Wine & Words: Notes From Santa Barbara

Riverbench Winery

In Santa Barbara they're called sundowners—hot, aggressive winds that kick up after the sun goes down and make the coastal landscape feel like a dry, inland desert. At dinner Friday night, in a restaurant without air conditioning, I sweated through my linen dress while sipping white wine and eating grilled salmon, peach and burrata salad, and baked Alaska. 

We quickly got to talking about all the meals we've shared in this dining room, and I couldn't help share how special it felt to return, book in hand, to a place that helped shaped me as a writer. I was in town for Wine & Words, a new series at Riverbench Winery. They invited me to read a few poems from the cookbook, and even served up a few dishes to pair with the reading, not to mention the selection of lovely wines being poured. 

There's no doubt about it: Returning to Santa Barbara always feels like coming home. It doesn't matter that I haven't lived there in more than a decade, it's a place that will always have my heart, and always welcome me back with open arms.

Eat This Poem Reading at Riverbench Winery

If you're looking for a more in-depth tour, head to the Literary City Guide. For today's post, I'll be focusing on what we did during the weekend. 

A few places to go:

Dune Coffee Roasters. Formerly The French Press, this outpost is one of my favorite stops. Great seating, a little off the beaten path (a few blocks east of bustling State Street), plus options for coffee and tea lovers alike. Get lost in a book while sitting on the patio, or do what we usually do—swing by on the way out of town for hot drinks and a bran muffin. 

Butterfly Beach. Our favorite beach in town, it sits just outside the famed Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito. We got engaged on this sand, and always love to visit for a stroll and a view of the waterfront.

bouchon. We've been eating at this restaurant for the past 12 years. (And no, it's not affiliated with Thomas Keller's version.) The patio and dining room are always cozy, and the farmers' market-inspired menu serves up dishes that use French techniques with relaxed, wine country inspiration. 

bouchon restaurant, santa barbara

Jeannine's Bakery. We always have at least one breakfast here. There's an upper State Street location, but we like the Montecito restaurant best. (It's also walking distance from Butterfly Beach, if you're so inclined.) The lattes are extra large, and the menu varied enough to please everyone's morning cravings. 

Santa Barbara Public Market. From ice cream to Thai food, this little market has it all. The beer garden is loud if a game is on, but there are plenty of options for everyone, and it's a great spot to wrangle the kids if you're traveling with little ones. 

santa barbara public market

Notes from Brooklyn

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn

October 2013 was the last time I was in New York. It was a work trip (a stressful one at that), and I spent most of my time in Manhattan. Four years later, life looks a bit different than when I turned left out of the Waldorf-Astoria and kept walking until I arrived at NYU. 

On Eat This Poem's book tour, my latest stop was Brooklyn. I recorded an episode of The Food Seen podcast, and had an amazing bookstore event at WORD Books where I was joined with Erin Boyle from Reading My Tea Leaves. In between, I did a lot of walking. I even spent three uninterrupted hours in a coffee shop, which was pure bliss. Here are the places I visited and loved!

Books Are Magic, Brooklun

6 Places to Visit in Brooklyn

Devocion | This is a bright, open space for Columbian coffee. I loved their iced fruit infusion, and would have stayed longer if it weren't for a dinner reservation nearby. (Williamsburg)

Bien Cuit | Smith Street is a vibrant street with plenty of shops to get lost in. Bien Cuit is one of them. It's a darling place to grab a cup of tea, or even a sandwich to take down to the water (I loved the asparagus baguette). The outdoor patio is relaxing, too. (Brooklyn Heights)

Books Are Magic | Another Smith Street gem, Books Are Magic is the new shop on the block. There's a cozy children's area for reading.

WORD Books | The Greenpoint location was home for my discussion with Erin Boyle. Upstairs is for the books, and downstairs is a spacious event space with a small stage. I heard from the staff they're getting ready to open a children's-only store down the street. (Greenpoint)

Aurora | An Italian restaurant with fresh pastas and a cozy garden in the heart of Williamsburg. (Williamsburg)

Rucola | I headed here for breakfast one morning, and to me, it's the quintessential New York restaurant. It's cozy, rustic, and if you sit facing the dining room, perfect for people watching. (Boerum Hill)

Literary City Guide | Phoenix

If your spring  travel plans include a visit to Phoenix, local guide Christine K. Bailey shows us around the town she's called home for the past 16 years. 

Here in the desert, bookstores abound. But if you're thirsty for a cocktail, too, head to  First Draft Book Bar, a new space serving coffee, wine, beer, food from local purveyors, and a selection of books to add to your shelf. 

Stop by to visit Phoenix!