, but slow (like Olio’s). Long dinners can be really fun and nice, but with kids it is sometimes hard. Cate loved our waitress and talked about her on the walk home. It was really cute. The owner came to chat with us for a while. He started running the restaurant in December, so it was fun to talk with him about his experience. And, like I always say after talking to people who run restaurants, I really admire their hard work and can’t imagine doing it myself!
Today we’re going to go see the Santa Barbara Mission, drive around and look at big houses, and visit the Wine Cask for lunch. Then we’re off to Huntington Beach!
Sunday, February 20
Today I’m not making breakfast for dinner like I had originally planned. Instead we are doing something so much better – driving to Santa Barbara! Tonight we will be eating at Olio Pizzeria, which I’m certain will be better than pancakes. After spending a few days in Santa Barbara we will head down to Orange County. We are SO excited for this trip and will be sharing it with you as we go, especially since we have some great meals lined up!
Ford provided us with this awesome 2011 Explorer for the trip. We’ve borrowed cars for trips before, but this is our favorite. I fell in love as soon as I started driving. Nate felt the same way…after driving the car for the first time, he walked in the house and said, “That car is awesome.” It’s really too bad we have to give it back in a week. Maybe Ford will conveniently forget we have it. ;)
Here’s our menu for the week – gotta love vacation!
- Aldo’s Italian Restaurant in Santa Barbara
- Huntington Beach Day…any suggestions?
- Newport Beach Day…any suggestions?
- Lunch at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland!
- Driving home
- Breakfast for dinner, for real this time…we’ll be home and I’m sure exhausted! I’m thinking pancakes will fit the bill.
Since I’m not offering any helpful dinner ideas this week, I’m counting on all of you to share your menus and inspire one another!
Sunday, January 30
I’m not feeling great today, but Nate decided some fresh air and big ocean waves would do us all some good. We drove down to the coast and spent the morning watching giant waves crash against the shore. It was beautiful. And Nate was right, the walk out to Mavericks was pretty much the only time I didn’t feel sick today. Must have been the ocean air.
I love this shot of the boats on the harbor. It was a silvery, misty morning. And no, this photo is not in black and white. Pretty amazing.
Now that we’re home, time to snap back into real life and get our menu planned for the week!
- Soup (have some in the freezer)
- Chicken Parmesan
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Eat out
- Nate’s omelettes (we got off the hook last week, had dinner with friends instead)
I know I am sounding like a broken record, but I am loving all the menu and recipe sharing that is going on each week on these weekly menu posts! Thank you all for creating such a wonderful community. And here we are again…please share your menu for the week! Can’t wait to see what’s for dinner.
Friday, September 17
Today I’m cheating a little. The restaurant I’m going to write about is actually in Palo Alto. But the owners have a second, more casual location in Menlo Park and it’s the same chef. So, it counts.
Okay, so I love Back A Yard in East Menlo Park. I think it might be my favorite take-out spot in town. Nate and I can split one jerk chicken dinner and be left with full bellies and tingly, happy taste buds. Their jerk sauce is perfection. Perfect texture, flavor, heat…I can’t get enough. Back A Yard has been serving Menlo Park for about 6 years. Two years ago they opened a second restaurant called Coconuts in Palo Alto, with the same wonderful Caribbean vibe and eats.
I knew I had to write about Back A Yard for Menlo Park week. When I emailed the chef, he offered to serve us dinner at Coconuts, which of course we took him up on! I already knew the chef’s wife Annetta from my frequent visits to Back A Yard, and it was a delight to finally meet Chef Robert. We also met the other Coconuts chef Emmanuel, who took very good care of us throughout the evening.
First off, we had a Jamaican soda called Ting. It rocked. My pictures of it did not rock. So, please just close your eyes and imagine what a Jamaican grapefruit soda in a pretty glass looks and tastes like. Pretty good, right?
On to the food.
Corn Festivals. They’re kind of like donuts. But maybe better. Not so sweet, but sweet enough. I can pop ‘em like candy. Seriously. It’s a good thing I only eat them every once in a while. You can also get the festivals at Back A Yard.
