The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world….
-Susan B. Anthony

Local Dish: Finch & Fork’s New Flavors of the Season

by lesliedinaberg on May 26, 2017

Finch & Fork’s new Secret Garden, left, and Blood Brother are the latest additions to their craft cocktail menu. Photo courtesy Finch & Fork Instagram.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Finch & Fork Chef James Siao and his culinary team have added new items to the dinner menu, and diners are in for a treat.

Finch & Fork's Asparagus & Mascarpone Toast, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Asparagus & Mascarpone Toast, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We started our meal with a bright and flavorful new appetizer, Asparagus & Mascarpone Toast with marinated asparagus, whipped lemon mascarpone, mint pesto, and radicchio. Pair it with the Secret Garden—lavender-infused Tanqueray Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon and honey—to make your taste buds sing a happy chorus of ode to spring!

Finch & Fork's Smoked Fish & Onion Dip with housemade kennebec chips, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Smoked Fish & Onion Dip with housemade kennebec chips, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We also tried another delicious appetizer, Smoked Fish & Onion Dip served with housemade potato chips, which was a clever reinterpretation of the old standby onion dip and paired quite nicely with another new cocktail, the Paper Plane, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon.

Finch & Fork's new Secret Garden, left, and Paper Plane cocktails, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s new Secret Garden, left, and Paper Plane cocktails, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Next up were the superbly delicious Sugar Snap Peas served with miso butter, radish and crispy garlic. I could eat that miso butter with everything, it was so yummy!

Finch & Fork's Sugar Snap Peas with citrus miso butter, radish and crispy garlic, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Sugar Snap Peas with citrus miso butter, radish and crispy garlic, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I’m not usually a fan of duck, but our server Chef Siao’s perfectly prepared Duck Breast with carrot cardamom puree, farro, spring onions and blackberry gastrique was amazing, as was his newest take on Salmon with pork belly and potato hash, pea greens, tarragon aioli and peperonata.

Finch & Fork's Duck Breast with carrot cardamon puree, farro, spring onions and blackberry gastrique, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Duck Breast with carrot cardamon puree, farro, spring onions and blackberry gastrique, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I also tried another delicious new cocktail, the London Holiday with Aviation Gin, blueberry, egg white, lime, simple syrup and absinthe mist. 

Finch & Fork's Salmon with pork belly & potato hash, pea greens and tarragon aioli peperonata, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Salmon with pork belly & potato hash, pea greens and tarragon aioli peperonata, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

If you’re not up for a whole dinner, Finch & Fork has a great Happy Hour every Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. Finch & Fork is located in the Canary Hotel at 31 W. Carrillo St. For more information, visit http://www.finchandforkrestaurant.com.

Finch & Fork's London Holiday cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s London Holiday cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 26, 2017.

Dream Foundation’s 7th Annual Flower Empower Luncheon

by lesliedinaberg on May 26, 2017

Guests at Dream Foundation's Flower Empower Luncheon, photo by Kiel Rucker Photography.

Guests at Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower Luncheon, photo by Kiel Rucker Photography.

Dream Foundation‘s Annual Flower Empower Luncheon is always a beautiful and heartwarming affair, and this year’s 7th annual event, held at the gorgeous Klentner Ranch near the polo fields in Carpinteria, was a particularly lovely gathering.

More than 200 local community members came together for this annual event, which not only raises funds but also acknowledges the volunteers, sponsors, and growers who make Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower program a success.

The heart of the program is a simple but meaningful gesture, the gift of flowers to brighten the day of those that are in need.

Valerie Banks (Flower Empower Coordinator) and Sheri Parker (Volunteer of the Year), photo by Kiel Rucker Photography.

Valerie Banks (Flower Empower Coordinator) and Sheri Parker (Volunteer of the Year), photo by Kiel Rucker Photography.

