Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
-Henry David Thoreau

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara’s Official Drink Contest

by lesliedinaberg on January 14, 2017

Visit Santa Barbara challenges mixologists to create a Santa Barbara-inspired cocktail. Photo by Blake Bronstad.

Visit Santa Barbara challenges mixologists to create a Santa Barbara-inspired cocktail. Photo by Blake Bronstad.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

Mirror, mirror on the wall. What’s the most “Santa Barbara-like” cocktail of all? 

I’ve pondered this question myself on more than one occasion, so it excites me that we’ll get a definitive answer on January 26 at the “2017 Official Drink of Santa Barbara” Cocktail Contest,” held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (653 Paseo Nuevo). 

Hosted and conceived by Visit Santa Barbara, this creative contest invited local restaurants, bars, lounges, tasting rooms and breweries to develop a new, unique signature mixed drink that celebrates the distinctive attributes of our lovely town.

The creation must include a liquor from Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, and in addition, contestants are encouraged to use at least one local ingredient and take inspiration from Santa Barbara’s dramatic landscapes, architectural landmarks and culinary scene. 

Back Garden by Alberto Battaglini of SY Kitchen is one of the entries you can vote on for the "Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Contest." Courtesy photo.

Back Garden by Alberto Battaglini of SY Kitchen is one of the entries you can vote on for the “Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Contest.” Courtesy photo.

“Santa Barbara has so many talented mixologists and an abundance of culinary riches. We’re excited to see how they will creatively represent our incredible destination in one signature cocktail,” says Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes.

From January 14-19 , the public can view the entries posted, visit participating establishments to purchase drink submissions, and vote for their favorite entry on independent.com/officialdrinkofsb.

Then, the top five mixologists will get to compete in the live event on January 26, emceed by the always entertaining Gabe Saglie, television personality and senior editor for TravelZoo. The lucky panel of judges includes yours truly (it’s a tough job, I know), along with KEYT Meteorologist/Reporter Meredith Garofalo, Mixologist and Santa Barbara Independent Columnist Patrick Reynolds, Visit Santa Barbara outgoing Board Chair and Ganna Walska Lotusland Executive Director Gwen Stauffer, and local food and libations writer George Yatchisin

True North by Olio Crudo Bar is one of the entries you can vote on for the "Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Contest." Courtesy photo.

True North by Olio Crudo Bar is one of the entries you can vote on for the “Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Contest.” Courtesy photo.

Along with huge bragging rights and some prizes, the winner will have the exclusive rights to sell the “2017 Official Drink of Santa Barbara” at his/her place of business throughout the year. 

Speaking of bragging rights, don’t miss out on being able to say you had one of the first “Official Drinks of Santa Barbara.” Advance tickets are now on sale for $25, which includes two drink tickets, appetizers and a sample of the top five finalists’ entries (while supplies last). Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and Santa Barbara Vintners also will be pouring drinks, and a cash bar will be available. Tickets are limited, and advance ticket purchase is required. Event-goers must be 21 or older to attend.  For more information, visit or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.sbindytickets.com/events/40449965/official-drink-of-santa-barbara-cocktail-competition.

The “2017 Official Drink of Santa Barbara” Cocktail Contest” takes place January 26 from 6 to 8 p.m.  at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (653 Paseo Nuevo).

Hope to see some of you there. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 13, 2017.

 

 

Congregation B’Nai B’Rith Celebrates 90 Years

by lesliedinaberg on January 9, 2017

 

Cantor Mark Childs to be Honored at Dreamers Ball on Jan. 22 

Congregation B’nai B’rith celebrates its 90th anniversary at a Chagall-inspired Dreamers Ball to be held at the Bacara Resort on January 22.

The dreamers theme—which honors yesterday, today and tomorrow—pays homage to the 14 founding families who had a vision to build a home for the Jews in Santa Barbara in 1927. What started as a dream thrived beyond expectation to the temple of today—a beautiful sanctuary that serves as a spiritual home to more than 800 families.

The Dreamer’s Ball celebrates the rich history of Congregation B’nai B’rith, the vibrant current community, led musically by Cantor Mark Childs,  and the commitment to innovation and strength into the future.

Cantor Mark Childs, photo by Jay Farbman.

Cantor Mark Childs, photo by Jay Farbman.

“This is a moment to pause in a long continuum of time to celebrate our growth, to honor those who kept us going over the decades, to remember those who have passed along the way, to sigh as we recollect the hard times, to laugh as we recall the high moments, to marvel at the vision of those upon whose shoulders we stand, and to embrace each other as we face our road forward,” says Cantor Childs who will be honored at the gala for his 25 years of service at Congregation B’nai B’rith.

