Paella On The Ranch

October 11, 2018

Elizabeth Poett, of Rancho San Julian, and Espanolita’s Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro joined forces to treat a group of adventuresome strangers to Carmen’s delicious paella and a tour of Elizabeth’s historic ranch. The result was a magical Sunday afternoon filled with good food, good conversation and historic beauty.

Let me share the story with you!

Rancho San Julian is a family-run cattle ranch that has been in operation since 1837. Today, Rancho San Julian provides the highest quality organic, 100% grass-fed beef available to Santa Barbara County.

In addition to cattle, the ranch produces honey, grapes, peaches and a variety of vegetables.

This bee hive produces bottles and bottles of the most delicious honey, which the Poett family makes available to guests.


There’s nothing like eating a grape plucked fresh from the vine. My little girls weren’t with me, but they would have loved it.

The day began with a lot of preparation. Elizabeth cut zinnias from the garden.

She arranged them in these beautiful brass vases.

This is Katie Hames working her magic in the kitchen. Katie and Elizabeth grew up next door to each other. Katie cut her chops cooking for a farm-to-table school. She’s an expert at using what’s available to cook delicious meals for large numbers of people.

It’s a bonus that she’s a joy to be around.

The green leafy vegetable in her hands is purslane. It grows all over and untrained eyes might consider it a weed, but it’s safe to eat and packed with nutrients. The taste is sweet and free of the bitterness you might expect.

Carmen set up the paella pans.

One for chicken paella and one for seafood paella.

Viktoriya, from Fold Linens, arrived. She makes all of her linens by hand and they are gorgeous!


There was so many beautiful textiles to choose from. In the end, it was agreed that beauty without fuss was in keeping with the rustic, ranch atmosphere.

Grapes and grapevine were taken from the surroundings and added into the mix.

Drinks and hors d’oeuvres were set out.

A good cheese board is a work of art, isn’t it? Katie nailed it.

The peaches are from the ranch and they’re drizzled in the ranch honey. I had to keep myself from eating the entire thing!

Elizabeth made sure every detail was perfect before the guests arrived.

Once the guests arrived, Carmen began teaching how to make paella. She is a natural teacher. She speaks with clarity and passion for the ingredients.

The guests were fascinated by the process.

Calamari and bell pepper brown in a little bit of olive oil and sea salt.

The chicken browns in olive oil.

Ñoras, sweet paprika, guindilla and round white rice will be added.

Rice browns in the pan so the grains can absorb the taste. Rice is often referred to as the “flavor conductor” of paella.

Having the proper broth to rice ratio is key.

Everything simmers.

Carmen double checks the paella to make sure the rice at the bottom of the pan has taken on a delicious, golden crisp.


She suggests hitting the paella with a bit of lemon juice before eating.

The paella is plated alongside Katie’s salad.

Chicken or seafood?

Everyone digs in to a beautiful afternoon of good food and good conversation.

Elizabeth loves opening up her home and educating people about the ranch. She makes everyone comfortable with her warm smile.

Carmen is equally at home with the guests. She loves to tell them about Mallorca.

Everyone wants seconds!

Katie serves an almond très leches cake along with whipped cream for dessert. Surprisingly, not much sugar is involved. All of the sweetness comes from the fresh almonds.

It was the perfect afternoon.

Thanks, ladies!

If you would like to learn more about Rancho San Julian or attend an upcoming event, please visit their website. Learn more about Carmen, Espanolita, and her future gatherings by clicking here.




5 responses to “Paella On The Ranch”

  1. Rachel says:

    Is it possible to get the almond cake recipe?

  2. Heather says:

    This looks absolutely amazing!! Invite me next time!!

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