Skip the Abelskiver and visit the new wave of hip cafes and winning wineries.
By Pamela Price/Special to The Malibu Times
It’s worth the drive to Solvang, Calif. (“sunny field” in Danish) just to experience the 30th edition of the PCPA Theaterfest at the Festival Theatre, where we had two seats reserved for Moss Hart’s sophisticated comedy, “Light Up the Sky.” It was performed under the stars on a crisp September evening. Forget your blanket? No problem. That can easily be rented on-site.
We bypassed those legendary Danish pastries this time. They just didn’t have the irresistible patina we remembered. Instead we headed to El Rancho Marketplace (www.elrananchomarket.com) for homemade salads and admirable Danish delights brimming with apples and cherries. This local market delivers specialty pizzas, rotisserie chicken ribs and homemade deli sandwiches. Ask about Chef Tim’s pizzas. A Rosemary chicken and potato variety ($16) is just what he promises, “comfort food on a pizza.”
With parking a breeze in the village of Solvang, we arrived at the Festival Theatre (240 Second St.) in time for the First Act. We’re told “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” plays at this theater Sept. 23-Oct. 9,in 2005. Visit www.PSPA.org for details. A “Stay & Play” package deal featuring a night at the Wine Valley Inn & Cottages (www.winevalleyinn.com) is the best way to organize a stay here. Everything is within walking distance.
This gingerbread inn is an assemblage of motel-style accommodations, including cottages and two-room suites, looking like something from a Hans Christian Anderson book.
The setup is ideal for families, with a generous self-service style breakfast for all included in the rate.
Located in the midst of the Solvang shopping scene, tourists traditionally browse cute little knick-knacky shops (there are 300 or so), two museums and wineries in this picture-perfect Danish Village. While some of the shops are on the fusty side, there are eight wineries near the Wine Valley Inn featuring local vintages.
We should have bypassed the abelskivers (too greasy) and cold meat loaf at the Red Viking in Solvang and tried the Hitching Post in Buellton. This is “a must stop for Pinot Noir and steak lovers,” according to the New York Times. Chef/owner Frank Ostini handles dinner nightly. You may have seen the restaurant in happening director Alexander Payne’s (Election, About Schmidt) new film, “Sideways.”
Check it out at 805.688.067 and check off your list those sad looking doughy fried abelskivers, doused with white powdered sugar and swimming in sticky raspberry jam.
The hip restaurant scene in this quiet corner of Santa Barbara County is centered at the Los Olivos Café, in the heart of, you guessed it, art galleries galore, wine-loving Los Olivos. On the dinner menu for Sept. 13th were Artisan Cheeses (such as petit Basque and drunken goat), for a starter, Sweet Water Shrimp served with a teardrop tomato and asparagus salad, balsamic onions and basil vinaigrette. This menu reflects some of the esoteric choices I’ve seen emanating from New York. As it happens, owner Sam Marmorstein, with his Eastern roots, has brought this flair of harmonizing to the Santa Ynez Valley. He also makes his own wines under the Bernat label, selling them at his wine merchant store next door (www.LosOlivosCafe.com).
Lavender has brought fame and fortune to Santa Ynez as well. Rona Barrett, one time Hollywood gossip maven, put her lavender products in the spotlight with lavender tea, applesauce ,salad dressing and chocolate. Sales from her expertly produced products are donated to a foundation that assists seniors in need. Tours of her lavender farm ($35) can be arranged by Rona Barrett’s Lavender Company at 805.688.8887. In fact, a lovely display of her inimitable lavender creations are found at the Los Olivos Café’s wine shop.
Cashing in on the casino scene is the Chumash Casino Resort (www.chumashcasino.com) in spirit, reminiscent of other Indian casinos popping up on the map from Palm Springs to Temecula and on otherwise quiet roads. Built on a narrow strip of real estate, there is the usual cacaphoney of 24-hour slot machines. On the other hand, the casino’s tranquil spa has lovely treatment rooms and a well-stocked boutique with jewelry, purses and fragrant spa-inspired products.
Weekenders throng here. We arrived on Monday for two days and avoided the crowds. From wineries, a variety of day spas, apple picking (according to Green-haven Orchards, the peak season is August through November) art galleries, historic missions and out of the way places to visit such as American Flatbread in Los Alamos, this truly is a “golden delicious” destination.
Solvang, the largest city in the Santa Ynez (population 5,000) is 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara via Highway 154 to Highway 246. Ballard, Los Olivos and Santa Ynez are in the neighborhood.
_ Santa Ynez Valley Visitor’s Association. 800.742.2843 or www.syvva.com
___The PCPA Theaterfest Package ($200 for one night) includes accommodations, tickets for two (curtain call is 8 p.m.), a fine bottle of white wine, dinner for two at Café Angelicas (allow two hours for dinner) and continental breakfast for two. This is valid Sunday through Thursday. Another option is the Valley Touring & Tasting package with accommodations in a Chateau Loft Suite, a bottle of Santa Barbara County wine or sparkling cider, two souvenir Wine Valley Inn glasses, a guided 4-hour tour of four Valley wineries and scenic byways conducted by the Stagecoach Company, a gourmet picnic lunch for two and a continental breakfast buffet ($235 per couple for one night).
__Chumash Casino Resort, 3350 E. Highway 246, Santa Ynez. 800.CHUMASH
__PCPA Theaterfest 420 2nd St., Solvang. 800.727.2123 or 805. 922.8313.
__Los Olivos Café & Wine Merchant, 2878 Grand Ave. Los Olivos. 805.688.7265.
__The Spa at Chumash Casino Resort, 800.CHUMASH
De Stress Café, Solvang. 805.693.8776.
__Bare Skin Aromatherapy Day Spa 866.688.6083.
__La Purisma Mission Historic State Park, 2295 Purisma Rd., Lompoc. 805.733.3713. www.lapurismamission.org
__Old Mission Santa Ines. 805.688.4815.
__Flatbread lovers will find American Flatbread in Los Alamos worth the distance.
__All natural pizzas are baked in a primitive earthen oven, along with organic and seasonal specialties. Plan to be in the area on a Friday or Saturday for dinner, from 5-10 p.m.. 805.344.4400. www. foodremembers.com
Pamela Price is the co-author, with Laura Kath, of the fifth edition of “Fun With the Family in Southern CA” ( www.globepequot.com)