“Congregation B’nai B’rith has been, and will always be filled with the spirit of close community and the priority of educating the next moral, ethical and literate Jewish generation,” says Rabbi Stephen Cohen, who has been the synagogue’s spiritual leader since 2014, and works in partnership with Cantor Childs.

“I believe that right now, we are setting the stage for the next 100 years of Congregation B’nai B’rith communal life. We will maintain our deep connections to the Jewish people around the world, and throughout history, but we are also finding our place in Santa Barbara, alongside the Chumash, and the Latinos, the marvelous interfaith community of Muslims, the Catholics, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Mormons, Hindus and Buddhists. Here in Santa Barbara, we Jews have a role to play. Our congregation should be a light to our entire city, and a model of healthy, feisty, dynamic, reverent, warm and welcoming community,” explains Rabbi Cohen.

Through song, Jewish teaching and humor, Cantor Childs has touched thousands of lives in Santa Barbara since his arrival 25 years ago. From his weekly song sessions with preschoolers at Beit Ha Yeladim, to his work with hundreds of b’nai mitzvot students, to his inspired leadership, interfaith partnerships and connection with seniors and community members throughout Santa Barbara, Cantor Childs has been a role model and an inspiration, marking everyday moments and significant life-cycle milestones with music and prayer. “He is an exceptional human being, a brilliant and humble leader, a supremely reliable teammate and partner, and a gifted singer,” says Rabbi Cohen.

Congregation B’nai B’rith serves as a spiritual sanctuary to its diverse and inclusive community (the temple has over 25% interfaith families), but is also integral to the greater Santa Barbara community, through social action and religious outreach programs and collaborations with the Santa Barbara Interfaith Initiative, Cottage Hospital, assisted living homes, Showers of Blessings, Anti-Defamation League, UCSB Hillel, and many others.  A temple-wide annual Mitzvah Day sends volunteers into the community to benefit dozens of nonprofits. In addition, Congregation B’nai B’rith has ongoing programs serving food to the homeless community in Pershing Park and working with Transition House in their community kitchen. The temple’s reach even extended to build the Ubumwe Center preschool and elementary school in Rwanda, Africa.

The celebration takes place on January 22 at 5:30 p.m. at Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta. To find out more about the Dreamers Ball, visit the event page at www.cbbsb.org/dreamersball, call 805/964-7869, or email dreamersball@cbbsb.org.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 4, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: Not Vodka Water

by lesliedinaberg on January 9, 2017

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

This is the perfect week to rehydrate, right after the holidays when most of us are feeling a bit hungover, if not from alcohol then from food and festivities. I recently came across a fun and stylish reusable water bottle that only helps you hydrate yourself, it also helps hydrate humanity.

With a global focus on clean water and fighting thirst, Not Vodka recently launched their new line of reusable water bottles specially designed to spark a conversation, catch every eye in sight and enhance your beverage of choice. Think of this bottle as a conversation waiting to happen. It keeps cold things cold for up to 30 hours and keeps hot things hot for up to 12 hours.

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

“We are driven by individuality and decided to create a re-usable bottle that people would love to drink from, carry around and buy as fun gifts for friends,” says Andrew Varela, Founder/CEO of Not Vodka.”As a company, we are passionate about fighting the world-wide water crisis making clean drinkable water accessible to all.”

With that goal in mind, Not Vodka has partnered with the Thirst Project and CODE: RED to make a positive impact. For every bottle sold, the end user can personally help fight for access to clean water. Each bottle comes with an insert and web code for a $1 contribution to either the Thirst Project or CODE: RED to help combat the global water epidemic. Who knew drinking water could be good for you AND the world!

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

Image courtesy Not Vodka Water.

And of course, you’re always welcome to fill your bottle with your cocktail of choice. I won’t tell.

Get a complete listing of current styles and designs at www.notvodkawater.com. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 6, 2017.

 

 

The Books of 2016

by lesliedinaberg on January 7, 2017

So many books, so little time—part ten.

My son started keeping a reading list in third grade, so I did too. This is the tenth year we’ve done this.

My favorite books of 2016 were probably You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, a mystery-thriller set in the world of women’s gymnastics; Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, set in the world of wine-making; Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, which is about the restaurant business; Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes, a terrific collection of shot stories; and The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, who also wrote Fates and Furies, one of my favorite books I read last year.  

