After you finally find the place, at the very end of the lone thoroughfare in a one-stop-sign-town between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, you climb the steps of the painted porch and a home-cooked smell wafts through the old-fashioned window. You could be on your grandmother’s porch, if only it weren’t attached to a production bakery/warehouse stretching the entire block to the rear and into the dirt alley.
The owner of this organic flatbread bakery, Full of Life Flatbread, Clark Staub is a self-taught baker who jumped in with both feet, opening a small bakery Claremont before he’d ever baked more than five loaves of bread at the same time. After turning out thousands of loaves, researching baking methods and traveling around the world, he settled on his dream baked good: flatbread. Flatbread that is organic, fresh and meaningful, or simply put, full of life.
The restaurant opens every Friday through Sunday evening, converted from his frozen flatbread production bakery each weekend, has a simple rustic style that encourages diners to become friends – meaning hang out all evening like this was Staub’s own living room. A handsome man who could easily be mistaken for an ex-hard-rocker-fresh-from-rehab, the freshly shorn and shaved Staub is at once commanding and casual. He’s quick to smile with a friendly disposition, but he knows his food. And he never relaxes his strict food principles.
Each week, ingredients come from area farmers’ markets or directly from growers, farmers and artisan food producers to bring customers a regular menu of flatbreads. The Shaman’s Bread is a delicious combination of stone oven-charred red onions, flax seed, pistachios and raw milk serena cheese atop a soft, less-cooked flatbread. It’s crunchy and tender at the same time. Also watch for the special flatbreads like Cauldron Tomato Flatbread with herbs, cheese and a black truffle hand-shaved at your table by one of the chefs or Wild Nettle Flatbread with leek sauce, mozzarella and thyme. Divine.
Produce is so fresh, the salads and appetizers seem grown in the wild – or maybe across the street. The stone oven-roasted artichoke with garlic aioli and the prosciutto-wrapped burrata with arugula taste full and ripe. The heirloom beets burst with flavor in the standard market salad.
And the desserts are just as tasty and interesting: s’mores with homemade marshmallows in between chocolate espresso cookies then toasted in the oven, house-made ice cream bon bons with hints of orange or mint.
Staub successfully combines standards of freshness, a philosophy of community and a twist on traditional dishes, delivering food that is simple, fresh and slightly unruly – an approach that paid off, garnering him the 2010 Local Hero Winner from edible Santa Barbara magazine. Also a fitting description of Staub, his career and his production-bakery-turned-porch-hang-out. If only Grandma cooked this fresh.