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Friday, January 15, 2010 

Watching Santa Barbara's businesses shutter

It is sad to see the state of State Street and Santa Barbara these days. Businesses that were there one day have simply vanished the next, leaving nothing behind but paper plastered in the windows and perhaps a stray soda can laying on the interior floor.

Restaurants in town have been hit by the economic downturn, as well, but often when they shutter there are still recipes out there somewhere, reminding us through taste and smell to what once was. Going through my cookbook collection the other day, I pulled out one I hadn't seen in awhile. "Sumptuous Santa Barbara. Eclectic cuisine from the best chefs and restaurants of the California Riviera", published by Devereux in 1995. The cover showcases a postcard perfect photo of the moon hovering over the city and Sterns Wharf; the lights of the city twinkling like earthbound stars.

The forward is written by the late Julia Child and a glance at the contents highlight some local restaurants that are just a memory with some of us "old timers" along with some restaurants that are still sauteeing along, perhaps with different owners and chefs than in their original incarnation.

Acacia (on Coast Village Road in Montecito) was praised by Gourmet magazine as "cooking carried out with care and top-notch ingredients." The recipes left behind for our tastebuds - Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad, Banana Bread and Peach Pie.

Brigitte's (downtown State Street where Opal is currently) leaves behind some of Norbert Shultz' wonderful sauces for fish. Radicchio-Tomato Cream Sauce. Papaya Sauce. Mustard Lemon Sauce. Yellow Peppercream Sauce. Mango-Citrus Salsa. Sundried Tomato-Pistachio Pesto.

Chad's (in a historic Victorian house situated on Chapala) had the best happy hours and is represented here by a Cajun Aioli and Spiral Pasta Salad.

Citronelle (which sat atop the Santa Barbara Inn) is not alive here, but is vibrantly so along with Chef Michel Richard in Washington, DC. The recipes that were left of reminders - Tuna Carpaccio. Crunch Shrimp.

El Encanto (at the El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas on the Riviera) was praised by Gourmet magazine as having "the most beautiful dining room in Santa Barbara. It truly was the best place to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset over the city. It leaves behind Sauteed Fillet of Halibut with Julienned Vegetables and Roasted Garlic Lemon Butter.

La Tolteca (on Milpas) was originally opened in 1946. They didn't leave the recipe for their infamous tamales, but did provide one for a Tortilla Chip Casserole. (Using their Tolteca chips, of course.)

Times do change...and things ebb and flow...but sometimes it's nice to have a tasteful reminder of meals from places we ventured to back so long ago.

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