12 Hours in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is the perfect place to spend a romantic day and explore the hidden gems in the hills as well as the downtown and coastal areas.

Book an all-day winery tour with Wine Edventures. They offer several tours, but the Grapes ‘N’ Hops Tour is a great way to see (and sample) three wineries plus a stop at a local brewery. For $105 + gratuity (per person), our tour included:

Brander Vineyard
  • Tastings at three wineries (over 15 different wines for the day) – our tour included the Koehler Winery, Buttonwood Farm Winery, and The Brander Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley of California
  • Tasting and tour at the Figueroa Mountain Brewery in nearby Solvang, California
  • Fresh, made-to-order picnic lunch (choice of freshly made sandwich or wrap, side salad, kettle chips, homemade cookie and bottled water)
  • 19 oz. souvenir logo wine tasting glass for each of us
  • Knowledgeable, friendly tour guide
  • Door-to-door service from local Santa Barbara or Solvang hotels (Ventura pick-ups also available upon request) in a comfortable Sprinter van
Figueroa Mountain Brewery

Following our tour, we made our way to downtown Santa Barbara for a stroll through the shopping district before a spectacular dinner at Bouchon.

The restaurant was filled to capacity, but not overwhelmingly noisy. Dinner service was impeccable, servers attentive and engaging. Bouchon’s entire menu is sourced with local ingredients whenever possible. I was smitten with the maple-glazed California duck breast and confit of thigh served with a succotash of sweet corn, fava beans, applewood-smoked bacon, Windrose Farms butternut squash, and a port-thyme demiglace.

Bouchon’s wine list includes some of the finest locally-produced Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Our sommelier was happy to provide recommendations for our dinner selections.

If you have more than a day to spend, Santa Barbara has many special offers available: free museum admissions, package deals, two-for-one wine tastings, tour offers, and many more complimentary perks – these are just some of the offers that will help you experience The American Riviera® first-hand. Be sure to check here for details.

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New Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Oooo… one of my favorite food bloggers, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, has released a new cookbook and I can’t wait to begin devouring every delicious recipe!

According to Amazon’s book description, Deb founded her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and that the results of your labor can—and should—be delicious every time and she has dedicated herself to creating and finding the best of the best and adapting the recipes for the everyday cook. There are 105 recipes and over 300 photos in the book, lots of stories and according to today’s Smitten Kitchen post, a cookbook that stays open on your kitchen counter when you want it to!

Book tour details are below if you want to pick up your own signed copy!

Los Angeles : FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2nd, 1:00 p.m.

Williams-Sonoma, Beverly Hills
339 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA [Map]
310.274.9127
Cooking demo + book signing. Please note: To have a book signed, a purchase of at least one book will be required in-store.

Napa Valley: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd, 1:00 p.m.

Copperfield’s Cooks
The Culinary Center at Whole Foods
3682 Bel Aire Plaza
Napa, CA [Map]
Cooking demo + book signing. Please note: Cooperfield’s would love if you’d consider buying a book for signing in their wonderful store, but it is not a requirement.

San Francisco: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4th, 2:00 p.m. [NEW TIME]

Omnivore Books
3885 Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA [Map]
Special presentation + book signing. Please note: Omnivore would prefer that you buy any books you’d like signed in their wonderful store. Please note time change; it will be one hour earlier to make sure I have as much time as possible to hang out before heading to Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4th, 7:00 p.m.

Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 [Map]
Short talk + Q&A + book signing. Please note: Everyone will be able to get their books signed but those that buy them at the store will have priority order during the signing portion.

 Portland: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5th, 7:30 p.m.

Powell’s
1005 W. Burnside
Portland, OR [Map]
Short talk + Q&A + book signing. Please note: Powell’s does not mind if books purchased outside the store are signed during the event, however, those with outside books will be asked to stop at the info booth on their way in for a pass, so as not to raise security concerns.

Vino Cotto Sweet “Cooked Wine” Syrup: Product Review

ImageVino Cotto di Montillo is my newest discovery for adding a little burst of flavor to all sorts of dishes. It’s a naturally-sweet “cooked wine” syrup that contains no alcohol or vinegar, no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, and no sugar. In fact, nearly three pounds of wine grapes are used to produce one 8.5 ounce bottle.

I recently drizzled it over antelope chops while they were cooking and it served as a delicious, slightly sweet glaze. Later, I tried a splash over a scoop of dark chocolate gelato and in both cases it added a fantastic depth of flavor.

You can use it as a “secret” ingredient to:

  • Add a little pop of flavor to beef, game, chicken, pork, ham, turkey, salmon, shrimp and veggies
  • Create delectable sauces, marinades, balsamic vinegar (by adding a tiny bit of distilled vinegar) and salad dressings
  • Drizzle over a variety of cheeses, fruit, or yogurt
  • Top your favorite ice cream, pancakes, waffles, and French toast
  • Substitute for honey, maple, corn or golden syrups when baking biscuits,  cookies or cakes as a healthy, tasty alternative

Go to Vino Cotto to learn more or order your bottle.  This would also make a wonderful holiday gift!

Vino Cotto is a family-owned and operated company located in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Montillo family has been producing this delightful syrup in Calabria, Italy for over 100 years for personal use and began to produce it commercially in October, 2008.