Friday, June 30, 2017

Belly Up to Barbareno's BBQ

Your nose, if it's a oak smoke loving schnoz, will no doubt lead you down De La Vina on Thursdays and Fridays around lunch time. That's because Barbareño has just started serving up CA BBQ, but it's telling on their menu they don't abbreviate the words. That's because there's never a sense of a shortcut here, and they aren't going to do that for a casual lunch service that stars one of their popular-from-day-one proteins, red oak smoked tri-tip, here in a sandwich slathered with their bright and flavor-popping pico de gallo. (You can order meats/the veggies by weight, if you want to skip the bread, btw--nice move.)

So it works like this: you go and order at the door, then grab a table on their patio lovelier than it has a right to be smack up against De La Vina. You take in more of the good grill smell, and if you ordered a drink, from iced tea to beer, you'll sip a bit anticipating. (I highly recommend the poorly named but deliciously crafted Ice from Modern Times--those San Diegans make magic with everything they brew, including this pilsner that's just hoppy enough but not too. And it only clocks in at 4.8%.)

You can get that tri-tip or a smoked chicken or grilled veggies with a smoked harissa romesco I'm sorry I didn't try today. (Ah, a reason to go again.) (Wait, I didn't need one.) Or you can get the pulled pork you see above, spiced with a cumin rub, laced with bigger than you think they'd be but it works pickled tomatillos. That's a ciabatta roll that's hefty enough to hold all its contents, and that has avocado BBQ sauce keeping it moist and ridiculously flavorful--GM Jesse Gaddy said it took some tries, but in their never-ending quest to bring the avocado, they had to do it. You will get a little cup extra of the sauce and eat some of it on your fork all by itself, hoping to puzzle out its combo of tasty goodness (of course avo so that good fat and creaminess, but then smoke, too, but citrus, but just the haunt of it...). The pork is ridiculously good, with some crispy bits but mostly meltingly tender, and then occasional a bit of pork fat, for that different texture thing. Plus, fat is yummy, let's face it, as long as there's not too much.

For sides you can get their evening menu pinquito beans (and if you haven't had them why not?), a ranch slaw featuring fennel (what shouldn't?), a mustard potato salad, grilled sourdough--their in-house usual--with garlic butter, or a grilled avocado, the hole where its pit sat awash in some of that garlic butter, perhaps.

Your only regret will be the only serve lunch on Thursdays and Fridays.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sip This: Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay Napa Valley 2014

Think of this as delicious history in a bottle: while famed Napa pioneer Mike Grgich started his namesake winery in 1977 — hence this 40th anniversary chardonnay released this year — he also was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena when it won for its chardonnay at the infamous Judgment of Paris tasting that shocked the wine world in 1976 and established California’s reputation.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Natural History Never Tasted This Good

I've been writing about the Santa Barbara Wine Festival for ten years, long enough for it to officially change its name to the Santa Barbara Food + Wine Festival to recognize you get as much to eat as drink (more on that in a bit). But that decade really is just a grape in the bucket, so to speak, for the festival--put on by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History--is celebrating its 30th Anniversary.

That edition is happening this Saturday under the oaks behind the Museum. So it seemed appropriate to give a quick course in eight reasons you need to go if you care about southern California wine, local food, and your own satisfaction.

1) It was first. Check out that name. You don't get that by jumping in late to the "oh, Santa Barbara wines are cool" game. They've been doing this since 1983 (they missed a couple years)--that's 21 B.S. (Before Sideways). The Museum deserves huge props for supporting the local industry in its youth.

2) Because they were first, they've earned the respect and affection of the founding winemakers of the region. So not only will you get to taste Alma Rosa and Au Bon Climat and Brander and Fiddlehead and Ken Brown and Longoria and Lumen and Qupe, the odds are pretty good the person pouring that wine will be Richard Sanford or Jim Clendenen or Fred Brander or Kathy Joseph or Ken Brown or Richard Longoria or Lane Tanner or Bob Lindquist. You learn stuff here, just by being near. It's not just some well-meaning but unknowing volunteer telling you, "Yes, the chardonnay is a white!"

