Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Suck This: Hangover Naturals

Hangover Naturals: It’s that time of year when it’s easy to wake up after a night of nog, nips, and nosh to feel as if you’ve got 12 drummers drumming in your brain. Of course the best way to alleviate a hangover is to not get one, but immoderation during the holidays is harder to avoid than TV screenings of A Christmas Story.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sip This: Big Dave's Egg Nog

The Hungry Cat’s “Big Dave’s" Egg Nog: Forget about growlers for beer; Hungry Cat (all locations, including 1134 Chapala St.) is selling growlers (and glasses) of egg nog through New Year’s. It’s seasonal, it’s environmental correct, and it’s a delicious, crème-anglaise-based drink so wonderfully rich and deep.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wines for the Winter Holidays

As the last of the year's days turn more to darkness, we fill our calendars with holidays celebrating the solar return. Let there be light: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, even Festivus, for an airing of grievances is really just one more way to make things brighter. Until that happens though, we might want some extra-warming wines, even here in California, where winter is the chance to happily gaze at distant, snow-capped mountains. That means wines with some serious alcohol levels, which has been a bone of big contention in the wine world for the last few years. (Check out the In Pursuit of Balance manifesto as one salvo in the direction of moderation.)

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So Set 'Em Up, Robot

No. Everything in life shouldn't be able to happen fast. Yes. Words have actual meaning, and "craft" once had meaning too until it became a happy marketing slap-it-on synonym for "so good you should pay more for it."

That's why I want to kick this Kickstarter in its robotic teeth: Somabar: Robotic Bartender for Your Home. I like a cocktail as much as the next person (as long as that person is Dean Martin or Foster Brooks), but it's simple--you aren't supposed to rush them. The making of them--the craft--is a crucial part of the experience. The smells of each component as you open each bottle. The new scent when it all comes together. The feel of the shaker in your hands as its metal plummets down the thermometer, chill, cold, colder, icy. The addition of the perfect garnish, which isn't what parsley was in the 1970s--it's one more crucial ingredient, part of the aroma's dance that will make you want to drink.

But no, the important thing is--find something on your mobile phone and get it made in 5 seconds.

Sorry, but this kind of thinking sickens me, as it steals 2/3 of the magic of the cocktail hour. Making the drink is part of the ritual. It means you get to focus on something relatively simple--measuring pours--that will bring you exponential rewards for the work you will do. And it puts you in line with history, countless barkeeps, people home from the war (that might just be the daily drudge), stars like Dale DeGroff or Jerry Thomas. Don't you want all that? Shouldn't every last bit of that be in your glass?

If not, that Somabar is all yours. I'll be over here drinking deep of much more than a drink.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Amen to Ramen

That's ramen, lit poorly, and that will be the last negative word you're going to hear. For what Weston Richards is doing at Les Marchands is a total delight. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night you can order up a bowl, and with it winter (with rain and everything!), what more could you want on a crisp December evening? This is the pork version, decidedly upscale and not what you slurped to save all your cash for drinking back in college. For instance, that's a 53 degree egg (and is their menu wrong or does Richards do his 10 degrees cooler than the temp sous viders seem to generally use? hmmm), looking like it's still in its brown shell but perfectly cooked with a yolk that's just runny, adding more viscous deliciousness to the broth. And then why use bok choy when you can use Brussel sprouts? They've got better flavor for a cabbagy cousin and then roast well too (at least the ones in the soup seem to have bee roasted first).

The two big pork belly strips are cooked to perfection even though they're awash in soup; there's no sense they've been soaking--you'd order them as a dish on their own, fatty, of course--it is pork belly after all--but not just fat. You'll wish there was more. Luckily the broth packs tons of pork flavor, too, and has got a surprising zing to it that might be the only issue with the fine Tatomer Gruner pairing Les Marchands is suggesting for the dish. Why not a wine with a hint of dry apples to go with your pork.

I've left the noodles for last not because they're an afterthought, but because they're delightful. There's nothing like a pasta-type product that still feels alive, with a pleasing chewy sproing to them that might make you a sloppy eater, but you won't care. (OK, this might not be the best first date dish.) They're called alkaline noodles, thanks to the sodium bicarbonate in them, along with flour and water (yep, they're eggless). Richards is appropriately proud of them.

One more good thing--there's a veggie version, too. Unlike one place in town that's very very good but can't seem to make a veggie option soup, Richards makes one with butternut squash, curried coconut milk, shiitake mushrooms, and toasted nori, the milk making the broth almost closer to a sauce than a broth. But you won't care, or at least my wife didn't.

So of course, the place to get noodles is a wine bar.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sip This: Dolin Sta. Rita Hils Pinot 2012

Dolin Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills 2012: The Dolin Estate were early players in the Malibu wine scene, but have expanded to make Pinot Noir with fruit from what they bill as “select vineyard blocks” from everyone’s favorite Central Coast Pinot AVA: the Sta. Rita Hills.

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

Next Stop the Pasta Shoppe

“Fresh pasta versus box pasta — the difference is night and day,” says Diane Harding, owner of The Pasta Shoppe (38 W. Victoria St., [805] 770-3668, thepastashoppellc.com) in the Santa Barbara Public Market. “People come in and buy our pasta from Corona del Mar, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks, and all say, ‘You have to open something by us!’”

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

Dolin Malibu Estate: Vines with a View

Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, is a man for whom all the wrongs seem to turn right. Back in the day when he was a bass player, he was in the Manhattan Transfer before they had a recording contract. Then he moved to Nashville, where the jobs were, only to shortly head out to LA -- "the promised land," as he puts it, "of great weather, cars, the ocean, the Beach Boys" -- just when all the session musicians moved to Nashville. You know, where the work was.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Good Lion Roars into Town

If learning that The Good Lion takes its name from a Hemingway children’s story about a lion that prefers scampi and Negronis instead of fresh kill doesn’t charm you, the bar itself certainly will. Opened last month by recently transplanted Angelenos Brandon and Misty Ristaino inside the Granada building where Marquee used to be, The Good Lion (1212 State St., (310) 770-0899, facebook.com/TheGoodLionBar) exudes old-world charm and ease. But it’s also “Santa Barbara market fresh and seasonal,” said Brandon, adding, “what an amazing market town this is.”

