A beautiful day by the beach, festive tunes and an uplifting vibe, fine food and of course excellent drink. The 14th annual California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara encompassed just about everything you could ask for in a true California experience. Taking place literally steps from the sand and surf at Chase Palm Park Plaza, this beachside wine festival brought together local eateries and fine labels from across the state for a sizeable, but not overwhelming crowd.
Laetitia Vineyard and Winery, Rutherford Wine Company, Russian River Vineyards and Valdez Family Winery were among the highlighted purveyors, as well as favorites such as Houdini, Broken Earth Winery and Macchia. A healthy brewery lineup added a refreshing beer element to the hot summer day, with Unibroue, M. Special Brewing Co. and Island Brewing Company as just a few standouts on the list.
On the culinary end, Enterprise Fish Company showcased their ever-spectacular lobster bisque, along with Nana’s Kitchen, Dave’s Dogs, Blaze Pizza and Luna Grill serving up additional specialties. While California Wine Festival prioritizes beverages in their events, it’s safe to say you will walk away with your stomach full and your palate pleased.
The festival in Santa Barbara is part of California Wine Festival, which oversees a series of annual wine & food festivals across Southern California throughout the year. For more information visit CaliforniaWineFestival.com
Ocean Market Grill, or OMG as it cleverly goes by, has brought the build-your-own concept to fresh, sustainable seafood. In the same way you customize your burger at The Counter or your burrito at Chipotle, you’re able to create your ideal seafood dish at this growing fast-casual Southern California chain. By bringing higher-end ingredients to a more modest, yet modern environment, OMG is making exotic seafood more approachable to the masses.
Nine seafood options create the base of OMG’s dynamic menu, ranging from traditional salmon and shrimp to ahi tuna, rock cod and yellowtail. OMG prepares your selection in one of three ways: blackened, salt & pepper or garlic butter. You’re then able to have their selection served in plate, wrap, sandwich or taco form, with sides that range from salads and grilled vegetables to excellent fries and garlic rice.
Additional signature items include the lobster grilled cheese, rich clam chowder and the OMG fries—fries smothered in clam chowder. While the OMG fries could use more clam chowder and the menu could use more dipping sauces in general, the only real disappointment came with the crab cakes—well-prepared but too small for the $16 price tag. Conversely, OMG’s standard meals fall in the $11-12 range, a steal considering that fresh and sustainable seafood can easily run for three times that price in a full-service setting.
Add a healthy beer and wine list and a Stubborn soda fountain [Stubborn is Pepsi’s new craft soda line] and you’ve got an eclectic selection that matches the restaurant’s modern beachside vibe.
Ocean Market Grill has locations in Torrance and Long Beach, with another opening in El Segundo. Open Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri/Sat 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Average out-the-door price for a fish meal and a drink is ~$18. For more information visit OceanMarketGrill.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.