My wife and I had always heard that Santa Barbara was beautiful and that it was a great place for wine. Both are very true, but we would honestly go back if spending more time with Laurence was the only thing we did. What an absolute gem find she and her Market Forays are! If you love food and getting to know interesting people, you HAVE TO do this or you are just simply missing out on the BEST experience in Santa Barbara!
My wife and I did this back in September 2009, so it has been a few months since we returned. I love TripAdvisor, but making the time to get on here and post this review has been difficult. But, that said, we had such a great time and we take so much from this site in planning our vacations, that I could not leave Laurence and you all hanging without posting this review and a few pictures.
Here is how it worked for us: We met Laurence early in the morning down at the pier. Our group was four people (me, my wife, and two others). There were a group of fisherman down on the pier unloading and selling their catch. They all knew Laurence! So, if you arrive early and are not sure where you are supposed to meet or who you are looking for, no worries, they all know her and will help you out. While we were there, Laurence bought some catch for us to cook and eat later in the day. From there, we went to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, and it was awesome! This is where we picked up the majority of the ingredients needed to prepare our menu later. The selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other delicacies was just incredible! Of course, once again, Laurence knows everyone there (which makes the experience so much better), maybe because she used to run the whole thing. :)
From the market, we went to a local tasting room owned and operated by another one of Laurence's friends. There, we tasted some great wines and got a nice history lesson of the Santa Barbara wine region. Our next stop was to an amazing artisan cheese shop, where Laurence picked up more ingredients and got us to taste at least a half dozen or more unique cheese creations. We were in heaven!
Our final destination was Laurence's beautiful home in Santa Barbara. It was there that we prepared, cooked, learned, ate, drank, laughed, and just had one of the best times of our lives. Laurence was very accommodating to our dietary requests. Our menu included squab, and I have to admit that the thought of eating pigeon scared me a bit. It scared me because I had never eaten it before, but it also scared because it did not sound all that appetizing. Well, it was incredible, and if all squab tasted like Laurence's I would order it any time it was available on a restaurant menu! :)
You know how sometimes when you do activities like this there can be strict time constraints, and when the time is up they are pushing you out the door? Not Laurence! After we were done eating and were just sitting around the table talking and laughing, I looked down at my watch and noticed that this thing was supposed to have been over two hours earlier! So, I told my wife that we needed to ask how we could help to clean up and get out of her hair as we had over-stayed our time. Laurence was just so nonchalant about it all. She said that she would clean up and that we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted. She is such a real, likable, and lovable person! Honestly, when you are with her you feel like you are spending time with Julia Child (who she also knew). :)
Hope this review is helpful. Long, I know, but if you are debating on whether or not to do this, just do it. If you really knew how great it was, you would regret it if you don't. I think Laurence still charges $145 per person, or at least her website says that she does as of me writing this, but she could easily charge double or more and it would still be worth every penny! Thanks, Laurence, Allyson and I hope that we will one day be able to make it back to Santa Barbara and do this all over again!
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