Friday, May 11, 2018

Finney’s Curates Craft on Lower State

While Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen — which opened in the Hotel Californian complex on April 9 — offers the slogan “Craft beer spoken here,” it nearly needed something closer to “All about béarnaise.” 

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Frankland’s Crab Crawls into Montecito

Why let words get in the way when you just want to make great-tasting food? That explains why what might be labeled a lobster roll somewhere else is “just” a buttered Maine lobster sandwich at the new Frankland’s Crab & Co., recently opened in the old bar space at the Montecito Inn.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Libation-Inspired Poetry @ The Good Lion

Liquor inspires countless creative endeavors, from brilliant to foolish, and it’s caused many a writer to pour their hearts into poetry as well.

As part of National Poetry Month 2018, Santa Barbara’s finest wordsmiths will share their booze-backed verse for the fourth year in row at The Good Lion (1212 State St.; on Wednesday, April 25, 6:30-7:30 p.m. The free affair is called Spirits in the Air: Poetry and the Liquid Muse, and The Good Lion’s mostly mustached bartenders will be mixing up literary-themed cocktails to pair with the pentameters.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bluewater Grill Shines in Lighthouse

When is a mini-chain not a chain? When the just-opened edition — Bluewater Grill, in the lovingly restored lighthouse building on Cabrillo Boulevard — is helmed by a chef who’s pals with the region’s most renowned uni diver. That’s the case at Bluewater, where Chef Chanel Ducharme chums around with fishing superstar Stephanie Mutz. They met when Ducharme was chef at The Hungry Cat on Chapala Street, and the cook even occasionally helped the fisherwoman sell her Santa Barbara Channel catch. “I’m really passionate about sustainability,” explained Ducharme, “so what she does is awesome.”

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sip This: Tatomer Pinot 2015

Graham Tatomer is widely (and wisely) lauded as the winemaker who proved Santa Barbara can make outrageously tasty German and Austrian varietal wines, such as riesling and grüner veltliner. But while his time at Austria’s Weingut Knoll was transformative, he did first cut his teeth on more typical grapes from around these parts, and he hasn’t lost his magic with those, either, based on this delectable pinot noir, which is also a relatively affordable $35.

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

Mad About Vermouth

“If you look them up online, you’ll see that, seven years apart, I’m quoted in articles in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle that vermouth is about to have its moment,” says vintner and, yes, vermouth maker Carl Sutton. “If you keep saying it, it has to happen.” That’s the very short answer as to why Sutton is in town, working with Jesse Smith from Casitas Valley Farm and Kyle Hollister from the just-begun T.W. Hollister & Co. Wines.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Uni + Pinot = Very Happy Me-o

I was hoping I'd get to write something about a fantastic feast from World of Pinot Noir closer to the feast itself (on Friday, March 2), but perhaps I'm still recovering, lost in the sensory world so much that I don't want to spend too much time in contemplation. True, that might be my usual state, but a dinner like The Art of Japanese Cuisine and Freeman Winery Pinot Noir, with Guest Chef Ken Tominaga, puts the you in voluptuous, if that makes any sense. I did do a write up/interview with Ken Freeman prior to the dinner, so go check that out if you haven't yet for more winery details, but the quick lesson is his wife Akiko Freeman makes wines of grace, poise, depth and acidity, and they cry out for pairing with food.

This evening wasn't just any food, of course, as Chef Tominaga is a star of the Bay Area and Sonoma, and he and the Freemans are friends too, so it's a very simpatico pairing. Since it's been awhile and much of my memory of the evening is a rosy glow of gustatory glory (plus my notes in the darkened dining room at the Spa at the Ritz Carlton Bacara are hard to the read to the point that one scribble I can make out taunts future-me with "you will not be able to read this"), I will focus on two delectable courses, numbers 1 and 4 (of 5 with an unannounced dessert too), both pictured above.

Course the first is Happy Spoon with Golden Osetra Caviar, but it seems a bit misnamed, as it's really Happy Happy Eater Left with Golden Smile. Chef suggested we get it all in one bite, and while it wasn't too big for that, it was a tad sad to see it all gone in a minute of mouthful, the oyster and uni and caviar and sauce all and everything of the briny sea, as if you'd cleared out the pantry of Davy Jones' Locker (ignore all the shipwreck imagery, though). You did get to wash it down with the 2016 Freeman Ryo-fu Chardonnay, mostly sourced from stellar Sonoma Vineyards Keefer and Heintz Ranches, so it is a Happy Glass of elegant juice, some more tropical notes yet underlined with citrus and apple fruit, and, as with most Freeman wines, a finish that could match the power of the urchin you ate with it.

Course the fourth is Uni and Hokkaido Scallop Risotto with chive blossoms and shiso, so yes, Chef likes his urchin and you better too. Somehow this kept from becoming an umami atom bomb that blew your taste buds into submission--it kept revealing itself gradual, almost a bit coy, as long as you nibbled a bit at the uni tongue atop the plating and didn't gulp it at once. The rice was perfectly cooked (always a bit tricky for serving a room at once, even if just about 35 dinners tops), and those scallops had just the sear you want, just the give, and more taste than you might ever ask for. That got paired with a 2011 Freeman RRV Pinot Noir from a vintage about which Akiko joked "it was the summer that never came." Now, you might think that's a worry in an already cool climate region, but perhaps it just gave the vines more time to work and think, probably about how someday their fruit would have to stand up and deliver next to such a ridiculously good plate of food. They did. The Freeman website describes the wine well, noting its "alluring deep ruby color, with a ripe nose of blackberry, toast...a racy entry that erupts into flavors of wild berry, olive and smoked meats. The large-framed palate, and long, fruity finish...." Well, sometimes what sounds like pr puffery is merely apt description. And at a grand dinner like this one, it's hard for any write-up to not sound like fantasy.