Flower Empower is a completely volunteer-driven program that delivers hope and compassion—in the form of beautiful bouquets—to anyone who needs them. Several days each week, groups of volunteers prepare dozens of arrangements using donated flowers and make deliveries to hospitals, hospices, cancer centers and personal residences. In addition to abundant bouquets, flower recipients enjoy fresh-baked cookies (we even got samples made by volunteer Robin Himovitz, “the cookie lady”), fine chocolates from Chocolats du CaliBressan (whose lovely owner was at our table) and handmade cards from school-age artists.

“Flower Empower is an invaluable program to our community,” says Dream Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Kisa Heyer. “It reminds us that even the smallest gestures can make a lasting impression. We would love to see the program grow beyond Santa Barbara and bring happiness to others.”

Amanda & Justin Klentner (Klentner Ranch), Lynette Hall (Flower Empower Committee), Kisa Heyer (Dream Foundation CEO), photo by Kelly Sweda Photography.

Amanda & Justin Klentner (Klentner Ranch), Lynette Hall (Flower Empower Committee), Kisa Heyer (Dream Foundation CEO), photo by Kelly Sweda Photography.

Flower Empower receives no federal or state funding and relies solely on corporate and individual contributions and grants, so this luncheon was an important contributor to the cause.

KEYT Channel 3’s Alan Rose—a longtime Flower Empower program supporter and volunteer—served as MC, alongside his KEYT colleague and fellow Flower Empower volunteer Alys Martinez. Andrew Firestone led a short but entertaining and profitable live auction that included a private wine experience at Jaffurs Wine Cellars as well as a tropical getaway at the Sheraton Waikiki Resort and a visit to the set of CBS’ TV show, Hawaii Five-0.

Dream Foundation’s CEO Kisa Heyer and Flower Empower program coordinator, Valerie Banks honored and awarded the 2017 Flower Empower program sponsors: Laurel Barrack, Diane & Tim Brown, Kate & Arthur Coppola, Hollye & Jeff Jacobs, Nissrin Mahmoud & Bob Fuladi and Shelley & Paul Schulte, whose donations will help fund the program this year. Also acknowledged were Ed Van Wingerden, Grower of the Year and Steven Shulem and Sheri Parker, Volunteers of the Year. Honored in memoriam were William Pattis, Angie Redding and Michael Towbes who were staunch supporters of the Flower Empower program.

Dream Foundation volunteers lead the 50 Yard fundraising dash, photo by Kelly Sweda Photography.

Dream Foundation volunteers lead the 50 Yard fundraising dash, photo by Kelly Sweda Photography.

Dream Foundation is the only national dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults.  With the support of a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, health care organizations and committed donors, Dream Foundation has given life to more than 27,000 final Dreams over the past two decades and has never turned down a qualified applicant. For more information, visit www.dreamfoundation.org.

To volunteer for the Flower Empower Program or to refer a flower recipient, contact flowerempower@dreamfoundation.org.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 24, 2017.

Local Dish: The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn

by lesliedinaberg on May 24, 2017

The new interior of the Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The new interior of the Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn is the new restaurant concept from Chef Budi Kazali, who has owned the property with his wife Chris Kazali since 2004.

Ballard Inn has always been highly regarded for its romantic ambiance and award-winning cuisine, but the new restaurant and decor offers a much more fun, casual and inviting experience. Rather than a special occasion place, it feels like a more welcoming spot to gather over incredible food that’s meant to be shared.

“Modern farmhouse ambiance with Colonial influence” is how the team describes the new look—designed by local interior designer Heather Saarloos—and it’s pretty accurate.  As Budi explains, “We’re lucky that Ballard Inn has been a much-loved luxury destination over the years, but we felt it was time to introduce a new level of sophistication to our atmosphere.”

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Inn’s 15 guest rooms, which have undergone various updates throughout the years, will also receive a refresh to convey a sense of continuity throughout the entire space.

With a warm and inviting atmosphere, a long communal table and a menu featuring shared plates, The Gathering Table is “meant to be a gathering place for locals and visitors, a fun and inviting place to gather over incredible food,” says Chris.

