Saturday, July 21, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 20
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Taste of time: Many things went wrong in 2017, but at least the food was good

REBECCA ROSE

We ate our feelings in 2016, and by 2017 we were stuffed. It was a year filled with changes all over society, some of which sent us right back to the comfort foods we’d promised to lay off of in January. For foodies in the Central Coast, the year had its share of amazing triumphs (welcome, Bottlest) to devastating heartbreak (farewell Bacon and Brine, we hardly knew ye).

But the one thing we could count on in our region was the food. Whether it was deep fried, steamed, poached, sous vide, pan-seared, or served in the raw, we got a little bit of everything. And it was all freaking delicious. 

  


First and Oak
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

THE WIT OF A BRIT

The meals at First and Oak don’t come in the traditional restaurant style (so long, “appetizer, main course, and desert”) but they do come prepared to please. Chef Steven Snook, a British chef trained by Gordon Ramsay, lets his creativity do the cooking while focusing on fresh ingredients and bold visual statements. It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.

 

 


Sake Sushi
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

CAN’T GET ENOUGH

My fellow journalists and I eat at Sake Sushi several times a week. On the nights I didn’t go during the day for lunch, I go there with my fiance. The food is just that good at Sake Sushi in Santa Maria. Whether it’s one of their signature rolls or just a good old fashioned plate of fresh sashimi, the chefs know how to deliver a plate of cost-friendly sushi to diners on the go. Plus, the sushi bar feels as authentic as any in downtown Tokyo.

 

 


Cubanissimo
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

CUBAN REVOLUTION

For the second year in a row, Cubanissimo claims a spot on the Sun’s annual Year in Review. This venue gets high marks for opening a brick-and-mortar spot in Orcutt, which exceeding all expectations. Jumping from a food truck business to an eat-in venue is no simple task, but Cubanissimo made it look as easy as a cake—or a guava brownie (just one of the delicious dishes they serve up).

 

 


Bottlest
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

BUELLTON’S BEST

Boy, was I ever blown away by Chef Owen Hanavan’s skills this year. The 29-year-old former Barbareno chef de cuisine took the reins at Bottlest (Tarravant Winery’s new Buellton restaurant) and proceeded to create a stunning menu filled with microscopic attention to detail that I’m still mesmerized by. Hanavan is young but cooks like an elder statesman of food, one who knows the value of perfect seasoning and creating a plate that does more than look pretty.

 

 


Chef’s table dinner by Chef John Cox and Chef Jeff Weiss
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

ROARING BEAR

It wouldn’t be a food article about Central Coast wine country without mentioning one of the many awe-inspiring winemaker/chef’s table dinners that occur on the regular. My favorite this year hands down was the extraordinary meal cooked up by Chef John Cox of The Bear and Star in Los Olivos along with Chef Jeff Weiss, author of Charcuteria. This was an exceptional meal that featured a massive variety of styles, techniques, flavors, and ingredients (did someone say fennel powder?) in a night that showcased both chefs’ tremendous talents. 

 

 


Naughty Oak Brewing Company
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

NAUGHTY BUT NICE

Yes, in 2017 sometimes we drank our feelings, and there was no better place to do that than Orcutt’s Naughty Oak Brewing Company. The brewery just celebrated a year in business, and in that time it went from a mom-and-pop craft brewery to a local hotspot known for award-caliber concoctions from the mind of owner Stephen Kitts. The Salty Dog stole my heart as my favorite beer of the year and Kitts still has more ideas on the way in 2018. They also won Best New Business in the Sun’s annual Best Of readers poll.

 

 


Winemaker Dave Dascomb
FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

TO THE DOGS

Winemaker Dave Dascomb poured me one of my favorite glasses of wine this year. The Dascomb Cellars’ 2015 cinsault is a magical work of art in a glass, one that’s not too sweet or fruity with just a touch of acidity. Plus, his dogs Sparky and Pippa seem to think he’s an alright guy too.




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