3) Oaks. They're really fun to stand under. They keep you cool. And there's a creek bed. Rumor has it, there was even water in it this past winter. (That is, there's no more beautiful setting for a wine event.)

4) Food is important at wine festivals, if for nothing else than to give you ballast. But it's way better than that at SBW+FF. A few years back they even had Michael Hutchings do cooking classes--now he just feeds you directly. But he's only one star, and the festival also knows how to keep track of what's latest and greatest. Highlights include Barbareño, Bob's Well Bread, Pico, Loquita, and the just opened and highly lauded Bear and Star. It's the kind of event where the DD's (who, if they pre-register are free entrants with a paying guest) get to have almost as good a time as the tipplers.

5) This year there will be booze. Santa Barbara's own Ian Cutler will serving up tastes of his deliciously distilled wares.

6) It's run, with a keen sense of everything anyone might want or need, by event consigliere (that might not be her official title) Meridith Moore. There's no wiser, more gracious host, and the museum is very lucky to have her.

7) Just as the food has kept up with what's happening, so have the invited wineries. So it's not just a respect for the long-time players, it's the folks with a strong if not as long track record, like Larry Schaffer at tercero (he will have homemade bread for you too, no doubt, the man knows his yeast) and Tablas Creek from Paso bringing its stable of brilliant Rhone wines (have their rosé, you will be hot, it will be refreshing), and Larner Wines (did you hear they've finally got permission to have a tasting room by appointment!). And then there are newer, at least when it comes to their own wines, folks like Dave Potter and the brilliance he makes as Potek (here's hoping he's pouring his Kimsey Syrah), and Graham Tatomer, making Riesling and Gruner safe for southern CA. (Correction, change safe to delicious.)

8) One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the Wine Festival supports nature and science education for adults and children. So you have a great time and are doing something good. If there's ever a time we need more education and more science, it's now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bacara Blast

While Santa Barbara might like to show off, it still puts its fancy pants on one leg at a time. On June 25, those festive, fantastic trousers are going to be at the Bacara as it celebrates the first anniversary of the remake/remodel of its main restaurant Angel Oak with a party called One Under the Sun. Guests will get to feast on special dishes, enjoy drinks from local wineries and breweries, and take in our coastline from a gorgeous site.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

All Ginned Up

Despite the lyrical wisdom of Pink Floyd, we do need an education, especially when it’s a Gin Education Dinner. Just ask craft distiller Ian Cutler of Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, who is willing to be our teacher for the evening on June 12. “As opposed to whiskey, when it comes to gin, it’s still a mystery spirit to many people,” Cutler opines. “They often don’t even know what the key flavor is, let alone there are multiple styles.”

So think of the dinner/tasting that Cutler has developed with Phil Wright at Bar 29 as a way to lose your ginnocence, so speak. After a three-course meal paired with cocktails featuring jenever/London dry, Old Tom/barrel-rested, and New Western/sloe gin, you’ll know all about that key ingredient juniper (the taste gin-o-phobes often call Christmas tree), plus a whole bunch of history. Along the way you’ll have eaten a strawberry goat cheese salad, a Wagyu beef slider with bacon onion jam, lemon aioli and garlic fries, and sesame-ginger flat iron steak lettuce wraps with peanut sauce.

Cutler, always for “getting more knowledge out,” has often had a hand in public events, and when recently talking to Wright mentioned he hoped to do a gin dinner. Before he knew it he was pleased to have a partner, for as he says, “They’ve got some classy cocktails at Bar 29.”

Cutler – who currently only makes a New-Western style gin (that is, not just a slap of juniper, but something a bit more floral with some distinct citrus notes) – sums up the evening this way: “I’m just trying to fill that information gap about gin. It also helps me get out in the community, not just to get people to know my products but to know the more global sense of gin.”