Chef Budi Kazali, whose cuisine has been featured in such notable publications as Food and Wine and The Wine Spectator, and is also well known for his local TV show, The Inn Crowd, has created a menu that features a large variety of creative shared plates and signature dishes highlighting local, seasonal produce and seafood.

“Our new restaurant’s menu is much more comprehensive than before,” shares Chris. “The concept of The Gathering Table has allowed Budi to be more creative with his food.” Adds Budi, “The food is flavorful, seasonal and unique and there’s truly something for everyone.”  

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

 An artistic melding of Asian, French and California wine country cuisine, the new menu features a delicious selection of seasonal, locally sourced produce, seafood and meats. We sampled a wide array of dishes, all tasty. Particular favorites were Hamachi made with avocado and soy-yuzu vinaigrette; Sesame Caesar Salad; Hope Ranch Mussels with chorizo and garlic toast; Pork & Shrimp Shumai with ginger vinegar sauce and Marinated Hanger Steak with spicy charred Brussels sprouts.

“We look forward to sharing our space with our community in hopes we can offer a place for locals and visitors to gather and enjoy the bounty of the area. We’re happy that our renovations will further enhance Ballard Inn as an exceptional destination in Santa Barbara’s wine country,” says Budi.

Built in 1985, Ballard Inn is located t 2436 Baseline Ave. in the historic township of Ballard, just 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara near Solvang.  To learn more about Ballard Inn & The Gathering Table, please visit ballardinn.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 23, 2017. 

Cocktail Corner: Rose Soiree at Angel Oak

by lesliedinaberg on May 24, 2017

Summer Somewhere Rosé, courtesy Bacara Resort & Spa.

Summer Somewhere Rosé, courtesy Bacara Resort & Spa.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Everything’s coming up roses at the Bacara on the long Memorial Day weekend when they kick off the summer with a Rosé Soiree, taking place on Monday, May 29 from 2-5 p.m. at the lovely Angel Oak restaurant. 

Held outdoors on Angel Oak’s stunning oceanfront patio, this rosé-centric afternoon includes live music, chef bites by Angel Oak’s acclaimed culinary team and more than ten rose wine and rosé champagne tastings.

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Featured wines include:

Groundwork Rose, 2016 Grenache

Gruet NV Sparkling Rosé, New Mexico

Stolpman 2016 Para Maria Rose – 70% Cabernet, 30% Syrah

Stolpman 2016 Estate Rose – 100% Grenache

Summer Somewhere 2016 Grenache Rose

Timbre Rose, Pinot Noir 2016

Union Sacre Rose, 2016 “La Gitane” Pinot Noir

Verdad 2016 Grenache Rose

Larner Rose 2016

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Additionally, Chef Vincent Lesage will offer a special take on Angel Oak’s highly awarded modern steak and seafood menu, including an heirloom tomato station, assorted antipasto, fresh oysters and ceviche, and more. 

Tickets are $60 per person (inclusive of tax & gratuity) can be purchased here: Tickets at AngelOakSB.com.

Hope to see you there. Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 May 23, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: Biltmore Summer Tasting Series

by lesliedinaberg on May 19, 2017

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s Summer Tasting Series returns on May 19 with a new lineup of the best local purveyors, distillers and winemakers. The series kicks off on Friday, from 6-9 p.m. with MASTER DISTILLERS.

This first event takes place in the beautiful garden overlooking Butterfly Beach, where lucky guests will taste the local Master Distiller’s best bourbon, whiskey and vodka creatively added to select specialty cocktails. The cocktails are paired with house-made pastas, dry aged carpaccio, signature seafood and salami.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

The series continues of June 16 with POP! BUBBLES, a special selection of still and sparkling rosé wines to be sipped and slurped seaside at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club with oysters shucked to order, fresh local seafood and sunsets over the Pacific.

Then on July 21 its RED, WHITE & BREW. What could be more patriotic than a refreshing summer celebration featuring the country’s favorite beverage: beer.  Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore has teamed up with local microbreweries to present a Santa Barbara take on beer alongside savory barbecue bites.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

FERRAGOSTO FESTIVAL is on August 11. A celebrated festival in Italy, Ferragosto comes to the ocean front Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club with a tasting of local white wines and an Italian inspired fritto misto bar.

