Friday, September 30, 2016

Can You Dig It?

Sure, the pure products of America go crazy. We can buy a separate something for any time and casually toss it away in no time. But the damn things can be fun, too.

Take the photo above. On the left, Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock & Rye, about which I've already written, but not quite like this. For now you can buy it in single serving 100ml cans, the first ever high proof cocktail wrapped in tin for your pop-topping enjoyment. They're tiny, too, easy to hide--in a Christmas stocking, Cooper Spirits Company already suggests (welcome, holiday shoppers!)--but we all know better. These are going to be huge hits with people on the road, at work, and those who aren't supposed to be drinking (I can put this pre-made cocktail anywhere and it won't spill!).

That said, it is a tasty devil. As I put it last time: "This reinvention of an 1884 recipe adds honey, oranges, Angostura bitters, and rock candy — the nicest way to say sugar, ever — to straight rye whiskey. Nowhere near as gimmicky as it sounds since it starts with a fine rye base and is amped up to 100 proof, this is basically an old fashioned in a bottle; just add ice and an orange peel." OK, make that a can, and who needs the ice or peel? Let it rip. (Maybe, if you're being sophisticated and all, put it in the fridge a bit.)

On the right, in the photo above, you see the Peugeot Les Impitoyables Whisky Tasting Set. Sure, at this point in glass-making someone is out there trying to sell you a different glass to hold the water that you use to rinse out your mouth out after brushing your teeth, so it's easy to be skeptical. But this Peugeot has got some quite clever design. First, that's a metal disc under the glass that cradles the glass well. You store that in the freezer, and then the glass stays cold without any ice. (Of course I go off instructions and store the glass in the freezer too, which might be extreme, but it's been summer.) (Santa Barbara does too have a summer.) So, you get a nice chill without any dilution. And the leather coaster keeps the cold metal from messing up any of your tables, or your work desk, if you like to write with a finger or two of something delightful as a muse.

The glass shape is clever, too, what with the wide reservoir for good swirling to get the scents a-roving toward your nose, and then the chimney that helps whisk it right there. Sure worked for a can of Slow & Low Rock & Rye. Which defeats the purpose of the can, I know. But using two products at once made me feel truly patriotic.

Viva Brings New Life to La Arcada

Brendan Searls is already well-known in Santa Barbara for his role in such establishments as Video Shmideo, Bogart’s, and Dargan’s, but these days, he is most excited about his latest challenge: Viva Modern Mexican Cuisine, located in the La Arcada spot previously occupied by Cielito. “This is truly a hidden gem — we could be in Barcelona, we could be in Prague, we could be in Mexico City,” said Searls, whose official opening weekend was in August during Fiesta. “Where else in this town can you sit and people watch, watch turtles, and not have to deal with traffic?”

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Taking It Lion Down

Pleased as the punch they often serve you for free as they're just that nice and good at The Good Lion that I got to be the call-out quote in Gabe Saglie's fine (of course, it's Gabe!) article about a Santa Barbara jaunt in West Hollywood Magazine this Autumn issue.

The link is here, and then scroll along to page 89 for the quote and 84 for the beginning of the story.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Talkin' and Readin' Feast Days

Recently I sat down and chatted with KCSB News, in particular the very talented Lisa Osborn, who asked me about Feast Days and had me read a couple of poems. You can listen in to the segment here.

Red Blends Trend Terrifically Tasty

Since Santa Barbara County is so good at growing so many varietals of grapes so well (more than 50, if you cared to know), it makes sense its winemakers start to wonder, “What will happen if we put a bit of varietal A with some of varietal B?” Often that algebra of blending might mix varietals G, S, and M, but we’ll get to that. 

Recently the Vintners Association hosted a tasting at Santa Barbara’s delightful and delicious Barbareño that featured 13 wineries pouring 33 red blends that attested to the palates and creativity in the region. While the red blends tend to play in century-old patterns begun by the French – people generally either mix Bordeaux grapes or Rhone grapes together – of course there’s always a wildcard or two.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Santa Barbara Vintners blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Liquor Companies Love to Love You, Baby

So there’s a wonder-material fabric bracelet attached to my wrist that I’m not supposed to take off for six days, despite my wrist being attached to my body in the humidor that’s New Orleans in July — no doubt a clever inventor’s inspiration for the steam room. I’ll have to use the chip in the bracelet to sign electronically into and out of rooms, so it’s either a harbinger of a creepy future or a sign someone’s really worried about losing me.

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

(Yep, this is my Indy overview of Tales of the Cocktail--the gift that keeps giving.)

