Friday, December 11, 2009

We Love Louie's!

Matt ready to dig in!

Two years ago one of the first accounts I visited as a wholesale representative for Carina Cellars, was Louie’s at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara. Although I had lived in Santa Barbara for nearly six years prior to that point, I had somehow failed to check out this hidden gem, and so I was delighted by my experience the day I finally came stopped by to visit.
I’ll admit that I must have driven by this restaurant numerous times, without realizing what I was missing. For the past twenty years Louie’s has been located in the beautiful Upham Hotel, with 50 rooms and cottages spread throughout gorgeously manicured grounds in a quiet neighborhood. A wrap around porch with heat lamps allows guests to enjoy their meals outdoors year-round, and the inside dining area presents a chic yet cozy locale. Owners Anne Rizzoli and Trey Brook, along with chef Tony Manzanares, focus on providing California cuisine with an artistic flair, and a wine list that does a fantastic job of promoting local wines.
Louie’s has carried the Carina Cellars Syrah “7 percent” for the past couple years, so my boyfriend Matt and I decided it was time to dine at Louie’s and enjoy a bottle of that very wine! We chose a table for two along the wall, and although the appetizers menu tempted us, we opted to just enjoy our wine with the fresh, warm bread delivered to our table (I had my eye on a certain dessert and was determined to save room!) We ordered the last bottle of the 2005 “7 percent”, and for those of you saving a bottle of this in your cellars, it is tasting fantastic right now!
So we skipped right to the main course: Matt ordered the Meat loaf with sautéed mushrooms, onions and garlic mashed potatoes, an ultimate in California comfort food, yet when served with a tasty Cabernet sauce the flavor of this dish was astounding. The meat loaf was cooked perfectly-incredibly moist and perfectly seasoned-and Matt quickly gave his review: “best meat loaf ever”. The rich, beefy flavors were a perfect compliment to the glasses of “7 percent” we were drinking as well.
Upon our waiter’s suggestion, I went for a slightly lighter dish of grilled Scottish Salmon with an orange-pear chutney and lemon beurre blanc over red curry mashed potatoes. I was intrigued by the combination of flavors and spices presented in this description, and once my meal arrived I was not disappointed. The chutney was subtle, as was the beurre blanc, yet the red curry mashed potatoes exploded with flavor without overpowering the flaky and delicious salmon. My compliments to the chef-I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of salmon while dining out, and I must also echo Matt’s refrain that this is one of the best salmons I’ve eaten in a while. This also, the waiter told me, happens to be one of their most popular dishes.
There was definitely still room for dessert once the entrees cleared, and so we went for the kill: a decadent chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Seems simple enough, but this is an easy dish to mess up if the brownie is cold or dry or overcooked. But this one was just right-very light and spongy and not too rich. And to top it all off, Trey very generously shared a glass of Costo d’Oro’s late harvest Pinot Blanc. It’s not often that you see a Pinot Blanc on a wine list, let alone one made into a late harvest, and I loved how this wine tasted just like a French Sauternes, yet was made locally in Santa Maria and can be purchased from the winery for a very reasonable $27.99.
For those of you who have yet to experience this hidden Santa Barbara treat, you can enjoy lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30am – 2:00pm, and dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5:30 - 9:00pm, and on Friday & Saturday until 10:00pm. Meals run about $12-$30.
Louie’s at The Upham Hotel
1404 De La Vina Santa Barbara, CA

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