The series ends on September 22 with HARVEST CRUSH, where guests will celebrate harvest with signature varietals from Santa Barbara wine country. Get in the mood for harvest with tastings from local vineyards as well as a pig roast complimented with harvest vegetables.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Courtesy Second Annual Summer Tasting Series at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Events are $78 each or receive a three event bundle discount of 20% ($187 for three of your choice). Please call 805/565-8232 to purchase tickets. Price subject to sales tax and service charge.

All events are from 6-9 p.m. at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, 1260 Chanel Dr.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 May 19, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: Pairing Wine and Sushi

by lesliedinaberg on May 15, 2017

Edomae Sushi and Star Lane & Dierborg Vineyard Winery pairing and tasting tour. Photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Edomae Sushi and Star Lane & Dierberg Vineyard Winery pairing and tasting tour. Photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Wine and sushi were a match made in Happy Canyon heaven—I’m still dreaming about a once-in-a-lifetime amazing meal I shared recently at Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards.

Executive Chef/Owner Kiminari Togawa of Sushi Karaku in Tokyo (left) and his associate prepare a pairing luncheon at the Star Lane Dierberg Estate Vineyard property. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Executive Chef/Owner Kiminari Togawa of Sushi Karaku in Tokyo (left) and his associate prepare a pairing luncheon at the Star Lane Dierberg Estate Vineyard property. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Dierberg family-owned wineries teamed up with Japan’s sushi master Chef Kiminari Togawa of  Sushi Karaku of Ginza Tokyo, winemaker Tyler Thomas and two impressive advanced sommeliers—Matthew Dulle of Single Thread Farm in Healdburg, CA and Andrew Ivanov of Reeds American Table in St. Louis, MO—to create an incredible, intimate wine and sushi experience.

Energetic powerhouse JiaMin Liang Dierberg coordinated the entire meal, and also proved to be an entertaining Japanese translator for Chef Togawa, explaining, “the style of sushi we are eating is from the Edo Period (in the 1800’s) when the refrigeration system was not sufficient and resulted in this sushi method, involving a special way of marinating and seasoning to preserve fresh fish safely.”

JiaMin Liang Dierberg was an entertaining Japanese translator for Chef Togawa at a recent pairing luncheon at the Star Lane Dierberg Estate Vineyard property. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

JiaMin Liang Dierberg was an entertaining Japanese translator for Chef Togawa at a recent pairing luncheon at the Star Lane Dierberg Estate Vineyard property. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The type of “fast food” sushi we commonly eat today has only been in style for about 50 years, JiaMin said, “even in Japan, most of the people have never had this experience.”

And what an experience it was!

Winemaker Tyler Thomas at Star Lane & Dierberg Vineyards in Happy Canyon, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Winemaker Tyler Thomas at Star Lane & Dierberg Vineyards in Happy Canyon, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Our morning started out with a barrel wine tasting and seminar at the Dierberg Tasting Room in Lompoc. Led by Tyler Thomas, who offered some insight into his belief that great wines are about showcasing great properties and the goal is to help each vineyard reach its unique potential.

We then shuttled to the Star Lane estate and winery in Happy Canyon, which is home to 200 acres of Bordelaise varietal vines and a state-of-the-art winery that features a four story high crush pad, gravity flow system and 26,000 feet of caves full of wine barrels. You have see it to believe it!  After our tour of the vineyard and winery we were greeted at the luncheon reception with a refreshing glass of the 2016 Star Lane Rosé made with 100% Malbec.

Then the wine and sushi pairing began.