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Celebrate Repeal Day By Learning About California's Wine History

Like Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, and the Opening of Buck Season in Pennsylvania, December 5, aka Repeal Day should be one of our nation's great holidays. After all, the demise of the 18th Amendment, also known as the Volstead Act, also known as Prohibition, brought an end to 13 (sort of) dry years for our country. Alas, what Prohibition wreaked on California's wine industry reverberated for at least 40 more years (that the era fell between WWI and WWII, and so many fell then, too, of course didn't help matters). But here's one fact that will prove it took decades for an industry to recover from Prohibition: it wasn't until 1967 when table wine finally surpassed dessert wine in volume sales in the U.S.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tercero Verbiage Blanc

Tercero Verbiage Blanc 2013: The back label of Larry Schaffer’s latest white Rhone blend claims, “I love to talk—a lot! I also love to make wine—a lot!” After tasting it you’ll say you love Verbiage Blanc—a lot!

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zinfandel, The Only American Wine Grape

It's fitting that zinfandel is often considered the only true American grape, as the wines made from it are brash, big, bold, sometimes verging on port in their ripeness, sugar, and alcohol levels. November 19 is National Zinfandel Day and while no doubt there's National Name Something a Day Day by now, zinfandel deserves its moment in the sun, especially in fall when bigger wines are even more welcome as the mercury drops. Plus it's not a bad match for Thanksgiving, either (it's one of the few wines that can stand up to cranberry sauce, for instance). So here's a little explainer about this somewhat misunderstood varietal.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin

Beehive Distilling Jack Rabbit Gin: Rose is a rose is a rose is a gin is one way to think of this small batch product from Utah, the first legal gin from the state in almost 150 years.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Wine Picks from the Pros

Just as your Thanksgiving dinner is only as good as the guests who show up -- "and who invited crazy cousin Carl? "-- a round-up of wine suggestions for the big day is only as good as the people making them. So you're in great hands here, folks, as you shall see. To give our experts a bit of a twist, I asked what their pick would taste best and worst with, since matching the full groaning board of T-Day delights is near impossible (especially as long as people insist putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes. Please note that modifier in the name and then stop).

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Evan Kleiman Brings "Good Food" North

“The food geek preceded the chef or the cookbook author,” said Evan Kleiman about her life and role as the happy host of KCRW’s weekly radio program Good Food for 17 years. That’s longer than she ever imagined. “I tend not to look very much ahead, which could be a problem,” she said with her bubbly laugh, then quickly admitted, “I hope I never have to stop doing it.”

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

Sip This: Goodland Santa Ynez Valley Red

Goodland Wines Santa Ynez Valley Red 2011: At least in the U.S., we tend to buy wines by varietal or maker, not grape growing location, so this red blend — along with all the Goodland Wines — is trying to buck a trend.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Woman Behind Chumash Wines

Next time you're at the Chumash Casino in the Santa Ynez Valley, instead of cashing your sawbucks into chips hoping to strike big at blackjack, you can make a safer, better bet and end up a big winner. Use that money to buy some Kitá Wines. These award-wining wines (the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, to be precise) are made by the Chumash, too, from grapes on land they bought from Fess Parker in 2010. And Tara Gomez, their winemaker, is also from their tribe, meaning she's one of the only Native American female winemakers in the U.S.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fired Up for World Food Championship

L.J. Washington caught the competitive-cooking bug bad, thanks in large part to this newspaper, having won The Santa Barbara Independent’s 2012 Sandwich Showdown by beating two professional chefs. Since then, this Carpinteria resident, who is originally from New Orleans, won a KEYT Backyard BBQ Contest, a Carpinteria Chili Cookoff, and took part in the Today show Father’s Day Burger Battle, where she got to schmooze with Giada De Laurentiis. (“There was a lot of giggling and girl talk; it was really wonderful,” Washington recalled. “I’ll treasure that one.”)

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Women Making Wine


Depending on the study, it seems approximately 10% of California's winemakers are women. So, for good or ill, winemaking is generally a man's game. Oh, who am I trying to kid -- that can't be for good, just look at things men run and how they usually make you want to run away (why yes, I am writing this post on election night).

That's why it's crucial to appreciate women who make it in this field, especially when they are as talented as Clarissa Nagy. In addition to being the winemaker at Riverbench, she's about to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her own label, Nagy Wines. "Vintage 2005 was my first commercial release," she says. "I am looking forward to celebrating next year with two vertical tasting events, one with Garey Ranch pinot noir and one with my syrah."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

8 Ales for Fall Holidays


Halloween is a gift that keeps giving. If you like things classic and sweet, there's the evocative nostalgia of the Margaret O'Brien featured part of "Meet Me in St. Louis." If you like things contemporary and dirty, there's the whole world in a naughty and more than likely zombified fill-in-the-blank costume. And if you like to drink, there are not only lots of parties but also lots of special brews. To prepare you for the big weekend (and beyond, as many of these will make fine Thanksgiving pairings, too), here's a look at eight spooky, pumpkiny, and in one case ooky ales, mostly from California.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Making Syrah in Santa Barbara


In 1993, Bill Clinton was inaugurated. It's also the year of the founding of Jaffurs Wine Cellars, so that should give you some perspective. Jaffurs also makes their wines in Santa Barbara itself -- close to the now-trendy Funk Zone back when it was just funky -- in the first winery built in town (in 2001). Owner/winemaker Craig Jaffurs and his GM Dave Yates are Rhone lovers who make wines that make others Rhone lovers too.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bubbles at the Beach

If you're going to decide to throw the only wine festival dedicated solely to sparkling wine in the United States, you might go even further out and have a "real" mermaid there too. That's what's on the bill for Bubblyfest by the Sea, happening October 24-26 in Pismo Beach. There'll be a cocktail event, seminars, and of course tastings -- one of which will feature a tent with a mermaid waiting for you to pose beside, and then if you hashtag your photos (#bubblyfest) you can even get a print for free (social media just keeps moving, doesn't it?).

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Waiter by Day, Winemaker by Night (and Day)


In Los Angeles it's easy to assume at a restaurant your waiter might also be an actor, but in Santa Barbara he might be a winemaker. At least that's the case for Aaron Watty, who works as a waiter at bouchon in Santa Barbara and also makes the highly sought-after Big Tar Wines. (When all your friends are in the restaurant business, and they like you and your wines, your small production sells out fast.)

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Look at the 2014 California Wine Harvest

Well, we may run out of water, but we won't run out of wine -- at least not the 2014 vintage. For while the drought ravages California, checking in with several winemakers in Santa Barbara suggests the 2014 vintage will have relatively high yields. Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery thinks the yields might be "because grape growers compensated for the lack of rain via irrigation, which may have given the vines more water directly at their disposal, or the warmth of the vintage convinced the vines to be more prolific. Either way, most vineyards are experiencing higher to slightly higher yields, and the grapes themselves seem to be overall a little more juicy than other years."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Dinner at Your Doorstep

If farmers markets seem fabulous, but take too much time, and CSAs sound wonderful, but leave you dumbfounded when a box of chicory arrives, then consider ThePantrySB, a new home-delivery service that encourages you to eat healthy as you learn to cook. “All of our ingredients are measured for your meal,” explained Alexis Donaire, who started the company with her husband, Ron Donaire, in January. “It’s an easy solution to expand your horizons.”

