Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trip Planning: Solvang and Santa Ynez

I have suddenly become Trip Planner Extraordinaire for my friends and family, and while I’m really enjoying the role, it does come with some drawbacks. Monday night my cousin called—wait, let me preface this:

My Grandfather is in his mid-nineties and doesn’t stay up past 7pm for anything. So when I get a phone call at 10pm at night on a Monday and my cell phone says “Grandad’s House,” I think the old man must be dead as a doornail, or pretty close to, and someone is calling to tell me the news. I’m mid-way through washing my hair when the phone rings and have a good 10 minutes of thinking how a person could or should react when they hear about the imminent demise of a grandparent before I’m able to check my messages. That was not fun.

So when I get the cheery chirpy voicemail from my North Carolina cousin asking where to get the best Pea Soup—I’m ready to KILL HIM. Apparently he and his wife are visiting, staying at Grandad’s house in Goleta, and were planning on driving up to Solvang the next day. So, Tuesday morning I restrained the urge to yell at him for scaring the dickens out of me and gave him my best tips for where to eat and drink in the Valley:

From the 101 North, hang a right onto Hwy. 246. The highway goes through Buellton and on to Solvang – the most-like-Disneyland place on earth! I’m waiting for the giant ambulatory stuffed animals to appear any minute.

For breakfast, hit Paula’s Pancake House or Olsen’s Bakery. They are right next to each other on the main road, Mission Drive, and are both good picks; the former for omelets and Danish pancakes, the latter for kringle, a Danish pastry everyone should try.

My Lunch-date place of choice is The Chef’s Touch, also on Mission Drive. Instead of sausages and aebleskivers (the fare at the Danish themed restaurants), Chef’s Touch is more of a foodie experience. The chef/owner uses seasonal ingredients for inspiration, and just has fun with it.

My cousin wanted to hunt down some semi-precious stone marbles for our family board game (Wahoo!- it had a blip of popularity in the 70s and dropped from the shelves soon after, to such an extent that my family makes our own wood game boards because we can’t find them anywhere else). I sent him to my friend Joelle at the Mystic Merchant on Copenhagen Dr, who, if she doesn’t have them in stock, will at least be able to order them for him. The Mystic Merchant has a geology department’s selection of geodes and crystals, not to mention jewelry, and Joelle knows the stories of everything (and everything has a story).

After a good dose of Solvang, I figured they would probably need a drink. I put them back on Hwy. 246 towards Santa Ynez with instructions to turn right on Refugio Rd. Kalyra winery, offering Australian style wines in a cute aussie-style tasting room, and the stunning Sunstone Winery are my picks for two of the best wineries in the Valley. Sunstone is possibly the most beautiful winery I have ever seen, and they’re committed to “gentle production techniques”—which is probably good. Most importantly, their wines rock. All of them. Try them if you don’t believe me.

I also pointed them in the direction of Roblar Winery and the small town of Los Olivos on Hwy. 154. Roblar has some *killer* reds, and Los Olivos has art galleries (Judith Hale is my fav), Panino’s sandwich shop, The Wine Cask (stocks hard-to-find wines like Seasmoke) and what used to be Patrick’s Side Street Café. God only knows what it’s called now. You know how it is with small towns – if a restaurant changes its name once, people always refer to it as “the place that used to be…”. I think they even have the old sign up so locals don’t get confused, or rather, so locals don’t confuse visitors when they’re giving them directions.

For dinner though: Ballard Inn. Forget there are any other restaurant options. It’s just Ballard Inn. Unless you’re poor, but even then, save up the dough because Chef Budi Kazali makes some of the tastiest and most original food in Southern California. And he’s a nice guy too.

Next Up: a joint post by me and my boyfriend where we answer our friend’s question on where to go and what to do on a road trip to San Diego. He’s got the local knowledge, I’ve got the…blog. Together, we’re quite a team.

No comments: