Santa Ynez Valley: Central California's Wine Country Style

Can we all agree on something? We travel for food first and foremost. Sure, the sites, resorts, beaches, and people are just as amazing but, if you’re like me, you travel to taste a place. I mean, that’s why you’re here on Salt & Wind, right? Because, like us, you’re always in search of the best meal a place has to offer and how to recreate it back home.

My recent trip to Santa Barbara had me so smitten, I was ready to move there by the end of my visit. It’s an amazing place not only for the quaint city of Santa Barbara itself but because just over the hill is the Santa Barbara wine region.  

Each mile of the Santa Ynez Valley has a different gem to uncover. If you head up Highway 154, you must must must stop by Cold Spring Tavern for what are the best BBQ tri tip sandwiches I’ve ever tried. And you’ll want to make time for both wine and beer tastings everywhere from classic places like Fess Parker to boutique wines at Storm and craft brew at Figueroa Mountain Brewery.

Santa Ynez Valley Wineries | California Central Coast | Santa Barbara | @saltandwind |

One of my favorite things about traveling is when you think you've got a place figured out and it totally surprises you. I thought I had the Santa Ynez Valley figured out until this trip. Unlike Napa, Sonoma, or France, Santa Barbara’s wine country is more laidback — one part outdoors-y, one part Central Coast ranching, and a big pinch of chic. And nothing proves that more than the teeny town of Santa Ynez. There's a downtown that looks like it's a freeze frame from an old Western movie with old time-y facades, but then there are also cute boutiques and great restaurants like SY Kitchen

Started by the crew who has Toscana in Los Angeles, SY Kitchen is a place that’s based in Italian food but makes the most of the food and culture of its setting. Which is why I’m choosing to celebrate them along with our friends at TripAdvisor in honor of their upcoming Travelers’ Choice Awards.

Santa Barbara Farmers Market Basil | @saltandwind |

They served us twists on classics like an octopus-version of a Nicoise salad and a perfectly balanced daiquiri, but also some unique treats like a Basil-Pomegranate Margarita, a Beet and Burrata Carpaccio, and this Fusilli alla Salsiccia. Made with homemade pasta, spicy sausage, and some smoked cheese, I had to recreate it when I returned home. So, here is my take, a Pasta with Tomato Sugo, Sausage, and Smoked Cheese

Fusilli Pasta with Sausage and Smoked Cheese | @saltandwind |

But, tell me, what meal has you swooning? Have you tried to recreate it? Share your food adventures by posting your travel meals (or re-creations) on social media using the #TravelToTaste hashtag and join Salt & Wind and TripAdvisor in a Twitter Party on October 28th @ 2PM ET to talk about your favorite meal memories that are worthy of a Travelers’ Choice Award

More California On Salt & Wind

Did you know we lead boutique food and wine tours for food lovers? Come join our next Salt & Wind trip!

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P.P.S. Hitting the road soon? Show us how you travel in good taste by sharing your adventures on Instagram with the #swsociety hashtag!

Opening photo by Jayme Burrows // All other photography by Aida Mollenkamp

This post was sponsored by TripAdvisor but all content, ideas, and words are our own. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who allow us to keep Salt & Wind up and running.