We were surprised when we learned the exciting news that a very popular chef was relocating to the South Central Coast, Chef John Cox. Originally from Texas, he built his reputation as a five-star chef while cooking at Sierra Mar in the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Recently this uber talented chef found a reason to move to Santa Barbara wine country. He has joined in a partnership with the Parker family to take over the restaurant at the Fess Parker Inn in Los Olivos. Named The Bear and the Star, for his roots in California and the Lone Star State. And the complex menu illustrates that.
Learn all about them and get the full menu, which our server told us changes daily, at: www.thebearandstar.com. We recommend getting reservations which you can schedule through their webpage, as it’s already the new hot spot to check out in Santa Barbara wine country.
Thanks to a commitment in Santa Maria, we left early to have lunch at the new Bear & Star in Los Olivos and were well rewarded for our long detour! Not only did we find it a five star experience on every front, we’ve been raving about it ever since. They’ve remodeled the room to include a large bar where you can wait for your table, or enjoy a meal when you’re dining alone. They also added seating on the veranda in front of the inn, which was quite popular for most diners. The patio out back feature a fireplace, and it’s quite comfortable, too. Everyone treated us very well, and we were happy to see that Chef John Cox was in the house. He even stopped by our table to ask if we were enjoying our meal–there was no doubt about it, we loved it. They start every table out with a small cast iron pan of housemade cornbread baked to order for your table. That’s quite a gift!
The bread comes with sweetened brown butter and regular butter. A tasty treat that takes the edge off your hunger. Nothing comes out fast, but that’s okay once you get a taste of the quality foods coming of this kitchen. We liked the “ranch cuisine” flavor of the menu with local farm choices like Morro Bay Pacific Gold Oysters, catfish, wagyu beef, local quail, and angus steaks.
We started by sharing “salad from the farm,” $11. A meld of delicious red leaf lettuce tossed with radish, picked fennel, carrots strips, and crispy quinoa, nicely dressed in a red wine vinaigrette, and with two generous slices of Mt. Baldy goat cheese,. So nicely balanced, it paired beautifully with our choice of Dragonette 2016 Rose of Pinot Noir Happy Canyon, $15 glass/$56 bottle.
Dan ordered the local quail stuffed with a chicken forcemeat, and red wine gastrique $22. We can say it was undoubtedly one of the finest quail dishes we’ve ever had, and we love quail. It came with a potato puree and barely steamed cauliflower. Incredible.
My order of the Berkshire pork chop, $28, was so worth it as well. It comes with cheesy grits, while it looked like a lot it was just the right amount, with Syrah braised cabbage and grain mustard jus. The tenderloin part of it was moist and perfect, with a bit of crunchy goodness from the meat roasted on the bone. I also enjoyed just a touch of tomato, like a salsa, on top. We can’t wait to return and order the Angus steak. We especially savored the fact that the lunch and dinner menu are the same. We really don’t understand those restaurants that limit the lunch menu and don’t keep the standards of quality the same. That’s far from the case here!
For dessert Dan was excited about trying the prickly pear sorbet, $7. They didn’t have it, the sous chef explained to us, because the the ice cream maker wasn’t working. But he brought us a comped bowl of vanilla ice cream with fresh berries to make up for it. We enjoyed it!
Check them out at www.thebearandstar.com.
The back patio is very appealing for its privacy.