Los Agaves Restaurateur Carlos Luna Debuts Santo Mezcal in Downtown Santa Barbara

By By Sam Goldman, Noozhawk Staff Writer , 05/18/2017
BizHawk: Los Agaves Restaurateur Carlos Luna Debuts Santo Mezcal in Downtown Santa Barbara

Joining the transformation of lower State Street is Santo Mezcal, a new restaurant by Carlos Luna, the man behind the popular Los Agaves Restaurants.

The establishment at 119 State St., which opened May 12, sits at the crossroads of the Hotel Californian complex, the waterfront, downtown Santa Barbara and the Funk Zone.

Luna told Noozhawk that he had been wanting to open an elevated Mexican restaurant and that Los Agaves customers had been asking for hard-liquor drinks and margaritas. Unlike Los Agaves, Santo Mezcal has a full bar with specialties in, well, mezcal and tequila.

While Los Agaves patrons order from the counter before sitting down, Luna’s latest concept is a full-service restaurant, with a greater emphasis on seafood.

The longer wait times that accompany that service model mean Executive Chef Ricardo Garcia’s team has more time to prepare more elaborate dishes.

The menu will likely be somewhat seasonal.

“It’s going to be changing a little bit down the road, depending on what they have at the farmers’ markets and with the local produce companies,” Luna said.

The new digs, next door to Hotel Indigo, appeared on Luna’s radar a couple years ago and stood out as an ideal location, given the neighborhood’s transformation, parking availability and proximity to hotels.

It used to be home to the restaurants Nuance, Blue Tavern and Anchor Woodfire Kitchen, whose tenures collectively go back only to 2013.

“I was looking at other restaurants, and they were really good but it was really hard before, as there was nothing on Lower State,” Luna recalled. “Everything’s already here. It’s really great.”

A Weekend Getaway for Art Lovers

By VacationIdea Staff, 04/22/2016

Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, one of the top art hotels in the United States, is eco-friendly, hip and modern. Within the artistic epicenter known as the Funk Zone, this location is the center point for a bohemian lifestyle. This cutting edge hotel was built with environmental sustainability in mind. Borrowing from the European aesthetic, each room is a charming home-away-from-home. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of popular eateries and the beach.

Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is passionate about promoting the local art scene as well, and it is proud to be known as a satellite location for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. The hotel features rotating art exhibits with regular installations from the MCASB. Frequent art openings and events take place throughout the year, and guests can enjoy one of the main attractions of the local art scene during their stay.

A designated satellite space for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, the hotel frequently features rotating exhibits of both local and renowned artists. The Art Library is a relaxing corner to take in the exhibitions, visit during an opening, or see a rare touring piece. Their practice of featuring local artists has transformed the hotel into an integral part of the thriving local art scene. Guests can arrange for private viewings and receive special discounts at the MCASB main space as well. Located at the Paseo Nuevo Mall in the heart of Santa Barbara, the MCASB is dedicated to promoting the local art scene.

  1.     Rooms & Suites   

    The rooms make as much economic use of space as the entire hotel does with the environment. Each room is structured to save space and reduce environmental impact. The green accommodations, fragrance-free natural bath products, and eco-friendly mandate ensure that each guest leaves the smallest carbon footprint possible.


    Guests have a choice between King, Queen, and Double rooms, each with unique spatial options and upscale amenities. King rooms feature a modern workspace and iHome station, perfect for the traveling businessperson. The King and Queen both feature access to a private garden patio.


    Each room features sleek décor, green housekeeping services, and a selection of amenities including but not limited to free Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, all-natural toiletries with complimentary bathrobe, European-style showers, ergonomic furniture design, newspapers, in-room safes, and wake-up calls should they be required.

  3.   Nearby Restaurants   

    The Hotel Indigo is ideally located within minutes of some of the best-known eateries in Santa Barbara. The concierge and front desk staff are happy to recommend a dining destination for hungry guests. The waterside Funk Zone attracts people from all around to taste the delectable selections available within this bohemian neighborhood.


