Nestled within the Historic Art District in downtown Santa Barbara, you will find the Arts & Letters Cafe on Anapamu St., just off State Street. They are housed in the back of an art gallery and have tables set up in a stunning courtyard surrounding a lovely water fountain. The setting couldn’t be more beautiful and serene. They serve lunch daily from 11:00 – 2:30.
I was trying to find a restaurant with artistic flair to meet my dear friend for lunch, and the Arts & Letters Cafe was the perfect choice! The service was great and the food was terrific. They participate in the Santa Barbara First program by utilizing food from farmers, ranchers and vendors with local ingredients and sustainably raised seafood to prepare their fare. Range fed, antibiotic & steroid free, pesticide free, and organic are their buying preferences. They also offer a fine selection of California Wines and a full bar.
In addition, they serve homemade lemonade that is so fresh, it tastes like it was squeezed right off the tree! To begin our meal, we were served bread with a perfectly thick and crunchy crust (just the way I like it) with softened butter.
Their specials for the day included a Chorizo and Cauliflower Bisque with Crumbled Farm Cheese, Cilantro and Creme Fraiche. I had to try it and I must say – it was heavenly!
For another starter, we requested their Crab Risotto Balls with Soft Herbs, Pecorino Toscano and Toasted Juniper Berry Cream. I have read many recipes for rice balls, but have never tried them before, so I wanted to have the experience. Since they were made with a base of risotto, they were slightly creamy inside and nice and crunchy outside. I found them to be quite bland alone, but mixed with the Juniper Berry Cream they popped with additional flavor.
Our main entree selections were two different salads and we found them both interesting and full of compatible flavors. The lettuce varieties were exquisite and extremely fresh tasting. We enjoyed the unique combinations of ingredients that they used and found their dressings to be perfectly applied for just the right balance. My salad had a filet of wild salmon on it which was prepared perfectly; lightly crisp on the outside and finished appropriately to achieve a moist cooked fish on the inside.
The salad was made with mixed greens, tomato, red onion, soft potato, capers, and haricot verts with a tapenade dressing.
This salad was comprised of a combination of quinoa, sour cherry, pistachio, caramelized celery root, and sweet potato confit with a roasted apple vinaigrette.
The artistic creativity which was clearly apparent in their edible creations is a foodie’s dream and being one myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!