Spicy Chili Chocolate Cake & Fine Dining in Montecito, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – I will apologize up front for the lame photos of the chili chocolate cake.  I hope the photos of my Montecito trip make up for it a tiny bit.

This chili chocolate cake is just stupid easy & really dense – like a flourless cake – despite the fact that it is flour-based.  I stole the recipe from Bake-aholic.com (their version & photo below)

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and just used my Fireball frosting from the Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes I made the same day I made this cake.

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My cake seemed far more dense than their appears but it was rather yummy.

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Here is their recipe for

Chili & Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you know I never plan ahead…1 T of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup…add milk to the 1 cup mark.  let sit 5 minutes to curdle)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup hot hot water

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 13″x9″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, sugar, soda, cinnamon and cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp cayenne…you can adjust when the batter is all combined). Add in oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Stir gently. Add hot water. Pour into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4-6 T milk

Beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, add vanilla and cinnamon. Add milk and beat until you attain your desired consistency (I generally start with 4 T [1/4 cup] then add 1 T at a time).  Frost cooled cake. (This frosting is also delicious on graham crackers.)

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This weekend marked my second anniversary with the badass, Miles Miller.  I had an available dog sitter so we took the opportunity & escaped for a night to Montecito.  Montecito is the wealthy town just south of Santa Barbara.  I used to go there all the time & have a few favorite spots but I hadn’t been in over a decade – so – returning to those old favorite haunts had a distinct element of risk.  Not every restaurant can maintain its quality for twenty years.  Since I chose the destinations – all the responsibility was on my shoulders and I was a bit nervous.  But one place I was fairly certain would have maintained its allure is the Four Seasons Biltmore up there on the beach.  Unable to afford to actually stay there – I decided we could certainly afford to lunch there – so that was our first stop.

We sauntered into the hotel around noon & went to their restaurant there – Bella Vista.

“Are you joining us for brunch?”

I looked at Miles who shrugged and then answered, “I don’t see why not.”

But I could see why not.  I am not a brunch fan & I am especially not a brunch buffet fan.  Omelette bars & tables of pastries are of no interest to me – not to mention that most buffets are excessively littered with meat options.  Not only am I not a meat eater but, recently, I decided to stop eating seafood (because of the radiation they are finding in it from Fukishima – read HERE).  WTF else is there on a buffet for me?

But, we committed & I decided to make the best of it.  The bottomless champagne promised to take the edge off whatever disappointment lay ahead for me.  And look how pretty the joynt is.

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I tried to console myself with the thought that a high end buffet would, at least, have lots of options that would please my nearly purely carnivorous boyfriend.  I sipped champagne.  I looked around.  I thought, “This does not suck.”  Because it didn’t – no matter what I ended up eating.  And look at how cute Miles is!

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Then I wandered into the buffet room.  It was truly a wonderland of options.  The Biltmore does not fuck around & this buffet proved to be the finest I had ever seen.  Sure, there was bacon & sausage & homemade hash & rare lamb chops & prime rib & steak salad & chicken salad and, really, every meat option you can imagine and there was a wall lined with every variety of sweet thing on Earth.  There was the requisite omelette bar & the bagels & lox & all the other things you might expect.  Initially, I loaded a pile of mashed potatoes on my plate, still determined to go vegetarian – until I lifted the lid on the shrimp & grits.  Oh fuck.  I adore grits & radiation cancer or not – I was going to have some of that shrimpy goodness.  As I spooned a bit on my plate – I spied huge hunks of lobster in the grits, too.  It was about then that I apparently went into some kind of seafood-frenzy black-out.  Photos of my first plate reveal these selections:

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Mashed potatoes, seafood grits, CAVIAR (I could live on caviar) with all the traditional accoutrements, two oysters & a shrimp.

