Friday, January 27, 2017

Wine + Food = Two Times Good

What's in a name? Well, if it's both wine and food, that's twice as good, no?

That's what the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum figured, so to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the longest running feast in Santa Barbara County it officially changed the name of the Santa Barbara Wine Festival to the Santa Barbara Food + Wine Festival.

In the photo above you see Meredith Moore, the extraordinary organizer of this fete, showing off the new logo. The name isn't just branding bluster but the lord's honest truth, for no wine festival has as much or as good food as this one, which makes sense since SB has so much fine food to offer. But Moore has always also worked to get food booths close to wines that could suggest spot-on pairings, and her hope for the 2017 edition is to have a food vendor alongside each winery, 50 for 50.That's a perfect score in more ways than one.

Here's some history of my coverage of the Festival in past years, when you had to suffer with only 20 or 30 food booths (of course, you might have got on the line at Chef Michael Hutchings or Renaud's or Ca Dario more than once, but I won't tell).

Away from State Street for Solstice

A Festival from the Winery's Perspective

Under the Oaks

A Museum-Quality Wine Festival

And, in a moment of prescience, we gave the festival a Santa Barbara Independent Foodie Award back in 2012.

So you might want to take advantage of the deal they've got cooking right now:
Member Price: $75, Non-member Price: $100
*LIMITED TIME OFFER* Use promo code "wineandfood" to receive Member pricing on general admission. Hurry – this offer expires on Sunday, 1/29/17, at 10:00 PM! Tickets on sale here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sip This: Dulce Vida Grapefruit

Flavored tequila might seem a superfluous notion, like gilding a lily or bronzing an orchid. But if you don’t have the time to pour and shake, there’s Dulce Vida. (They’ve got a lime version in addition to the grapefruit.) They infuse with real flavors, so you definitely get your Paloma on as soon as you open the bottle. Just pour over ice, and add club soda depending on how many you will consume.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Marco Fossati Finds Focus at Four Seasons The Biltmore

Talking with Marco Fossati — executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore since May — is a thrill, as he tosses out ideas, words, and even his hands in a wonderful expression of creativity and passion. That energy is already transforming what’s happening with the food at the hotel, as he leads his team of 82 cooks and seven chefs so that room-service breakfast is as fabulous as the most spectacular wedding feast.

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

Sip This: d'Aristi Xtabentun

If you want something unusual, exotic, sweet, and lovely, this liqueur is worth your attention. Its history goes back to the Mayans, and then the Spaniards whipped a bit of anisette into the mix, a rare time that imperialists actually added something of value. That flavor base gets mixed with rum, and the result is Xtabentún (pronounced shtab-en-TOON, or just point at the elaborately decorated yellow label).

If you want to read the rest do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sip This: Ciù Ciù Bacchus Piceno

Explore outside the better-known regions of Italy and you can find some pleasing values, such as this red blend from Marche (on the Adriatic Coast) made of 50 percent sangiovese and 50 percent montepulciano — that’s the grape, not the village in Tuscany, which makes a red wine from sangio, actually. It does get confusing.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You Need a Visit to Loquita

Smoke. A scent, a flavor, a memory. Something calling us home to a home we never had (I'm assuming I have no cave-dwelling readers). Or, perhaps we've evolved into homo ignis in a hope to return to the fire (plus of late it's been really hard to buy we've earned the sapiens, but that's a different kettle of Trump).

Take that first paragraph as a slow burn to the topic of this post--Loquita, the latest restaurant opened by Acme Hospitality, who have already graced Santa Barbara with the likes of The Lark, Les Marchands, Lucky Penny, and Helena Avenue Bakery (surely sad its name also doesn't begin with a "L"). When you walk in you can't not sense the wood-fire that's the heart of the open kitchen, waiting to make your dinner smokily luscious. And we're not talking a pizza oven, but an out-and-out grill, early in the evening's service crammed with halved lemons, their citrus crisping.

For Loquita, taking its cuisine cues from Spain, does things simply, but that word can seem so diminishing. Here it means get to delicious with the fewest amount of flourishes. Much of that is topnotch ingredients--Spain was farm-to-table before we invented hyphens. But it's also not being afraid of flavor; acids are everywhere, bright and beautiful, coming from those grilled lemons, from sherry vinegar, from the salted, preserved sea (ah, white anchovy, bait turned delicacy).

As an eating strategy you're meant to share, so pick several pintxos with your cocktails--and do have cocktails, from the currently in fashion Spanish G&Ts, which means craft gin and celery bitters and peppercorns in one option, say, to the mixed drinks, like one rooted in mezcal (more smoke) and amaro--and then a bunch of tapas, and close with a shared paella. Bring lots of friends, as it's supposed to be social, shared food a currency, a language, a love we can then all have on our tongues. (I don't mean to wax poetic, but those cocktails....)

Don't skip something like a salad, especially as it goes by Hinojo, and that means fennel. Someone plays a mean mandolin in the kitchen, it's shaved so fine, as is apple, so much crunch and vivid flavor. But there's more, if only a bit--radicchio for yet more bite, this shading to pepper. Then some walnuts, not so much candied as once neighbors to something candied--it's hard to believe they could be sweetened so delicately. The dressing is a quick coat of honey mustard vin, all written very lower case, and think how hard that is as you remember every other heavy-handed honey mustard dressing of your life. The last perfect touch, Manchego, Spain's national cheese (if it isn't officially I'm naming it that), but in little blocks, distinctly declaring their fatty cheesiness amidst the rest of the pure, insisting, "Sure, this is a salad, that's healthy, but c'mon! you're out to dinner!"

And please, for the sake of all that's holy and swims in the sea, don't skip Pescado. This is one of the best fish dishes I've had in years, and if you thought the salad was simple.... Mediterranean sea bream, aka dorade, is the star, a perfect filet with crispy skin and all of the ocean in each tasty bite. But under that there are also excellently executed gigante beans, skins solid, interiors creamy. Atop some frisee,  not just the visual curlicue the plate needs but again that pepper and zip, the latter echoed in the lemon no doubt squeezed from more of those wood-roasted fruit. Get a bit of everything in one bite and you might be in Barcelona. (Oh, I haven't meant to ignore the great remodel of the space Loquita's in--I said it was an Acme project, so you know it's going to be designed elegantly. Try to get a seat at the "chef's table" bar right along the kitchen, so you can watch everything else you won't be able to eat get prepared, too.)

I don't mean to pooh-pooh the paella, which was lovely, especially the lowest rice level done to delicious diamonds (ok, eating diamonds would hurt, but you know what I mean). But Pescado! I dream of Pescado! Even with the paella, the vegetarian paella--that's how tough we were on the kitchen, not letting them easily please us with meat or mariscos--a roasted delight, thanks to the wild mushrooms, the Brussel sprouts (what better use of them than on something blasted by an oven for heat), the eggplant melting into unctuous ghosts of itself--I still want to swim with Pescado.

And that didn't stop us from churros, because what do you take us for, penitents?