Let’s go Danish in the heart of California

Day 3 of our journey led us back to the cute little Danish town of Solvang.  We didn’t feel like we had enough opportunity to explore it the day before, and both Jon and I were in the mood for relaxing.  We headed up there after taking our time in the morning, and our first stop was the Solvang Antique Center.  I was expecting a place with some antiques, some collectibles and lots of little stuff to go through.  This place had hundreds of antique, ornate, grandfather clocks.  And old, huge European furniture.  And a few glass items.  In short, nothing that we could afford, and even if we could, it wouldn’t fit into our house.  We saw one clock priced at $57,000!  Wow, talk about a step up from my IKEA clock!  So, I was in the mood for antiquing, and this place didn’t satisfy me, so we drove up the road to Los Alamos to another antique mall.  This one had the fun stuff I like to look at.  It is housed in a turn of the century train station, and it was neat to see the original floorboards.  If you get tired of shopping, you can have a seat at their wine tasting bar.  We were tempted, but we hadn’t had lunch yet…  We both saw some things that we liked but we saved our money like good little newlyweds – you have to have some for wine!

After my antique itch was scratched, we headed back to Solvang to find lunch and enjoy the afternoon.  We looked around at our lunch options – sushi, German food, ice cream, and we finally settled on a place called the Little Mermaid that offered traditional Danish fare.  I ordered the combo plate, which included Danish sausage, Danish meatballs with gravy, pickled cabbage and mashed potatoes.  Jon thought I was nuts to order that on a hot day and went with the salmon.  My verdict on Danish food is that is kind of your typical European, non-spicy meat and potatoes.  I enjoyed it, but I don’t know that I would go seeking it out if our hometown opened up a Danish joint.  They had a really good passionfruit flavored iced tea though.

After lunch, we wandered down the main drag to Lion’s Peak Winery’s tasting room.  It is decorated with lots of leopard and zebra print, and kind of reminds you of an art gallery.  Their labels are taken from art by a local artist whose prints are hanging in the tasting room.  The server was a lot of fun, and liked to growl like a lion periodically (perhaps she was doing a tasting of her own, under the table).  They had several wines that we really enjoyed, including a buttery Chardonnay that was one of Jon’s favorites, a Mourvedre that I really enjoyed, and a dark full bodied Zinfandel that was outstanding.  Of course we got some wine from there, because best of all, they were having a sale!  To make room for new releases!  We even got some wines for our moms – sorry moms, you’ll have to wait and see what you get.

Lion's Peak Winery Tasting Room in Solvang, CA

Next we headed down the street to Lucas and Lewellen.  This place was hopping- it was really packed!  It was interesting though.  They pour you a taste, don’t tell you anything about it, and then leave.  When you finish that one, they are right there to give you the next taste.  I did find it odd that there was no description, no chit chat, none of it.  It was very impersonal.   I wondered if maybe it was because they were chatting up the locals, but they really weren’t very much.  Later that evening, I read an article that described them that way – that they leave you to your tasting.  I guess it is just a matter of personal preference – but I like to hear about the winery.  They had some good wines, and some that were ok.  I didn’t feel any of them were real standouts though.

After wine tasting some, we wandered around in the sunshine for a bit and stumbled upon the Wednesday Farmer’s Market.  Oh wow, the peaches!  Huge and juicy!  We bought 4, and enjoyed one on a bench in the sun.  I wish our farmer’s market had peaches like those – I can dream…  Next up was saltwater taffy.  We picked two of all the flavors that looked good and ended up with about a 1/2 pound of candy.  We were able to make it last a whole day – hey, we are on vacation here, we have to enjoy ourselves!  We should have gotten more.

After walking through a gate in the adobe wall, we were at the Santa Ynez Mission.  We took pictures of the outside, but didn’t do the tour of this one.  I guess at this point we were a little “missioned” out.  They did have a beautiful rose garden, and a youth ministry building called “The Vines.”  Ummm, starting them a little young down here on the wine, aren’t you?

Jon ringing the dinner bell

The last winery of the day was The Presidio Winery.  They are an organic and biodynamic winery, which means no pesticides, but also that they use the lunar cycles to determine when they will plant, pick and do other things to the grapes.  They plant beans and other crops in between the rows to provide nitrogen to the soil too.  I was looking forward to their wines, but I wasn’t impressed.  They do only unfiltered reds, which apparently means they come cloudy and tart.  There was not a red in the bunch that I enjoyed.  The whites were better, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a standout there either.  Jon did get a tealight holder that sits in a wine bottle, so he was happy, but we weren’t tempted to buy any wine.

After heading back to the hotel, we looked up restaurants on TripAdvisor.com and found a Brazilian restaurant called Maqueca (pronounced MAH – CAKE – AH)  in Oxnard, CA.  What a find!  Maqueca is a traditional Brazilian fish stew – you can have it with fish, shrimp, lobster, mixed seafood – however you like it.  It is served with sticky rice, and a gelatin-like stuff that she said was made of flour.  You spread out your rice, put the gelatin substance on top of that, and then spoon your maqueca on the top.  It isn’t very spicy, but you can add VERY HOT chili peppers if you would like to.  I tried one – that was one too many for me!  The stew was delicious!  When you order, they say it serves two, but even with Jon’s appetite, this stew could have been for at least three.  We had a lot left over, even after stuffing ourselves full of big chunks of fish and shrimp.  I would have loved to take it home – our server said it is even better the next day, when the spices have had more time to marinate.

We went back to our hotel room, stuffed and happy, to share a bottle of wine.

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