That’s particularly sage advice if you’re talking about the voluptuous Bread and Butter Pudding at The Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara.
The Hungry Cat, a popular bistro in downtown Santa Barbara, serves only one dessert, but what a dessert it is. The "Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding," baked and served in a classic French metal mold, is a sumptuous affair, with crusty cubes of bread intermingled with silken ganache, all covered with a bumpy brulée crust. (This photo is by AliceQFoodie, a fellow San Diego food lover and blogger.)
The bittersweet chocolate is at the bottom, so the best way to enjoy the pudding is to dip deep with each spoonful and pull up hot chocolate ribbons along with the souffléed bread. The dessert is big enough for two, and digging into the sexy, little charlotte mold, right down to the gooey chocolate on the bottom, is about as much fun as two people can legally have over dessert in a public place.
That said, I did not eat my dessert first at The Hungry Cat. Instead, I went the traditional route and loved the roasted beet salad with Green Goddess dressing, Dungeness crab, radish and avocado; and the pan-seared Alaskan halibut with creamy grits, asparagus, ramps and green garlic. Yummy, too, were the glossy diver scallops. I ordered them because the preparation included oxtail ragout and Sunchoke puree, two of my favorite foods. The puree was perfectly in sync with the scallops’ flavor and texture; the ragout, on the other hand, was too heavy-handed for the delicate shellfish.
The Hungry Cat, located at 1134 Chapala Street, is first and foremost a seafood restaurant, with elaborate shellfish platters and a variety of raw and marinated treats. Phone: 805-884-4701. It’s a casual place with an enthusiastic, animated clientele, and friendly, professional service. Dishes range from $10 to $30. The by-the-glass wine list is particularly interesting.