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Re:Find Turns Wine into Gin

Turns out you can crush a grape and get gin. There are a few steps involved, of course, so don't try this at home, but that's where Paso Robles' Villacana Winery and its distillery arm Re:Find step in. Forget about recycling, this is a project that's keyed to re-using a part of the winemaking process that often is just poured away.

Villicana originally just made wine, but Alex and Monica Villicana eventually realized what seemed like a waste product--the juice from the first light press and de-stemming of grapes--might be used for something. "A lot of boutique wineries will extract a percentage of that free run juice from red grapes," Monica explains, "as the color, flavor, and personality comes from the skins. At that point if we lower the percentage of juice going into fermentation, it actually concentrates our wines."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Hits and Misses in the New Wine Collection at Vons


Who doesn't like to open presents? Especially when inside that wrapping there's wine? That's just part of the fiendishly clever hook behind Evocative Wrapped Bottles, a series of wines that the Sonoma-based wine company Truett-Hurst has developed to market at Safeway/Vons.

Take their best-seller of the lot, Curious Beasts Blood Red Wine. It is a curious kitchen sink blend of merlot, petite sirah, syrah, zinfandel, and cabernet franc, but nowhere near as monstrous as such a mix might suggest. Its color is far from bloody-dark; in fact it's light enough you might mistake it for a pricier Central Coast pinot noir, say, but clearly this is made for quaffing about the kids busy bobbing for apples, plus it's only 13.5% ABV, so after a glass you can drive them home. Curious Beasts is tasty enough, but there are better bangs for your buck at the $15 price range, and if anyone really bought it for the $29.99 Vons list price before using your Vons Card, you better really like the Day of the Dead woodcut stylings on that paper wrapper. (They are very well done, so all kudos to artist Kevin Shaw at Stranger & Stranger.)

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Guide to Almost 30 Santa Barbara Sparkling Wines


France, as is its wise wont, holds tight to its names. They get Cognac, the rest of the world gets brandy, they get Champagne, we get sparkling wine. That's all about location, national pride, clever marketing; but it doesn't mean a "mere" sparkling wine can't drink as fine. Alas, even in the United States, if people think bubbly, they tend to think northern California: Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, Mumm in Napa, Piper Sonoma, etc. (All with French roots/ties too.)

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rivera Rolls On


Chef John Sedlar must have had some weird and wonderful dream about dim sum carts morphing into food trucks based on what's happening at his Rivera in downtown LA. Of course, he's always been one to invent and re-invent, none-too-modestly naming his first book Modern Southwest Cuisine. Heck, he's been the driving force behind Museum Tamal, that's how seriously he takes this food, but it seems being serious also means being playful--just check out the edible flowers pressed into the tortillas above. (And that's Indian Butter, not guacamole, because it will be the richest guac you'll ever taste.)

So this is how it works--you can order off the menu, or you can get tempted by the waiters pushing about carts that don't just carry about samples but the actual stuff you can eat, right away. And so you will be tempted and quickly fulfilled, and nothing will entice more than the butternut squash tamal, perfectly cooked and if you get a bite of the pork shoulder and squash and goat cheese all at once you will come close to ordering a second even with your mouth full, all the flavors ricocheting off of and ratcheting up the other flavors.

Of course, Rivera is the kind of restaurant that can give you quinoa and make you like it, with the regular menu flan de elote, a perfect creaminess, just firm enough and then the quinoa, black in this case so providing a fine contrast for the best-butter-yellow flan (every plate is an eyeful with Sedlar), and then also providing a bit of crunchy contrast too. Here's to more savory flans like this one.

Let's not forget that Julian Cox created cocktail list, either, with film- and music-inspired drinks like the Blood Sugar Sex Magic (rye, basil, lemon, red pepper, and not one tube sock) and the Vote for Pedro (rye, Pedro Ximinez sherry, Aperol, dandelion & burdock bitters, flamed orange).

The only thing missing might be a cart for them to roll you out on when you're done.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Santa Barbara's Perfectly Modern Wine Bar


The elements that make a wine shop a good wine shop evolve so fast it would make Charles Darwin's head spin, even before he consumed anything they sold. There's the old-timer shop, a mix of liquor and dusty wine and tequila sold in bottles shaped in everything from skulls to machine guns. There's a more recent iteration, full of inventory and people who can tell you about it, but it's sort of no-frills otherwise, and there's sadly no tasting.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Isla Vista's Super Bowls

Sometimes it seems restaurateurs flip a coin choosing a cuisine for new spots, with heads meaning Mexican and tails meaning pizza. That means no one, especially creativity, wins. That’s where Daniel Dunietz stands out, bringing Buddha Bowls (901 Embarcadero del Mar, (805) 961-4555, buddhabowlsiv.com) to Isla Vista.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Malibu Vineyard Owners Fight Proposed Land Use Plan Changes


At a recent tasting of a dozen or so Malibu-based wineries in Westlake Village, each producer generally poured no more than two wines and provided no print material. This prime property is a land, however gorgeous, beyond the niceties of modern marketing. Part of that is these wineries -- who are making some lovely syrahs and cabernets -- have so little wine to begin with; for instance Malibu Vineyards, with its 400 case annual production, claims, "We really don't serve to the public," meaning you need to be on the list or no dice. Colcanyon Estate, at a mere two acres of vines and 103 cases a year (probably not even the amount of wine drunk at Oscar after-parties), has even less wine.

Want to read the rest--and it's a long rest--do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Hungry Cat Goes Crazy for Crabs

After nearly a decade of hosting Maryland-style Crabfests at its Hollywood location, the Hungry Cat is finally bringing the fest to Santa Barbara on August 24. “What David [Lentz, the Maryland-born Hungry Cat chef] wanted to emulate was the Maryland blue crab party,” said general manager Bob van der Veer, “a laid-back vibe with the steamed crabs spread on newspaper on the table.”

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Just B.E. at Benchmark

When Maggie’s at State and A closed after only 14 months in existence — didn’t it take longer to renovate the place? — the social mediascape was full of good-riddances for both the high-priced food and the restaurant’s out-of-place tapestries. Thankfully, the prime corner location is returning to a more down-home Santa Barbara vibe now that the Bennetts are in charge. The family, which also owns Brophy Bros., On the Alley, Arch Rock, the Cliff Room, and Farmer Boy Restaurant, just reopened the property as Benchmark Eatery, which is already attracting crowds for great people-watching and a wide variety of food and drinks.

