Kathy Marcks Hardesty: Enjoying the romance of wine country
As soon as February rolls around it always feels like the month of romance. It’s all about sweet pleasures like dining out in special restaurants, wine tasting, Champagne and sparkling wines, and decadent, heart shaped boxes of local, handmade chocolates.
Of course, maybe that’s just me. I know people who consider Valentine’s Day just a “Hallmark holiday,” and couldn’t imagine an expensive meal out. For me and my sweetheart Dan, it’s all about the dining out, fine wines, and indulgent treats.
Since Feb. 14 falls on Sunday, any other year it would be a good excuse for a weekend getaway, like Santa Barbara or Carmel-by-the-sea. But not this year for us, not quite yet. Very good things are happening in wine country, which gives me hope we’re getting out of this pandemic dilemma.
Bob’s Well Bread has opened at last in Ballard, and he’s providing some mighty delectable treats made fresh daily (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). I’m a big fan and always visit Bob’s for his outstanding breads, crispy chocolate and almond croissants, and array of irresistible cookies.
Founder Bob Oswaks always celebrates the holidays, too, especially Valentine’s Day. This year he’s offering an amazing brunch with a mimosa that I can assure you would be a great gift for your loved one, yet it’s very affordable. Unlike an expensive, fine restaurant dinner, brunch will only be $30 per person for two crab cakes with poached eggs, beurre blanc sauce, and sautéed garden vegetables served with a mimosa (only for 21 or older).
It’s a sure thing you will need reservations at either location, and do note that the Los Alamos location opens at 7 a.m., while the Ballard site opens at 8 a.m. Both kitchens close at 3 p.m. Reservations can be made for onsite dining outdoors, or for takeout, just don’t wait too long to do it.
You can make reservations online at bobswellbread.com or by calling 805-344-3000. They are always busy, especially on holidays, so they recommend pre-ordering your bread and pastries in advance to ensure you’ll get to enjoy your favorites. You’ll have until the end of the business day on Feb. 11 to pre-order.
You can see mouth-watering food photos online so you know exactly what you’re getting in all of his high quality goods. They use European traditions of bread and pastry making, and are committed to making “well bread,” meaning no preservatives. They source ingredients locally, and support the community by donating goods they don’t sell to local food banks.
The Valentine’s Day treats include heart-shaped linzer tarts, $6, heart-shaped strawberry pastries, $5, and a loaf of Bob’s chocolate-cherry brioche, $17.50, and so much more. They also have a full menu, I love their smoked salmon and bagel platter with all the trimmings. Whatever you’re hungry for, don’t miss out on dessert here.
Like our bright golden California poppies in spring, from Santa Maria to Solvang, restaurants and tasting rooms with patios are reopening along Foxen Canyon Road, in Los Olivos, Ballard, and Solvang. Do not forget the new social norms, masks are required to be served, and if you leave your table you must put it back on.
In fact, now you are also required to wear the pesky mask if you’re using public transportation or private car service. Our local businesses are going over the top to protect you, and deserve that we respect their staff, too, I’m all for it! Please, remember to tip a little more when you receive good service, this pandemic has been hard on the fine people who take care of our dining needs.
These days, you pretty much have to make reservations to visit any of them. And if you can’t do it online, call before popping in. It can be pretty disappointing to get turned away. I found a wealth of info on losolivosca.com, including links to webpages.
If you’re planning on visiting the region for Valentine’s Day there are plenty of places open to keep you happy with great food and wine tasting. Among those open for outdoor wine tasting: Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills, Brewer-Clifton, Andrew Murray and E11even Wines, Fess Parker, Saarloos & Sons, Waylan Wine Co., Zinke, Carhartt, Dragonette, Foxen, Palmina, Samsara, Solminer, Storm, and Zaca Mesa.
Since I couldn’t list them all here, if you don’t see your fave, check out their webpage for details. Many wine tasting rooms remain open, even without tasting trials for bottle sales. They also list restaurants serving outdoors.
In Los Olivos, St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Church has opened their restroom facilities to all visitors, and invite us all to relax in their green zone under the trees. Not only that, they will provide you with free wifi, and if you visit as often as I do you know it’s a generous gift to be able to use your mobile phone. I salute this church that is going all out to serve the lovely community of Los Olivos. Amen.
Reach Kathy at kathymhardesty @ gmail .com.
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