Curried Garbanzo Avocado Guacamole, with Crispy Plantain Tostones. Coconuts makes their tasty guacamole with smashed up garbanzo beans (kind of similar to the dip recipe from last week…interesting, eh?). And those tostones? LOVE them.
Pork bites. I love these tender little pork bites. Maybe because you get that bowl of jerk sauce. And we all know how I feel about the jerk sauce.
Curried shrimp. This was my dinner. It might be my favorite thing on the menu. Tons of perfectly cooked veggies. Delicious shrimp. The curry sauce is wonderful. Oh, and the little cup of mango salsa complements the entire dish so nicely.
Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat. This was Nate’s dinner. There’s that yummy jerk chicken I told you about. And the curried goat is quite good – very tender with, once again, a great sauce. These people know their sauces. You can’t see it, but this dish comes with rice and beans, which you can get at both restaurants. I love me some rice and beans, and these are no exception.
Tender Braised Oxtail. That’s right, OXtail. This meat is wicked tender. It’s also quite fatty, but seriously tasty. This is very traditional and we had to give it a try – glad we did.
By this point in the meal we were STUFFED and we had enough leftovers for a whole other dinner the next night! But we had to try at least one dessert. In the name of the blog, right? Ah, the sacrifices I make.
The chef recommended we go with the Sweet Potato Pudding. I told you Chef Emmanuel took care of us that night. I can’t tell you how happy I was we tried this pudding. I’m terrible at describing food…let’s see, it was warm, the sauce was yummy…see, terrible. Please just know this was good stuff.
Can you see why we love these restaurants? And I should mention that I credit Back A Yard with my new found ability to eat super spicy food. Before Back A Yard, I was a wimp. But that jerk is too good to pass up. And now, my heat tolerance is high. Bring it on.
Thank you to the owners and chefs for a fabulous meal!
Wednesday, September 15
Another Menlo Park (and, really, national) treasure is Kepler’s Books. You should click here to read the history of the bookstore. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Here are the highlights…Roy Kepler, peace activitist, opened the store in 1955. It attracted loyal customers from the start, oh, and The Grateful Dead and Joan Baez appeared/performed there regularly. There is a PBS documentary about Kepler’s and in 1990 Kepler’s was named “Bookseller of the Year” by Publisher’s Weekly. “Thanks” to the Internet, they had to close their doors in August of 2005…but after much support and investment from the community, they re-opened their doors two months later. Cool, right?
I love this place. I could spend hours browsing through the stacks and stacks of books.
They have events all the time with all kinds of amazing authors. I mean amazing. Like former-presidents-of-the-United-States amazing.
And the children’s section of the store is a little piece of heaven on earth.
We’re pretty lucky.
This might be my favorite part of the store. The Knuffle Bunnies fighting over who loves Kepler’s more.
So, there’s our bookstore. Are you in love with Menlo Park yet?
Hands down one of my favorite places in Menlo Park is Cafe Borrone. Every time I eat there I love it even more. I love the food. I love the atmosphere. I love the umbrellas. I love the chalkboard menus. I love the pretty dishes.
Last week Cafe Borrone treated us to dinner so I could write up this post. Our dinner was HEAVEN. Every last bite was scrumptious. Marina Borrone kept telling us we should call friends to come share the food with us because they were planning on bringing so much out…and, uh, yeah…Nate and I ate it all (with only a little help from the girls). So much for sharing!
Cafe Borrone has been around since 1971, first in Redwood City and now Menlo Park. The restaurant is family-owned and run by Marina, Josh (her husband who is also the chef) and Marina’s parents, who originally started the business. In fact, Josh started working here when he got out of high school, serving tables and whatnot, and is now chef!
Cafe Borrone uses almost all local ingredients (with the exception of around 5 items, such as bananas) and as much organic food as possible. Their menu changes day to day, based on what is fresh and in season. It’s a natural for lunchtime, but their breakfast food is wonderful. And dinner? Oh, dinner is too good.
Let’s take a gander at the food, shall we?
