Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Review of "The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster" by John O'Connor


How much of writing is staring down the dark. (Just ask Dante and his selva oscura.) Of course that also means, how much of life is staring down the dark, knowing that even if we fail or fear to consider it, the dark will swallow us up in the end. So maybe that’s why we want something to be out there, and why not Bigfoot? 

 Here’s one of the nut graphs John O’Connor offers in his lively, thoughtful, funny, The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster

Whatever mythic yearning monsters fulfill, we’re jonesing hard. Sixty-six million of us, according to a recent survey, profess to believe in just one: Bigfoot. Sixty-six million! As these numbers suggest, it’s not only crackpots who believe. There may be no more sacred expression of American exceptionalism than faith in a monster we’ve adapted to fit our peculiar view of history, unfalsifiable by facts proffered by science or qualified experts, and suggesting a medieval belief in the raw and violent power of nature. Perhaps we all need Bigfoot in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

Care to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Trinity Gardens Tour


The Santa Barbara Culinary Experience (SBCE) doesn’t just feature the region’s stars — it also hopes to shine a light on lesser-known people and projects. Take Trinity Gardens, three acres nestled in the Santa Barbara Foothills near the intersection of La Cumbre and Foothill roads. The land — provided by Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church — allows not only for gardens that grow produce for local food banks, nonprofits, and the Organic Soup Kitchen, but also 23 individual plots rented independently. In addition, Dewayne Nash, chair and garden manager, says, “We also provide gardening and food education for all ages to raise awareness about sustainable and healthy growing and eating practices.”

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

The TOSB Soirée


I profiled three of the chefs taking parting the Taste of Santa Barbara Soirée for the Independent. I will include the first paragraph of each quickie, but if you want to read the whole thing, you can do so at the Indy's site.

Sandra Adu Zelli

Those attending the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience Taste of Santa Barbara Soirée will be able to indulge in three desserts prepared by Chef Sandra Adu Zelli, owner of Gipsy Hill Bakery. One of them, the decadent chocolate cake known as Reine de Saba, Zelli has been baking for almost two decades. The funny thing is, when she started, she didn’t know it was famously associated with Julia Child.

Sergei Simonov

A flair for the dramatic is simply part of Chef Sergei Simonov’s skill set, as anyone who saw him manipulate his way through Netflix’s Pressure Cooker series — Lord of the Flies meets TV cooking competition — knows. So it’s little surprise that, for the Santa Barbara Soirée, he will be live-cooking paella de mariscos, a signature dish during his run as Loquita’s executive chef. Guests can expect sizzle and fire in addition to grilled bay scallops, Prince Edward Island mussels, wild jumbo gulf prawns, black garlic sofrito, shiso, and saffron aioli.

Alex Bollinger

Turns out you can go home again — twice — if you’re Executive Chef Alex Bollinger at El Encanto. The Santa Barbara native had a plan early on; he remembers writing in his 6th-grade yearbook that in 10 years, he would be in Europe training to be a professional chef. He ended up traveling the world, cooking under esteemed chefs from Charlie Palmer to Tyler Florence, only to return to be the opening chef at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Angel Oak. From there, he ran F&B for the Alida Hotel resort in Savannah, Georgia, until El Encanto called him home a second time.

Hyperlocal Vegetarian with Satellite / Mezze with the Daisy


I wrote a bunch of quickies for the Independent about the 2024 Taste of Santa Barbara. These first two were about cooking classes with Emma West from Satellite (photo above) and Carmen Deforest of The Daisy. I'll give you the first paragraph of each one, but if you want to read the rest, you can do so, as usual, at the Indy's site. (The overall intro is by Matt Kettmann.)

Hyperlocal Vegetarian with Satellite

Necessity is the mother of Satellite, the buzzy State Street restaurant and wine bar. “Vegetarian cuisine started at Satellite because we have a unique ‘kitchen’ space,” says chef Emma West, co-owner with Drew Cuddy. “We converted two offices into our kitchen and dishroom. We have a couple of induction heating sources and some refrigerators. With the limitations, I wanted to keep things simple and fresh, vegetarian was the way.”

Mezze with the Daisy

Although the Turkish word “mezze” means “snack,” if you load up a plateful of appetizers, it can be a feast. That’s especially true for the class to be taught by Chef Carmen Deforest of The Daisy Restaurant. “The plate embodies the flavors that we love, really fresh and bright,” Deforest explains, “and the way we like to eat, sharing and having a little bit of everything.” Think more typical items like hummus, marinated olives, and flatbread, but then there’s a delicious dip called beet Muhammara, pungent with garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, walnuts, and more, and spicy California lamb and beef Kofta meatballs.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

A Review of "Come and Get It" by Kiley Reid


Kiley Reid’s second novel Come and Get It might appear to be a campus-set comedy of manners, but the joke will be on you if you think it’s only a satire of a self-involved academic/writer and a gaggle of coeds who lean on the phrase ohmygod a lot. It’s not that Reid fails to deliver witty insights about life at the University of Arkansas in 2017. For instance, at one point she describes her most sympathetic character Millie as follows: “She stood bright-eyed in her red RA polo with the posture of a zookeeper who feeds sea lions for a crowd.” But Reid has much more on her mind than pointing out character quirks, consumerist obsession, and social peccadillos. 

The academic, Agatha Paul, is a visiting professor teaching nonfiction and cultural and media studies, who gets most obsessed researching the young women of Belgrade (really its name, and it is not a choice housing location) dorm, first examining their thoughts on marriage, only to pivot to exploring their ideas about money. That’s a hint—the novel limns what one can and should do for money, but without any preachiness.

Care to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Cuyama Buckhorn Makes Santa Barbara’s High Desert a Dining Destination

 “The Pickle Plate” might not sing a siren song from a menu. But if you’re dining at Cuyama Buckhorn Restaurant and Bar, the dish’s simplicity certainly should. Banish any thought of boring retro relish trays. Instead, admire its directness, its delivery of just enough vinegary sour to highlight the vegetables’ intrinsic sugar that’s often easy to ignore. Appreciate texture — the snap of carrot, the lush flesh of red pepper, the bristle of broccoli florets. Notice your appetite awaken in fuller ways than it might usually. 

 It’s both delicious and kind of Zen. 

 Let’s get even more essential and order what’s basically bread and butter. That’s a Tehachapi rye flour biscuit, a bit homely and hockey puck sized, beside a quenelle of luscious butter, scooped like ice cream, and drizzled with honey like a sundae topping. That rye flour offers hints of malt and sour — plus, it comes from a project working with heritage grain, non-GMOs, all the good stuff. It’s both hearty and light at once, and when slathered with some of the rich butter and the sweet honey, you will be nothing but happy.

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