If you've driven through Santa Barbara wine country, or at least saw the movie Sideways, there's a good chance you've heard of Hitching Post II in Buellton. The restaurant, owned by chef Frank Ostini since 1986 (the original opened in Casmalia in 1952), is a must-stop for grilled specialties, from Angus steaks to ostrich, quail and vegetables, and great wine.
When you walk into the dining room, you'll see flames jumping from the giant grill in the kitchen. The place is hopping just about any day of the week, and it's certainly not just for tourists. Plenty of locals line the bar, chatting and catching up with their neighbors over a great steak. It's wine country-casual dining at its best: friendly, unfussy and familial.
Ostini does love a good prime rib chop--the huge cut is his favorite, and when cooked over the grill it gets a thick flavorful crust that seals in all the juices--but Hitching Post II is more than meat. One of the most popular year-round dishes is the grilled artichoke with smoked tomato mayonnaise.
"We steam them, and then they're chilled, cut and cleaned," Ostini explains. "To serve them, we warm them on the grill to order with basting of butter, white wine, lemon and seasoning of our Magic Dust (salt, garlic, onion and three kinds of pepper)."
As delicious as the artichoke is, with all its smokiness and charred edges, most people just think it's a vehicle for smoky dipping sauce. "People go nuts for it," says Ostini.
Both the artichoke and mayonnaise are easy to make at home--the recipes are below--but you can always buy the Hitching Post II's Magic Dust and Smoke Tomato Pesto to give it that authentic HP flavor.
Spicy Smoked Tomato Mayonnaise
Recipe adapted from Frank Ostini
Makes approximately 4 ½ cups
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves
- 4 Pasilla peppers, halved
- 4 tomatoes, halved
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound onions, large, sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups mayonnaise
1. Heat oven to 400°. Toss the garlic cloves, onions, peppers and tomatoes in just enough olive oil to coat. Spread on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft. (You can also grill the peppers, onions and tomatoes until soft.)
2. In a blender or food processor, puree all of the ingredients. In a bowl, combine the vegetables and dry ingredients with the mayonnaise and serve. Mayo will keep in a container in the refrigerator for about a week.
Makes 6 servings
- 6 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. To prepare the artichokes, break off the small outer leaves, cut cut off the top of the artichoke, and, with scissors, trip the sharp points of the leaves. Soak in water for a few minutes, and wash with cold water to remove sand. In a bowl, mix together the butter, olive oil, white wine and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. In a large pot, steam the hearts until tender, approximately 25 to 35 minutes depending upon size. Set aside to cool. When cool, cut the artichoke in half and remove the stickers with a spoon.
3. Light a grill to high heat. Baste the artichokes with the butter mixture and grill until warm and crisp around the edges, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, or Hitching Post's Magic Dust. Serve with the tomato mayonnaise.