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

Beer Fest: Go Weird or Go Home

You know you're at an event with weird beers when one of the beers is actually called Weird Beer. That's Smog City's saison, fresh from Torrance, and it wasn't that strange, really, if you are used to tasting a spicy farmhouse saison style beer (based on a style from the French-speaking part of Belgium, and that's sort of a hint as to flavors, too, if you think cuisines).

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Celebrating "Sideways" at 10

Some movies, at best, get a DVD re-release on their tenth anniversaries. Sideways, 2004's surprise Oscar-lauded tale of a sodden Santa Ynez bachelor party romp focusing on a mismatched pair of friends, sad-sack Miles and fading-actor Jack, well, it recently scored a bunch of fine fêtes instead. For as much as the film starred Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church, and Sandra Oh, it also starred Santa Barbara wine country. And Santa Barbara wine country likes to throw parties.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Garagistes Go for Gold

When you're a home winemaker, you might as well practice saying, "We learned that by trial and error." When you're a home winemaker, you might end up choosing a chemist to work with you because you met him while walking your dogs. When you're a home winemaker, it's wise if your team includes someone good at wood-working to build the cold room in the garage where you keep your wine at a pleasant 67º. When you're a home winemaker, if one of you owns a van, and doesn't mind if the suspension gets shot hauling a half-ton of grapes, so much the better.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Meatless on the Mesa

Living in Santa Barbara, you can get tacos anywhere, but then there are wild mushroom tacos, topped with lemon crème fraîche, harissa, pepitas, and baby spring onion. First, that makes my spell-check go ouch. Second, it’s incredibly delicious, a taco by way of Morocco. Third, it’s vegetarian, as are all the dishes at the newly opened Mesa Verde, rising out of the ruins of Cliff’s & Co. on, fittingly, the Mesa, Santa Barbara’s bluff-top neighborhood.

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

Wines Die in Hot Cars

If The Weather Channel can be believed -- and since we're not asking them for the forecast, let's assume so -- if the air temperature is 90º F, it will be up to 124º F inside your car in 30 minutes. We all know enough not to leave our children or dogs in a car on a steamy day like that, but this column is about other babies that also do poorly in such heat: bottles of wine. It's easy if you're out visiting wine country to buy a few here, then a few at the next stop, then stop for a picnic lunch.... In the meantime those recently purchased prizes that tasted so good in that cave setting or thanks to the flirty pourer's charm at the tasting room is turning on you before you even get home.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sisters of the Sauce

The Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival doesn’t just brew up bacteria for our health and taste buds. It’s also the breeding ground for new businesses, one of which will have a very splashy debut at the fourth annual event on July 19, serving as the fest’s official condiment station while also enhancing the dishes of both Sama Sama and Nimita’s that day. Welcome to Cultured & Saucy, the long-brewing idea of sisters Lauren Temkin and Simone Temkin-Wilcox.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reserve Tastings, White Rhones, The Central Coast, and You



Archie McLaren, the beret-topped impresario of the Central Coast Wine Classic, has organized his fest for 30 years now, raising money for all sorts of non-profits who do work in healing, performing, and studio arts. "I love the Central Coast Wine Classic, and think it's a largely unrecognized gem locally," claims Jason Haas, Partner and GM at Tablas Creek Vineyard. "The auction is its centerpiece, and gets great attendance from serious bidders from around the country as well as the local wine community, but the educational seminars are superb each year, the auxiliary dinners always beautifully done, and the two tastings a chance to taste some of the Central Coast's greatest wines in relative peace."

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Eat This: Crabcake "Burger" @ On the Alley

Sometimes a great food experience takes just a little bit of care. How many places seem to think the bun is an afterthought, the sauce can just be bottled, the onions can be sliced too thick and be left biting. On the other hand there’s this simple, delectable, well, it’s not a dish as it comes to you in a cardboard tray-box, but that’s all about the convenience as you’re going to dine on picnic tables marina-side.

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

C'est Cheese, Part Deux

There are numerous ways to pronounce the luscious laminated pastry kouign-amann from Brittany. But after eating one, everyone speaks the same language: a deeply satisfied, bit-ashamed-for-liking-something-so-much groan. You can only get these buttery caramelized delights in one place in Santa Barbara, and that’s the newly, finally(!) expanded C’est Cheese, four times its old size and about to be a full-fledged café, marketplace, and extended catering service.

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Going 'Cue Crazy

Just so you know we take the Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest seriously, we ended up with 14 judges for just 12 contestants this year. Of course, there was plenty of regular hedonistic fun to be had on June 26, when our now-usual, multiculti, multi-tasty food extravaganza party popped up at Oak Park. But the annual event, with 2014 being the fifth such incarnation, is really fueled by the passion and pride of our grillers.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Session Beers for Independence Day Drinking

Oh say, can you still see straight at the end of a beer-fueled Fourth? If you decided you couldn't abandon drinking your favorite IPA all day, despite its relatively high alcohol level (most IPAs clock in at about 7% ABV, or more), here's some advice about how to keep those bombs bursting in air and not in your head as your hangover starts during the fireworks finale.

Welcome to a session ale.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Michael Franti Fundraises with Wine



It's not the kind of thing you expect to happen as a wine writer. We're backstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl, with a trumpet trilling down the hall and a very tall and very red-headed Brett Dennen almost running us over on our way to a dressing hall room to, yes, taste wine. In the process we end up hearing lines like, "Michael [Franti] goes crazy for fonts, he adores fonts. For nine hours we did nothing but fonts."

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crowd Sourced Craft Wine Comes to LA

Keith Saarloos of Saarloos + Sons Winery claims "I was born and raised on an interchange" in Bellflower, so it's little surprise he'd be attracted to food and wine blogger Matt Mitchell's plan to launch #CraftWineLA. "Wine is part of Los Angeles's heritage," Saarloos suggests. "It's even a great place to make wine, but all the agriculture is gone, and you need even more land to grow grapes."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Festival from the Winery's Perspective

Picking a wine festival to attend is easy for the consumer -- consider location, price, what wineries are pouring, and then go and enjoy in a proper manner. But how do wineries choose which festivals to attend, given it seems they can do one a week, and twice most summer Sundays?

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Ampelos Cellars Hat Trick: Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable


Some wineries say things like, "Well, we're organic, mostly, unless we really need to spray... plus all that paperwork...and the expense." Some say, "We like most of Rudolf Steiner's teachings, but we might fudge the biodynamics if the right moon doesn't happen when we have to get the grapes in." Some say, "Sure we want to do what's best for the environment when it comes to shipping, but Styrofoam is cheap and secure, so...."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

A San Diego Saturday

Of course that title means a day of playing taps in the best sense, as SD has the best beer scene in the country. Look one direction, count slowly to ten, turn around, and there will now be a microbrewery behind you, where there wasn't one prior. It's a kind of malty magic.

