Redding, CA: Shape Up In Shasta Cascade

The breathtaking Shasta Cascade region offers world-class rivers, lakes and trails making it the perfect location to shape up with a plethora of outdoor activities....

Long Beach CA: Hotel Maya

Paying homage to this mysterious culture stands the Hotel Maya along the harbor in Long Beach. Complete with the unique and spectacular architectural style of the stepped pyramids, Hotel Maya welcomes guests into their "village" of modern structures assembled to create this luxurious seaside resort.

Murphys, CA: Murphys Haunted Hotel

When you arrive in the authentic town of Murphys, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, the locals will ask about where you are staying. If your response is Murphys Historic Hotel, expect the response to be, Haunted! That hotel is haunted!

San Diego, CA: The Keating Hotel

Southern California. Italian design. Ferrari. Stainless steel. Maserati. Bang and Olufsen. Rain showerheads. Just one of these by itself is damn sexy. Put them all together, add a king-sized bed, and you have the uber sexy Keating Hotel.

Arrowhead, CA: Mountain Swimming Hole

Nothing beckons the old days of hiking up the mountains to a nearby waterfall and jumping into the water feet first. Local photographer Sam Katz brings us back to those old memories with a look back.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Buellton, CA: Firestone Walker Brewery Restaurant

firestone walker brewery restaurantWith the popularity of craft brewing reaching new highs throughout California, comes the quest to build the perfect brew pubs, beer bars, and brewhouse restaurants.

And with that said, Firestone Walker Brewery may have built the perfect restaurant in Buellton, CA to showcase their award winning ales alongside the finest eats in the Santa Ynez Valley.

When one steps through the doors of the Tap Room Restaurant, richly appointed with oak tables and brushed stainless steel bars, they are brought into a dark, airy, pub with the sounds of music and chatter, vintage posters and decorations reminiscent of 1940's film noir.

firestone walker taproom restaurantUpon taking our seats at a table upon the balcony, we were treated to a basket of warm sourdough and butter. I started with a glass of Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Ale, the company's flagship brew, an English style pub ale with a balance of roasted malt and hops, that continues to bring the brewery awards and accolades.

Our server then brought us crab cakes, which we were told continue to be a popular appetizer among the restaurant's regulars. Light and fluffy, seated over a pour of rice wine vinegar aioli, and accompanied by a side of mixed mizuna, carrots, and diakon radish slaw, it was an experience that combined the best of Maryland and Central California onto one plate.

firestone walker beerBut we were here for two of the Taproom's favorite main courses, the Seared Ahi Tuna and Daniel's Pork Chops. Seasoned with herbs, then crusted with parmesan, and splashed with a red wine reduction, Daniel's Pork Chops were thick sliced and every bite welcomed our mouths with moist, tender, chewing and a full, rich flavor of the "other white meat". Meanwhile, the Seared Ahi Tuna, was seared rare, adorned with sesame seeds, and accompanied with wasabi-aoli snow peas and a red onion slaw.

Guests can order the brewery's beer sampler, consisting of your choice of any four of Firestone Walker's many brews on tap. We particularly liked their Double Jack IPA, pairing well with the pork chops, and the Walker's Reserve Porter, pairing up with the ice cream-topped brownie and raspberry sauce.

Firestone Walker Brewery Taproom Restaurant
620 McMurray Road
Buellton, CA 93427
(805) 686-1557 x 18

Dinner: Sun-Thu: 5:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Dinner: Fri-Sat: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Lunch served in bar: Fri-Sun: 11:00 AM - 4:30 PM


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Santa Ynez, CA: Grace in the Valley

santa ynez inn
Santa Ynez Inn
Grace, elegance, and comfort best describe the Victorian era. Opulent surroundings enmeshed with a welcoming warmth, the Santa Ynez Inn embodies Victorian elegance.
Our trip began on the Highway 126 heading into Ventura County. Released from the frantic sense of traffic, the road became peaceful as the views spread out into farmlands, dotted with the occasional oak tree and busy little fruit stands. The miles slipped away until we reached the picturesque city of Cliffside on the 101. Breathtaking views of the ocean, wind coursing through the sunroof and music flowing from the stereo left no desire for conversation as we cruised through the happy seaside village.

