Friends and food, this is the life

Leslie Strong has been my friend longer than I can remember.  We met playing bridge, and have played as partners and teammates all over the country.

Leslie and Sonny Boy, a long legged pony

Leslie and Sonny Boy, a long legged pony

Retired from being executive assistant to the big cheese at some medical company, Leslie now lives in Santa Barbara and keeps, tends, trains and rehabs horses.  She’s from a farming family in the Northwest and has been around equines all of her life.

This morning I went up to the facility where she keeps the hayburners. I met her horses, large and small, and watched her demonstrate the training procedures of a young pony.  There is a small show every Saturday morning for the guests of the rancho, and the kids all love the horses.

The first step at jumping--just learning to step over the obstacle.

The first step at jumping–just learning to step over the obstacle.

Leaning not to be afraid of things--the green ball is a teaching device, not a toy.

Leaning not to be afraid of things–the green ball is a teaching device, not a toy.

After the show, we visited a couple of her mares, Debutante and Odyssey.

Debutante, wearing a fly mask.  She can see through it.

Debutante, wearing a fly mask. She can see through it.

Debutante was getting fed a special mix that is essentially Metamucil for horses, to protect against colic, the great equine killer.

Odyssey was just visiting.

Odyssey was just visiting.

Odyssey is a “paint”, which means a horse with white splotches.  But not just any paint, a Tobiano, which relates to the markings, and the fact that they blend at the edges in that inch wide strip rather than being starkly delineated.  That is apparently important, at least to another horse.

Finished with the horses, we drove from the secluded valley in the Los Padres National Forest back to Montecito, to join Gail and the family for lunch at the San Ysidro Ranch.  The Ranch is a boutique hotel where rooms start at $845/night, set on 500 priceless acres of Montecito land overlooking the Pacific.  It’s owned by Ty Warner, the Beanie Babies zillionaire who owns a lot of this area.  Oprah Winfrey lives in the neighborhood, but all the houses are behind huge hedges and gates, not just hers.

We had lunch at The Stonehouse, which looks just like its name implies, dining in a covered loggia surrounded by lush greenery and ocean views.

I began with the tortilla soup.  It’s on the menu as “SYR Tortilla Soup”, and it took me some time to figure out what Syria had to do with anything.  I’m a little slow some times.

Perfect plating for a great soup.

Perfect plating for a great soup.

Sometimes tortilla soup is chunky, sometimes it is smooth and pureed.  This was the latter, rich and savory.  Leslie thought hers wasn’t hot enough, sent it back and got another full, perfect plate.

Just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean you can’t have it your way.  I wanted the local yellowtail tuna, but served on the corn risotto from the roasted chicken plate.  I asked for it that way, and I got it that way. It’s a restaurant, they are here to make you happy.

Yellowtail and corn risotto

Yellowtail and corn risotto

The dish was everything you could want in a piece of fish and some rice.  The julienned peppers on top added sweetness and flavor, the sauce was delightful.

Dessert was the SYR Lemon Tart.  I had it figured out by now.

A very different take on a classic dish.

A very different take on a classic dish.

Lemon tarts are usually quite stiff, this one had a thin and runny lemon custard that was a fascinating change.  The dollop of whipped cream was thick but not sweet, the tiny edible flower a variety I’ve not seen before.

It was Leslie’s birthday this week, a fact she was sure to mention so they would celebrate it:

Happy Birthday Leslie!

Happy Birthday Leslie!

Service was first rate, which you would expect at a world-class resort.  The price is steep but the value is excellent.  We are coming back to Santa Barbara in a few weeks and decidedly want to have dinner here.

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