Kanpachi (Yellow Tail) Marinated in White Wine (r) and Tai (Sea Bream) with Marinated Kelp and Yuzu. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Kanpachi (Yellow Tail) Marinated in White Wine (r) and Tai (Sea Bream) with Marinated Kelp and Yuzu. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First Course: Sauvignon Blanc
Kanpachi Yellowtail Marinated in White Wine with 2015 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Tai (Sea Bream) with Marinated Kelp and Yuzu with 2005 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley

Seafood Dressed in Basil Sauce, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Seafood Dressed in Basil Sauce, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Seafood Dressed in Basil Sauce

The pairings were exceptional. I particularly enjoyed the way the marinated kelp and yuzu flavors complimented the citrus notes of the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc.

Second Course: Chardonnay

Tai (Sea Bream) Pickled in Sesame Soy (l) with Broiled Skin-on Tai (Sea Bream), photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Tai (Sea Bream) Pickled in Sesame Soy (l) with
Broiled Skin-on Tai (Sea Bream), photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Tai (Sea Bream) Pickled in Sesame Soy with 2014 Dierberg “Dierberg Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

Broiled Skin-onTai (Sea Bream) with 2014 Dierberg “Drum Canyon Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills

King Crab Mille Feuille, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

King Crab Mille Feuille, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

King Crab Mille Feuille

Again, the pairings were amazing, with excellent food and wine serving to improve the tastes of each even further. The sesame soy oil really went well with the lush fruit flavors of the Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay and I loved the King Crab dish.

Moving into the red wine pairings is where it got even more interesting. Common practice is to pair white wines with fish and red wines with meats, which is probably why it’s been difficult to get most sushi restaurants to offer much in the way of wine lists. However, the next two sets of pairings proved that red wine and sushi can indeed be a delicious match.

Pickled Red Maguro (Tuna Red Meat) in Soy (l) and Chu-Toro (Fatty Tuna) Sprinkled with Wine Salt, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Pickled Red Maguro (Tuna Red Meat) in Soy (l) and Chu-Toro (Fatty Tuna) Sprinkled with Wine Salt, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Third Course: Pinot Noir

Pickled Red Maguro (Tuna Red Meat) in Soy with 2014 Dierberg “Dierberg Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Chu-Toro (Fatty Tuna) Sprinkled with Wine Salt with 2014 Dierberg “Drum Canyon Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills

Oil Marinated Salmon with Tomato Water

Oil Marinated Salmon with Tomato Water, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Oil Marinated Salmon with Tomato Water, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

These elegant Pinot Noirs were a heavenly match with plummy sweetness of the tomato water marinade. I’m a huge sushi tuna fan and both of these variations were incredible.

Fourth Course: Bordeaux Varieties
Broiled Toro and 2013 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Mirin Marinated Conger Eel with 2011 Star Lane “Astral,” Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara

Broiled Toro and Mirin Marinated Conger Eel, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Broiled Toro and Mirin Marinated Conger Eel, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Teriyaki Fatty Yellowtail with Foie Gras

The pièce de résistance of an absolutely incredible meal! The 2011 Bordeaux Blend had lovely depth and sweet notes of cassis, plum and boysenberry that were fabulous with the sweetness of the eel. Similar notes in the 2013 Cab added yet another layer of complex flavor to the Toro. All in all it was simply amazingly delicious lunch.

Teriyaki Fatty Yellowtail with Foie Gras, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Teriyaki Fatty Yellowtail with Foie Gras, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Pairing each course with multiple vintages was an ingenious way to show off the diversity and complexity of the Dierberg and Star Lane wine offerings, as well as open our minds to the variety of ways that wine and sushi can be paired successfully.

This is definitely an experience I won’t ever forget. For more information, visit dierbergvineyard.com.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 May 15, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: Test Your Taste Buds

by lesliedinaberg on May 15, 2017

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Are you curious to learn all about the secrets behind recognizing a wine from just a glance and a taste? Next week, on Thursday, May 18, you can try your skills at blind tasting. Starting at 6 p.m. at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St., Ste. B),  Advanced Sommelier Emily Johnston leads a fun, interactive event that is open to everyone at any level of wine knowledge.

Sommelier Secrets is a monthly series of SOMM-led tastings, and at $25 per person, it’s a fun way to deepen your general knowledge and also learn about new wines.