In Santa Barbara we exited the 101 and strode briskly up Highway 154 towards Cachuma Lake. Upon reaching the top of the pass, we were pleased to see the Santa Ynez Valley yawning before us, welcoming us to our destination.

...we spoke little and groaned much as we dove into not only our own meal, but each others.

Built less than 10 years ago, the Santa Ynez Inn feels as if it has stood in it's place for over a century. Regal, beautiful, and elegant, the moment one walks into the lobby, the senses are engulfed with richness. The confident ease of the staff welcoming guests and truly making them feel at home for their stay only further enriches the experience of comfort. Our room was spacious, luxurious and beautiful, with extras such as a steam shower, whirlpool bathtub, and a large walk in closet, complete with refrigerator and coffee/tea bar.

vineyard house restaurant santa ynez
Vineyard House Restaurant, Santa Ynez
Once we arrived and unpacked, it was time for the complimentary wine service in the main dining room. With the fireplace lit, the tables were set with crisp linens and fine china, and the dining room was the hub of activity in the early evening. Guests were treated to chair massages, a selection of locally vinted red and white wines, gourmet cheeses, crackers, selected meats, and dried fruit. Delectable and refreshing, the wine service set the tone for the rest of the stay.

A short jaunt through Solvang into Buellton brought us to The Taproom at the Firestone Walker Brewery Restaurant. Feasting on rich clam chowder, fresh chopped salad and deliciously succulent Crab Cakes, we sipped the 8 selected beer tasters and reveled in the bustle of the restaurant. High upon our perch on the deck overlooking the restaurant and bar, we enjoyed not only the incredible food, attentive service, but the raucous atmosphere one seeks when one ventures out for an evening.

We topped off our evening with the decadent Daniel's Pork Chops, served with sweet potato fries and broccolini, and the Chef's specialty, Seared Ahi Tuna. No words were spoken while relishing our meals; only groans of pleasure and smiling nods of agreement as we shared bites from one another's plates. Just when we felt we could consume no more, our lovely waitress brought dessert; Fudge Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, with chocolate sauce and fresh raspberries. More groans exhuded from our table, until all plates were clean and glasses happily emptied.

santa ynez shops
Shops along downtown Santa Ynez
The drive through sleepy Solvang back to the hotel was peaceful and serene,
leading us into the welcoming arms of the Inn. We were greeted with a roaring fire in the fireplace, and even more desserts awaiting us in the dining room. We strolled up to our room for the night, dessert plates in hand. Pleased to rest after such a phenomenal day, we found our bed turned down, and sweet cookies on a china plate on our pillow, promising sweet dreams.

The morning was filled with more spectacular food, with fresh fruit, breads, creme fraiche, and homemade granola. The granola, we have been told, became so popular among guests that the Inn began making extra to sell for guests to take home. After stimulating our palates on these offerings, we were served our breakfast, Ricotta Pancakes with Raspberry Compote, and the Asparagus Frittata with Bacon Balsamic Salad. Once again, we spoke little and groaned much as we dove into not only our own meal, but each others.

With our appetites satiated, we headed to the lower level for a good, hard workout in the fitness suite and a long, hot, steamy sauna. Utilizing the steam shower in our room afterwards, we felt refreshed and revived, and struck out to see the little village. Quaint shops abound, with fun merchandise and practical wares for shoppers. After a long stroll in the Spring sunshine, we ventured into Don Carlitos for a drink. Rodrigo, our handsome bartender, kept our glasses full and the suggestions flowing when asked what we should try next.

don carlitos santa ynez
Don Carlitos, Santa Ynez
Santa Ynez may be small, but it had everything we needed and wanted in a romantic weekend getaway. If one should ever become bored with the many restaurants and shops within walking distance, Solvang, Buellton, and Los Olivos are only moments away, all offering a vast array of wine tasting, incredible foods, and local interest. The graciousness we experienced at the Santa Ynez Inn seemed indicative of the warmth and personality of the locals in the area, and it is easy to see why. When one lives somewhere so beautiful, how could anyone be anything but happy all of the time?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Coming Soon!

Stayed tuned for fun and exciting places on your road trip through California!