As usual, I tend to find an author I like and then read anything I can get my hands on. I adored Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple so much that I also read her two other novels, Today Will be Different (in development as a TV series with Julia Roberts) and This One is Mine, both of which I liked but didn’t LOVE the way I did Bernadette.

Anyway, I’d love to hear about other people’s favorite books this year.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake Anna Quindlen
Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling
Boys & Girls Together William Goldman
Fun Home Allison Bechdel
Precious Gifts Danielle Steel
23 Degrees South Neal Rabin
Last One Home Debbie Macomber
Feel This Ben Stiller & Janeane Garofalo
A Whole New Light Sandra Brown
All Fall Down Jennifer Weiner
The Children Act Ian McEwan
Purity Jonathan Franzen
Crooked Little Lies Barbara Taylor Sissel
The Rumor Elin Hildebrand
The Truth About Alice Jennifer Mathieu
Girl Tripping Gina Iamanna
Everything’s Relative Jenna McCarthy
The Clasp Sloane Crosley
The Guestbook Andrea Hurst
The Art of Peeling an Orange Victoria Avilan
What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty
Bettyville George Hodgman
Between the Lines Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
Miss Adventure Geralyn Corcillo
Who Do You Love? Jennifer Weiner
Girl Waits With Gun Amy Stewart
The Tender Bar J.R. Moehringer
The Monsters of Templeton Lauren Groff
Connect the Stars Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
Barbara the Slut and Other People Lauren Holmes
The Moon and More Sarah Dessen
The Apartment Danielle Steel
Dead of Night J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
The Swans of Fifth Avenue Melanie Benjamin
Lizzie Bennett Diaries Bernie Su and Kate Noble
The List Siobhan Vivan
One Plus One JoJo Moyes
Nora Roberts Land Miles Ava
Windfallen JoJo Moyes
Dear Mr. You Mary Louise Parker
The Sleuth Sisters Maggie Pill
Fireside Susan Wiggs
Sweetbitter Stephanie Danler
Tiny Pretty Things Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
My Favorite Husband Pam McCutcheon
The Fixer Upper Mary Kay Andrews
The Inn at Rose Harbor Debbie Macomber
I Was Told There Would be Cake Sloane Crosley
A Girl’s Guide to Moving on Debbie Macomber
Drinking Closer to Home Jessica Anya Blau
Identical Scott Turrow
If I Stay Gayle Forman
Euphoria Lily King
Eight Hundred Grapes Laura Dave
In the Unlikely Event Judy Blume
Remembrance Meg Cabot
Innocents & Others: A Novel Dana Spiotta
Calling Invisible Women Jeanne Ray
Royal Wedding Meg Cabot
Eligible Curtis Sittenfeld
The Man of the House Stephen McCauley
Be Frank With Me Julia Claiborne Johnson
Fallen in Love Lauren Kate
Four of a Kind Valerie Frankel
The Bridge Ladies Betsy Lerner
The Goodbye Quilt Susan Wiggs
French Roast Ava Miles
Behind Closed Doors B.A. Paris
Heat & Light Jennifer Haigh
The Grand Opening Ava Miles
Paris for One & Other Stories JoJo Moyes
My Kind of Perfect Hannah Ellis
Heroes Have Always Been My Weakness Susan Elizabeth Phillips
You Will Know Me Megan Abbott
The History of Love Nicole Krauss
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple
This One is Mine Maria Semple

Cocktail Corner: Surf and Swizzle

by lesliedinaberg on January 4, 2017

Holiday Cocktails by MichiBieri, courtesy Pixabay.

Holiday Cocktails by MichiBieri, courtesy Pixabay.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

We’ll be taking off for the holiday season until January, but don’t worry, we plan to do lots of cocktail research between now and then.  Meanwhile, here are ten fun libation links to send you into the weekend ready for some fun.

Wine and Book Pairings From The Skimm: http://www.theskimm.com/skimm-guides/skimm-reads

Top Books for Wine Enthusiasts From Wander & Wine: http://wanderandwine.com/top-books-for-wine-enthusiasts/

Totally Instagrammable Bottles of Booze From Hello Giggles: http://hellogiggles.com/booze-bottles-that-make-perfect-gifts/

It’s Bourbon Season From The Kitchn: http://www.thekitchn.com/its-bourbon-season-10-bourbon-recipes-to-warm-you-up-recipe-roundup-179751

A Matisse-Inspired Cocktail Recipe and DIY From Design Sponge: http://www.designsponge.com/2014/10/matisse-inspired-cocktail-recipe-diy.html

Cocktail preparations by Stefan Fiesbert, cocktailpodcast.de via wikipedia commons.