Here's what you can do in a day and still wake up and do something somewhat similar the next, all without spending all your money or risking a DUI, which will make you spend all your money. It involves a lot of walking, so be ready for that. Begin at Tiger! Tiger! in North Park, where it is easy to park. The place, especially mid-afternoon, is quite laid-backed, even more than its sister bar Blind Lady Alehouse, and hanging out back in the container-carved out porch is certainly a pleasant way to pass the time. If you're lucky there will be Automatic Ale on tap (they make it themselves at T!T! and BLAH--you've got to abbreviate well to be a fine drinking establishment, it seems), and if you're not, there will be plenty of other fine things. We opted to start slow, with nothing too ABVed--a Craftsman Point Five that did session beers proud and a Noble Big Whig IPA that could be a poster child for what a balanced West Coast IPA should be (that is not an oxymoron). Yeah, we kick-off a San Diego beerfest with brews from Pasadena and Anaheim, we're perverse like that. But most importantly, these were beers we don't get in our still sleepy hamlet, enough out of reach of too much Southern CA distribution, it seems.

Next come the walking portion of the day's program, as we hiked ourselves all over town to University Heights and Small Bar. Which it is. Gothed up a bit but in that friendly we serve good food and beer way. People even had their doggies on the patio. What's not to like? It's got a rep for cocktails, plus one of those brunch Bloodys that comes with all kinds of stuff hanging off it, but we weren't there for brunch and didn't want to get so plastered what had to stay for Sunday's. Again, we enjoyed beers--Double Mountain Hop Lava, Rip Current Black Tide IPA, and and Alesmith/Cigar City Ramblin' Rye American Strong Ale. After the walk, we wanted to get some more serious hops on, and did. Plus, I'm pretty sure Rip Current is my new favorite brewery. I had had their Lupulin Lust before (and promise it was love, not just a carnal desire), had their Rip Current Imperial the night before (it's up there with Pure Hoppiness and Pliny the Elder, I'd say), and now they made me really like a black IPA, too. Another big plus for Small Bar, bleu fries, but don't eat them until you've had some fun with the jukebox that even has Big Star on it. We were living large in Small Bar, to say the least.

And then it was time for the hike back, and we figured let's take Adams Ave., which would be a different route and probably more scenic too. It got really scenic only a few blocks in, as I spied a door open to an establishment with available pool tables, and I felt for sure I was close to beerquilibrium for pool. The spot is called The Lancers, evidently been around since the 1970s, and you can play pool for 50 cents per. All the beer is bottled, but what bottles--they had Russian River Pliny the Elder, in its usual bomber, for $7. Heck, I think I pay practically that for it at Whole Foods, if I ever find it at Whole Foods (I'm rarely fast enough). This was great billiards.

The walk wasn't bad, and my dear wife was willing to keep drinking less or not at all, so she got us to our next stop, a very non-Italian location in Little Italy. Craft & Commerce is the kind of place that seems to need a + and not a &--very hiply styled, with recycled wood and exposed elements, and books everywhere and tile and, well, lots of lots. But despite a hankering for cool that could lead to douchery, it instead was plenty comfortable with very pleasant servers, so much so our waiter when we got a table turned out to be the very same guy who took our order back at Tiger! Tiger! hours before. Hi, Anthony! You're great--friendly, attentive, helpful, not pissed we figured out a way to order as little as possible for dinner and still sate ourselves (yep, right there on their front porch). We spent all of $13--total--for food. You see they do these buttermilk biscuits filled with herby, savory goodness, as big as scones but as light as good scones, too. You get some some preserves and a spicy cheese fondue for dipping. This is fine ballast. And then we got and shared the generous Craft salad of heirloom greens, heirloom carrots, pea sprouts, french breakfast radish, in a zippy and wisely not poured on ginger miso dressing.

We were truly full, especially after I had two drinks, Chryss one. We eschewed the punch bowls as we were not "several ladies and gentleman" [sic], but did enjoy both items under both "Shaken & Refreshing" and Stirred & Direct." In the former category we tried a Mexican Fire Drill (jalapeño-infused tequila, pineapple, lime, demerara, smoked salt) and a Giddy Up! (Islay scotch, meletti amaro, orgeat, lemon, angostura bitter), in the latter a DiMaggio (rye whiskey, amaro montenegro, demerara, absinthe). I'm the one with the amaro fetish, especially as a cocktail ingredient--if you want some amazing bass notes, bring the amaro. All three did exactly what they should in perfect proportions; they all became a drink, a new wonderful thing of quality components. Much elegance. And for $11 for chi-chi cocktails, that' practically a bargain, these gouging days.

To finish up, it was time to park the car where we'd be sleeping, and we headed to Pacific Beach. (Thanks Roger and Judy for the fine digs!) PB is an odd place, very much a beach town of smoke shops, tattoo parlors, and too many too young too loud thinking that's too fun, so you really need to pick your spots. One we like is simply called The Tap Room, a hint to its unfrilly charms. Again, very pleasant help who know stuff about the beers and want to know if you like what you're drinking. Chryss enjoyed a refreshing Societe The Publican, a hoppy pale ale (yep, one of those that blurs the lines between PA and IPA, insisting there's no "i" in pale ale). I had two, again, of course: a Taproom Seven Deadly Sins (for their seventh anniversary), an imperial stout made by Modern Times. You could commit many sins in its delicious darkness. And then, after all those sins, I closed with an Alesmith Horny Devil, brilliantly Belgian and a chance for too many puns I will only regret.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spoon Up Brunch at Finch & Fork

That's just a photo of the creative and refreshing iced lattes Finch & Fork is serving, made with Earl Grey and orange and a salute to summer in a Mason jar glass, as I ate the fine food too quickly to be able to take photos. But it's simple as this--if you're looking for a wonderful brunch any weekend, go enjoy what chef James Siao is serving at the corner of Carrillo and Chapala. My bet is you won't stop to take photos, either.

One of the lures for the brunch is a bottomless mimosa for $12 (that might be too well enjoyed by that table-full of 20-year-olds, but at least they have good taste while they're too loud), but the obvious reason to come is for the food, that's both comfort food and made with a bit more care than you could or would in your own kitchen. Part of that is they do a bunch of things from scratch at F&F, and part of that is a pleasing precision, especially in plating that is festive yet never fussy. This is good simple food that looks simply good.

