Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Again, the oldest vintages were interesting to taste as how often do you get that chance?, but I'd still argue the sweet spot for the wines was eight or nine years, as that HP 2014 and Richard Longoria's 2013 were simply singing arias of Pinot magnificence that night. And it wasn't just the "old" masters of SB winemaking that knocked it out of the park--we also delighted in the very first Dragonette S&B Pinot 2019, a wee but big baby that's worth waiting out, the delicious, light on its feet Liquid Farm S&B Pinot 2018, and two wines from Tyler, who poured both S&B Pinot and a supremely elegant S&B Chardonnay.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Brilliant guitarist that not enough people know by name Marc Ribot has written his first book, Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist, and all those scary words in the title are meant to warn you. Not very many pages in, while eulogizing Derek Bailey (yet another level of obscure guitarist deep), Ribot writes: “The palpable fear of beginning from, of returning to…silence/nothing…is an expression of the fear that the sounds you make won’t compare favorably with the silence which preceded/follows it. This in turn represents a deeper fear. In music, too, silence may equal death. The suspicion that both are preferable, and all this implies, is among the oldest of terrors.”
You can read the rest of the review at the California Review of Books.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Alessia Patisserie + Café has such a musical ring to it that it’s surprising the name wasn’t the first thing that popped into Alessia Guehr’s mind before opening her jewel box of a spot on East Canon Perdido. But given that her parents, Brigitte Guehr and Norbert Schulz, are Santa Barbara food scene veterans — arguably, the creators of it — who both owned restaurants named after themselves, Alessia eventually realized, “I should keep up the family tradition.”
Sunday, July 25, 2021
If you’ve ever wondered how historical nonfiction can be dry like a martini and not dry like a textbook tome, you need to pick up Cecelia Tichi’s Gilded Age Cocktails. A professor of American literature and culture at Vanderbilt (and the Commodore who founded that university even makes an appearance in the book, as both a figure and a cocktail), Tichi brings to glittering life what it meant to drink from 1870-1910. Chock full of quotes from primary sources of the day with titles like 1890’s Society as I Have Found It, Tichi makes clear how much lubrication kept this period of history afloat, prior to the double blow of a first World War and Prohibition.
Friday, July 16, 2021
Richard Buckner, songwriter, singer, can open a song with the lines “Tough is as she does, won’t you slump on over and stir my shuffle down,” and you don’t get too hung up on not parsing each word exactly. Part of it is this is a song, and while the melody is simple, it’s still catchy enough in its strummy guitar way to draw you in. Part of it is Buckner sells it with his emotive baritone that helps make the somewhat odd words feel lived in. You get the emotional weight of a relationship from these lines even if you don’t get the outlines of the actors.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
In Charles Laughton’s fantastic 1955 fairy tale noir Night of the Hunter, Robert Mitchum’s curdled preacher is infamous for having “love” and “hate” tattooed across the knuckles of his hands (see Spike Lee and The Clash for just two echoes). As Mitchum puts it, these fingers are “always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t’other,” but luckily, it’s love that’s won.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Saturday, June 12, 2021
It’s 1990-something, and although fabulous Danielle Wiffard’s marriage is about to blow, fortunately for her (and this book’s readers), all of L.A.’s eligible bachelors, not to mention its ineligible but still very willing married men, are eager for a dalliance and maybe more. But not much more, for this is L.A., of course, and the surfaces tend to run surface deep. At least in the way they’re reflected in Josef Woodard’s biting but far from bitter debut novel Ladies Who Lunch: a satirical taste of L.A.
Care to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books site.
Monday, May 24, 2021
Think of Pico’s “Explore the Central Coast Winemaker Series” as Chef John Wayne Formica’s coming-out party. Formica officially became chef of the restaurant, which lives inside the Los Alamos General Store, on March 3, 2020, but then COVID cruelly crashed his party two weeks later. The restaurant, as he puts it, “bobbed and weaved” through the pandemic’s tiers and openings and closings over the next year — Zoom cooking classes for 70, takeout trials, and supporting the Feed the Valley project led by Bell’s down the road. But now, as the vaccines improve our outlook, Pico finally gets to shine under Formica’s vision.
Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site. (P.S. You will encounter the pork chop above in the story.)
Monday, May 17, 2021
It’s 1981, a few months after U2 released their debut album Boy. Perhaps the editors at The News-Letter knew a good joke when they saw one, so they assigned a boy to review it. That’s how I, a freshman and not even 18 yet, got to pen a review that’s not quite as embarrassing as I feared it would be upon re-reading it 40 years later. “Since all members of this group are under 21, musical history could be rewritten if this act gets itself together,” I offered in a bet-hedging opening graph.
Saturday, May 15, 2021
If there were any justice, the names Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop would be as well-remembered a baseball triumvirate as Tinker, Evers, and Chance. But if there were justice, there’d be no need for Eric Nusbaum’s wide-ranging, moving, and powerful history Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught Between. That first list of three names are the Mexican-American communities that existed in what we now know as Chávez Ravine, erased by history. Nusbaum’s book helps us see the vibrant life of those communities, done in at first by what was (arguably) a misguided desire to build public housing, but eventually became the golden real estate opportunity for Walter O’Malley to leave Brooklyn and bring Dodger baseball to the west coast.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
For our actual off-the-menu appetizer order, we got the spicy yellowfin tuna tartar. See above, on the black wide bowl that sits it off so well. Lopez likes draping edible flowers over dishes for effect, and it certainly works here, adding color palette to the flavor palate. The see-through thin taro root chips are great vehicles on which to devour this dish that ranges beyond a mere sushi-esque exercise, especially given the soy sauce vinaigrette also gets a surprising double-down of umami from some smoked truffle, and then the lime, daikon, and chilies do all the expanding flavor work you would expect. Clean tasty, and the fish remained the star.
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
So it's almost time for me to cash in on an old half-joke of mine: for my 60th birthday I want a horn section, for my 70th a string section. (Never got further in the time line than that, but perhaps for my 80th, a single bugler playing "Taps"?) That's not to say even young me didn't get suckered in by the strength of strings, for there's this, ABC's debut album Lexicon of Love, which, in 1982, when I was all of 19, delineated how perfectly ridiculous and profound coexist. At that point I'd teen love-and-lost a couple of times, but those heartbreaks are the most stinging because you can't imagine anyone has ever felt as raw as you have, as even you haven't yet. And strings, dammit, they make that hurt so gorgeous.
How lovely is it, then, for much much older me to find this 2017 live version of the band, with a Martin Fry five years older than me (that's all?), still tuxedo-clad and immeasurably sad, leading the band in front of a whole orchestra. As the swell builds, there are so many versions of me to cry for. I'm sort of pleased this particular video never zooms in for a close up--it might be too much. Or even more, the too much is the wide shot, the panorama, the whole world winging its strings for you. (And who wouldn't want that?)
Speaking of want, I never got to see ABC live myself. Despite having not only tickets, but the opportunity to interview Fry himself as a novice radio DJ before a show in DC in 1982, it didn't happen. Fry was sick, it was the last gig of the US tour, the show was cancelled. And my love was unrequited. How perfect is that? If that's the trash aesthetic I suggest that we forget it....
Which, of course, gets me to the fourth to last C-90! Go! radio show on KCSB in March of 2021. I'm an old fuck now. I'm more deeply in love than I ever could have imagined at 19 (well, let's sure as hell hope so, no?). But I feel all the ages of my aches when the simple, stupid, lovely, so much of everything songs on a mixtape like 1990s' "Only the Lorn-ly" play. And especially when the strings come in.
You can listen to the show on Spinitron for two weeks from the post.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Think of Rachel Bloom’s memoir I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are as a bathroom book. It’s written in zippy chapters—some lists, some mini-screenplays, some poems from her childhood (they are often illustrated, as it seems she’s kept all her life’s journals, and yes, she is OCD)—so makes for quick, diverting reading when you might be busy otherwise. But it’s also a book about the bathroom: turns out it’s one of Bloom’s favorite locations, and you will get details. If you’re a squeamish reader, you have been warned.