Cocktail preparations by Stefan Fiesbert, cocktailpodcast.de via wikipedia commons.

Comforting Holiday Cocktails From Goop: http://goop.com/easy-holiday-cocktails/

The Perfect Cocktail Party Playlist From Apartment Therapy: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/cocktail-party-playlist-181154

The Most Outrageous Pop-Culture Inspired Cocktails From Flavorwire: http://flavorwire.com/562955/the-most-outrageous-pop-culture-inspired-cocktails-sponsored

Feast Days, Food & Drink Poems by George Yatchisin: https://www.createspace.com/6518745

The Best Christmas Cocktails and Mocktails From Martha Stewart: http://www.marthastewart.com/856474/20-years-living-best-christmas-cocktails-and-mocktails

Cheers to Happy Holidays!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 23, 2016.

 

Enjoy the Holidays at Loquita

by lesliedinaberg on December 19, 2016

Paella from Loquita, photo by Laura Ray.

Paella from Loquita, photo by Laura Ray.

Executive Chef Peter Lee of LOQUITA and POQUITA—the new hot spots Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone—has special celebratory menus for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking these restaurants out yet, the holidays are a perfect time to do so.

In addition to the complete menu that Loquita has made popular with bold flavored Mediterranean dishes of olives, lemons, tomatoes, peppers, vinegars, Jamon and Sherries, simply executed and beautifully plated, on Christmas Eve, Chef Lee’s specials feature Bunuelo de Bacalao—Salt Cod, Potato, Lemon & Nora Chili Aïoli; and Cannelloni with Mushroom, Foie Gras; Bechamel & Manchego. Reservations are recommended and are available from 5–8:30 p.m.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Loquita presents elegant New Year’s Eve specials, in addition to their acclaimed menu, perfect for an end of year celebration. Selections include Foie Gras with Figs, Dandelion Greens & Celery Root; Paella con Costilla – Iberico Pork Ribs with Artichokes, Mushrooms, Iberico Soffrito, Grilled Lemon & Herb Aïoli; and Cochinillo Asado – Suckling Pig with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Mojo Verde. Loquita’s chefs will display a live “performance art,” preparing the Paella con Costilla outdoors on the patio in a huge paella pan for all guests to experience. Reservations are recommended and are available from 5–10:45 p.m.

Also now open is Poquita, the little sister of Loquita, a perfect choice for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for those seeking a spontaneous evening. Drop in while exploring the Urban Wine Trail, drinking in the colorful ambiance of the Funk Zone.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Poquita serves many of the same delicious pintxos, tapas, cheeses and charcuterie as Loquita at their artful, standing-room-only pintxos bar, ideal for casual small bites without the structure of a reservation. Hours are 5 p.m. – midnight.

Also starting on New Year’s Day, Loquita begins serving Sunday Brunch. Chef Lee introduces his inspired daytime menu of exquisite Spanish specialties created with a Santa Barbara sensibility—a Paella Pan Skillet with either Mushroom, Tomato, Spinach, Potato, Eggplant, Chermoula & Eggs; or Chorizo with Bell Pepper, Tomato, Potato, Broccolini, Parsley & Eggs; Benedicts on Pan De Cristal in two versions – Jamon Serrano, Spinach, Eggs & Chorizo Hollandaise; or Cured Salmon, Pickled Red Onion, Eggs & Lemon Hollandaise. Try Lee’s two spins on the Tortilla Espanola – Traditional with Potato, Onion, Frisee & Herb Aïoli; or Especial with Avocado, Piquillo, Potato, Onion, Mushroom & Chorizo. Loquita brunch hours are 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and will continue every Sunday after the new year. 

To view all holiday menus visit Holiday Menus or www.loquitasb.com/nye.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, “an endearing Spanish colloquial term for a wild, fun loving young girl, is a playful love letter to the Spanish origins and history of Santa Barbara.” The space is designed by San Francisco restaurateur and designer Doug Washington, who created the distinctive styling at The Lark, Lucky Penny, Les Marchands, Santa Barbara Wine Collective and Helena Avenue Bakery. Architect Joe Andrulaitis and the Young Construction team led by Rick Musmecci completely restored the historic building that has served as numerous restaurants and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission over the past century. Interior finishing touches by Stephanie Greene Fuller incorporated handsome furnishings fabricated by Brothers of Industry of Carpinteria.  

