Saturday, February 17, 2018     Volume: 18, Issue: 50

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Bottlest's winter menu will cure you of the seasonal blues


If the allure of bone-in veal short ribs on a delicate bed of celery root puree isn’t enough to pique your palate, then you should probably stop reading this column and give up food altogether because I don’t think anyone can help you.

Bottlest’s winter menu features bone-in veal short ribs with fermented cabbage, celery root puree, and pomegranates. The venue is located at 35 Industrial Way, Buellton.

If, on the other hand, you’re screaming for your smelling salts because you’re about to faint at the very idea of something so delicious, I have important news. This dish (and a few other very special items) are just a small part of Buellton restaurant and winery Bottlest’s winter menu.

Chef Owen Hanavan (who cooked my No. 1 favorite meal of 2017) always manages to maintain an understated presence. In person, he’s quiet and wholly without swagger. He offers polite shy laughs and doesn’t come across as pushy or insistent, except for the glimpses of attention to detail that spark up when he’s describing his food.

Hanavan is nothing if not adamant about perfection. It’s one of the things that make his meals so enjoyable.

“We’re serving some hearty things,” he said. “Like cabbage-wrapped sea bass, which we steam. It’s really delicious; there are white beans with the dish and mushrooms, which are in season right now. That also has some smoked shellfish.”

Winter vegetables are scattered throughout the menu, including acorn squash, rainbow chard, asparagus, celery root, savoy cabbage, and more. The menu also includes poultry, especially duck, which is currently featured in a salad.

One of the more unique items on Bottlest’s seasonal winter menu is the butternut squash bisque, made with creme fraiche and puffed rice.

Espresso-smoked duck breast served with Israeli couscous, dried cherries, arugula, and lemon Dijon vinaigrette is one of the dishes I was able to sample during a recent visit to Bottlest. The duck is smoked just to the point of exquisite subtlety, without becoming too smoky or overpowering the delicate greens and dressing of the rest of the dish. But I especially liked the addition of the couscous, which added another textural element to what otherwise would have been just another salad.

There is plenty more for meat lovers, too. Filet mignon; herb-roasted pork loin served with black beans, smoked onions, pineapple, and a cherry gastrique; and a rack of lamb with farro, goat cheese, cured tomato, and a lamb jus. Hanavan said the kitchen is also dry-aging rib-eye in house.

“We don’t always have it,” he said. “We’re trying to get more of the different kinds of cuts. The sourness of the dry-aged beef is really nice. We are also serving some more poultry, and we have been serving a lot of quail.”

Quail isn’t exactly a common menu item in the region, and Hanavan’s includes squash yogurt, black garlic vinaigrette, mixed greens, and pickled shishito, making it even more of a special item.

Bottlest’s smoked duck salad features Israeli couscous, dried cherries, arugula, and lemon Dijon vinaigrette. It’s one of the items featured on the venue’s seasonal winter menu before spring kicks off.

Bottlest splits its dinner menu between full entrees and small plates, an option I really love at restaurants. It’s nice to mix and match and be able to try different dishes. Keeping with his love of seafood, Hanavan offers a mussel dish with chorizo, tomato white wine, and focaccia as well as an octopus with chilled grains, acorn squash, and lemon vinaigrette, each under $18. Soon, as the sun warms the sky and tourists begin swarming back into the Central Coast, Hanavan will unveil the venue’s spring menu.

“We’ve been leaning more towards a lot of seafood, like a lot of shellfish,” he said. “Since it’s spring, there will be a lot of vegetables ... usually a lot of real light vegetables, raw preparations. The vegetables can be baby sizes and smaller greens and things of that sort, building off the freshness of that flavor. Whatever is growing early in spring is really fresh.”

But for now, while we still crank up our heat as the early morning fog lifts, Bottlest’s winter menu is where it’s at. Whether it’s meaty, hearty bites, or subtle flavors of seasonal root vegetables, they represent the season right.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is always in season. Contact her at



Mountain Roll from Mikado in Santa Maria.

• If you’re looking for a mountain of flavor, definitely head over to Mikado in Santa Maria and try the Mountain Roll (pictured), which is topped with baked salmon. It’s a mountain of fun, and yes, now I promise to never use the word “mountain” ever again. Mikado is located at 209 Town Center West, Santa Maria.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company has a surprise for barley wine fans. On Feb. 10, the brewery released its 2018 Sucaba at all locations. The beer is in limited distribution, so if you are a fan, head to 620 McMurray Road, Buellton.

• Fans of pho in Orcutt also have some good news. Niya is serving up the delicious bowls of warm Vietnamese soup on Friday nights. Head to 205 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt, to grab some.

Weekly Poll
How much will you spend on your next wedding?

At least 10 grand on the venue.
Bargain-bin wedding, keep it cheap!
You can't put a price on true love.
Nothing, I'm never doing that again.

| Poll Results