Partially Aborted 'Sideways' – First Day
Without thinking, we follow the mapquest.com directions and head east, crossing the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and head to Oakland, where, predictably, get into to bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 880, all the way down to San Jose and Highway 101. From there on, the journey to Santa Barbara, where we have a reservation at the Colonial Beach Hotel for the next two nights, goes pretty smoothly, with the exception of seeing three freaky accidents in the space of five minutes, along the downgrade of Gaviota Pass, and a couple of minor delays for maintenance work on the road.
Both of us are unfamiliar with Santa Barbara. Even though Brigit grew up up in Hollywood, a couple or so hours away by car, this are not her old stomping grounds.
After setting down at the Colonial Beach Inn, feeding Maya and changing into lighter clothes as the temperature here is still pretty much summer-like, we head out in the advancing twilight and cruise the beach front. The deep purple sky of a wonderful ocean sunset is rapidly fading into black.
We finally drive downtown and, instead of trying to find one of the eateries suggested by Santa Barbara guide found at the hotel, we try our luck, deciding to wander along the central State Street and follow our instincts in choosing where to have dinner. The only informing rule, as is the case with our own 'Sideways' trips in California, is to have a meal that can be complemented with California wine.
And so it is that we find ourselves sitting at a table for two at the Tiramisù Restaurant, in the Nuevo Paseo shopping and business center.
I order Insalata Caprese (sliced mozzarella cheese on a base of fresh sliced tomatoes) followed by Ravioli di Spinaci (pasta stuffed with spinach mix), and Brigit gets the Insalata Verde with Gorgonzola Cheese Lettuce with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and candied walnuts) followed by Mezzaluna di Zucca (half-moon-shaped ravioli pasta stuffed with pumpkin mix). The fairly minimal wine list offers about a dozen or so Italian and California wines. We settle on a young (2005) Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir, a wine with a good nose, acceptable fruit, but definitely overpriced at $42. Less than a week bfore, we had had dinner at a Sardinian restaurant called La Ciccia (The Meat, in Italian slang) in Noe Valley, San Francisco, and for the same price we drank a wonderful 2003 Cannonau 'La Marina', produced by the Romangia Cantina Cooperativa in Sorso, a small Sardinian town in the northwestern part of the island, in the province of Sassari.
The Cannonau 'La Marina' is made with the fruits of 70-plus-year-old vines, cultivated on sandy soil by the sea, which are pruned so that each plant produces just one bunch each year. Considering the work, the quality of the resulting wine, the cost of importing it to the US, it seems amazing that it is priced exactly as a young Carneros Pinot Noir of evidently lesser quality.
That said, the Mondavi juice pairs well with the dinner, which we truly appreciate and which Brigit completes with cheese cake washed down with a nondescript glass of Port.
|Our Own 'Sideways'|