Cookbook Adventure, in October
This is the illustration that accompanies a recipe, inside our 1950 Ford Motor Cookbook.
Last fall Don and I had the cookbook with us, while traveling near Santa Barbara. A quick look on the internet told me Cold Spring Tavern was still open for business in 2022!
The sweet looking tavern pretty much matched the vintage image! It looked so darn charming, it could have been part of a movie set. But there's a lot of real history behind those checkered curtains!
The little log structure was originally built in the 1860's, as a stagecoach stop along the San Marcos Pass. Today, visitors drive from Santa Barbara and beyond, to enjoy drinks and food and sometimes live music.
Don and I followed Mapquest directions, winding along this scenic road.
For a while we thought we'd made a wrong turn.
Then we spotted a sign on the hill. It reminded me of arriving at Silver Dollar City (theme park) in the Missouri Ozarks, when I was a kid.
We followed the 2 lane road and spotted a cluster of buildings ahead.
We took the last spot in a small dirt lot and wandered towards the little oasis of weathered shacks.
There seemed to be a fair amount of activity near the green umbrellas.
The air felt like an October day in the Ozarks. Warm air with cool shade. Perfect.
The folks didn't look like Ozark hillbillies or Branson, Missouri tourists. Mostly the guests looked like Santa Barbara locals, who had driven out to the tavern for lunch. I'm sure they wouldn't care for my Ozark comparison.
How did they even know about this place? We only did because of our 60 year old cookbook. I hoped they weren't all waiting for inside tables.
Stone & Wood
The log structure looked larger from the side. I believe it began as one room and 3 more were added in the '40's.
I was eager to get inside and see the place, that's been serving food and drink since 1941.
We stepped inside and I smelled the the same comforting smells I remember from my Uncle Morris' log house in Missouri. Wood and smoke. 80 years worth of fires in this cabin!
The cabin is much older than 80, but it was in 1941 that Adelaide Ovington purchased the property. She was the widow of Earle Ovington, the first airmail pilot. She paid $2,000 for 40 acres, including the tavern.
Don and I practically had the tavern to ourselves. The front room was cozy, with a small bar on the right.
Only one guest was seated in the front room. I imagined the same room on a winter night, with guests begging for the table near the fireplace.
There are 3 fireplaces in the tavern and all were added after Adelaide purchased the property.
The room behind the bar, was the coziest. There were dark wood booths and stacks of wood just waiting for chilly fall weather.
The wood walls and floors were all original. The Tavern didn't even have electricity until 1954. They still use gas lanterns today.
Don and I took a seat at table near the window, in The Long Room. I read that the large round table in The Long Room, once belonged to Gene Autrey. I love that kind of trivia.
There were no other guests in our dining area, but we were not alone. We were surrounded by lots of critters, on the walls above us. They shared the walls with lots of photos and news clippings
The antique "kitchen queen" is evidently the only original piece of furniture from before the Ovington's ownership. It was built in this very room and was too large to be moved when the property changed hands.
The White Room?
I peeked past the white door to see the back room. It appeared to be closed off for dining, but I believe it's called The White Room. Adelaide and her daughter Audrey lived in The White Room, until 1951.
Mother and daughter worked and lived together until they eventually built a small home on the property and named it Blisshaven. After Adelaide died in 1972, Audrey operated the Tavern for 33 more years.
I had a hard time focussing on the menu with everything that surrounded us. I popped up to study the curious divided door. What was that metal thing?
I got sidetracked reading up on some history, on a wooden board.
...Cold Spring Tavern is a stagecoach stop almost 100 years old...
Wow! When was that history board created? The Tavern turned 100 in the 1960's!
Marcos & the Book!
Our waiter, Marcos was the best! He had worked at Cold Spring for 27 years! As we were deciding what to order, I pulled the old cookbook out of the bag and Marcos had the best reaction.
First he laughed and said, no they DID NOT have the Monte Carlo Sandwich on the menu! Then he suddenly seemed totally amazed by the old illustration and asked if he could take a photo with his phone.
We explained the whole cookbook deal... how we travel with it... it helps us find classic restaurants all over the country,.. so many of the featured restaurants are no longer around...
Sometimes it's hard to explain the whole treasure hunt & nostalgia experience to younger people, or to people who didn't grow up with Ford Motor Company advertising gimmicks! But Marcos was someone who was thrilled about history. He reacted with such enthusiasm!
Tri-Tip Sandwich & Wild Game Soup
Marcos also was good at encouraging us with food choices. I ordered the Wild Game Black Bean Soup. Initially I shied away from the soup, packed with venison, rabbit and buffalo. But Marcos raved about it.
Good choice! The flavor was amazing! It was served sour cream and cheese and a fresh hot flour tortilla.
Famous Cold Spring Original Tribute-Tip Sandwich
I wonder if they served try-tip, back when they served Monte Carlos? Marcos talked this up too. He pointed out the window to the stacks of oak used for the outside grill.
The oak-grilled, thick sliced meat was served on a brioche bun. The barbecue sauce was house-made with apple horseradish. Potato salad too!
A perfect feast with a perfect woodsy view!
Marcos and Ashely
Marcos checked on us often. We talked about everything from fires to droughts. He showed us a photo of the Tavern in the snow. It's a miracle the buildings have survived, over all this time.
At one point another server stopped by the table and wanted to see the cookbook. Ashely was young, but seemed surprisingly interested in the funny old book. She introduced me to her mom later. Her mom was even more curious, since she'd worked at the Tavern for 33 years! Another mother/daughter team! Did her name start with an A too?
We weren't able to linger as long as I wanted, since we had hours of driving ahead. But we wandered the property a bit.
We headed past the picnic tables and took a peek inside two other buildings.
Log Cabin Bar
In the early 1900's, this building held a water bottling plant. The Orvingtons changed it into a bar in 1955.
Inside, the bartender looked a little bored. No one seemed to want to spend anytime inside, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
The fireplace at the end of the bar was added in the fifties. They had to take down the wall, in order to remove the bottling equipment. They added the fireplace and used a local telephone pole for the mantle..
Old Bunk House
This little gift shop was once a bunkhouse used by stagecoach drivers.
It's hard to imagine horses and stagecoaches traveling through this area, way over a century ago. Evidently you can still see ruts made by the wheels, in the stone along the old pass.
Questions for Audrey
We didn't explore nearly enough. There are more structures on the property, that we totally missed. I sure wish we could have visited when Audtry was still running the tavern. She died in 2005, but evidently left behind an enormous collection of cookbooks. I'll bet she had a Ford book, like ours.
We saw and learned a lot during our short visit. And the website is excellent for learning more later. It has a very fun list of interesting facts and stories. It was nice to find out that a third generation (Wayne & Joy Ovington Wilson) still operate the Cold Spring Tavern today!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.