My return to the buffet resulted in this selection:

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That, if you cannot tell, is a small selection of sushi, a tiny piece of smoked salmon, oysters, a shrimp & a SCANDALOUS portion of caviar that, as you might observe, I tried to obscure beneath the little bowl of soy sauce & wasabi.  There are eight blini there so that gives you some idea of the greed I exhibited.  I could have just stood there at the buffet & smeared it all over my face as I scraped the entire quantity offered into my mouth with a cupped palm – whilst growling at anybody unwise enough to approach me.  But that seemed rather classless so I just took about an entire ounce of the black gold and the desired extras (egg & creme fraiche etc) and rejoined Miles at our table & grunted, “This does NOT SUCK” repeatedly as I swilled the free-flowing champagne & licked caviar from my fingers.

Sometimes I’m not safe in public.  God bless Miles for loving me.

Properly sated – we braced for the bill.  Miles guessed the cost would be high & guessed $50 each.  I feared it would be closer to $125 each.  Or more.  After all – there was BOTTOMLESS CAVIAR & the champagne was not sweet & gross and it, too, was bottomless.  I think Miles threw up in his mouth a bit when the bill turned out to be just under $200 with tip but I knew we had dodged a bullet.  And I still had caviar running down my chin like a goatee – so I was good with it all.

So – I dragged him across the street to the beach.  Here is a peek at that loveliness.

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So – we checked into the hotel – the Montecito Inn – and clicked on the fireplace.

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Ah, romance.  A bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub & a stint watching Crib’s Most Expensive Homes & it was time to get back to the eating & drinking.

A single cocktail next door at Lucky’s

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and it was time to go to one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – Pane e Vino.  The pressure was kind of off me by the time we got there because lunch had been such a success but I still sweated it out a bit until Miles declared his bolognese with spinach noodles to be delightful.  He hadn’t been as pleased with a similar dish the night before at LA’s Bottega Louie – so I really was worried.  My homemade pasta with mushrooms was insane.  Hard to photograph but not hard to shovel into my face.

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The ride back & forth, by the way, was provided by the AWESOME Uber service.  Uber is a car service that you summon with an app on your phone.  You simply provide a credit card to them when you sign up & all the fees & tips etc are handled that way.  No cash.  And the drivers (for UberX – the least expensive of their three car options) drive their own car.  Cheaper & easier than a taxi service & you can request a fare estimate before pulling the trigger & calling for an Uber pick up.  I recommend it VERY highly.  And here is a little discount for your first ride.

Use my Uber promo code, 4hmyy, and get $10 off your first Uber ride.

Before we went to bed, I received this pathetic image of my two sons – huddled in despair because of my absence.  They can really work up a pity party when they are motivated.  Silly kids.

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The next day before we headed home to reunited with the doggies – we stopped at Cava in Montecito.  It was a gorgeous day & we sat outside on the patio.  We nibbled on chips & salsa.

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Miles ordered a beer & fajitas.

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I got a huge portion of guacamole, a Bloody Mary & (back on the seafood wagon) – the chile relleno.

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All were delicious though the chile relleno, as you can see, was served as almost a soup.  I have never seen it served that way before but it was very tasty.

And that, as they say, was that.

Try both the Chili Chocolate cake & try Montecito when you can.  And save up for that GD brunch buffet.  You could not possibly regret it!

If Los Angeles is your destination – the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills has a great dining spot, too.  Culina!  Check out my CRAZY experience there – HERE.

One thought on “Spicy Chili Chocolate Cake & Fine Dining in Montecito, California

  1. Warms me more than a Jalapeno Jones Soda that you’re so happy in love with both food AND Miles! (and the puppers). Now I’m nearly 100% vegan, (though still made of meat), I hope you can recommend a nice place for me and the dog in the picture to have lunch when Ii’m in LA the weekend of the 22nd (Nov). I’m staying for the Pearl Jam shows..then driving back to Vegas. (to my sweethearts and love of life-Mike). Monty, (doglette), now is so bossy he ORDERS me to scritch his hears when I am busy noting howdy’s on blogs. You’d love him. I even have Mutt Muffs for him to wear at the concerts. (You bet he’s going!) If you ever need hearing protection for your boys, I HIGHLY recommend them.

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