The Ballard Inn has new executive chef, new restaurant name
The Ballard Inn in Santa Ynez Valley has a new executive chef, Bailey Smith, and a new name for its restaurant, Plume.
At Plume, the property’s refreshed dining room now sports a cool color palette juxtaposed with a warming, dual-sided fireplace. That’s where inn guests and other diners will indulge in Chef Smith’s currently weekend-only, pop up-style dinner service, which launched Jan. 13.
Only offered Friday and Saturday nights for the next couple of months, Plume’s “deliberately dynamic menus will shift from one cuisine to another, bringing an element of fun and affording the culinary team room for creativity as the restaurant settles into a singular concept,” said Frank Kastelz, The Ballard Inn’s general manager.
Plume’s “playful” weekend dinner menu themes will also be reflected in The Ballard Inn’s upcoming breakfast and brunch service menus, slated to launch this month with cuisine-crossover dishes like a version of a Hawaiian loco moco and French toast topped with coconut-infused cream.
Plume’s pop-up dinner service began with a Japanese-inspired menu crafted by Chef Smith, utilizing locally sourced, seasonal Santa Barbara wine country ingredients.
The first menu featured dishes such as the inn’s fan-favorite milk buns with sesame seeds and honey butter; a radish and watercress salad with fried shallot and Wafu dressing; eggplant katsu (Tonkatsu) with red cabbage; Karaage fried chicken with Finley Farms little gems and Thai chili aioli; or local rockfish, sourced from Travis Meyer of HAHA Fishing, served with an in-season cauliflower purée.
A Mizugashi (dessert) section of the upcoming menu will include an exotic dragon fruit and mango sake jelly, house-made vanilla-matcha ice cream, and “Choco-Shrooms” — a flavorful play on chocolate-dipped mushroom snacks found in Japan.
Table-side ordering and service will include a limited wine and beer menu, as well as specialty cocktails, one of the newest highlights of The Ballard Inn’s food and beverage programs.
Dinner cocktail menu options might feature the likes of a matcha julep with shiso bitters and pickled serrano — American rye-based as opposed to Japanese whisky-based — or a gin-based milk tea with umami bitters.
Chef Smith describes his kitchen practices as “intentional,” using cooking methods he attributes to some of his most recent work as part of the culinary team behind Chef Nikolas Ramirez’s Na Na THAI pop-ups at Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos.
“There’s purpose behind our food preparation and our selection of specific ingredients, something which has really been highlighted for me since I’ve been learning about Thai cuisine,” said Chef Smith. “For example, I hand-craft our sauces, using tools like a mortar and pestle. No machines here.”
A Santa Ynez Valley native, Chef Smith attended culinary arts school, then began his career cooking in the kitchens of some of the region’s most well-known restaurants, such as The Landsby’s Mad & Vin, S.Y. Kitchen, Solvang’s former Succulent Café and Los Alamos’ Plenty on Bell.
He first experienced life in the hospitality industry as a child when he would join his grandparents during summers at a motel and restaurant, now the Cuyama Buckhorn in New Cuyama. His grandparents left the Buckhorn and opened a nearby establishment, The Place, continuing Chef Smith’s informal restaurant education.
“I picked up kitchen fundamentals from my grandparents,” he said. “And I’ve compounded those basics with all of the lessons I’ve learned from esteemed chefs and restaurateurs as I’ve moved through the restaurant world.”
He has an affinity for bread and baking, skills that are now displayed on The Ballard Inn’s menus and will be put to further use when he introduces items from the Inn’s new wood-fired outdoor oven.
The Ballard Inn will eventually launch new stay-and-dine packages, as well as other culinary platforms. Further details and more information about the expanded dining concepts and future plans for the Inn will be announced.