    The Lark is a fun and funky bar atmosphere with signature cocktails and out-of-this-world menu selections. The famous Duck Liver Mousse and Pineapple or the Glazed Spanish Octopus promise a dining experience unlike any other.


    Mony's Taqueria is another great place to pop in for lunch or settle in for a night out. This is one of those local treasures that offers fresh and tasty Mexican cuisine with a self-serve salsa bar. This casual restaurant is a must.


    Visitors can enjoy the flavors and the atmosphere at Lucky Penny, aptly named for the thousands of pennies lining the outside walls of the building. The pizza is just as tempting as the atmosphere and is baked in a wood-fired oven. This restaurant also serves breakfast items.


    The Metropulos serves sandwiches and breakfasts for a quick bite. With Mediterranean flavors, this restaurant prides itself on fresh ingredients, especially their famous aioli sauces. After an afternoon at the beach, guests can also stop at the Rebar, a trendy coffee shop located near the hotel.

  5.   Special Packages    

    Close to the Urban Wine Trail, the Indigo Hotel allows guests to enjoy some of the flavors during their stay by taking advantage of some of the special pricing and packages available. The Sip and Sleep offers guests the opportunity to enjoy a bottle of the Red Carpet Red, a Pinot Noir crafted along with Ampelos Cellars for the 2016 Film Festival. This special extra is available with special codes for a limited time for an additional cost of $30.


    The Santa Barbara Lovin', perfect for the romantic getaway, comes with a tasting at the Refugio Ranch. A bottle of wine along with two specialized wine glasses and chocolate truffles are enough to sweeten any stay. This package is available for a limited time at a cost of $50.


    The Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara offers a cozy and intimate space perfect for anniversaries, reunions, or VIP meetings. The Boardroom seats up to 10 people and features access to the surrounding premises and the relaxing rooftop lounge. The on-site business center includes free Wi-Fi, access to fax, scanning, and printing to meet guests’ business traveling needs.

  7.   Eco-friendly Features   

    The ever-blooming plant wall is just one of the attractions that makes this hotel such a unique locale. The Hotel Indigo is dedicated to green living and creating an experience that reduces carbon imprints. Many features exist to further this mission. The Vertical Garden is an artistic representation of the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world.


    The Car Free Initiative invites guests to directly take part in the green lifestyle by using the many available means of transportation available in the area. Train, bus, and biking are some of the options for getting around. Free bike rentals and discounts are available to visitors taking advantage of this feature. The hotel is located within walking distance of many attractions, including the beach.


    The bathrooms in each guest room are stocked with natural bath products that are kind to the earth and provide a luxurious experience. These fragrance-free products are available to every guest to enjoy while making use of the water-conserving showers and low-flow features. The housekeeping staff makes use of eco-friendly products and ionized water systems when sprucing up the guest rooms.


    The staff at Hotel Indigo understands that vacations are for the whole family. This includes the furry members too. This location prides itself on being pet-friendly so everyone can enjoy their beachside getaway with those they love most. Dogs, cats, and other pets under 55 pounds are welcome with a $40 per visit charge. With the request of a pet-friendly room, guests can enjoy their getaway with their furry companions. There is a limit of two pets per room.

  9.   Plan This Vacation   

    Gallery hoppers will have plenty to do if they are staying at the Hotel Indigo. The local art scene is thriving and welcomes those who wish to stroll through the bohemian neighborhood. Galleries, shops, and studios are just some of the delights that await those visiting this unique corner of Santa Barbara. Sundays feature the mile-long arts and crafts show, which is just steps away from the hotel. The Santa Barbara Art Walk draws frequent crowds and is a delightful stop for local flavor.


