Discovering Julia Child’s Santa Barbara
The great chef loved the natural beauty and culinary bounty of the American Riviera. From pinot noir to authentic tacos, here’s how to follow her tastebuds.
Julia Child is mostly associated with Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the great chef wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and where her eponymous blue-green kitchen, with its pegboards and maple countertops, provided the backdrop to her lively cooking shows. But the original American foodie always considered herself a true Californian.
Born and raised in Pasadena, Julia Child and her family would escape the heat of the city in Santa Barbara, spending summers at the Miramar Hotel in Montecito (now Rosewood Miramar Beach). “I love the warm, cream color of the Spanish-style houses and the red of their tile roofs, and the brightness of round oranges set against the dark-green, shiny leaves of citrus trees,” she wrote about Santa Barbara in National Geographic. Later, Julia and her husband Paul Cushing Child spent winters in their Montecito apartment; after he passed away, she moved there permanently.
“Julia’s first love may have been the foods of France,” says her dear friend Eric Spivey, now Chairman of the Santa Barbara–based Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. “But her views evolved as the American food movement evolved. She loved the quality of the produce and fish here in Santa Barbara, and she loved her wine, including many of the vineyards and winemakers in the region.”
Here we share some of Julia’s favorite Santa Barbara destinations.
GANNA WALSKA LOTUSLAND
Julia loved this magical botanical garden created by Walska, an opera singer turned horticultural steward, who transformed her Montecito estate into a verdant wonderland full of rare plants. Julia favored the garden full of prehistoric cycads, the whimsical aloe garden with its two cascading fountains fashioned out of giant clam shells, and the newly restored Japanese garden. Ganna Walska Lotusland; 695 Ashley Road, Montecito; +1 805-969-9990; reservations required.
PANE E VINO TRATTORIA
This quaint Italian restaurant in Montecito’s upper village buzzes with locals who come for the great selection of Italian wines, homemade pastas, and seasonal specials using organic local produce. Julia’s favorite? The bistecca alla fiorentina, a natural-fed rib-eye served with Tuscan beans. Pane e Vino Trattoria; 1482 E. Valley Road #5, Montecito; +1 805-969-9274.
LA SUPER RICA TAQUERIA
In the 1980s, Julia featured this Santa Barbara taco stand on Good Morning America and put it on the national map. She touted the family-owned business for its homemade tortillas and for the delicious simplicity of a taco, with meat, salsa and a little bit of crema on top. Patrons still line up today for a taste. La Super Rica Taqueria; 622 N. Milpas Street, Santa Barbara; +1 805-963-4940.
McCONNELL’S FINE ICE CREAMS
Julia had a sweet tooth and until her final days, she still craved McConnell’s ice cream, which has been serving its artisan product, sourced from a local dairy, for 70 years. It’s still locally owned, with several locations in the area. While flavors have evolved to include choices like Eureka Lemon & Marionberry and Toasted Coconut Almond Chip, Julia favored the straightforwardness of the rich Vanilla Bean. McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams; 728 State Street, Santa Barbara; +1 805-324-4402.
MARGERUM TASTING ROOM
Doug Margerum has been involved in the Santa Barbara wine scene for over 30 years as a wine seller, restaurateur, and now as a winemaker. He knew Julia well as a customer and friend who loved pinot noir. The tasting room, located near the waterfront in downtown Santa Barbara, offers charcuterie plates to pair with a glass of Margerum’s classic French-style Riviera Rosé or his M5, a Rhône-style blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, and counoise. Margerum Tasting Room; 19 E. Mason Street; +1 805-845-8435.
A.C. POSTEL MISSION ROSE GARDEN
For a dose of California history, visit the pink-columned Old Mission Santa Barbara, founded by the Franciscan order in the 18th century, and the adjacent Mission Historical Park. There you can find over 1,500 rose bushes, resplendent in the spring and summer, including the coveted Julia Child variety, which, of course, is a buttery yellow. A.C. Postel Mission Rose Garden; 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara; +1 805-897-1982.
SANTA BARBARA SATURDAY FARMERS MARKET
For a taste of Central Coast flavors near and dear to Julia’s heart, take a walk through the market where she spent every Saturday. Julia was an edible plant nerd who savored the seasons and the new produce each one would bring. An abundance of prepared foods and artisan products allow you to take a taste of Julia’s California home with you. Santa Barbara Saturday Farmers Market; 119 E. Cota Street, Santa Barbara; Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.- 1 p.m.