For instance, there's the short rib and sweet potato hash, eggs done to your liking, horseradish, chimichurri, and a sprinkling of frisee. The sweet potatoes are served in bite-sized cubes, just the right tenderness but far from mushy, and soaked through with some of that long-braised short rib juice. The meat, as a short rib should be, is fork tender and full of flavor. It all gets just enough zip from the horseradish, some zing from the chimichurri, and then the eggs pour their yolky goodness in, too. We're talking a very rich dish, but a perfect ballast for your day. And the frisee adds just enough of a lettuce palate cleanser effect, some neutral crunch the plate needed. Have that with a bloody Mary from the bar (you call your vodka and can make your own with all sorts of sauces and accoutrements, including bacon) and your day couldn't be off to a better start.

Or you can try the F&F's elegant take on a benedict, with Dungeness crab and asparagus over brioche. (There's that level that makes it more than you'd do at home.) It comes out almost looking like a salad, with a handful of greens atop the chopped asparagus and the eggs and brioche, but that again lightens the rest of the heavier, fuller flavors. Pretty clever and totally delicious.


Salad At Its Savory Best



People generally think of a salad as a lighter bite, but if they consider Pascale Beale’s new cookbook, Salade, they’ll have to think heavy — the book weighs almost three pounds.

Want to read the rest--plus get one of Beale's recipes--go to the Indy site.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A White Wine in Red Clothing

It's that time of year when deciding what wine to drink can be climatically tricky. Heat spikes for a few days, making one wish for the freshness of a chilled rosé; then some pre-June gloom rolls in, and that seems to ask for something a bit heartier, like a warming, spicy syrah. That those two things can often happen in one day only confuses the matter more.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chardonnay's Bad Reputation



Perhaps it's so easy to be snobby about chardonnay as it's ubiquitous as air. There are more acres of it planted in California than any other grape, red or white -- imagine the 142 square mile Bakersfield totally as a chardonnay vineyard, say. (Now quit laughing.) That makes the need for a Chardonnay Symposium, like the one held May 16-17 at the Dolphin Bay Resort in Pismo Beach, a bit clearer.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dive into the Downtown Art & Wine Tour

If you like the fruit of the vine and the creativity of the mind, hop onto Santa Barbara Downtown Organization’s annual Art & Wine Tour this Thursday, May 22. Combining the pleasures of 12 galleries/venues, 19 restaurants/food purveyors, and 13 wineries/distilleries, the event helps raise funds for the Downtown Holiday Parade in December. “As a downtown merchant, I love the energy and participation,” said George Merino of Chase Bar & Grill, which will be serving chicken piccata and penne alfredo at Churchill Jewelers. “It brings together a unique, diverse, and fun crowd that fits the spirit of our beautiful city.”

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rah Rah Black Sheep

It's obviously with tongue firmly in cheek--perhaps one of the delicious braised beef cheeks they serve--that Ruben Perez and his co-conspirator Nate Curteman called their new venture The Black Sheep. Perez's dad is chef Robert Perez, who owns the next door and more upscale and ever fighting its just-off-State Street location Seagrass, so to do what the Black Sheep is trying to do--elegant bistro food in a comfortable (think beer as important as wine, servers in hipster hats) atmosphere at a fair price--seems like a sort of, well, comedown isn't the right word. Come around to where more and more of dining is, anymore, for good or ill, is more like it. After all, we all want to go out, have stuff we won't make at home (start with a little gem salad, but then char it, serve it with a house ranch, some kumquat relish...and a perfectly fried sweetbread), and not feel like we can't do that again until next month's paycheck rolls in. So, welcome Black Sheep.

It's in the spot where the wine bar Taste was, briefly (also Perez family owned), a surprisingly bright and airy room at 26 E. Ortega Street--a fine combo of one large window on one side, one long bar on the other. (I could easily imagine it becoming a place to be, and be seen.) Most of the menu is built around small plates, so bring friends and an appetite and taste away. It's a menu where the grace is in the details--a bracing plate of pickled vegetables comes with a stunning swirl of beet juice, the amuse house-fired potato chips flecked with fiery togarashi. It might be a bit more of a meat-eater's delight then the place to bring your vegetarian partner, for even the roasted heirloom carrots get their depth from duck fat, but carnivores will rejoice with offerings like roasted bone marrow.

In our quick visit we didn't have time to sample any of the big plates, but they looked enticing, from sautéed seabass with Spanish chorizo (ah, there's the meat again), fingerling potatoes, onions and tomatoes to those grass-fed beef cheeks, braised in banana leaves with ancho chili, annatto seed, tequila, lime, and tomatoes. And while I don't eat chicken much, especially since we've got five named hens in our backyard making us eggs (it's so hard to eat things with names that also feed you), the re-constructed chicken, with garlic-rubbed roasted bread, house-made mustard, and shallot roasted garlic marmalade sounds even more fascinating when described. It's a galantine (or ballotine--didn't see if it was cylindrical), the kind of thing you think only exists in your Larousse Gastronomique that no one makes anymore. So, of course, someday I'll have to try it. Robert Perez is still making the food for both restaurants as they share a kitchen, so you know everything is going to be amazing with a twist or two you might not expect, things like burrata, that creamy cheese stuffed with creamy cheese that is the essence of a modern Italian summer plate, with, of all things, a mango chutney.

Add in a not-too-long but well curated beer and wine list--think Great Divide and Lost Abbey for ales, Refugio Ranch and Bonaccorsi for vino--and you're going to have a lovely evening.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Lament for Things No Longer Rosie

Santa Barbara is getting a little less sweet now that pastry chef Rosie Moot is moving on from the Wine Cask and Intermezzo, eventually heading back east where she's originally from. This was her last weekend. She had been at Wine Cask long enough to make me crave desserts when I usually don't, as I don't have a sweet tooth that needs a 12-step program. Then again, as sweet as she is as a person, she knows enough to make her desserts hew to the savory line as much as possible. The classic example of that might be her butterscotch pudding so snowed with fleur de sel it could almost seem a pretzel, the sweet and salty edging each others' pleasures further and further up. It was seemingly simple and complexly delicious.

And then there was the miracle of what she could do frying things, which generally sounds like a dessert disaster--that risk of dropping a little cannonball of dough into your gullet atop a fine meal. Rosie never did that, somehow frying to perfect crispiness and not beyond, her dough ever feathery, yet substantial enough to please. There where those pumpkin beignets that were a dream place where New Orleans and Dia de los Muertos met in a culinary tango on your tongue. On the menu now there are lemon-lavender beignets, crisp pocket pillows full of zippy citrus cream with just a hint of lavender lift--they're not perfumy in the least--sitting atop a bit more of the lemon cream, some miracle of the market halved blackberries, and aside a black currant sorbet that adds yet a whole nother palette to your palate. Never fussy in the least, it's something you feel you should be able to do at home, but you know you never could.

