Why are the holidays so stressful? The number of social events mushroom, and expectations of good food heighten, often only to be crushed under the heels of mediocre party platters. You know the kind…hummus, celery sticks, the occasional cherry tomato marooned in a vat of ranch sauce. A step up from this is the shrimp cocktail platter. But let me be brutally frank. On average, the shrimp are small, boiled to oblivion, and the cocktail sauce comes straight out of a bottle. The kind of snacking experience that leads to crushed party dreams, and likely, indigestion. But consider that the combination of shrimp and cocktail sauce can be superbly good, when done well.
It’s Kanaloa to the rescue! They make everything from scratch, the seafood is impeccably fresh, and they have party platters that will elevate a party or dinner into tomorrow’s happy memories. They use shrimp from Asia that are ACS certified and sustainably farmed. Owner Randee Disraeli knows that the quality of the shrimp is key. “They’re absolutely delicious; you can taste a really big difference.” They’re arranged on a platter with garnishes and tails on. Although there are many divine sauces at Kanaloa, all handmade, you can’t not try to the cocktail sauce with the shrimp. I dip with gusto and find a sweet, lemony tomato sauce with a hearty burst of horseradish. Is that a little tabasco and garlic in the background? I start to tell Randee, “This isn’t so hot—” and then I pause at a delightful burst of warmth in my throat. Yes, the cocktail sauce has a wicked little kick, the kind that turns sweet, fresh shrimp into legend.
My mind is already racing ahead to the holiday events this would work for. The office party, a starter at Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, New Year’s Eve… But then I pause. What will I serve after the shrimp platter? Randee has me covered. Kanaloa’s holiday menu offers special dishes not on the regular menu that you can order ahead and pick up for your party. She points to the Salmon Wellington. You read that right, Salmon Wellington. This would be mushroom and spinach sautéed with garlic, thyme, and shallots, with seasoned salmon placed on top, then the entire thing is wrapped in pastry dough. These are individually portioned, so you can have one per person as an entrée. Just take it home, pop it in the oven for twenty minutes while everyone is feasting on the shrimp platter, and voila, an ecstatically special dinner is ready. If I may be so bold, I’d recommend Kanaloa’s saffron aioli with it. A buttery gold aioli graced with saffron and a hit of vinegar. This smooth, luxurious sauce takes the Salmon Wellington into extraterrestrial territory. Trust me, nobody will forget this meal, and it will leave you with enough free time to enjoy your family friends. Isn’t that what the holidays are about?
Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.