    The downtown area has its own offerings for those looking for a fun night out. The trolley carries visitors to the shopping district, full of more artistic venues, fine restaurants, and the famous Urban Wine Trail. The nearby Amtrak station can transport visitors to a variety of locations along the seaside. Part of the Santa Barbara Car Free Project, there are special discounts to those making the effort to sightsee without the use of a car in order to take part in eco-friendly vacationing.


    121 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, website, Phone: 805-966-6586


Hotel Indigo - Haute Art and Design

By By Haute Santa Barbara, 03/04/2016
This week’s post is on Hotel Indigo, a beautifully designed hotel in a great area of Santa Barbara. It is only a few blocks away from the beach, the Funk Zone, and the great retail shops of Downtown Santa Barbara. This puts it in a great location for tourists looking to do lots of fun activities on their vacation. The reception and downstairs lounge are very well-decorated, and a great spot for guests to sit and relax. In the hallways throughout the hotel, there are many pieces of artwork displayed. The hotel itself is very artsy and creative, which I really enjoy. The rooms are decorated very nicely, following a well-coordinated theme. The bathrooms are clean and simple, with European style showers. Upstairs, there are outdoor terraces where guests can hang out with friends and enjoy the view. Hotel Indigo has even taken steps to become more environmentally friendly. They have car-free benefits, water-saving utilities, energy-conserving light bulbs, and more, which goes to show how dedicated they are to help protect and preserve the local environment. 

The following scores represent my personal opinions and experience at the Hotel Indigo:

Rooms: 5 out of 5 – Absolutely beautiful rooms, with great features.

Service: 4.5 out of 5 – Friendly and helpful staff, definitely a plus.

Ambience: 4.5 out of 5 – Great design value, aesthetically pleasing!

Overall Experience: 4.5 out of 5 – A very nice hotel, guaranteed for a great stay!


The Hotel Indigo is one of my favorite hotels in Santa Barbara. It does something that other hotels fail to do: integrate its guests into the local art and culture of the area. I find this to be one of the most critical selling points when looking for somewhere to stay. “Would I feel comfortable here? Do I like the features and aesthetic of this place?” You should ask yourself these questions whenever you plan to travel. If you are looking for a place to stay in Santa Barbara, or just dreaming of going, you should definitely check out their website here, where you can make reservations, learn about the area, and more. Spend your next vacation at Hotel Indigo: one of the most creative and fun hotels in Santa Barbara!

Hotel Indigo
121 State Street
Santa Barbara,
California  93101  

Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara A Chance To Sleep In An Art Gallery

By Marc Smith, 30 Day Adventure Travel, 01/03/2016

Santa Barbara is calling my name. A visit to the American Riveria sounds like a perfect way to begin 2016. Away from the snow, rain and cold of Winter in Canada. For my first night in this Southern California beach community, I booked a night at the Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara. All the conveniences of a large hotel with the coziness and uniqueness of a boutique hotel, I think this is the perfect way to begin my stay. One block from the beach, one block from restaurants and most importantly steps away from the Urban Wine Trail. Let the adventures begin.

The location of the Hotel Indigo couldn’t be better. It is located steps away from Stearns Wharf and the beach on one side and the Amtrak Station on the other. Take the train into town, stay at the Hotel Indigo and enjoy a car-free weekend.

The front lobby of the Hotel Indigo sets the tone for the rest of the property. Light, modern and visually appealing. After my check in I head straight up to the second floor to check out my room. When you check in ask for the Wine & Dine coupons they have available. I picked up four that looked interesting to me and may save me a bit of money.

On the way to my room, I notice an impressive array of art on the walls. It turns out that the Hotel is also a satellite location of the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. I can grab a coffee, explore the hotel and enjoy some Art all at the same time.

The Art is not limited to the hallways of the hotel. When I first open my room door, wow is all I can say. It is a small space but has such energy and style.

On top of its style, it is also very functional, as small spaces are wont to be. A King bed is the main feature, but beside it is a nice workstation with plenty of accessible power outlets. There is also a closet that doubles as the coffee bar and houses a personal safe all within reach of the bed.

