Last time I was around Los Olivos, I made it a point to check out the Hitching Post II in Buellton and I loved it. And with a couple NYers in tow, I wanted to get back there, but last week, they were closed for renovations, so we opted instead to trek to Casmalia to the original Hitching Post. I think what beckoned me more than the steaks were the grilled artichokes, which is why I decided to go with the Hitching Post instead of Jocko's. I'm not sure they have something like that at Jocko's, but I know I'll get there eventually.
Getting to Casmalia was interesting on a damp, drizzly evening. From Solvang, we decided to drive through Lompoc to Highway 1 to Casmalia, which I'm sure can be a lovely drive, but not at night, when it's just pitch dark. At least the signs for Casmalia are well marked that we didn't get lost. We arrived exactly at our appointed reservation time. We waited a few minutes for our table, and we were seated with a bird's eye view of the big smoky grill and the kitchen.
I made sure to order a couple of the artichoke appetizers and when I commented about how much I loved the ones from the Buellton Hitching Post, our waitress remarked that this version is slightly different in that the accompanying sauce is more creamy and truer to the original recipe than the one at Hitching Post II, which is more of a relish. Either way, the main point was the grilled artichoke with that smoky aroma, which were just heavenly. And that sauce was a perfect match. (see photo below)
For dinner, we ordered two anniversary special dinners (two 7 oz. top sirloin steak dinners for $35), which turned out to be a great deal. Besides the shrimp cocktail, everything else was great. The ranch and blue cheese dressings on the salads were some of the best versions I've had. And the steaks were just as I remembered, although I did prefer the "flatiron" cut from the Buellton branch over the regular top sirloin. Maybe I'm just not that much of a steak aficionado, but I recently had a steak at Peter Luger in NYC and while I thought it was good, I prefer this style of smoked grilling, which imparts such a wonderful aroma and taste to the beef. The Hitching Post Bien Nacido Pinot Noir also matched nicely with all the rich and aromatic food.
We lingered long enough to catch the end of the World Baseball Classic on TV at the bar. As Japan had the lead into the 7th inning, we couldn't leave without knowing who was victorious in the championship game. The only other person interested in the game was the chef who came out every 10 minutes for an update. I think we were the last to leave. A victorious game and a victorious dinner. And the rains stopped. It was a perfect night.