Meanwhile, I've had some fabulous meals with friends and family over the holidays (which I myself did NOT cook), including a lovely lunch in Los Olivos with my grandmothers and mother. Los Olivos is a quaint little town, whose center is composed of a few blocks of Old West storefronts for cute wineshops and restaurants. The drive there on Hwy 154 is gorgeous, since it's right in the middle of the wine country featured in the film Sideways. Winter and early spring are always the best times to enjoy the scenery of the central coast of California, since the grass is green from the rains and the sun shines most of the time.
We lunched at the busiest café on Grand Avenue, and it was worth the 30 minute wait. Los Olivos Café and wine shop has a wall full of wine bottles, a fire place in the middle, another wall of local art, and patio dining in the front. The most difficult part of waiting for our food was watching the plates of gorgeous food being delivered to the tables, but it was our turn soon enough.
One of the best parts of the meal was the bread that arrived first: it was one of the most soft, flavorful, well-textured breads I've ever had at a restaurant. This is not the bread that you skip in order to save room for your entrée - this is the bread that you fill up on and hope they bring seconds.
For my entrée, I ordered a roasted butternut squash salad that had gorgonzola, roasted pepitas, cranberries, and a cinnamon balsamic over the baby greens. The squash was cold but sweet and spiced, and there was enough of it that I could only finish half - at least, once I had eaten a quarter of my mom's sirloin burger!
After lunch we continued to Solvang to visit the bakeries and catch sight of this human-size gingerbread house at the Chumash Casino-owned Corque Hotel. Although built on a wooden frame, this house is covered in real gingerbread. You can even smell it! The icicles are piped-on frosting, and icing coats the roof tiles like snow. The gingerbread house is made by Olsen's Danish Bakery in Solvang.
Solvang might be cheesy, but the bakeries are the best part in my opinion (surprised?), so a gigantic cookie house fits right in. It's worth a trip to the Central Coast to see these little towns!