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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Santa Barbara…Pretty Sure It’s Heaven

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.

Olio’s Pizzeria

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!


  1. O.K. I live maybe 1-2 hours from Santa Barbara and I’ve never been! I think I’m going to have to add that as a must-do on a long weekend! Thanks for the tips — the restaurants look heavenly.

  2. 2
    Jess S

    I lived in SB for three years and miss it every day! Enjoy it for me while you’re there. We’re hoping to get out this summer!

  3. I have never tried cannoli, which is strange because I used to make it at a restaurant where I worked years ago. I will have to try it.

  4. 4
    Rochelle Foote

    You have to try El Torito!! It has AWESOME mexican food. We have family there and always go there. It is off State Street, right of the Warf. The pier with the dolphin water fall at the entrance.

  5. My parents went to S.B. on their honeymoon. 🙂

  6. Ok. I’m jealous. Reading this makes me want to leave in my car right now and head over to Santa Barbara. Glad your having a great time!

  7. 7
    Nicole Madison

    When in Newport, you must try True foods Kitchen. Yummy, yummy and healthy. Great contemporary decor. We eat there as much as we can. Be sure to try the kale salad (if you like kale) or the open faced salmon sandwich. Oh, or the edaname dumplings. I believe they even have a children’s menu.

  8. I *heart* Santa Barbara. I went to UCSB so didn’t really appreciate it while in college (lived in IV the whole time) now every time I go back i can’t BELIEVE I went to school there!

  9. 9
    Michelle P

    I agree. I would kill to live there. I’m in DC dreaming of Santa Barbara everyday! 🙂

  10. 10
    Colleen Patten

    I absolutely LOVE SB!! Went this past summer – you must try Crushcakes!! The BEST cupcakes anywhere (and I’ve tried A LOT)! Also, hate to sound so jealous and nosy but how in the world are you getting all this free stuff??!!! the car, the hotels, the dinners?? Have a great trip!

    • Jane Maynard

      I’m feeling a little sad right now because one of the last things I saw as we drove out of town was Crushcakes…and I thought, I wonder if those are good…DARNIT! next time! 🙂

      and I just bat my eyes and people throw free stuff at me. just kidding. 😉 I work with various PR people and tourism folks to determine if a restaurant or car or whatever would be something I would like to write about on my blog and if it’s something they would like me to share…and I only go for things that I know we’ll love! gotta say…I sure am grateful I started a food blog, we’ve had some great food this week as a result!

  11. 11

    Oh my gosh, Jane, I’m so jealous!!! I want to live in Northern Cali! I haven’t been to San Fran in almost 10 yrs and have never been to Santa Barbara. I love the Santa Barbara style of homes though. Great fun for you and the fam! 🙂

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