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

“I was inspired by a quote I read in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine that said ‘Spain is a country with a big heart, a big thirst for wine, a big appetite for great food and a big affinity for art, music and sports.’ Those who live, work and play in Santa Barbara share these values,” says Sherry Villanueva, Managing Partner for Acme Hospitality, the group behind the restaurant. Bringing a Spanish restaurant to the Funk Zone has been something she has envisioned since the space first became available more than two years ago.

“Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish colonial history has defined our city in ways that span architecture, food, wine and even informs our community celebrations. It’s the right time to dedicate our next restaurant to the incredible culture and food that Spain is known for, but interpreted by a contemporary California sensibility that is our company’s signature,” says Villanueva. “It’s no wonder that Spain is recognized as one of the greatest countries for food and dining today.

The restaurant is located at 202 State St., 805/880-3380.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 19, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: World of Pinot Noir Makes a Delicious Gift

by lesliedinaberg on December 17, 2016

Photos courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

Photos courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

If you’re looking to splurge on a gift for that special someone, who happens to be a wine lover, why not plan your Pinot Noir adventure together and take them to the World of Pinot!

I get to go to a LOT of wine festivals and this event, which takes place March 3 – 4 at the Bacara Resort & Spa, is definitely one of my favorites.

There are two days of tastings, seminars and dinners where guests can taste wines from more than 200 wineries —all Pinot Noirs—from areas including Burgundy, Mendocino, Monterey, New Zealand, Oregon, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma. It’s the ultimate tasting experience!

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

Right now there’s even a special holiday gift offer available until January 3. Enter code “Pink” to receive a discount on the Rosé Lunch and Grand Tasting on Friday, March 3. Enjoy a selection of Pinot Noir Rosé wines with lunch prepared by Bacara’s culinary team in the new Angel Oak restaurant, then continue your journey of Pinot Noir at the Grand Tasting.

Also on special for the holidays is the Sparkling Brunch and Grand Tasting on Saturday, March 4. Kick off your day with bubbles! A selection of sparkling wine and Champagnes will be featured with brunch prepared by Bacara’s culinary team in the new Angel Oak restaurant. Then continue on to the Grand Tasting. Enter code “Bubbles” to receive your special discount.

Additional highlights include: Hirsch Seminar and Tasting; Kosta Browne 20th Anniversary Dinner; Louis Latour Tasting & Dinner; Edna Valley Winery Collective Dinner; Cheese Seminar featuring Sonoma Wines; Vintage Burgundy Dinner with the Guild of Sommeliers; Rock Stars of Pinot Noir featuring Merry Edwards and the Hitching Post Vertical Tasting & Barbecue; as well as the Grand Tasting on both Friday and Saturday.

Click here for the entire lineup of events or visit worldofpinotnoir.com for more information. Hope to see you there! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 16, 2016.

 

Seasons Greetings: AwesomeBox = A Great Gift

by lesliedinaberg on December 12, 2016

Here are some examples of AwesomeBox designs, courtesy photo.

Here are some examples of AwesomeBox designs, courtesy photo.

It’s always tough to find affordable, creative gifts for loved ones—especially during the holiday season—but the AwesomeBox (www.awesomebox.com) is something unique and well, ahem, awesome. More than a simple photo album or personalized photo gift (both of which are also great for the holidays), AwesomeBox allows users to build a customized box of memories, stories and photos packaged into a one-of-a-kind printed gift.

It’s also a great group gift to collaborate with family or friends, because you can send out invitations to multiple people to contribute their photos and their memories. In fact, one of the most unique parts about the AwesomeBox experience is how easy it is to get everyone involved in the gift giving process.

Receiving a special gift like an AwesomeBox can evoke a powerful response, courtesy photo.

Receiving a special gift like an AwesomeBox can evoke a powerful response, courtesy photo.

I made one to surprise one of my family member this year, and lots of people are getting in on the fun. In fact, recently, fans have collaborated to make AwesomeBoxes as gifts for Beyoncé, DrakeJon Stewart and Leonardo DiCaprio’s birthdays, and fans are currently making one for Taylor Swift. But, you don’t have to be a celebrity to get an AwesomeBox.

Add pictures from Instagram, Facebook, your phone or computer, and send out invitations to others to contribute. Then design your cards and sequence them to tell a compelling story. You can even add music to your card to co-create a custom playlist. Best of all, a 10-card AwesomeBox is just $19.