Another small wonder is the bathroom. In just 25 square feet they fit in a sink, toilet and a shower. In the photo below you can’t see the shower, but you can see a rod hanging from the ceiling. There is a glass wall that you can pull out from the wall, this creates a shower stall in the space opposite the toilet. Fantastic design and very efficient.

I don’t plan on spending much time in my hotel room, no matter how well appointed it is. I’m going to explore some of the hundreds of Wine Tasting rooms located nearby. I’m going to stuff myself at some of the fine restaurants within walking distance, and of course, I’ll enjoy a coffee while walking the seaside boardwalk. I may also grab a drink and lounge in one of the two semi-private patios tucked away on the second floor of the hotel. They look to be a perfect place to chill and escape the crowds.

What do you think? Isn’t the Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara a perfect way to start off my adventures in 2016? When you book a stay here be sure you tell them if you are car free as they may have an extra bit of a discount available for your stay. Enjoy!

Santa Barbara’s Pleasures Available Without A Car

By Jill K. Robinson,, 11/05/2015


Santa Barbara: art and vast beaches

Santa Barbara’s white Spanish-style buildings, red-tiled roofs, moderate climate and seemingly endless beaches have earned it the nickname “American Riviera.” But the town is more than just a beach town. Blend your time here between the beach and the artistic Funk Zone.

Get there: Take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner or Coast Starlight route from the Oakland station at Jack London Square. Total round-trip fare for both: starts at about $52.

Doze: Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is right between the Amtrak station and the beach — easy walking distance. 121 State St.; (805) 966-6586; Rates start at $179.

Dine: Make your own salad (or order from a variety of dishes on the menu) at the Savoy Cafe, where the salad bar has more than 40 options. 24 W. Figueroa St.; (805) 962-6611;

Do: Wander the neighborhood location known as the Funk Zone, which has exploded into a contemporary Santa Barbara subculture of artisan shops, art galleries, tasty restaurants, microbreweries and even a craft distillery.

Good to know: It’s possible to get around without a car the entire time. Cruise on foot, catch a ride in a pedicab, bike from downtown or hop on the waterfront shuttle.

Points North: Nuance

By By Nancy Ransohoff, Westways Magazine, 11-12 2015

Stay Central at Hotel Indigo

By Savvy advice from our local expert Chantal,, 10/1/2015
The Rundown

This is the ideal hotel if you want to stay as central as possible to all the things that downtown Santa Barbara has to offer. It is between one and three blocks to any of the following: the beach, the pier, the harbor, tons of great restaurants, nightlife and cultural hubs. It is also one block from the Amtrak station if that is your chosen mode of transportation to get to Santa Barbara. They do offer parking, for $20 per night, however. The hotel has a very contemporary, hip and spacious feel and attracts young professionals on business, weekend warriors from LA and San Francisco as well as out-of-state travelers. The rooms are not large but are clean and modern and the hotel staff is relaxed but quite accommodating and professional. They also offer work spaces but the rooms have the open calm feeling lending themselves to be great work spaces too if you need to do email catch-ups and the like. They have a work out facility and are also pet-friendly which is a plus.

How To Do It Right

Since you will be located in the center of the downtown area, bikes are a great idea, and you can rent them at the outdoor/bike shop right across the street from the hotel. A sunset beach walk along the bike path which spans the entire beach front that this hotel is adjacent too is also highly recommended. Definitely take advantage of the amazing restaurant next door that actually shares the same building with the hotel, called Nuance. It is pricey but very much worth the splurge if only for an appetizer and one of their off-the-charts creative cocktails. If you want to get out of your room, hang out on one of the two upstairs balconies or check out what the Contemporary Art Library has to offer. You will also want to walk through the Funk Zone, which is Santa Barbara's newest arts and culture district, with numerous local wine tasting rooms and art galleries - this neighborhood begins literally across the street from Hotel Indigo.


