Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara

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Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara
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Recently an edhat reader sent in an article by Thrillist detailing the popularity of Ranch dressing and it reminded us of the key role Santa Barbara played in America's favorite salad topper.

If you have a hard time eating vegetables without this flavorful sauce, you can thank its inventor Steve Henson. In the late 1940's Henson worked as a plumbing contractor started developing the idea while cooking for co-workers. Not long after, he moved with his wife Gayle to Santa Barbara where they purchased a 120-acre ranch on San Marcos Road, the former home of Sweetwater Ranch, and named it Hidden Valley Ranch.

They began taking in visitors and tourists to showcase the lovely parts of the Santa Ynez mountains and Santa Barbara countryside. As a treat, they served guests spoonfuls of Henson's buttermilk dressing made from a dry mix of garlic, onions, herbs, spices, and mayonnaise. It became a local phenomenon and the duo began selling their seasoned dry mix and finished product for customers to take home. 

As the popularity and demand increased, Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products became an incorporation and in 1964 they started selling packets at local grocery store, Kelly's Corner. (Bonus points if edhat readers can identify where this store was located). A factory was opened to manufacture in large volumes and distribute nationally.

Then in 1972, the Hidden Valley Ranch brand was bought by Clorox for $8 million. Under new ownership, Ranch dressing was sold as a bottle of put together cream dressing instead of just a mix by 1983. It's fame skyrocketed from there as a popular vegetable dip to the most popular salad dressing.

Henson, who died in 2007, trademarked the “Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing” name, but failed to coin “ranch dressing," reports Thrillist. Numerous companies started to use the phrase within their marketing of flavors. In 1986, only three years after the bottled dressing launched, Doritos released its Cool Ranch flavor.

While extremely popular in the United States, Ranch dressing is virtually unknown anywhere else in the world. 

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pj42 Oct 03, 2017 02:48 PM
Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara

State and La Cumbre . . . fond memories. And I also remember living in Goleta in the mid 60s when a woman in the neighborhood would come by door to door selling the original Green and White packages of the mix to which one would add the buttermilk. That remains the best version of the original ranch dressing ever. The bottled versions never quite lived up to the original

a-1593779839 Oct 02, 2017 12:42 PM
Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara

My Ranch Dressing recipe, as taken/revised from a macaroni salad recipe published in the SB News-Press many years ago. A terrific dressing. I love to use it as a dip, too: ( I use organic ingredients whenever possible.) 1/2 cup organic mayo 1/2 cup organic buttermilk 1 large clove garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons dried dill weed 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon lemon (or lime) juice 3/4 teaspoon salt (or a tad more, depending on your taste) 2-3 drops of Tabasco pepper sauce Put all ingredients into pint glass jar w/ lid and shake. Might need to stir a bit at bottom.

RLJ Oct 01, 2017 10:02 AM
Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara

I used to shop at Kelley's Market (the store) at 3906 State. I recall a restaurant called Kelly's Corner at the same address back around 1980.

ladylagomorph Oct 01, 2017 09:08 AM
Ranch Dressing Roots in Santa Barbara

I think Kelly' s Corner was on the corner (mountain side) across from Five Points, The Galeria is diagonally across the intersection, a gas station is directly across the street, and a bank now sits where this lovely little family store stood. Kelly's Corner was painted green, and I was very sad to go by one day and see it being torn down. The street corner is State Street and La Cumbre.

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