Monday, December 23, 2019

Forno Classico Opens Doors to Pizza Heaven

“I like food,” explains Giuseppe Crisa, founder and owner of the pizza oven company Forno Classico, “and that’s how everything happened.”

Twelve years ago, and still new to the United States, the Sicilian-born Crisa was living in Summerland and craving a better pizza. So, like his grandfather before him, he decided to build his own oven. “My English was badder than now,” he says, joking, “and nobody wanted to hire me, so I had some time on my hands.”

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Salvatore Espresso’s Grand Coffee Machines

The year 1992 proved quite the moment for modern coffee. A modest company called Starbucks launched its IPO with a mere 140 coffee shops — today, it has 214 times (!) more outlets, not counting the dozens that opened as I wrote this article.

More critically for folks in search of a good cup, 1992 was the year that Salvatore Cisaria’s “brain started to roll and roll and roll, and I decided to do this.” “This” is making some of the most beautiful, completely handcrafted espresso machines in the world, which he’s been doing ever since, from Haley Street to the Santa Ynez Valley.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fresh as a....Oh, God, I Can't Do It

While clean, fresh, direct fast-casual might be pushing Italian out from restaurant opening ubiquity, that's not such a bad thing. After all, who doesn't want a lovely dish at the fairest price? So, Santa Barbara, let's welcome The Daisy to State Street. Chryss and I have only been once but the initial impressions are nothing but positive. The space is white and wood and warm, yet still very projectable to be whatever you want it to be. You order at the counter and the food gets delivered unto you, at a good speed (at least on the night we were there, when things were relatively slow).

What you see above is the house fish plate at $20, but if you want something with fish you won't regret eating later, you have to spend at least a twenty, don't you? It's smoked trout & apple salad, heavier on the trout than the fruit but that gives a bit of munch, hot & cold smoked salmon, which refers to how they are prepared as both are cold on the plate, labneh, cucumbers and pickled red onions and plenty of frisee, bread that's housemade and nicely grilled. It might seem like three ice cream scoops of fish is light, but you do feel full by the end, especially since all the preps pack flavor, redolent of salt or smoke and definitely things recently swimming. The labneh (maybe one of the hallmarks of fast-casual now, with its border-crossing twist and nod to the almighty Ottolenghi) is also a rich, lovely touch sitting at the Venn diagram center of yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream.

The plate matches well with the Third Window hazy IPA, too. Plus it's good to see The Daisy pouring local brews.

Chryss really enjoyed the chickpea, chorizo and spinach stew with crostini that comes in a vegan, 'rizo-less model for a mere $15, pointing out how each component--the delightfully cooked down greens, the curried chick peas and the crunchy couscous that was much more than filler--became the favorite part of the dish after each mouthful.

We're looking forward to going back. (Oh, it's called The Daisy as that the chef Carmen Deforest's nickname--she runs the place with her husband Dominic Shiach.)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Some Tart Appeal for Repeal Day

It's Repeal Day, so I thought you'd all need a drink to celebrate. After all, it's only been 86 years we've been able to drink legally again, and the way this country is going, with a tee-totaling authoritarian in charge and an even more scarily religious veep behind him (doesn't Pence completely seem like someone who reads Handmaid's Tale as masturbatory fantasy?), who knows what might happen? Drink up!

Here's the You Bitter, You Bitter, You Bet Cocktail. By whom, you might ask? By me. Drink enough of them, and I promise your face will dance. And before Pete Townshend shows up at my door to windmill my bad-joke-loving face to shreds, let's get on with it.

I'm playing around with homemade limoncello for a future story in an actual publication, not just a blog, and if you've ever made limoncello you know the problem with it--my god, that's a lot of sugar! So the trick is tempering that sweet with lots of not so. That's one reason the YBYBYB also includes fresh lemon juice, too, for a bit more acid, as cocktails need bite.

But wait, there's more! Over there on the right of the photo you see our specialty ingredient, Greenbar Grand Hops Amaro. Greenbar Distillery is LA's first in-town spirit-maker since Prohibition, so perfect for a Repeal Day drink, even if that just means 2004 (drink local is so 21st century). That they call it an Amaro is a bit of an exaggeration--but it is definitely bitter, with its composition of molasses spirits, aromatic and bittering hops, quillaja (soap bark tree), and cane sugar. You might need to adore your IPAs to like this cocktail, but this unique product brings a powerful pucker to the drink.

Most of the drink is powered by Mezcal, as I like smoky flavors, and they play well with lemon, too, of course. (Try grilling lemons some day and you'll know exactly why.) And the hit of Ancho Reyes gives a bit of true heat--it's still the best chili-infused liqueur for my money.