Corn fritters. I can’t begin to describe how good these are.
Beet Salad. The beets were soooooo yummy. Sweet, perfect texture. And the goat cheese on top of the greens? I didn’t know goat cheese could be so darn creamy.
Burrata. Have you ever had burrata? It’s basically fresh mozzarella stuffed with cream and curd. And it rocks. Especially topped on crostini with roasted peaches and tomatoes. Marina said they ate burrata in Italy and had to bring it to their restaurant…and now she’s seeing it in other places. That’s right, you saw it at Borrone’s first!
That was just the appetizers. How about some dinner?
Grouper BLT. Fresh line caught grouper with all kinds of bacony-tomatoey goodness surrounding it.
Steak Crostini. This was Nate’s favorite. I think mine too. But whenever I decide it’s my fave, I think about something else I ate and can’t go with a final decision. The Niman Ranch filet mignon on this crostini was cooked perfectly and tasted, well, amazing.
You have room for dessert, right? We all know I always do…
Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp.
Coconut Cream Tart.
This dog was totally judging me.
What, dog, what? You think I ate too much?
I think every single one of you reading this post needs to come visit me in Menlo Park, just so we can go to lunch at Cafe Barrone. Deal? Great! (Bonus for your trip: you get to see me pig out and get judged by snooty dogs.)
Click more to read Josh’s description of each dish. As if the pictures wouldn’t make you hungry enough.
Thank you, Cafe Borrone, for an amazing dinner…and, more importantly, for being around for everyone to enjoy!
Monday, September 13
I love my town. Nate and I are so grateful that when we moved to the Bay Area, we ended up in Menlo Park. The schools are awesome, the neighborhoods are beautiful, the people are nice, and our main street is the best, with tons of local businesses and restaurants, very few chain stores and oodles of charm. There’s just a really fantastic sense of community that we are lucky to be a part of!
I want to share some of my town with you, so it’s Menlo Park Week here on This Week for Dinner. I’m excited to support a few local businesses, share a part of my daily life with you, and offer up some great giveaways (don’t worry, you don’t have to be from Menlo Park to partake!). Plus, I hope the week inspires you to go out into your own community to support and/or find your own local gems!
Without further ado, let be the first to welcome you to Menlo Park, California! I hope you enjoy your visit!
Thursday, August 19
I’m finally sitting down to write about the 2010 Avery SocialLuxe Lounge. Ah, SocialLuxe. Even now, two weeks later, I don’t know where to begin! The party was a-maaaaaay-zing. Our sponsors were wonderful, the location was off the HOOK, and throwing the party with Allison Czarnecki and Marie LeBaron was by far and away the best part of it all. I simply feel grateful for the chance to be a part of it.
Allison, Me, Marie – The Dream Team
Warning: this is a long post. But it’s FUN and represents a year of my life, so I just gotta make it a big ole monster post of SocialLuxe fabulousness. (If, after all of this, you are still dying to see and read more about SocialLuxe, we have a pretty sweet Flickr page here, and we’re collecting posts about the party here.)
The Avery SocialLuxe Lounge took place on August 5 in New York City at Arena, near Bryant Park. We had 350 wonderful bloggers in attendance, including this unbelievable list of VIPs. UNBELIEVABLE, right?
This year Avery was our title sponsor for the event. They were wonderful. Their conference survival kits for each guest were adorable and totally useful to boot. We absolutely adored working with Avery.
In addition to Avery, we had a whole slew of amazing sponsors. Frito-Lay, International Delight, Stride Rite and Ghirardelli were all at the party, providing their own unique and fun twists. Celebrity designer Heather Thomson was also there helping women to feel yummy with her Yummie Tummie line. (These waiters were also wearing Yummie Tummie products…which they admitted to loving.)
This year we featured a very special non-profit organization, Drop In and Decorate. They were at the party to meet bloggers, educate them about what the organization does, and gave guests the chance to design cookies to benefit the Center Against Domestic Violence of New York. Drop In and Decorate is definitely worth checking out, so click on over to their site!