9 Things To Look For When Booking An Organic Hotel Room

By Betsy Andrews, Organic Life, 10.9.2015
Make sure your home away from home embraces your eco-friendly values.

I have a confession to make: I love staying at a nice hotel. I love the elegant ambiance of the lounge and restaurant. I love the lavish accommodations, particularly because I don’t have to clean them myself. I adore room service. But more and more, I realize how much waste most hotels entail: the endless laundry of daily towels and sheets, the eternally ablaze hallway lights, the little plastic shampoo bottles, the chronic air circulation.

Luckily for a luxury hound like me, there are increasingly more green hotels that practice eco-friendly hospitality. The best of them are not only operated but constructed with sustainability in mind. Take Santa Barbara’s Hotel Indigo. During a recent, pleasant stay there, I realized that, from a guest’s point of view, it’s a model for the urban green boutique hotel, and I could use it to start my own checklist of the programs, products, and perspectives I should look for when booking an earth-friendly room—starting with these 9 green bullet points:

1. Small footprint: The rooms here are, well, cozy. But there’s a sustainable reason for that. The building is that of a historic hotel, constructed in 1912 to serve employees of the adjacent railroad station. Though Hotel Indigo renovated the interior to actually expand the old room sizes, there was only so much space to work with in order to keep within the existing footprint, rather than using up more materials and energy to expand the building. Another advantage of smaller spaces with high ceilings like the rooms here: They need less energy to cool or heat.

2. Earth-friendly artwork: Art is very “in” at hotels nowadays. Hotel Indigo rides the trend as a satellite location for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. Tucked into hallways and lobbies and stairwells, “Magic Mountain,” the show up now through the end of January 2016 honors the earth with art—such as this curated collection of artifacts from California’s native Chumash Indians—focused on the healing powers of Mother Nature.

3. Farm-to-table, organics-focused restaurant on premises: At Nuance, the restaurant housed within Hotel Indigo, chef Courtney Ladin sources from area farmer’s markets and small sustainable producers for dishes like roast Mary’s Organic chicken with a harrisa-honey glaze, forest mushroom toast with Sacramento Delta asparagus, and a hangover-soothing carnitas eggs Benedict at brunch.

4. Sustainable fixtures: Hotel Indigo’s double-pane windows help insulate rooms from the heat of the California sun, as well as from cold (yes, temperatures get down into the 40s in Santa Barbara in January). Water heaters save on energy by warming up only on demand. Air conditioning units are energy-efficient. Showerheads are low-flow. And the dual-flush NK Porcelanosa toilets in the rooms aren’t just stylish thrones; they’re also WaterSense certified, meaning they meet the EPA’s criteria for water savings.

5. Weather-friendly plantings outside: A water-saving drip irrigation system feeds the bromeliads and philodendrons on the living wall in the second-floor common space, designed so that the water trickles down from the least thirsty plants at the top, pooling at the bottom where the slightly thirstier plants are. Outside, the beds around the hotel include broadleaf lady palms, succulents, and other plants that can handle the dry California climate.

6. Car-free policies: The hotel partners with the organization Santa Barbara Car Free to encourage guests to ditch their wheels, offering complimentary Smart Water and local energy bars, called Santa Barbara Bars, to guests without cars. Sited conveniently next door to Santa Barbara’s Amtrak station, it’s an easy stay for LA weekenders who want to take the choo-choo up the coast. They also welcome long-distance cyclers here, and keep complimentary cycles for guests who want to peddle locally. At urban hotels like this one, located a block from the beach within the walkable Funk Zone, an area filled with restaurants and galleries, there’s no need for four wheels.

7. Healthy complimentary snacks: When I arrived, hungry and thirsty, I was relieved to find urns filled with herb- and fruit-infused filtered water and gratis KIND bars on a table in the lobby. The snacks vary—sometimes there’s fruit—but they’re always good for you.