Want to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
The James Beard Award–winning author and Netflix star Samin Nosrat needs no introduction. To call her thought- and taste-provoking. Salt Fat Acid Heat a cookbook is like saying Hamlet is a ghost story — except Shakespeare didn’t have such nifty infographics.
It’s our great fortune that she will be part of an UCSB Arts & Lectures virtual talk on Sunday, February 28, at 11 a.m. Moderated by Santa Barbara’s own restaurateur Sherry Villanueva, owner of The Lark, La Paloma, Loquita, and other hotspots, the chat also features Israeli-English author/chef Yotam Ottolenghi — remember when his book Plenty would be set dressing on television shows as a symbol that characters had hip taste?
Want to read the rest, then do so at the Independent's site.
And, yes, she's as warm and funny and self-deprecating and engaged as she seems on the Netflix show in real life, if a 35 minute phone interview is real life.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Eula Biss wants me to be better and I’m not sure I’m up for that. When I refer to the quick several page essays that build up to her book Having and Being Had as prose poems, I do so to praise and not blame, warn, not scare. Her jewel-like essays are pristine and precise, exciting and exacting. They ask of you as reader to weigh every word for there’s always a bit more there (and it has to do with you). It’s as if the space between each period and the first letter of her next sentence is a silent accusation of your life.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Which came first, the genever or the gin? Wait, you don't know genever? Well, then you should have been on the Zoom tasting I was part of on Monday, all about genever, America's Lost European Spirit (which as a tag line is brilliant marketing, no?).
So it's simple (unless you're trying to distill a good one)--genever, originating in the 1500s in Holland (well, The Low Countries, back in the day), must have two things: malt spirit + juniper berries. Like gin, which it preceded, it's usually got botanicals, sometimes of the "if I told you I'd have to kill you" variety. It can be aged or un-aged, in oak or not. It can have added caramel color to suggest it had been aged (kind of a reverse Grecian Formula for spirits). It's got a great history, helping create the term "dutch courage" and being connecting to William of Orange--when he married into English royalty, genever and gin came with him.
And this is way too late in my post to add the most important thing, it's damn delicious, in lots of different styles. Sarah Lawson-Stopps, bartender at Wildhawk in San Francisco and a genever brand ambassador, took us through the evening, a tasting of five different expressions showing the ranges within the two basic styles. The first, the old style, is darker and with more malt (15%-100%) and makes one think of whiskey, the second, the young style, is lighter, brighter, and more like a dry style gin (with a malt percentage under 15%).
That younger style is a bit more in ascendancy now, as genever is still recovering from its near fatal moment during U.S. Prohibition. But mixologists of the past 10 years or so find it fascinating for its backstory and versatility, so get used to seeing it more frequently behind your favorite bars. Why not, given Bobby's Schiedam Jenever you could easily assume was just a dry gin, but then its Indonesian botanicals sneak up on you--lemongrass, cardamom, ginger. Or when you could drink Rutte Old Simon Genever, 40% malt, so brilliantly complex, even more so with its additions of celery, carob, and a distillate of roasted hazelnuts! How convenient that along with our sample bottles (nowhere near the gorgeous full 750 ml bottles most genevers sell to the public in) we were sent snifter packets of classic botanicals to snort. Makes a Zoom event a lot more sensory.
And then there's the origin of a shot and a beer, which goes back to genever. Kopstootje is the Dutch term for this special ritual, and it translates as "head butt." So if you want to be a mating ram at your bar, get them to pour a healthy shot of genever into one of the classic tulip classics that match the spirit and have your beer ready to go. And by healthy shot, I mean one that almost over pours--the goal is to have an arcing meniscus of genever above the glass, the rainbow for you to wish the exciting future of your night upon. Then you lean in--I mean, you aren't trying to pick up that close to an overflowing glass--with your hands behind your back and sip deep. There's even a crazy method where you lip-lock the tulip into your mouth and toss it back that way, but I'm too old for that kind of uncouth thing. Even if the genever itself has a good four centuries on me.
