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Walnut Creek Magazine

Solvang Sparkles Anew

Sep 30, 2020 06:15PM ● By Fran Miller

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

The Danish capital of America is no longer your grandad’s Solvang. Sure, one can still find Danish pastry galore, but this quaint village is now much more than a mere sugar stop along Highway 101. Luxury lodging, fine wine, and Michelin level cuisine now find a home alongside the venerable bakeries and clog shops. It now takes more than a road trip pit stop to fully explore the small town and its many outstanding offerings. If you’ve not been lately, Solvang is worthy of a fresh look. Here are some of our favorite things:

STAY: The Winston upends any preconceived notions of Solvang serving as a mere afternoon detour. One peek at this new, upscale boutique hotel, and you’ll want to spend one night in each of its 14 fabulous rooms. Each is distinct in size and layout and each features dazzling décor in vibrant hues. Housed in the town’s historic Old Mill Clock Tower, this ‘invisible service’ hotel combines old world charm with modern amenities. The Winston believes that the best way to help its guests get the most out of their stay is to simply get out of their way. Rather than a standard check-in process, it provides unique access codes. Rather than a loud, public lobby bar, it stocks a private, guest-only honor bar. And complimentary breakfast? It’s delivered discreetly to your door.

The Winston guest room, photo: Fran Miller

The Winston lobby. Photo courtesy of The Winston

WINE: Solvang is home to more than 20 tasting rooms within its 2.4 square miles. Varietals from the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, and Sta. Rita Hills are featured amongst well-known labels and those waiting to be fully discovered. Some of our faves: Visitors to the Lucas & Lewellen and Tuscan-flared Toccata Tasting Rooms can sample more than twenty world class wines, as well as shop a variety of gourmet foods, gifts, and unique wine related items. At Dana V. Wines, proprietor and seasoned winemaker Dana Volk can be found pouring her outstanding Pinots, Chardonnays, and Bordeaux Blends on her front patio where fire pits ward-off evening chill.

Dana V. Wines tasting patio, photo: Fran Miller

DINE: Even with so many other options, no trip to Solvang is complete without a pastry purchase. Birkholm's Bakery & Cafe has been a Solvang mainstay for generations of visitors. Third generation baker Thomas Birkholm now mans the bakery that his grandfather established nearly 70 years ago. Find all of the Danish originals: buckets of butter cookies, butter rings, kringles, cinnamon crisps and so much more.

Birkholm's Bakery display. Photo, Dan Miller

peasants FEAST interior dining room. 

Restaurant industry duo chef Michael Cherney and his wife Sarah bravely opened peasants FEAST mid-pandemic, and their gamble has paid off. Chef Cherney applies his time spent in Michelin-starred kitchens to signature items like the Solvang Hot Chicken, the Meatball Sandwich, and the popular Pastrami Smoked Salmon Sandwich. Save room for ice cream made by Michael and Sarah's daughter Reina: peanut butter, mint, peach, or strawberry. Slather a scoop between two housemate cookies for further decadence: chocolate, chocolate chip or peanut butter oatmeal. A roomy outdoor patio surrounds the indoor dining room, which is housed in a circa-1970s greenhouse, one of Solvang's iconic buildings.  

The owners of Ramen Kotori possess impressive culinary pedigrees and their experience is evidenced in every bowl of delicious ramen. The impassioned partnership between Chef Budi Kazali, owner/operator of Santa Ynez Valley’s award-winning Ballard Inn and onsite restaurant The Gathering Table, and husband and wife team, Francisco and Erica Velazquez has transpired into one of Solvang’s most popular eateries.

Ramen Kotori spread. Photo, Zoe Kazali

The only restaurant in the Santa Ynez Valley to receive a Michelin Plate honor, First & Oak is the creation of Jonathan Rosenson who serves as its sommelier. The charming restaurant features beautifully plated menu items featuring locally sourced, seasonal ingredients such as a tomato and burrata salad, delicate diver scallops atop black linguine, or wagyu tenderloin served with asparagus and smoked onion. The restaurant’s wine list is interesting and approachable, with a number of selections from the Rosenson family’s own CCOF Certified Organic Coquelicot Organic Estate Vineyard, located within walking distance of the restaurant.

Jonathan Rosenson of First & Oak. Photo, Heather Daenitz, Craft + Cluster

First & Oak dining. Photo, Heather Daenitz, Craft + Cluster

V Lounge. Photo courtesy of The Vinland Hotel

Night owls will love Vinland Hotel’s late night V Lounge that says open until 2am, the latest of any establishment in town. Featuring fresh Californian fare with an unmistakable Danish flair, and local wines, craft beer and innovative cocktails, Vinland is the sister hotel to The Winston. Its suites are partnered with three nearby wineries, offering guests exclusive perks and experiences within the vineyards. 

AND MORE: Hans Christian Andersen Park features a lovely 1.3 mile hiking trail within its wooded grounds; during summer months, keep an eye out for the 100+ goats that are brought in to provide weed abatement. Find fresh artisanal cheese, charcuterie, fresh bread, and accoutrements at the Cailloux Cheese Shop, an upscale, European-style specialty food retailer. The Solvang Spice Merchant specializes in premium spices, teas, salts, sugars and fun gifts. When indoor museums are once again open, the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art and its Rembrandt exhibit (through the end of this year) are a must.

 

 

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