Like, say, a market crisp, currently with the first of the season nectarines (which perhaps bake even better as they're a bit firmer than those who get more heat on the tree). Something this simple shouldn't be this good, but it is, both crunchy from the dough and ripe from the stone fruit, and then topped with a honey gelato that sounds much more sweet than it is.

Rosie Moot, you will be missed. My one consolation is I will have to run a bit less without your end of the meal temptations beckoning.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Reverse Wine Pairing Dinner

Which came first, the roasted asparagus, lardo, cured egg, and Meyer lemon or the two rosés? In the case of the Food & Wine Safari event held recently at the Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore in Montecito, it was actually the wine. Hosted by Elizabeth Reed and Ken Fitzpatrick, the pair behind the Safari, the event was one of six per year they've held the past four years, a "reverse wine pairing dinner."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tasting at 95+ Points

One thousand five hundred and ninety-two dollars and ninety-two cents of wine sits on a bar in front of me. I don't get to drink all of it (thank god), but at an ounce and a half per taste, I know I'm going to leave happy and with crimson-stained teeth, as seven of the eight are the reddest of reds.

I'm fortunate to be at a proclaimed "Stunning Rhones (and One Chardonnay)" tasting presented by the Winehound in Santa Barbara with fourteen other people willing to fork over $95 to sample 772 points of wine. That's an average of 96.5 points (as awarded by Wine Advocate) per bottle, the kind of wine writers' praise that would lead to some "My Honor Student Wine Kicked Your Plonk's Tuchas" bumper stickers. It was a terrific opportunity to learn a host of things, like, "How much should a good wine cost?" and "How different are French and Californian expressions of syrah-based blends?" and "If you can get the teacher's prize pupil's product for a third of the price, should you?"

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blessed Are The Veggies


It takes something, still, to make people not miss meat. When I talked to some folks about the nearly all-vegetarian family style feast the Community Environmental Council put on Saturday night of Earth Day Weekend (I know, I know), they’d ask, “And it was good without, you know, food?” So, despite it being 2014 and people realizing all the ways a meat-heavy diet might not be best for either themselves or the planet, it turns out you can’t proselytize enough for the Great Veggie Way.

Enter chef Jeff Olsson, from New West Catering and the recently opened, much lauded Industrial Eats. Yes, the Jeff Olsson who teaches a class in hog butchery. Yes, the Jeff Olsson who is known and loved for his handmade bacon. He was the lead in the kitchen for this spectacular, mostly meat free meal. (Note: there was supposed to be pancetta on the side with the little gems salad. Our table never got any. No one complained too loudly.) Afterward no one could complain about not getting enough, not having a wide enough range of flavors (admit it, my fellow carnivores, at a certain point even the best steak suddenly seems sadly samey), not sensing they’d had lovely products of the local land presented about as best as they could be.

It didn’t hurt that Buttonwood Farm was pouring three of its wines to match the meal. You could argue each of the wines got a bit better (or is that the way of all wine drinking?) – the first course’s 2012 Signature Sauvignon Blanc was bright and racy, perfect for the soothing minestrone it accompanied. And how lucky did they get with the weather for this dinner under the strings of lights luckily not blowing as badly as they had all day. (It was like the wind gods gave the dinner a bit of reprieve.) Still, it was just chill enough that opening with a soup warmed as a good soup should, especially since he broth was vivid yet clear and the white beans and kale in it didn’t suffer from being soaked to a softening mush.

Course two you could think of as salad two ways, fresh and braised. Those little gems prove how amazingly flavorful just a green can be, especially when set off with just the right amount of shallot-thyme vinaigrette. Alongside that was braised mustard greens with all their spice, set in a lovely charred tomato, fennel, basil “sauce” to layer flavors and kick in some acid, some sweet. The 2013 Syrah Rosé worked pretty well with the dishes that covered the salad gamut, so you have to give it lots of credit for versatility.

Course 3 had the evening’s star, a curry roasted cauliflower that made clear why that vegetable is a current chef fave. It offers enough texture and depth to soak up whatever you want to dish it with, and the hot chile, sweet onion, and mint all did the trick. That’s not to say the second dish of the course, a root-i-licious beets with not enough fresh favas, Drake Farms goat cheese and burnt-honey (yep, that’s fancy for caramel)-cayenne vinaigrette was any slouch, but it was more the ballast part compared to the flashy cauliflower (and has cauliflower ever followed that adjective before?). Here, the 2010 Cab Franc was just enough of a red to make it clear you can drink reds and not eat meat, but still not too much to overpower the dishes.

There was dessert, and it too was lovely, fruit with an olive oil cake so moist it didn’t get served with any dairy and didn’t need it, proving whipped cream is often just a sugary crutch for chefs who can’t make things good to begin with.

Add in the fine company – this was partially about break bread, and not just any but New Vineland, with all sorts of old and just new friends who care about the earth, what and how it provides for us, and how we can take that and make something satisfying and on its way to sacred.

This Farm-to-Table Dinner better happen again next Earth Day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Some Music for You: Heavenly Haden Harmony

The Haden Triplets’ — yes, that’s jazz legend Charlie Haden’s daughters — take on the old-time Americana songbook on their eponymous new CD, mining every ounce of pretty/purty out of songs whose core ore is just sad, sad, sad. God might seem far, but one’s love tends to be even farther in chestnuts like “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” and “Tiny Broken Heart.”

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Perfect Earth Day Wine Guide

Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California pulls off quite a feat, managing to be part coffee table book full of gorgeous photography, part guide to the ever-growing world of environmentally-aware grape growing and winemaking, part cookbook with seasonal recipes. Just released by the Wine Institute (so, yes, it's truly a trade book in that sense), it still makes the case that California, as it so often does in so many fields, is leading the way in wine sustainability.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An Earth Day Feast

(Given Farm photo)

It's easy to think of every day as Earth Day when you get to enjoy the bounty that abounds in Santa Barbara County. Just walk the booths of any of the farmers' markets, or even better grow some great produce or fruit yourself and you will know just what I mean--we live in an eater's paradise.

That point will get underscored this Saturday, April 26th at the first ever Farm to Table Dinner at Earth Day from 7-9 pm at Alameda Park. After all the other hoopla celebrating gaia, a group of people will partake in an outdoor pop-up unlike any other. Plus it gives people in town the chance to feast on the food of chef Jeff Olsson, known as the longtime proprietor of New West Catering, whose recently opened Industrial Eats in Buellton has been earning raves (if a bit too far away raves). His eats will be matched with wine from Buttonwood Farm Winery and beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Co., too, so no one goes thirsty.