Receiving a special gift like an AwesomeBox can evoke a powerful response, courtesy photo.

Receiving a special gift like an AwesomeBox can evoke a powerful response, courtesy photo.

It’s so simple to create, and the memories last a lifetime. In three simple steps, you’ll have the perfect gift:

1.    Create a private online webpage to honor your special someone.

2.    Invite friends and family to upload photos and heartfelt messages from around the world.

3.    AwesomeBox turns everything into a box of 10 to 100 colorful printed cards that they’ll pour over for years!

We even have a special coupon code where you can save 25%: HOLIDAYGIFT.

Here are some examples of AwesomeBox designs, courtesy photo.

Here are some examples of AwesomeBox designs, courtesy photo.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 9, 2016.

 

 

Seasons Greetings: Reusable Wrapeez

by lesliedinaberg on December 12, 2016

Wrapeez reusable gift wrap is great for the holidays, courtesy photo.

Wrapeez reusable gift wrap is great for the holidays, courtesy photo.

There’s nothing better than a holiday product that keeps on giving, except perhaps one that also saves you time. 

There’s a new invention called Wrapeez, a reusable stretch fabric gift wrap! That’s right, now, you can have a nicely wrapped gift in less than 20 seconds. 

Just stretch it, wrap it, and reuse it. No scissors or tape required. It easily stretches over different shapes and sizes, such as toys, balls, clothing boxes, gift cards, and more.

Simplify your season with Wrapeez reusable gift wrap, courtesy photo.

Simplify your season with Wrapeez reusable gift wrap, courtesy photo.

Not only is it easy to use, there’s no paper waste, the produce is eco-friendly and reusable. Good for the planet, beautiful, and convenient—now that’s what I call a wrap!  

For more information and to purchase Wrapeez, visit www.wrapeez.com or Amazon.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 10, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Mussel Madness in Montecito

by lesliedinaberg on December 9, 2016

Mussel Madness takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday at Ty Lounge, photo courtesy Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore.

Mussel Madness takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday at Ty Lounge, photo courtesy Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

Mussels—which pair well with everything from wine and beer to G & T’s and Martinis—are in season year-round in California, and, in a nod to this bounty, Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore‘s new Executive Chef Marco Fossati has introduced an all new Mussel Madness Menu at Ty Lounge  on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3-10 p.m.

Ty Lounge's G&T Cura, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Ty Lounge’s G&T Cura, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I was fortunate enough to check out the mussels this week (along with a delicious G & T Cura, of course). What a yummy treat! It’s hard to choose from the all of the unique variations of seasoned mussels served in cast iron bowls accompanied by grilled country bread and French Fries, but luckily, you can’t go wrong. Mussel dishes include The Belgium, with steamed Belgium ale, Dijon Mustard, shallots and herbs;  and the Thai, made with lemongrass, wine, coconut milk and red chili.

Other flavors include Calabrese, with house made nduja sausages, white wine, smoked paprika and white onion; So Cal, with tomato, chorizo, wine and cilantro, French Dijionnaise, with wine, cream, Dijon mustard and parsley; and The Moroccan, made with Riesling, chick peas, Moroccan spices and tomato.  We tried a few and they were each unique and oh-so-very tasty!

Ty Lounge’s Gin & Tonic Bar has a number of delicious variations to pair with the mussels, include my favorite, G&T Cura, made with Cutler’s Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, and assortment of Chef’s Garden Botanicals and a seasonal fruit shrub. Also worth tasting are the G&T Pepino, made with Hendrick’s Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, Juniper Berries, and a cucumber mint honey shrub; as well as the G&T Sueno, made with Nolet’s Gin, Elderflower Fever Tree Tonic, cardamom, peppercorn and a coconut grapefruit shrub.

If Gin’s not  your thing, other Ty Lounge cocktail specialties include the Masquerade Ball, with Buillet Rye, Balsamic Reduction, Fever Tree Soda, Lemon Juice, Blackberries and Basil, Barrel Aged In American Oak; and 8 Barrels, made with Four Seasons Select 1927 Barrel Aged Breaker Bourbon, Maple Syrup, Lemon, Spiced Simple Syrup and Nutmeg, served in a hand-smoked glass.

Cheers to mussels!  Ty Lounge—which is surely one of the most beautiful spots in town—is located at Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore, 1260 Channel Dr., Montecito; 805-969-2261; fourseasons.com/santabarbara.

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Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 9, 2016.