8. Water bottle refilling station: One thing I can’t stand at hotels is the chronic replenishment of the plastic water bottles in my room. It’s so much more earth-friendly to just put filters on faucets and let guests take water directly from the taps. For those sojourning out to the beach or the town carrying their own reusable water bottle, Hotel Indigo offers a filtered refilling station.

9. Organic bath products: Formulated without harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate, the Aveda products used at this hotel are made from responsibly sourced, natural ingredients with a focus on certified organic and renewable materials, and they come in 100-percent post-consumer recycled packaging. Leftover toiletries are donated to local transition homes.

Business in Art Award: Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara

By Santa Barbara Beautiful Annual Awards Presentation, 09/27/2015

Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara

The City Arts Advisory and Visual Arts in Public Places committees, and The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission are delighted to present the 2015 Business in Art Award to … the Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara. The Hotel Indigo [Santa Barbara] has innovatively integrated artwork into their business model through a collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA[SB]) …, hosting year-long exhibitions installed throughout the hotel.

Rated as one of the “10 Best Art Hotels” by USA Today, Hotel Indigo [Santa Barbara] features original art throughout the hotel and offers rotating art exhibitions with local artist talks and receptions that are free and open to the public. The hotel has demonstrated a commitment to showcasing the area’s artist community, hosting an art-centered blog and includes a dedicated art library for its guests.

Hotel Indigo [Santa Barbara] serves as a satellite exhibition space for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, linking lower State Street to the Cultural Arts District. In the last two years Hotel Indigo has supported MCA[SB]’s temporary mural installation program that features internationally and nationally recognized artists providing a greater public art presence on lower State Street.

Through visionary and innovative thinking, and a passion for contemporary arts, … [the hotel] has created a vibrant and dynamic arts environment that supports the artists of our region – enriching, engaging, and positively impacting Santa Barbara’s cultural vitality.

The Business in Art Award was established by the City Arts Advisory Committee in 2005. This award is given to an individual or entity that conducts business in the Santa Barbara area. It may include being a retail or commercial establishment, a sole practitioner, a partnership or a professional corporation:one that exhibits outstanding support of arts activity in our community in ways that create a stronger, more vibrant arts environment in Santa Barbara and enriches the lives of both residents and visitors.

Local artist Maria Rendón created the unique award that will be presented to Hotel Indigo [Santa Barbara]….

Courtney Ladin's Place is in the Kitchen and It's Right Where She Wants to Be.

By Judy Foreman, Noozhawk, 08/04/2015
With a bold confidence, Nuance executive chef returns to her Santa Barbara County roots and is having the time of her life.

It’s been three months since chef Courtney Ladin opened the doors at Nuance, one of Santa Barbara’s newest tres chic restaurants and a partnership with Bill Chait of Sprout LA restaurant group.

Nuance — “where the funk zone merges with the flavor zone” — has an imaginative menu, rustic chic décor, and the kind of vibe that is appealing to foodies (maven or food devotees) or anyone who just likes good food.

Open for dinner and yummy brunch on the weekends, Nuance is inside the boutique Hotel Indigo, at 121 State St. It’s part of the revival that is taking off on the beach side of Lower State Street, strategically situated between the future Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation and La Entrada, the waterfront development that is — at last — under way.

Ladin was born in Los Angeles but was raised in the Santa Ynez Valley. She attended UC Santa Barbara and was a talented member of her family’s polo team.

She grew up with a strong family culture of nightly dinners with parents Doreen and Joel Ladin, who now reside in Montecito, and her siblings, Nicole and Matthew. Dinnertime was an opportunity to share the day’s happenings — and for Ladin to participate in food preparation with her mom.

Although English major at UCSB, Ladin felt destined for the magic of food preparation, not Shakespeare, and she left a semester short of her degree to head up to San Francisco to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu.

After graduating, she landed a primo job at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at the Four Seasons Resort Maui, where she worked on the line for several years.

