Friday, December 27, 2013

Vacation Highlights, Part 1

This winter break, Alisha and I decided to try something new, and are taking a 48-hour getaway to Santa Barbara.  Rather than writing at length mid-vacation, I'm just going to post some of the highlights; I might write a lengthier post after the vacation wraps up.

Stuff that was great:
  • The BBQ tri-tip slider with candied bacon from the Old San Luis BBQ Co.  This San Luis Obispo Q tri-tip slider is simple: A soft roll, some Santa Maria-style BBQ tri-tip, sauce, and candied bacon, but it is divine.  Don't get just one!
  • The sauces at the Brasil Arts Cafe in Santa Barbara.  Alisha got a tri-tip sandwich with fries.  The sauce that comes with the fries in lieu of ketchup is amazing.  It's a mix of onions, tomatoes, and something magical.  The cafe also provides an awesome hot sauce, with whole mini-peppers in it.  We had a great lunch there.  The cafe also has great service and atmosphere, complete with Brazilian music, and a capoeira studio in the back of the restaurant.
  • The braised pork belly and chocolate chip bread pudding at Bouchon in Santa Barbara.  What's not to love about pork belly, which is the foundation of bacon?  The braised pork belly first course at Bouchon is amazing, pairing the braised pork belly with a crisp potato croquette, arugula, and a poached duck egg.  We wished we had ordered more than one!  The chocolate chip bread pudding was also a standout.  It's basically like eating a warm mixture of chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough, all topped with vanilla ice cream.
  • The look and decor of the Hotel Santa Barbara.  This is a beautiful boutique hotel, located in a historic building in downtown State Street.  Most important, the beds are incredibly comfortable.
  • The Santa Barbara Museum of Art.  Because Bouchon is so popular, we couldn't get a reservation until 8:45 PM.  That left us plenty of time to enjoy Thursday night at the museum; every week, the museum is free to the public for one night a week.  They obviously know the way to my frugal heart!  This is an awesome, well-curated, well-run museum.  It's also a perfect size--big enough to contain a great collection, small enough to avoid the museum fatigue that I find sets in with monumental collections.  The main exhibition was "Delacroix and the Matter of Finish," which featured the works of the French Romantic master, along with a previously unknown painting.  The museum did a great job of providing context for Delacroix's work, comparing it to both Neoclassicism and Academic Art, as well as showing the difference between his work, and the reproductions made by his apprentices.  The galleries let you get up close and personal with the paintings; I could bring my face to within inches of the canvas to see the details of the individual brushstrokes.  I also learned something I hadn't realized before--one of the reason Delacroix's works seem so dynamic is his use of diagonal composition.  Rather than the static, somewhat distancing horizontal lines of the Neoclassicists, Delacroix used diagonals to convey a sense of motion, and to bring the viewer into the same visual field as the subjects of the painting.  If you want to check out this exhibit, you'd better hurry--it runs through January 26, 2014.

Stuff that was not so great:
  • The BBQ chicken at the Old San Luis BBQ Co. was a bit bland.  This might simply be a matter of the contrast with the awesome tri-tip, but it didn't grab me.
  • The main course I had at Bouchon, a pan-seared sea bass, had great flavor, but not great texture.  When I get sea bass, I'm looking for a delicate, melt-in-your-mouth texture.  The sea bass I got, while flavorful, seemed overcooked.  It was also a pain to detach the meat from the chewy, crispy skin.  Perhaps this was intentional, and I was meant to eat the seared skin, but I gave it a shot with one bite, and found both taste and texture displeasing.
  • The elevator in the Hotel Santa Barbara.  It's kind of cool to have a historic elevator, but technology has advanced quite a bit in 100 years.  The elevator is slow, cumbersome, and noisy (I can actually hear it from my hotel room).

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