The 2016 Foodie Awards

Somehow it's the seventh year of these, an idea I dreamed up way back when I was the Indy's Food Editor--that they needed a food equivalent for their Indy Awards they give to local theater. We've got a lot to be very thankful for around these tasty parts. (And a word about qualifying--we try to make a place be open for a year before they get one, just to be sure they've got a bit of staying power. We'd rather be late a year or two than too early....)


This year, when we polled our staff, contributors, and trusted cadre of restaurant-loving friends, more than 30 nominations poured in for our seventh annual Foodie Awards, from the priciest places in town all the way to tasty, much-easier-on-the-wallet taquerías.

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Toting the Gin Bottles Out after Midnight

Edward Albee's dead and the moment takes a certain tone of 20th century theater with him--a realism acid-bathed in just enough cynicism to make it shine all the more frightfully brightly. His passing has hit me more than I would have guessed it would, so I'm going to do something he never would and get all sentimental.

Way back when I was in college at Johns Hopkins I had numerous opportunities to meet famous writers--one of the advantages of being part of the Writing Seminars in a small school best known for its med school, you just didn't have too many other writerly people around hoping to hang with the stars. That meant getting to meet the likes of Borges and Barthelme and Edward Albee in small groups.

Luckily for me I was young enough not to quite grasp what meeting such people meant. In the case of Albee, this was the early '80s so he was in his "lost years," so to speak, and his glories of Virginia Woolf and Zoo Story happened back when I was still in diapers practically. He got to seem a bit of a living museum piece, even if he was only probably my age now. (Harumph.) Still, at the dinner before his talk on campus, he was urbane and droll and I can still see the twinkle of his eyes, as if the world was ever-enjoyable and devourable and something he could turn into drama.

At one point I recall us discussing much-beloved Dr. Richard Macksey, professor of Humanities. In addition to being a wonderful teacher, Macksey is independently wealthy. Albee commented on Macksey’s son arriving at his book signing with first editions of all of Albee’s plays. The talk moved on to Macksey’s wealth, for which we all offered opinions: inheritance, a scientific invention, and Albee’s refinement of the latter, that the good professor had invented the Macksey (sic) pad.

And to shift gears without benefit of a writerly clutch, here's what I wrote in 2005, after getting to see a powerful production of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? at the Taper in Los Angeles. It seems as fitting an obit as I can offer.

They fought with their words, their bodies and their deeds
doin' the things that they want to
When they finished fighting, they exited the stage
doin' the things that they want to
I was firmly struck by the way they had behaved
doin' the things that they want to

--Lou Reed

We saw Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? this weekend, and it put me in mind of Lou Reed's take on Sam Sheppard, and the old joke, "Sure it's searing, but so's a microwave," and how nothing beats the shear lump-throating voyeurism of watching a couple go at it with everything at stake, whether in Macbeth or Albee's own Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage.

If you get a chance to see the play, do. So many questions it wrestles with, or it leaves you to wrestle with--what's so uncomfortable about it isn't a man in love with a goat but the blurt-like laughter the audience has to let out at the bitterest of invective (for just one instance, the line "Goat Fuckers Anonymous" seems hilarious in context), our only release as we wonder what love is and what its limits are, how much we are animals, how fragile a bulwark art is for anything, how much we want to tell stories we believe in, how much we can do if we think we can get away with it, how much we think we can get away with, period.

Without too much of a spoiler, the ending is about as devastating as theater can be, a tableau of Biblical, sacrificial, Greek tragic and Freudianly Oedipal power. And when there's power, there's always loss.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Harvest 2016 Report: Great Grapes, Good Numbers

2015 put the fear of god into many winemakers, if god is someone who doesn’t like grapes. Yields were down across California, often 50% down. The dreaded drought that began in 2012 continued, and while the quality of the grapes was strong, their amount was scant. “As much as we hate the drought,” Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine points out, “The struggling vines are giving us some pretty magnificent fruit to work with.”

Wat to read the rest then do so at the Santa Barbara Vintners Association blog.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sip This: 2015 Margerum M5 White

Margerum Wine Company 2015 M5 White: It just had to be a matter of time before Doug Margerum would release a white partner to his Rhône blend M5 that seems to be sold by the glass in every other restaurant in Santa Barbara County. Just like its red relative, the white M5 is luscious on its own but is really meant to pair with food (hence the red’s omnipresence on those wine lists).

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nomad Italian Reaches the Beach

Though Convivo occupies the ground floor and patio of the recently renovated Santa Barbara Inn, Chef Peter McNee doesn’t want that to define the new restaurant, which he co-owns with Larry Mindel, founder of the upscale Il Fornaio chain. “We are not a hotel restaurant,” said McNee. “We’re a restaurant that’s located just across from the beach. I couldn’t be luckier to look out every day at the ocean. So come over and have lunch and dinner, from salad to pizza to pastas to crudo. There are a lot of different directions you can go.”

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016