Allison’s story starts when she began writing reviews for local publications helping other foodies solve a very important problem in Santa Barbara: where to eat and what to eat? Four years ago, The Taste of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Funk Zone tours flourished and now provide visitors with the best places to try wow-factor food. Allison explains how her tasting tours guarantee wow-factor. They hand-pick each and every business they work with, all of whom source food locally, have a great family ethos and most importantly, a story to share.
Tell us a bit about the business and how it began? How long has it been running?
I lived in Ventura, south of Santa Barbara and fell into a job as a restaurant critic. I loved writing about food and exploring new restaurants, recommending new dishes to try. It wasn’t long until I wanted to do my own thing and stay in the same industry. In 2011, my husband and I heard about food tours being run in LA and saw the opportunity to set up our own business and become food trend setters. This was such an exciting time where we got lots of coverage in the press and powerful reviews through Trip Advisor gave us such a boost. We added the Taste of Santa Barbara tour about four years ago.
What can our clients expect from joining a food tour with you?
We are always looking for the best places which provide a real mix of cuisine. We like businesses to have a story; take Cudario for example which specialises in Northern Italian dishes. The owner Dario has built the menu around family recipes. Customers freak out when they try the spinach ravioli with brown butter sauce! There’s also a great deli called Norton’s and their signature item is their pastrami ‘PLT’ which has been featured on the food network. For something sweet we love taking our foodies to McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream which produces a Whisky and Pecan praline flavour!
Can you tell us a bit about your team?
We have six tour guides from very different backgrounds, some from professional touring backgrounds and some who are food writers- there’s a real mix of people who all love Santa Barbara and know the food and wine scene inside out. We’re always being asked for restaurant recommendations!
What is your favourite thing about the city?
Whenever I’m in Santa Barbara I’m stunned by the beauty of the city… it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Having the mountains and ocean there together and so much to see and do… beyond the food and wine there’s hiking, biking and surfing… A weekend isn’t enough!
What are the latest trends in food?
Farm to table dining is now expected– it’s a given that all restaurants use local produce and all have relationships with farmers. You see it in the cocktails, honey and ale. There’s definitely a trend for elevated food experiences in casual dining venues. There’s an appeal to high-end dining without feeling like you’re on show.
Finally, where is your favourite place to eat in Santa Barbara when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I love to dine at Shalhoob, which has been providing meat locally for over 30 years. With a pretty outdoor area perfect for families, this is such a delightful place specialising in tri tips, wings, salads and frozen rosé. Another of my favourites is The Waterline Building which provides a great brewery, food hall and wine tasting room.
Rest Your Head
For colour, charm, location and their amazing terracotta rooftop pool area, we love The Kimpton Canary Hotel. From £300 per night.
Enjoy the ‘Taste of Santa Barbara Tour’ with Santa Barbara Tasting Tours, from $85 per person. www.sbtastingtours.com