SocialLuxe is all about the pampering. Hair, makeup, henna, manicures by OPI and the most fantabulous aromatherapy massages by Aveda really rounded out the evening. I could have sat in that massage chair for hours.
The swag was sweet, too. It was SO fun giving each guest a giant bag full of wonderful goodies. From totally delicious smelling Scentsy products to totally classy gifts from Cambria Cove to totally awesome face cream from StriVectin to totally rockin’ headphones from Skullcandy…and so much more. It was nuts!
This is what stuffing 350 bags looks like
Shabby Apple provided the three hostesses (including myself) dresses for the weekend. I can’t even tell you how many compliments I got on my Frida K dress. I sure was glad I was wearing it that night…made me feel all confident and stuff. And, confession time, I wore it again two nights later.
SocialLuxe was a TON of work, but it was worth it, for so many reasons. Oh, and I won the Tastiest BlogLuxe award with dear sweet Ree, The Pioneer Woman! Yippee! (Don’t miss the list of all the winners here.)
The weekend didn’t stop there. The BlogHer conference was just as overwhelming as ever, with over 2000 bloggers in attendance. The highlights of the weekend for me were two more parties.
Ree (The Pioneer Woman), Jaden (Steamy Kitchen) and Elise (Simply Recipes) held a cocktail party on Friday night, where I finally met Matt Armendariz from Matt Bites and got to hang out with the David Lebovitz. And I’m officially in love with both of them.
And on Saturday night I had the chance to attend another cocktail party hosted by NATE BERKUS. He was super sweet and I love him now even more than I did before. I honestly can’t wait to see his new show in a few weeks.
Oh, and then I danced the night away at Sparklecorn, one of the official BlogHer parties. I haven’t danced like that since college. It was a BLAST. (And I make a brief appearance in this video, thankfully hidden behind some crazier girls than I…)
I’ve gotta say, New York City treated me well.
Oh! I almost forgot. Not only did I get wined and dined in NYC, but I also became an official minivan mom. That’s right, I had me a Swagger Wagon for my East Coast trip this summer. Toyota provided me with a Sienna to use the whole two weeks I was out East. It was fabulous having it on our family vacation on Cape Cod and, surprisingly, it was even more fabulous to have it in New York City for SocialLuxe. It hauled people and boxes of stuff equally as well and I don’t know what we would have done without it. And, once ‘Jersey Jane’ kicked in, I could handle driving that van in the city as well as any cab driver.
Cate and Anna loved having the van…they sat in the way back the whole time we had it and Cate was enamored with the sliding doors. And, because they look too cute (and hardcore!) in Skullcandy headphones, we of course had to do a rap album cover photo shoot.
After all, this is a swagger wagon…and my girls know how to swagger. No diggity, no doubt.
Tuesday, August 17
Today the girls and I trekked north 1 1/2 hours to visit the Jelly Belly factory and go on their free tour. If you live in or visit Northern California, this is definitely a fun thing to do with the kids! And, come to think of it, it’s fun for all ages! My favorite part of the tour was watching the children peer through the windows down at the factory floor. I’m certain they could have sat their quietly for hours on end. (Sadly, no photography inside the factory itself…which was KILLING me. If only, if only…)
Want to know the trick to a successful Jelly Belly Factory Tour visit? Get there right when it opens! We didn’t wait at all….and when we finished our tour an hour or so after we arrived, the line was INSANE. Don’t go late! Don’t do it! No sleeping in! And definitely go on a weekday, when the factory is going strong! It’s just too fun watching all those jelly beans jumping around on the conveyor belts.
When I asked Cate a few hours after we got home what she thinks of the factory, she simply replied, “I love it!” She and I decided that the Jelly Belly factory is one of the happiest places on earth. The factory workers on the floor would look up and wave and smile at the kids over and over. I think making pretty colored candy all day must put you in a good mood.
Look. Even the french fries are happy.
Maybe it’s the hats.
Or the jelly bean art.
Honestly, I think the source of all the happiness is the kids, longingly observing the wonder that is millions of jelly beans all in one place.