4-1-1: Don’t end up under the host at Cutler’s Artisan Spirits Gin Education Dinner, Monday, June 12, 6:30 p.m. at Bar 29, 1134 Chapala St. Tickets are $65 per person, plus service fee (inclusive of tax and gratuity). For tickets and more information

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bitter and Beautiful

First, we just have to get over that there's a thing called Negroni Week, which simply means some cocktails have crazy good press agents. But hey, it's the Negroni, and to do that horrible thing of quoting myself: "If the martini is the little black dress of drinks, the Negroni is a sequined strapless gown — not for everyone, but for those who can pull it off, a sexy stunner. Sticky, sweet, bitter, beautiful, this cocktail traditionally made from gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth beguiles bartenders as it seems so simple, yet suggests so many variations (the drink itself is a twist on the Americano)."

Just tonight to get myself  prepared for writing this post I whipped up a rye variation, as I felt a hankering for dark liquor as opposed to clear (I love gin, but it can make head hurt when it's in a mean mood, and I never know when that mood is--I refuse to see this metaphorically). Let's call tonight's drink The Rye Amar Republic (the Rye-C-Groni?) and it goes like this (for one cocktail): 1.5 oz. rye, 1.5 oz. Amaro Lucano, 1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula. Ice, stir, up in a coupe, lemon peel. It's a lovely Amaro, smoother than many, and the fancier sweet vermouth ups the viscous quotient too--it's easy to imagine the lemon peel might stand straight up in the drink.

Meanwhile Acme Hospitality is having fun with the Negroni all week, so try to check to what they're doing--some money is going to charity, and if you fill out a passport from all 5 locations, you win valuable prizes (complimentary menu goodies). One of those Negronis is a donut (stuffed with campari cream, lathed in lemon juniper glaze, topped with candied lemon zest). I'll see you at Helena Ave. Bakery tomorrow myself. (Oh, and there's also Campari washed in jamon at Loquita. This little piggie went to Negroni....)

Here's the full deal, as you want the details:


The Lark

(Benefits Santa Barbara Humane Society)
6 Negroni cocktails featuring at least one per day, each day of the week

Negroni Jardin - $14
Dolin Genepy des Alpes, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Suze Dandelion Liqueur, house fennel bitters, fennel frond garnish

The Bitter End - $14
Venus Aquavit, Tempus Fugit Gran Classico, Punt e Mes Vermouth, lemon twist

Florita - $14
Correlejo Reposado Tequila, Campari, Napoleon Mandarin, lemon twist

Negroni Punsch - $14
Kronan Swedish Punsch, Leopold Bro’s Aperitivo, Botanist Gin, Batavia Arrack, lemon twist

Negroni Alexandre - $14
Ventura Spirits Strawberry Brandy, Campari, heavy cream, Crème de Cacao, dollop of house Campari whip, shaved dark chocolate

California Negroni - $14
Cocchi Americano, Maraschino, Aperol, Botanivore Gin, california laurel bay leaf, citrus-poached Bing cherry, Meyer lemon peel


(Benefits Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara)
serving the Bellota Negroni every day, all week long

Bellota Negroni - $14
Bellota Jamon-washed Campari, Gin Mare, Vermut Rojo, Amontillado sherry

Les Marchands

(Benefits Food from the Heart of Santa Barbara)
serving the Bruto Brazillian every day, all week long

Bruto Brazilian - $14
St. George Bruto Americano, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Avua Cachaca Amburana

Lucky Penny

(Benefits YStrive for Youth, Inc.)
serving the frozen Gertoni Frogroni every day, all week long

Gertoni Frogroni - $12
watermelon, gin, Carpano Bianco, Lillet rose, peach bitters

Helena Avenue Bakery

(Benefits Heal the Ocean)
serving Negroni Donuts all week long

Negroni Donut - $5
campari cream, lemon juniper glaze, candied lemon zest