Sunday, February 25, 2007

Santa Barbara

I'm in Santa Barbara and this is the second time I've been here. I'm not sure how it happened but I actually forgot how incredibly beautiful this place is. The last time I was here (about two years ago, I think), we stayed at San Ysidro Ranch and this time we're staying at the Four Seasons Biltmore. (One of the very few perks of my job is getting to go to these "off site" meetings at super nice resorts.)

The Four Seasons is a beautiful place and, for some unknown but very welcome reason, my room got upgraded to a suite. I have two rooms, a king size bed, two flat screen TVs, a balcony that looks out over the ocean (but first it looks out over the entrance to the hotel but who's complaining) AND the bathroom has a steam shower and a warmed tile floor. The only thing that could make this better is having my husband here with me. Oh, and not having to spend most of my time in a conference room.

One thing I haven't been impressed with here is the food. At dinner last night I had a $40 piece of salmon that I couldn't eat. It was supposed to be "lightly smoked and slow-cooked" which really meant heavily smoked and dry as a bone. And the garnish was awful - too salty eggplant slivers, weird tasting black potatoes and some other unidentifiable vegetables. I also had mushroom soup which was okay but the mushroom soup in our office cafeteria is equally as good (seriously) and a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, one of the waiters spilled a carafe of hot soup on one of the other diners in our group. Right down the guy's back! And they originally gave us the wrong menus. I think it's reasonable expect better from a place where the bill was over $500 for six people. But the wine was good. We got a bottle of Pinot Noir from Hitching Post Winery which is the place from the movie Sideways. So, that was cool but not cool enough to make up for the bad food and the equally bad service.

This afternoon I had time to take a walk. I actually brought my iPod with me but when I thought about it, I realized that it's one thing to drown out the nerve wrangling sounds of the city with my own personal soundtrack but it's just ludicrous to drown out the calming sound of the ocean. So I walked and actually listened to the sound of the ocean and the sea birds and the screaming of kids running away from the waves on the beach. And the sound of my own thoughts (which is something I do way too little of). Actually, I spent most of the walk composing this blog post and I'm not sure what that says about me.

I ended up walking into town, or what seemed like "town" because there was a boulevard, with parking and lots of little shops. It reminded me a little bit of Port Clinton Square, a sort of in-town walking mall-type area in Highland Park, IL where I grew up. Except this is prettier, smells nicer (because of the gardenias) and has lots more high end real estate agencies. And as it turns out I had walked into Montecito which is really a suburb of Santa Barbara. I ended up walking farther than I planned so I had to stop for refreshment on my way back. I stopped at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for the best Chai Latte I've had (yes, even better than Starbucks). It kept me warm for the rest of the walk back. (I know, I have no right to complain about it being cold here when it's a heck of a lot better than the weather my family is suffering through in Chicago.)

For dinner, a few of us went to Downey's which is apparently one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. It certainly lived up to its reputation. For an appetizer, I had crab toast with curried fruit. Sounds weird but tasted awesome. Then I had a salad with garlic and Stilton cheese dressing followed by a lamb loin with green beans and mushrooms. But the kicker was the dessert - I had their version of Mille-feuille (I totally had to look that up). Freshly made pastry filled with creamy white chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries. Yummy. Oh, yeah and we had some terrific Santa Barbara wine. But not too much.

The only bummer of the night was that I missed the entire Oscar telecast. It's one of my favorite TV shows of the year so that sucked. As we finished dinner and headed back to the hotel in a cab, the CEO of my company used his Blackberry to look up the winners. Thank goodness for technology.

So now I need to get some sleep. Did I mention that I have a king size bed? Nighty night!


Sandra said...

My husband travels a lot for work and eats out at nice places and I always say he and I have completely different lifestyles. Once our kids are grown, I look forward to traveling with him--I think it will be really fun.

I enjoyed reading about your impressions of Santa Barbara. My brother lives there (but not at the Four Seasons!) and I've heard it's beautiful.

landis said...

It sounds like a really nice place! I haven't been to Santa Barbara in years, but the smell of jasmine is always the smell of a California spring for me.

AfricaBleu said...

I would be a little disgruntled, myself, if a forty dollar piece of fish didn't taste like it came straight from heaven.

Sounds like a grand trip -- and you detailed it so well, I felt like I was there with you.

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