Monday, November 18, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 37
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Owners Gregory and Daisy Ryan launch Bell's in Los Alamos

REBECCA ROSE

It's hard to grab a word with Greg and Daisy Ryan.


MARRIED TO THE JOB
Gregory (center) and Daisy (right) Ryan opened Bell’s in 2017 at the former location for Bell Street Farms in Los Alamos.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

That's not just because their new restaurant, Bell's, in Los Alamos, is so busy (customers were piled into every table and booth during my visit). It's because the couple is inundated with well-wishers, many of them family friends who've come to support one of their own.

Daisy grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley, and after several years of working in some of the best and fastest-paced kitchens in the world, she's returned, bringing back her husband, Greg (fellow chef and co-owner at Bell's), their 1-year-old son, and a vision for French cuisine in Los Alamos.

Daisy attended the Culinary Institute of America and went on to work as an expeditor at famed New York City restaurant Per Se, owned by legendary chef Thomas Keller. It was her first job out of culinary school, and the pressure to perform was immediate and intense.

"[Keller] is an incredible role model," she said. "I learned systems, standards, things like that. What it really taught me was you really need to have knowledge of all working aspects of your restaurant. We had to know everything there, including what was in the skyline in case a customer asked. I think that's a really good precedent for yourself and your staff."


RED BEAUTIES
Butter-braised radishes are a part of the menu at Bell’s in Los Alamos, a new restaurant that opened at the former location for Bell Street Farms.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

After a few years and some time in Los Angeles and Austin, the Ryans decided it was time to start their own place. Daisy said it made sense to come back to her roots on the Central Coast, especially considering how the region has exploded as a culinary hot spot.

One of the immediate challenges was taking over the physical space of their new venture. The building previously housed Bell Street Farms, a well-loved local place that garnered critical raves from national publications including The New York Times Magazine and Food and Wine for its hyper-local, hyper-seasonal menus. Jamie Gluck, who opened the restaurant in 2012, sold the business last year.

"It's big shoes to fill," Daisy said. "People expect that same kind of restaurant, and they still want the same thing. But people are also excited about having something new. ... So far we've been pretty well received."

The Ryans' concept for Bell's is an "all-day cafe influenced by French bistro culture." The emphasis is on food that pairs well with a good glass of wine and isn't too stuffy or complex.

"This type of food is very approachable," Daisy said. "This area is a winemaking region much like most of France. Winemakers are farmers, and this is a type of food that when you drive around France you find everywhere."


THERE’S GNO GNOCCHI LIKE THIS GNOCCHI
French gnocchi at Bell’s is made from a pâte à choux dough and not from potatoes. The dish is piled high with cheese and served in a cream sauce.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

Daisy should know. She spent a lot of time traveling in France with her father, falling in love with the food they found in the back roads of rural wine country. A lot of local chefs are heavily influenced by French cooking but use it more as a jumping-off point. At Bell's, the dishes are stripped down and pure; you can almost hear Joël Robuchon and Jacques Pépin whispering in the shadows.

One of the most impressive dishes on the menu is the French gnocchi, which is made not with potatoes, but with a pâte a choux, a light dough used to make fine pastries. Chef Sarah Williams, who works with the Ryans at Bell's, helped put the dish together, including the fonduta sauce, a homage to her grandmother's own recipe. The acidity of the cheese and the touch of mustard in the gnocchi cut through the richness of the cream sauce, resulting in a balanced layer of flavors. (Did I mention it's freaking delicious? Because it is.)

To get a taste of what Bell's has to offer, Greg recommended the gnocchi, butter braised beets, and the vichyssoise soup. Vichyssoise is one of my favorite soups ever (I even have my own recipe), and Bell's has one of the finest versions I've had. You really get the essence of the potato and leeks without being overwhelmed with cream. The dish also tasted incredibly fresh. The butter-braised radishes are served with a dill sauce and are quite unique. Other sides include macaroni gratin (mmm, cheese) and baby artichokes.

The menu includes a rotisserie chicken with bread salad and currants, shallot confit, and bitter greens. There is a strong selection of salads and sandwiches; Daisy recommended the bistro salad, made with aged goat cheese, sunflower seeds, and pickled red onions, to get an idea of what Bell's hopes to deliver.

French twist
Bell’s is located at 406 Bell St., Los Alamos.

Bell's also has an impressive list of wines. The Ryans said they worked hard to ensure the wines represent the Central Coast but also tipped a hat to European winemakers, bridging the gap between the wine country of California and France.

All in all, the change is quite remarkable. The food is refreshing in its simplicity yet decadent enough to recall the great French dishes most American palates are familiar with. The Ryans (who say they are also hoping to open a second venture in Los Olivos) are off to a great start. 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose embraces change with an open mind and heart. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.

 

Far Western has Wine Wednesdays, where you can purchase a bottle of wine for half off the regular price (and they have a pretty impressive selection of local wines, too). The restaurant is located at 300 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt.

• You know Pattibakes in Buellton does lunch, right? Well you do now, so there's no excuse not to stop in and try one of their sandwiches made with Pattibakes' own store-baked breads. Try the turkey club (pictured) with turkey, bacon, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and honey mustard for $10.25. Find them at 240 E. Highway 246, suite 109, Buellton.


Turkey club sandwich at Pattibakes in Buellton.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PATTIBAKES

Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos is open, fully restored, and is serving family style fried chicken dinners on Sundays. Check it out at 2350 Railway Ave.

Fess Parker's 2015 Fesstivity Brut rosé recently received 90 points from Wine Spectator. Not too shabby! Plus, who doesn't love a good sparkling Brut rosé? Visit their tasting room at 6200 Foxen Canyon Road to try it out.

Mad and Vin at The Landsby in Solvang just unveiled a brand new dish: roasted chicken breast, chorizo whipped potatoes, sautéed spinach, and preserved lemon. Try it with one of their signature shrub drinks from the bar at 1576 Mission Drive.




Weekly Poll
Should school districts invest more into vocational and career technical programs?

Yes. Students need to get on a career path as soon as possible.
No. It's more important for students to learn study skills than specific disciplines.
No. District should save money by partnering with businesses to offer more internships.
Yes, but only if these programs also count for college credit.

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