The evening kicks off with a reception around the gazebo (so wonderful worker bees can set the meal up as partiers look on) that features artisan snacks by Isabella Gourmet Foods (the fine upscale market-almost-deli on Figueroa) accompanied by 2012 Buttonwood Grenache Blanc, Firestone 805, and Lori's Lemonade--lovely local drinks all.

What will follow is Olsson's four-course family style feast (so you have to rub elbows and talk and learn the pleasures of the table).

Course 1: minestrone of white beans, green garlic, and black kale with olive oil grissini (breadsticks, that is), accompanied by the 2012 Buttonwood Signature Sauvignon Blanc

Course 2: little gems with farm egg, crispy pancetta, and shallot-thyme vinaigrette AND Chapala Farms braised mustard greens with charred tomato, fennel, and basil, accompanied by the 2013 Buttonwood Syrah Rose

Course 3: heirloom beets with fresh favas, Drake Farms goat cheese and burnt honey-cayenne vinaigrette AND curry roasted cauliflower with hot chile, sweet onion, and mint PLUS New Vineland bread and crackers, heirloom tomato butter, Buttonwood Farm olive oil and tapenades, accompanied by the 2010 Buttonwood Cabernet Franc

Course 4: spring berry pudding with olive oil cake and Rancho La Vina walnut cookie, Green Star coffee

"With our festival theme this year of Local Roots, we wanted to drive a conversation around locally grown food," says Sigrid Wright, Earth Day Festival Director. "Our global food system is incredibly intensive in terms of water and energy, and yet three times a day we all have the power to make choices that are better for the planet. Eating locally grown, in-season food is one way to make Earth Day every day." (OK, maybe someone influenced my lead to this blog post a tiny bit.)

"We also wanted to create something at Earth Day that helps stitch the fabric of community," Wright continued. "Putting people at a table to literally break bread together is very powerful. The farm-to-table dinner is about giving thanks for the abundance of our region, exposing people to an exquisitely designed vegetarian-friendly menu, and ultimately building community."

Tickets are being sold for $60 a person and guests must be 21 or older. For info, check out the CEC webpage.

Wine Keeps On Sipping into the Futures

Wine events don't often come with 57-page spiral bound programs, but perhaps more should. Or that would be the easy assumption after sampling at the 2014 Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting this past weekend at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant. This was the second year the instant hot spot in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone has hosted futures and they've quickly made it their own, especially when one of the stars of the tasting is a wine they helped create with Justin Willet: the Vallin 2013 Rosé (a 100% Syrah grape expression, beautiful pink going to gold with a lilting flavor to match).

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole Foods' One Wine Program in Southern California

It seems that if Whole Foods comes a-calling you can't say no if you're a Central Coast winery. Make that even one in Temecula, as Fallbrook that far south has been part of the One Wine program. "We get to come in and cherry pick the barrels," Roger Fawcett, Whole Foods Market Southern Pacific region specialty associate coordinator, explains. "And then the wines we produce are exclusive not just to Whole Foods but to the region" -- you can't purchase these outside of southern California. Even better, the line is set up to keep wines moderately priced: no bottle breaks that $20 barrier that pinches the wallet a bit. And you're not going crazy if this sounds like a program Whole Foods did called "Collaboration" -- that was the just Santa Barbara-focused, and not quite as inexpensive precursor to One Wine.

Want to read the rest, then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

9 Rules for Fun at Wine Fests

Not just flowers but festivals bloom in spring -- it's a prime time for wine regions to pull out all the corks, as it were. In just the next three weeks one doesn't have to wonder too far to attend the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend (it used to be just a one day fest, but now it's days of delight) April 10 - 13 mostly in the Santa Ynez Valley; the Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting at Les Marchands in Santa Barbara on April 19; and then the Paso Robles Cabs of Distinction Gala on April 26.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why Size Doesn't Matter

There are hundreds of reasons to go to wine festivals - often that's the number of wines you can have poured into your tasting glass - but one of the best is to get to meet and hear the winemakers talk their craft. We don't get to do this enough in the world, to hear artisans talk their way through what they do. Luckily, many winemakers are loquacious, like Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, who at the recent Garagiste Festival held in Solvang March 28-30, let loose lines like, "The wonderful thing about wine is the answer is always, 'It depends,'" and, "With grapes as good as the ones from Larner Vineyard, I don't call myself a winemaker, I call myself a grape-herder."

Want to read then rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tiny Production, Big Impact

A bunch of musicians get together in the part of the house where they usually park the car, and they're just a garage band. Some folks opt to make wine in the same spot and they're garagistes, since it's wine, and the French make wine fabulous. Garagistes make fabulous wine right here in California, too, and if you want to learn more about these micro-producers, you should check out The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, March 28-30 at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall.

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grilled Shrimp and Sausage @ Paradise Café: Cassoulet a Santa Barbara Way


Would a cassoulet by any other recipe taste as sweet?

It might if you’re used to being enticed by the oak grill smells that waft about the intersection of Anacapa and Ortega. Paradise Café offers something simply called Grilled Shrimp and Sausage ($15.95), but simple it isn’t. Not that it’s complex. But it surprises.

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

5 White Wines to Pair (or Not) With Fish Tacos


Given the unseasonably warm weather of late (and do we need to start a pool about when the term unseasonable has to be struck from the dictionary as meaningless?), it seemed time to wash the spiders out of the trusty, not-too-rusty Weber and grill up some veggies and fish for a heaping helping of tacos. While perhaps nothing beats a good homemade margarita to accompany such a feast with friends, it's a bit too easy to have a second and maybe more margaritas, and then the night just becomes a tempestuous tequila haze. If the weather wants to stay warm into the evening, it might be better to find a wine to quaff, especially if that wine can pour inexpensively. I mean, we all love our friends, but we can't share the top shelf every time they come over (or they will never stop coming over).

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Triple Threat Jeff Fischer and Habit Wines



Jeff Fischer is a winemaker. Jeff Fischer is an actor. Jeff Fischer is a character on American Dad! All three of these Fischers are the same man. Fischer, pretty much all the manpower of Habit Wines, recently agreed to an email interview--as he could work that in while he was on set. About his two day jobs he admitted, "It's pretty insane. I honestly don't sleep much, my brain is either thinking about auditions, worried about getting a job, or the winery, grapes, bottling etc. all the time. I try to never miss an acting job due to wine as that pays the bills and allows me to continue to make wine, but as I've grown in size from 50 cases in 2008 making just two wines, to over 2000 cases in 2013 making seven different wines, the wine business has gotten pretty serious. So basically my day is divided between the two. Luckily with technology, I can be on the road and audition, as well as ship wine and keep up with the business from L.A. or the winery."

Want ot read the rest then do so at the KCET Food Blog.