Solvang. A city just 30 miles north of Santa Barbara synonymous with historic Danish heritage and influences. But let us dispel images of windmills and aebleskiver.
From wine tasting and tours to horse-drawn trolley rides, from endless boutique shopping to bike rides and country road cycling to riding a Segway to strolls through the twisting walkways of the village, there are attractions galore and endless things to do with family, kids, and friends. You can enjoy fun times outdoors and peaceful, beautiful, relaxing times here. Tour wineries, take in the outdoor theatre and, yes, sample real authentic Danish pastries if you must. You can visit http://www.SolvangUSA.com for the latest info and events.
In Solvang one can enjoy the fresh bounty of the Santa Ynez Valley: it is ideal for food and wine lovers, alike. Featuring something for everyone – from farm-to-table, rustic Italian cuisine; New American and modern Danish fare; sweets in all forms; to award-winning beers, spirits and world-class wines, Solvang has it all.
On our recent getaway there, we made our headquarters at the charming Mirabelle Inn, an elegant family-owned European-style boutique hotel, just two minutes’ walk from downtown Solvang. The lobby with its massive chandelier and rare collection of French posters sets the tone for what is to come: simply the best of everything. This tasteful caravanserai would be at home in Provence or in the Loire.
Individually decorated rooms and suite have antique furnishings and come with free WiFi and premium direct TV with HBO. Some have fireplaces, 4-poster beds or Jacuzzis, while the suite has a balcony with view. Free perks include a delicious served cooked hot breakfast, and evening tea with sweets, plus loaner DVDs and parking. Freshly brewed coffee is always available on request.
All guests get a complimentary bottle of house made wine and bottles of water. The Inn’s handsome library/lounge is a quiet refuge open to all. Presented to each guest is also a free tasting room pass to Coquelicot along with the opportunity to have a morning walking tour of the vineyard.
The hotel will happily organize a driver and wine tour for you, horseback riding, and sightseeing. There is a waterfall to see within a few minutes drive and the historic Old Mission Santa Ines isn’t far away. The energetic staff couldn’t be nicer.
Best of all is the Mirabelle’s upscale First & Oak Restaurant with a locally-focused menu and dynamic wine list. This is without a doubt Solvang’s best new restaurant, and a serious one at that featuring exquisite wine country cuisine blending the culinary arts of a very talented chef, reminiscent of France where local, fresh products are easily obtained. Steven Snook brings forth an impeccable pedigree from experience with Gordon Ramsay for eight years both in England and the United States, including his 3-star Michelin restaurant. Chef Steven’s talent is in preparing foods that will entice all five senses by outstanding presentations, and outrageous flavors and tastes.
The menu is thoughtfully divided into sections: From the Garden, From the Ocean, From the Farm and To Finish. Imagine such elysian dishes like roasted heirloom tomato tea-marinated – salad, compressed watermelon, black olive, and crisp brioche; Santa Barbara spot prawn with cured cucumber, avocado mousse, fresh local chili, sesame dressing; poached monkfish in a tarragon crust, salted celeriac, toasted pine nut, confit potato, tarragon jus; milk fed veal Tramenzini, local asparagus, morels, roasted shallot puree, truffle jus; and “Bien Bien” Chardonnay sorbet with caramelized banana, dulce de leche mousse, fresh mint, chocolate cream and you get an idea of just how creative Chef Snook is.
We were delirious with his truffle roasted cauliflower in chive vinaigrette and crisp, quinoa; we tasted roasted lobster in a light, curried carrot puree sprinkled with granola and doused with a luscious veloute; English pea risotto was redolent with buttered snails, mushrooms and bacon; Spanish lamb was done with braised fennel, confit potato, cured olives and crisp chorizo; and we ended this feast with raisin bread, goat cheese, marinated golden raisins and crunchy Marcona almonds.
A visit to First & Oak is definitely worth a detour for its outstanding décor, beautiful table presentation and a gastronomic experience put forward with great finesse and style.
Do not fail to order some of the fine Coquelicot wines from the inn’s own vineyard. It is first rate, but then again, all the wines on the impressive list are special and nicely priced.
We love the inn’s two-night stay special package (Sunday-Wednesday) at $399 Queen / $449 King that includes a 4-course Chef Tasting Menu (excludes tax, gratuity, and beverages), breakfast, WiFi, water and bottle of wine in room and complimentary tasting in the Coquelicot tasting room in nearby Los Olivos.
Mirabelle Inn, 409 1st St, Solvang, CA 93463, (805) 688-1703, http://www.MirabelleInn.com . Compliments to the Rosenson family whose passion for fine hotelkeeping and eagle eyes have elevated this little gem to the highest standards for miles around.
In Solvang, do not miss CHOMP, owner Aaron Petersen’s happy hangout for burgers, fries and shakes that attracts locals of all ages. We ordered milk shakes and chilled outside on the leafy terrace by The Little Mermaid sculpture fountain reminding us of her origins in Copenhagen harbor. First came some tasty Nathan’s franks done to perfection. Then we ordered a delicious fresh Caprese salad. A perfect burger with great fries and a crab cake salad finished off this relaxed meal. We wished we’d have saved room for the fish tacos, fish and chips, and pulled pork sandwich, all of which fellow patrons told us were out of this world. Serving lunch & dinner daily.1693 Mission Drive, Solvang, (805) 688-7733, http://www.chompsolvang.com