*OK, this title doesn't really make sense, but I just really like this Eurythmics song, sorry.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
While the term Rhone Rangers always makes me think of winemakers astride giant wine bottles in Monument Valley--"Heigh ho, Nebuchadnezzar, away!"--the serious side of me never minds a ride with a few glasses of Syrah (or Grenache or Mourvedre or...). For as Santa Barbara legend Bob Lindquist put it, quoting Jim Fiolek, "Syrah delivers what Merlot promised."
All of that is a far too fanciful way to introduce a quick look at the Santa Barbara Rhone Rangers' recent event on February 4, a Syrah tasting that took viewers on a quick tour of the county. Moderated by Lamar Engel of The Wine Militia (sorry, but by now that's a name that has to change, no?), it featured a stellar winemaker cast with brilliant bottles to boot:
Larry Schaffer of tercero wines with his 2014 Syrah - Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon
Matt Brady of SAMsARA Wines with his 2017 Syrah - Zotovich Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills
Kristin Bryden of Zaca Mesa with her 2016 Syrah - Black Bear Block, Estate Vineyard, Los Olivos
And the aforementioned - Bob Lindquist of Lindquist Wines with a barrel sample of his 2019 Syrah - Bien Nacido Vyd Z Block, Santa Maria Valley
The group was wise, entertaining, and sometimes geeky, even entering into a clone discussion of Syrah as if it were all finicky like Pinot Noir or something! (Although they seemed to agree that site trumps clone for making a good wine.) Whatever the topic, this free Zoom also made clear Santa Barbara winemaking stands tall (and often foot stomps hard).
And, perhaps, underlined one of the "problems" for creating a vinous Santa Barbara County identity. For this event featured four delicious syrahs (and we were lucky to taste three of them, all except for the barrel sample, and for that we swapped in a Jaffurs 2016 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard, which was a gorgeous monster, btw) that made clear site and winemaking will lead you to very different expressions of the same grape. The tercero, at just 12.9% ABV, lured you in to its loveliness, with a floral character the others didn't touch. It's the kind of wine that forces you to wake up and be aware, which is a good thing. The SAMsARA, with Brady's fondness for whole cluster, added a pleasing, despite the words I'm going to use, vegetal funk--a unique wine that made you keep sipping more. The Zaca Mesa, from the warmest location (and the SB vineyard that first planted Syrah way back when--we got a lot of history, too), had a fascinating depth and spice. And then Bob's wine--well, we don't know as we couldn't have any, but how could it not rock having been made by one of our county's founding wine fathers?
Even better, the SB Rhone Rangers will be doing more of these events, so go check out what they have to offer. And drink their wines--you won't get one expression of anything, but you will get a scrumptiously expressive everything.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
It’s easy to forget the delight, amid the rest of the memorable meal, of bread service at Barbareño. But when that sourdough and fresh butter arrive, it’s a transformative moment, the simplest of food made transcendent. (And that’s part, I’d say, of a strong Santa Barbara tradition: think back to Downey’s Irish soda bread and Sly’s rye raisin rolls.)
So it’s no surprise that the pizza dough from the same punchy starter kicks off the crust to-die-for at Barb’s Pies, which is Barbareño’s sister restaurant “hiding” in the kitchen at the recently opened bar/restaurant Venus in Furs on East Cota Street. What a crust it is, formed into leftover-providing 18-inch ovals, thin in the center but puffed and charred on the edges.
Care to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
But here's the first graph:
Forget fine dining, think clubby casual chic. Au courant cocktails and share plates emphasizing global flavors and local produce. That’s what the recently reopened and reimagined Blackbird at Hotel Californian now offers, both in its inviting red-and-black-tiled dining room and its street-side terrace. Although it’s not easy to remain relevant and COVID-19 safety rules compliant, this edition of Blackbird seems ready to fly.
Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.