And I almost forgot. Cilantro! So here's hoping you're not one of those folks who has the genetic thing that makes cilantro=soap. We're going to have to someday do gene therapy just to fix that, if you ask me. The muddling allows for a lot of fresh green bright flavor to infuse the cocktail. And the quick hit of some smoked salt at the end makes the lemon sing even more (have you ever had preserved lemon? if not, what are you waiting for?).

Cheers to Repeal Day!

You Bitter, You Bitter, You Bet Cocktail
(makes 2 drinks)

1 oz. limoncello
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. Greenbar Grand Hops Amaro
½ oz. Ancho Reyes
4 oz Mezcal (I have a soft spot for El Silencio because they had a great bordello at Tales of the Cocktail, plus TJ's sells it)
¼ cup cilantro leaves and stems
2 most beautiful big cilantro leaves

Muddle the ¼ cup cilantro with the limoncello, lemon juice, amaro, and Ancho Reyes. Really mash it up to extract some flavor. Add the mezcal and ice cubes and shake vigorously to mix, remembering there's a bunch of green stuff at the bottom of your shaker.

Double strain (you want to keep the drink green fleck free) into two chilled coupes. Sprinkle a small pinch of smoked salt onto each drink. Top each with one of the big cilantro leaves.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Htiching the SB Wine Wagon to Some Amazing Pioneers

I'm going to try to tell the story of an event in a single bottle. Last Saturday (11/23) was the Third Annual Heritage Tasting held by the Pioneers of Santa Barbara County, a fantastically temperate fall day at Pico in Los Alamos. (Quick digression--do you want Chef Drew's praline bacon with some Lindquist syrah? Well, do you want the taste equivalent of a millionaire dollar lotto card on your tongue?) And sure, the winemaking starpower was there, with Richard Sanford and Fred Brander and Karen Steinwachs and Doug Margerum, for instance, along one row of tables so tight they couldn't swing a wine bottle without conking one of their compatriots.

And that's just the start of all the goodness that Morgan Clendenen, organizer, cheerleader, wrangler, planner, rogue viral video content maker, promoter, brought together for this spectacular shindig to remind us of them that got us here. You can go read the list at the website, but we're talking back in the days before our AVAs were subdividing like mops for Mickey Mouse to fight.

What anyone there most learned, however, is pioneers don't just get encased in amber. Nope, this group just keeps pioneering--messing with hops in their Sauv Blanc, making one of the first Amaros in the U.S., figuring out how to tame, but only enough, the wildness of an extreme vineyard site like Radian.

That pioneering knows enough, though, not to forget. (Wise winemakers watch paralleling the folly of the tyro creative writer who ignorantly declares, "I don't need to read what's come before--I am new!") So look above at what Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley are doing now--a Chenin Blanc. Frank is quick to point across the tasting at Louis Lucas pouring his own Lucas & Lewellen Wines, saying he was smart enough to hang on to some 40 year old Chenin vines amidst the more profitable chardonnay (because, you know, give the people what they white want). And now Hitching Post is making Forerunner (a lovely forwards and backwards cap-tipping name, no?), a snappy blast of pear, persimmon and a zip of lime zest. Pioneering indeed.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Pearl Social: Jewel of a Cocktail Lounge

It’s hard not to be won over by a barman who describes his process as “Mr. Potato Head style — you end up with all these parts and try to figure out where they go.”

That’s how Gavin Koehn, who runs the cocktail program at the new Pearl Social, talks about creating a drink list that splits into such categories as Timeless, Rule Breakers, Come Back Kids, and Susan B. Anthony — the latter being non-alcoholic delights even a temperance leader could love. Those cocktails, along with a small but expertly curated menu of food from The Lark’s Chef Jason Paluska, are making Pearl Social the latest fetching Funk Zone creation from Acme Hospitality, who’s brought us The Lark, Loquita, Tyger Tyger, and so forth.

Want to read the rest, then do so at the Independent's site.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Embermill’s Creative Caribbean Cuisine Comes to State Street

Yes, Chef Harold Welch is from Barbados, and the menu at his just-opened Embermill features plenty of Caribbean fare, from fried plantains to a pepper pot of octopus, scallops, shrimp, and crab. But Welch has the whole world on his mind, too — there’s Korean gochujang sauce on the wings, for instance, as well as an Ethiopian chicken stew called doro wat to order.

In fact, the restaurant is opening a whole new world for Welch professionally. He still owns the Hummingbird Restaurant & Café in Solvang, which is rather hummingbird-sized and currently being revamped. By opening Embermill in the historic Copper Pot location on State Street, last occupied by Aldo’s, he’s pleased to have more room. However, Welch quickly admitted, “I’ve filled this space up already. I’ve got so much equipment at home I can’t even park my car in the garage.”

Want to read the rest, then do so at the Independent's site.