Thought sea urchins were the preserve of Japanese dishes? Well think again. The Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara house many of these little creatures and they are a local delicacy worth trying on your trip. Rich, creamy and melt in your mouth, the sweetness of the Santa Barbara urchins (known as uni) are unmatched when compared to other harvests across the globe. So much so, that they have come to be known as Calfornia’s “salty gold”. Perhaps this is why restaurant owners in Japan look to Santa Barbara to source their uni, often used in sushi and other traditional seafood dishes.
We’re pretty sure most visitors will factor in some beach time here, but why not enjoy the coast from a slightly different perspective? While urchin-diving is left to the professionals, if you spend an afternoon in a chartered boat cruising the Channel Islands you’ll get a sense of the abundance of sea life that call these waters home. Your skipper will provide you with fishing tackle and steer you in the direction of the best shoals – from barracuda to white sea bass, you would be unlucky not to catch anything. You may even catch a glimpse of some dolphins playfully swimming alongside the boats.
It’s no surprise then to hear that fresh local fish is a regular feature on the menus in Santa Barbara. The fishing community has happily tapped into this abundant local resource, but they are passionate about sustainability, too. So make the most of this incredible Pacific produce and get involved during your stay. From casting a net and sampling your catch on the boat (Ceviche at its best), to finding fish in the market and seeing it on every restaurant menu; they really have struck (salty) gold.