With one more stint at another restaurant on the island, she left Hawaii after five years and returned to Santa Barbara.

Once back home, she ran her own private chef business for three years before meeting Chait, a restaurant investor who holds the lease on Nuance and hired her as head chef.

Grateful for the opportunity, Ladin worked tirelessly for months, hiring a team of culinary assistants, creating the modern menu and revamping the interior décor with street art-inspired work of Sean Anderson.

“There are still some rough edges to be worked out,” she told Noozhawk, “but all in all I am extremely pleased with the opening months.

“I love working in the restaurant because of the camaraderie among my co-workers. You become a family and you are all invested in the success of the outcome!”

Behind the Scenes

On a quiet Wednesday afternoon, hours before the dinner crowd arrived, I stopped by to find Ladin preparing a large red snapper for the evening’s menu. After a few tips from her on how this is done, we moved from the kitchen to sit at the bar for an iced tea and a chat about her new venture.

Mixologist George Piperis greeted us as he was setting up for the evening crowd. He and Los Angeles bartending aficionados Julian Cox and Nick Meyer developed an intense educational regimen for the staff to ensure that when a Nuance cocktail is ordered, he exclaimed, “it will be something special and memorable.”

“The menu will always be evolving based on the season and new ideas,” Ladin said. “Nuance is creating magic — food magic, that is. It begins with fresh ingredients from local purveyors and my trips to the very accessible farmers market to bring the freshest food to Nuance.

“Food for many can be thought of as nourishment and an art form, and the art of good taste is what I am trying to create for my customers.”

Nuance’s Urban Bistro menu is cleverly divided into The Beginning, The Middle and The End, with some creative sides.

“If you are looking for a recommendation of what to try,” Ladin explained, “that would be impossible because taste is so personal.”

When I dined with her for dinner and brunch, she suggested I try a few things in my flavor zone. The well-edited menu made browsing the selections quite easy.

Ladin said early dinner standouts have been the Wood-Fired Focaccia, Heirloom Tomatoes, Forest Mushroom Toast, Grilled Spanish Octopus, Seared Red Snapper, Mary’s Organic Roasted Chicken and Steak Frites.

She said the desserts are well worth the calories. Favorites are Valrhona Coeur de Guanaja chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and local chocolatier Twenty-Four Blackbirds’ cocoa nibs, beignets, strawberry shortcake, Greek yogurt panna cotta and lemon verbena ice cream.

Saturday and Sunday brunch was loose and casual, and full of families munching on Fried French Toast, the Open-Face Egg Sandwich, Carnitas Eggs Benedict, Fried Chicken and Waffles, a Greek Tomato Salad and even a burger and fries served on a brioche bun. Crazy Good Bread Pastries and seasonal fresh farmers market fruit are just some of the brunch offerings.

Before I headed home, I asked Ladin why there aren’t more women executive chefs running the kitchens in American restaurants — especially when they dominate the ranks of successful cookbook authors, like Santa Barbara’s own legend, the late Julia Child.

In 2013, Time Magazine ran a cover article, “The Gods of Food,” that lauded “today’s tastemakers.” Unfortunately, only one of the tastemakers was a woman.

There are trailblazers, such as Alice Waters. And contemporary women chefs — like Julieta Ballesteros, Cat Cora, Suzanne Goin, Karen Hatfield, Melissa Kelly, Zoe Nathan, Edie Robertson and Nancy Silverton — are crushing it in terms of culinary prowess.

“It’s hard work, and demanding hours,” Ladin observed. “I hope that more women will have the opportunity to be in charge in the kitchen.

“They used to say ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen,’ as if she could not do anything else. I feel fortunate to live at a time where this old cliché is obsolete.

“Being in the kitchen is just where I want to be!”

Nuance is located at 119 State St., inside Hotel Indigo. Click here for more information, or call 805.845.0989.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.