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  • Writer's picturePrinceton North

GALA: A Coastal Spanish Culinary Adventure in Santa Barbara

Tara Penke and Jaime Riesco, a dynamic couple with a deep connection to Spain​ and Chile, who have embarked on an exciting culinary journey in Santa Barbara. Having spent more than two decades in Barcelona, Tara and Jaime have now brought a piece of their coastal Spanish influence to GALA, their charming new restaurant in Santa Barbara. With Tara managing the front of house and Jaime showcasing his culinary prowess in the kitchen, GALA promises a delightful experience filled with tongue-in-cheek menu items, community focus, and a touch of Spanish heritage.

For Tara Penke, returning to Santa Barbara is like coming full circle. Born and raised in this picturesque Californian city, she brings her local flair and love for the community to GALA. On the other hand, Jaime Riesco, hailing from Santiago, Chile, brings traces of his country's rich culinary heritage to the one-man kitchen at GALA. Together, they form a dynamic team that is passionate about creating an inviting and memorable dining experience for their guests.

GALA's menu is a delightful tapestry of Spanish flavors and coastal ​Latin influences. Drawing inspiration from the pintxos culture of Spain, guests can indulge in mixed olives, gildas (a delicious combination of green peppers, olives, and anchovies on a toothpick), raw oysters, and shrimp croquettes. The starters also feature mouthwatering dishes like fried zucchini blossoms and burrata, perfectly complemented by flatbread and grilled vegetables.

For those seeking more substantial offerings, GALA doesn't disappoint. The menu ventures into luxurious delights such as duck confit, steak with bone marrow, mushroom risotto, and a tantalizing smash burger. And to accompany these delectable mains, guests can choose from a variety of sides, including watermelon and heirloom-tomato salad, leafy greens with herbs, and crispy french fries.

Our Memorable Date Night

My wife Collette and I recently had the pleasure of experiencing GALA on a special date night. From the moment we stepped into the sunny dining room with its inlaid shelves and light wood accents, we knew we were in for a treat. The welcoming ambiance and friendly staff set the perfect tone for our evening together.

As we perused the menu, we couldn't resist trying the Spanish pintxos, and the gildas with their burst of flavors were an instant favorite. The raw oysters were fresh and invigorating, while the shrimp croquettes were a delightful blend of crunch and creaminess. And of course, we couldn't miss the fried zucchini blossoms and burrata, which were as delicious as they were visually stunning.

For our main courses, I savored the steak with bone marrow, which was cooked to perfection and paired beautifully with the accompanying sides of watermelon and heirloom-tomato salad and leafy greens with herbs.Collette indulged in the s​ea bass ceviche.

Our date night at GALA was a truly memorable experience, filled with the vibrant flavors of coastal Spain and the warmth of Santa Barbara's community. Tara Penke and Jaime Riesco's passion for creating an inviting environment and offering delectable dishes shone through every aspect of our dining experience. We left with satisfied palates, happy hearts, and plans to return soon, perhaps even for their upcoming brunch.

So, if you're seeking a delightful culinary adventure and a warm community-focused atmosphere, we highly recommend visiting GALA. Whether it's a romantic date night or a gathering with friends, GALA promises a memorable experience that celebrates the best of coastal Spanish​ Latin cuisine right in the heart of Santa Barbara. And don't forget to end your meal with a slice of their famous Basque cheesecake—it's the perfect sweet finale to a perfect evening.

As you take the next steps in your culinary and real estate adventures, remember to savor every moment and embrace the unique flavors that life has to offer. Just as GALA has become a cherished spot for us, Santa Barbara can become a place where you can create lasting memories and find a place to call home. Let's connect, (805) 455-9066

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