San Ysidro Ranch is one of the Leading Hotels of the World and Montecito's historic and beloved secret hideaways. Nestled on 500 acres in the foothills of Montecito in California's Wine Country is the honeymoon destination of John and Jackie Kennedy and amongst the lush green gardens is where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier exchanged vows.
When it comes to enjoying the Montecito Lifestyle, San Ysidro Ranch offers world class culinary cuisine at their acclaimed Stonehouse Restaurant tucked away amid fragrant citrus blossoms.
“Spectacular” is a word to be used with hesitancy when it comes to food, for fear of diminishing its impact. Yet with regards to the culinary experience I recently enjoyed at The Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, California, it is certainly apt. Set in the Montecito foothills, this exceptional restaurant is housed in a 19th-century former citrus-packing house surrounded by orange groves and a sweeping ocean view.
Nestled amid the fragrant blossoms and quaint cottages of the San Ysidro Ranch, The Stonehouse is destination dining for locals and foodie pilgrims alike. The simple setting – think barrel-vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and flowering bougainvillea – is a fitting backdrop for the relaxed Californian cuisine. My evening visit began with cocktails under a canopy of trees strewn with twinkling lights, and moved onto a spacious patio with wood-burning fire and radiant heated floors designed to keep the slight evening chill at bay.
While the setting may be magical, it can’t steal the limelight from the food. Much of the ingredients for the menu are sourced from the chef’s organic garden – harvested every Thursday morning, often with guest participation. The result is appetisers ranging from a bright chilled yellow heirloom tomato consommé with fresh crab and lobster meat ($17) tohamachi marinated in chef Jamie West’s garden basil oil ($19), to crispy smoked Muscovy duck and avocado spring rolls ($17).
The Stonehouse’s signature entrée is a parmesan-crusted Alaskan halibut ($45) with housemade herb gnocchi, artichoke hearts and asparagus that was picked 200 yards away. The local fish was succulent, the Snake River Farms grilled pork chop with black mission fig jam ($41) wonderfully juicy. Sides of pomme purée ($10) and organic Brussels sprouts with sea salt ($8) were paired with Chardonnay by the glass ($18) from the nearby Brewer-Clifton vineyard – a rewarding choice. The Stonehouse offers more than 1,600 wines from around the world – with a strong emphasis on those from Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast – and the sommelier is both knowledgeable and affable.
I’d recommend the Meyer lemon tart with a light lavender cream ($14) because, in the words of managing director Seamus McManus, “this dessert is the embodiment of the ranch” with its bright colour and light citrus flavour, courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch’s endless lemon trees. Who can say whether it’s true, but it tastes sublime.
900 San Ysidro Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 (+1805-565 1700;www.sanysidroranch.com)