Wine Country Presents Restaurant Weeks
Annual Promo Takes on Extra Significance in 2021
Restaurant Weeks is a yearly promotion by the Santa Ynez Valley dining scene. It’s weeks, plural – two full weeks of prix-fixe menus and value pricing that highlight the remarkable food and wine options to be found in the six charming towns that define Santa Barbara’s wine country: Solvang, Ballard, Buellton, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Los Alamos. 2021 marks Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks’ 11th year.
This year, though, Covid – and months-long changes in state-imposed mandates and rules – has dealt the Valley’s culinary world a devastating blow. That means that this year’s event looks and feels a bit different, and it makes the community support it inspires especially important.
“It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, yet they continue to forge ahead driven in large part by the love of their staff and passion for what they do,” said Shelby Sim, President and CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “Dining and the enjoyment of great local food is an experience unto itself, and in a year that has deprived us of so many other experiences, we felt it was paramount that Restaurant Weeks return in 2021 albeit with a takeout twist.”
For 2021, Visit the Santa Ynez Valley present Restaurant Weeks: Takeout Edition. Launched this past Monday and on the calendar all the way through January 31, the event features enticing offerings from close to 50 restaurants and wineries. They’re all packaged to go, allowing diners to savor locally-inspired culinary creativity in the comfort of home. The takeout orders are presented as meals for one, meals for two or family packs.
Some of the Valley’s top dining spots are on board. The Gathering Table, Chef Budi Kazali’s foodie haven inside his Ballard Inn hotel, has a three-course meal for one ($30) or for two ($50) that begins with Chinese Chicken Salad with sesame ginger vinaigrette and crispy wontons, continues with Braised Red Roast Duck and Pork Belly served with bok choy and shiitake mushrooms and ends with coconut and chocolate bars for dessert.
At The Tavern at Zaca Creek, which brought a storied culinary destination in Buellton back to life when it opened last August, Chef Kaitlyn Paul has a three-course Meal for One for $20.21, a price point inspired by the new year. Choose between a Caesar’s Salad or their Drunken Mushrooms for course one; order either Burrata or Beef Tartare for course two; and go with either Wagyu Meatloaf Wellington or Smoked Albacore for course three.
And in Los Alamos, popular Pico is featuring its Pico Burger Bar Dinner for 2 for $45: two BBQ Pork Belly Burgers accompanied by a chop salad, house fries, or sweet potato fries. Chocolate lava cake rounds out the meal.
For oenophiles, several wineries have creatively devised ways to create tasting experiences at home, thanks to special food pairings, deep discounts, and unique small-sized bottlings. Folded Hills is making its promotion available at both its Montecito tasting room or its Gaviota estate: a gourmet platter curated by Solvang-based Cailloux Cheese Shop that features cheeses, salamis, fruits, and crackers and that can be added to any bottle purchase for $55. Orders should be placed online.
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards’ Solvang tasting room is offering up a bottle of their 90+-point Hidden Asset red blend (a $34 value), plus dark chocolate patties dusted with syrah salt, all for $21. Rusack Vineyards in Ballard Canyon is discounting its Core 4 Bundle to $108: the four-pack of their 2018 estate sauvignon blanc, 2017 chardonnay, 2017 pinot noir, and 2016 estate syrah comes with self-guided tasting sheets to help create an interactive tasting at home. And Royal Oaks Winery, with its tasting room in Solvang, is selling all its wine bottles for $20.21.
If you like bold, robust wines, the offerings from winemaker Brett Escalera at Sanger Family Wines never disappoint. Their to-go flight of five wines costs $12, and all their wines are discounted 40%; the cabernet sauvignon under their Conslience label and the tempranillo on their Tre Anelli label, are among my perennial favorites.
Tercero, a standout spot in a sea of sipping options in downtown Los Olivos, is offering flights-to-go in diminutive glass bottles. A flight for one ($20) features two-ounce shots of five wines; the flight for two ($40) features the five wines in four-ounce servings. “I am basically trying to provide them a tasting room experience at home,” says winemaker Larry Schaffer, who’s been offering the same diminutive bottlings to pair with his Covid-era virtual tasting events. He works with Rhone varieties grown throughout Santa Barbara County – refreshing whites like grenache blanc and Roussanne and complex reds like syrah, mourvedre, and cinsault.
For Mr. Schaffer, Restaurant Weeks is as much a chance for consumers to support their local culinary industries as an opportunity for Santa Ynez Valley eateries and wineries to spotlight what makes them special. “Our community has so much to offer – diverse food and diverse wine selections – all at more reasonable price points than most any other wine region in California,” he told me this week. “It is imperative that we continue to get the word out, and not rest on the laurels of our reputation or good press.”
Are you considering doing the drive to the Santa Ynez Valley for Restaurant Weeks? Currently, the California Department of Public Health is advising that residents not travel more than 120 miles from home. My 50-mile drive from Montecito to Buellton took me about 40 minutes this past Monday. And while comfort levels around travel differ from individual to individual, keep in mind that all Valley hotels remain open for leisure visits.
For more information, including the list of all participating restaurants and wineries, as well menus, visit dinesyv.com.
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