Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce. A shrimp appetizer recipe from the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill on Highway One, California. An appetizer recipe I enjoyed on our wine tasting trip to the Santa Barbara area.
In the beginning there was toast. And then the Italians said “let there be Panini.” But whose idea was it to simply throw some sliced bread on a grill for a slight charring to give a lovely smoky flavor? Google returns no answers, except that the Middle East has been grilling raw dough for flatbreads forever. I’m assuming someone from Texas will stand up with a “you fool, we’ve been grillin’ bread with steaks since 1836.” (Texas toast?)
Well, this is my first attempt and I actually felt a little foolish when I initiated an internet search on “how to grill bread.” As straight forward as it sounds, I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t some little sneaky odd secret …
Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill
We recently visited the Santa Barbara area for a wine tasting tour of the Santa Rita Hills and the Santa Ynez Valley. While there we visited Hearst Castle and stopped for lunch at the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill along Highway One.
I’m of the opinion that you can tell a good restaurant when the parking lot is jam packed full, and especially at a non-peak lunch hour. As the six of us joined a crowd in the lobby waiting to be seated, a woman who was had just finished her meal and was making her way through the hungry waiting line to the exit announced loudly “Believe me, It’s well worth the wait!” The waitress packed the six of us into a long booth and with an ocean view. I ordered an appetizer of Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce. I figured since it’s photo was on the front of the menu, it must be their specialty. It was delicious and I vowed to make it at home.
Warm bread, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, soaking in a bath of walnuts, pesto and cream and topped with shrimp. Dragging and dipping every bite of this wonderful appetizer was a treat. This appetizer made my mind wander to all sorts of ideas to gussy up grilled bread. For this recipe I used my homemade version of Pesto and you’ll find my remake of this recipe below, but for now a few vacation shots.
Santa Barbara County Wine Tasting Trip
Santa Barbara County is different than any other wine growing region in California. The mountains run east to west from the coast and open directly to the Pacific Ocean. Due to this topography you’ll find a flow of fog and ocean breezes rolling in every morning, perfect for growing classic grape varietals and making world class wines.
The Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains form this unique coastal range and is the coolest viticultural areas in California. This means that the fruit has an unusually long “hang time,” allowing it to fully develop the acids, flavors and tannins needed to produce wines of distinctive character. Cool and moderate temperatures toward the west changes to warm daytimes and cold nights to the east. There are five official appellations: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Ballard Canyon and Santa Rita Hills. Within the broad Santa Barbara County designation are several other micro-regions…these include the Los Alamos Valley region, the Los Olivos District and the Santa Maria Bench. Slightly less than half of the grapes grown in Santa Barbara County are used by local vintners, with the balance exported to wineries outside the area. You can learn more from the Santa Barbara County Wine website.
The Sideways Wine Tasting Tour
I’d like to preface the photos by noting that this area was the location where the movie Sideways was filmed. Even though the movie is filmed over ten years ago, the effects of the region’s popularity due to this movie is still evident. This is the owner of Lucas and Lewellyn Winery showing us the framed shots of when their wine was featured in the film.
The area is noted for its Pinot Noir. The color of Pinot often lighter than other red wines due to the smaller amount of pigment in the thin grape skin. And if you remember the line from the movie Sideways, Miles told us it’s a finicky grape to grow.
The group consisted of the usual suspects, Dan, Teri, myself, Bob, Tom and Kathy. Both the glass of red wine and this group shot of tasters were taken at the tasting room at Melville Winery.
We stayed in Solvang, the Danish Capitol of the United States. It is centrally located and convenient to visit wineries. We enjoyed lots of Danish Pancakes, pastries and an evening with German sausage, potatoes and red cabbage. Where there’s wine country, you’ll always find five-star food.
Cambria Estates Winery
And so it begins, our first official stop on our first day was at Cambria. It’s our tradition to take photos in front of the entrance signs. It appears that two of us are pretty confident that we’re not going to spill any red wine…I mean really… wearing white? Cambria wines are lip smacking wonderful, we dropped some bucks here.
Heading down the trail, found us at Foxen Winery. Nothing more than a roadside shack that came with a lovely white barn full of wine barrels, this was fun and memorable stop. We enjoyed sipping wine at the outdoor picnic tables soaking up sun and making memories.
Steak-House In The Movie Sideways
A trip to the Santa Barbara wine country isn’t complete without a stop at the Hitching Post Restaurant. This restaurant played a big part of the movie Sideways. Lively and popular, they offer ribs and chicken, smoked duck breast, ostrich, home-made soups and outstanding pastries along with what the Los Angeles Times has called the “best” French fries in Southern California! They are also one of the very few restaurants who creating their own wines for sale in the restaurant and to the public. Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Wines have garnered an excellent reputation, and if you remember Miles enjoyed many glasses of their Highliner pinot at the Hitching Post bar.
This wine region is close enough to the ocean that you can pop over and dip your toes in the surf. I love this photo taken from the cliff just up the road from the Moonstone Grill. This is Teri, Kathy and Tom.
Before our lunch and our stop at the ocean, we took a tour of the Hearst Castle. It’s a spectacle in so many ways, with roman pools, massive grounds, opulent interior and a great view of the Pacific Ocean. A large visitor center sits a few miles below the mansion and buses wind you up the hills to the grounds.
A visit to any wine country will find you in pristine countryside, lavish tasting rooms and gracious hosts. It’s such a relaxing way to spend some time.
These two shots were taken at Sanford Winery. The back of the tasting room looks out onto their vineyards and this old truck full of wine barrels greets you as your drive onto their estate.
Rancho Sisquoc Winery
Not all winery tasting rooms are swanky. We had a great stop at the quaint Rancho Sisquoc winery. A winding road through a valley of pastures leads you to the rustic, peaceful and cozy tasting room.
Fess Parker Winery
Did you know Fess Parker (recently deceased) owned and operated a large winery in in the Santa Rita Hills? Remember Davy Crockett and his coon skin hat? This large black and white photo is mounted on the second level of the tasting room. Fess Parker died in 2010 at his home that is near the winery in Santa Ynez California. He was buried with his parents in the Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara.
So that’s just a small snapshot of our trip to Santa Barbara County Wine Country. We flew from Denver to Santa Barbara on a Thursday and returned home on a that following Monday. A perfect amount of time to enjoy the area. This photo was shot outside of Foley Winery near Buellton, Calif.
Recipe for Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce
I hope you give this recipe for Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce a try, and if you do please come back and give the recipe a star rating and leave a comment about your experience with the recipe. I value the opinions of my readers.
More Shrimp Appetizer Recipes
- 1/2 pound shrimp deveined, peeled, tails left on and butterflied
- 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 tablespoons pesto
- 1/2 cup cream or half and half
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 baguette
- olive oil for brushing
In a food processor combine the pesto, cream, broth and walnuts. Pulse until walnuts are broken into small pieces. Transfer to saucepan and heat over low until steaming. Don't let it boil.
Clean shrimp and butterfly. In a bowl toss the shrimp with the Old Bay seasoning. Heat oil in a fry pan over medium high heat and cook until shrimp are done. About 2 - 3 minutes per side.
Heat a grill to medium. Slice bread to thickness desired and brush one side with olive oil. Place bread on hot grill and cook until there are grill marks and bread is starting to brown. You can turn the bread to grill on the other side or remove with one side toasted.
To assemble: Pour part of the cream mixture in the bottom of two shallow bowls. Place four bread slices, partially submerged around the bowl. Top with a handful of the cooked shrimp and pour more sauce over the shrimp and the bread. Serve immediately.
Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce …It’s What’s for an Appetizer