Friday, November 19, 2010

Piatti -- Santa Barbara

In Italian Piatti means plates. To me, Piatti means dinner with Mom. The Montecito gem is tucked in back of the upper village shopping center off San Ysidro Road, right next to Pierre Lafond and Co., the market, deli, cafe and wine bar that has become a Santa Barbara institution. The main draw for us is Piatti's outdoor patio which sits along a meandering stream and is outfitted with a beautiful fireplace. Piatti has become our local escape to Italy, even if just for several hours...

Piatti's food probably won't be winning a Michelin star nor a James Beard award, but the restaurant is turning out some fine Italian food. I have found the food to be fairly consistent and the service always good, if not very friendly. This is a local's spot. We cannot go in without running into family friends or my Mother's elementary school students. It's where the neighborhood congregates and there is always a warm, friendly vibe permeating the inviting space. It is also great for families with young children. They are quick to bring the kids paper and crayons so their parents can enjoy that first cocktail.

The salads are quite large; I have often ordered the small salad as my lunch entree. My personal favorite is their spinach salad. The spinach leaves are so fresh and the dressing has a perfect sweetness to tame the bitterness of the leaves. Also noteworthy are the tricolore and Caesar salads. Really, you cannot go wrong with any salad at Piatti. Their pizzas and pastas are very good as well, everything is homemade. My favorite pasta is the papardelle with shrimp in a light white wine and lemon sauce. It is divine. All of the pastas are offered as half orders as well, a nice touch and not seen often enough on menus. We like to split a salad and order our own half portions of pasta. As for proteins, their meatloaf is made with veal and is quite indulgent and rich. It is often taken home and used for a sandwich the following day. The seafood entrees are always nice and light as well.

The wines by the glass are priced very fairly. Another draw to the restaurant for me is that they serve Sonoma-Cutrer by the glass, one of my most favorite buttery chardonnays. I believe it is priced around $12 a glass which is unheard of anywhere else but particularly for Montecito. In fact, all their prices are fair and I am sure that has a lot to do with why the restaurant is always packed.

If you're staying at the San Ysidro Ranch and feel like heading down the hill for something a little more casual and have already done the Plow and Angel, you can't beat Piatti. The most telling part about a restaurant, to me, is it's loyalty and whether or not the locals frequent it, Piatti happens to be one of those places. For me, it means coming home to Mom.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tasting Kitchen
I had heard so much about the "takeover" from Conni Anderson's Swedish themed A/K, to the Tasting Kitchen, a restaurant opened by a group of young ex-Portlandites. It had already reached high acclaim in the first year it had been open. I am always cautious before blowing $100 on a meal and tend to read up on the reviews. But, Jonathan Gold hailed it as one of LA's best and there was very good local Venetian buzz. So when my old book group proposed that we reunite there, I was happy to do my own personal "research."

When I arrived a bit late the girls were noshing on a cheese plate and pork rillette. Now a cheese platter is hard to do wrong, in my eyes, and it was top notch. But the rillette was mind blowing. I have found a new love for pate's and rillettes. I hugely enjoy fatty organ meats whipped up in a jar and covered in aspic (meat jelly). I don't think there is anything that I enjoy more these days and their's was nothing short of incredible. In fact, it was so good that I met a friend the following night for more.

They have some interesting combination plates. We ordered kumamoto oysters which were to be chased by a thin slice of salami. It was an interesting pairing but I think I prefer to relish in that 'fresh from the sea' taste from the oyster. There were several other oyster pairings that sounded equally intesreting but next time I would just go the straight oyster-and- lemon route.

They had some very nice wines by the glass, most of which were Italian or Spanish. I think the average price per glass is $13 which is a tad bit steep. I think next time I went I would order one of the signature drinks, they looked great and all the ingredients were, of course, farm fresh. Eveything was. I was very impressed by all of their locally sourced veggies and proteins. It's very apparent that everything at the Tasting Kitchen was plucked from the ground merely days ago, if that. Their farmer's market platter is a must order. It changes daily according to what the chefs grabbed at market.

The proteins were also great. We ordered braised short ribs which were divine. The meat was succulent and tender and it literally dripped from the bone. The sauce was a wine reduction that was not too overpowering nor too sweet. And there was the perfect amount of fat; I never like too much fat but they are ribs after all and there has to be a some fat to enhance the flavor. These were perfection.

The two times I have gone to the Tasting Kitchen were both very fun and experimental. I have only sat at the communal table and the bar. When I back (hopefully soon) I'd definitely sit at the bar again. The bartender/ mixologist was one of the Portlandites and he was very knowledgeable about every dish and ingredient. Actually, they all are. But since there are so many small plates and I wanted to know the right ones for me, the bar is the place to go to get constant recs, not to mention quick cocktail service. I cannot wait to go again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brunching on the west side

It's been about two or so years since my last post, not that anyone reads this anyway... But I have been finding that many Angelenos are stumped on where to get the best brunch. I thought I would jot some of my favorites down:

Boozy brunch- Hals's Bar and Grill. It is my boyfriend's VERY favorite. The Bloodies are great and the Eggs Beny are fabulous, they have options for both vegetarians and carnivores. My personal favorite is the omelette with chardonnay onions, cheddar cheese and bacon (I order egg whites to offset the rest of the fat). They also give you biscuits and mini muffins to start served with whipped butter and jam. I love a place that gives you breakfast apps.

Pretty Patio- The Rose Cafe has a gorgeous, giant patio in a lush garden setting. Their brunch menu is rather large and has tons of options. And I always hate waiting for a table when I'm starved after a morning workout but at the Rose there is rarely a wait. I love their deli case salads and breakfast burrito. Fish tacos are great for lunch as well.

By the Beach- Shutters, need I say more? Be prepared to wait and pay a hefty valet fee. But what an amazing spot.

With your girls- World Cafe is always fun with groups, great patio and it always smells good. After the Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings, gather friends around a table. Food is not why we go but when you are with the girls, who cares! Order some cheap chard, have it chilled and order up some small dishes to share. They do a great hummus plate. I prefer their apps to their entrees.

Romantic- Geoffrey's of Malibu is so unbelievably beautiful. Mimosas are the best in town because they use quality champagne, but they do not come cheap. The food is to die for and you cannot forget that view. It is the best in all of LA or Santa Barbara counties, for all I am concerned.

French Breakie- Anisette Brasserie- Most amazing oysters and french onion soup. They do their eggs very well. I would KILL for one of their bloodies, too. They do it all right. To save some do-re-me, go for brunch vs. dinner.

Best scrambles- The Omelette Parlor on Main Street. I love their scrambles and omelettes, I always order egg whites and they do them well. They also have fantastic potatoes and I don't even like potatoes. Very low key and zero attitude.

Best brunch time burger- Three Square Cafe and Bakery. The old Rockenwagner bakers are at it again. The pretzel bun makes this burger so other worldly. And those grilled onions mixed with high quality meat... scrumptious. If not in the mood for a burger, try their bratwurst, grilled onions and eggs. Also divine.