The SOMM tastings take place on the third Thursday of each month. They’re basically guided educational events hosted by Johnston and focused on understanding the nuances of a specific wine producing region or a particular grape. The tasting is comprised of flights of three or four wines to highlight classic styles and current trends.

This is an opportunity for wine lovers of all experience levels to learn more about wine in the most enjoyable way possible.

Les Marchands, photo by Rob Stark.

After the blind tasting on May 18, next up is a White Burgundy Tasting on June 15.

“Tasting wines that speak to a region is not only a key study tool of mine, it can also be a method of transport to another place or time,” states Johnston. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more wine lovers in our community and sharing this experience.”

Johnston’s early training includes interning at Brander Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley followed by wine sales for a small Italian wine import company in Santa Barbara. Thoroughly inspired, Johnston left for Italy to study as a sommelier at ALMA Scuola Internazionale di Cucina’s Wine Academy where she received the highest academic honors in her class

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

and achievement in Italian fluency. She became a Certified Sommelier with the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) in 2011 while working alongside AIS Master Sommelier, Roberto Jacquemod Pane.

She became a Certified Advanced Level Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2016. Before arriving at Les Marchands as General Manager in 2017, Johnston served as Wine Director/Sommelier for the Toscana Restaurant Group overseeing the wine programs at four operations–Toscana, Bar Toscana, S.Y. Kitchen and Nerano for four years.

At Les Marchands, she oversees the wine bar’s ever-changing menu of selections, educational programs and retail offerings. In 2015, she was awarded Zagat’s “30 Under 30” award for young talent to be watched in the hospitality industry.

For further information and to make reservations contact Les Marchands at 805/284-0380, email inquiries@lesmarchandswine.com, or visit www.lesmarchandswine.com.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 May 12, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: New Luna Terraza at The Biltmore

by lesliedinaberg on April 29, 2017

Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara's new Luna Terraza offers a unique, intimate spot for dining and cocktails. Courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara’s new Luna Terraza offers a unique, intimate spot for dining and cocktails. Courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

One of the swankiest spots in town, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, got even more wow-worthy with the recently opened Luna Terraza, which offers an exclusive and intimate outdoor private space just outside of the recently renovated Ty Lounge.

Lucky me, I got to try it out last week. My friend Nancy and I felt like royalty for the night as we were escorted onto the beautiful new terrace. Suitable for parties of up to eight guests, the stunning Luna Terrace feels like a journey to Morocco, complete with cushy curtains and couches in a rich palette of red, blue, camel and gold.

Enjoying a cocktail at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara's new Luna Terraza. Courtesy photo.

Enjoying a cocktail at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara’s new Luna Terraza. Courtesy photo.

Guests can enjoy several “Elite Experiences” including Tangier Bottle Service, Private Brunch, Casablanca Romance and Moroccan Feast.

An ultra premium cocktail experience, the Tangier Bottle Service includes:

—Rolling cart with private bartender service

— Choice of premium liquor bottle service and accompaniments

— Moroccan Mezze of dips served with grilled flatbread and fried pita

— Exclusive use of private terrace for up to 8 guests

—Option of sunset or moonlit service ( 3 hour limit, cost: $500)

Additional highlights from the menu include: Mezze featuring dips, such as yogurt herb, charred eggplant and warm housemade hummus (the best I’ve ever tasted); Moroccan Mezze plate, which comprises a whole roasted cauliflower (delicious), Moroccan chicken skewers, grilled lamb kefta and vegetable tagine; and a Private Brunch, with a Bloody Mary bar including a selection of house-made garnishes like hickory smoked bacon, mozzarella pearls, pickled asparagus and fried jalapeno. Bottomless Bellinis or Mimosas are also available, along with Chef Marco Fossati’s select brunch menu with seafood platter.

For more information, click here.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 April 28, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro

by lesliedinaberg on April 22, 2017

The Bottlest Bistro Bathtub Martini, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Bottlest Bistro Bathtub Martini, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

I pride myself on being a bit of a cocktail connoisseur, but last week I saw one of the cleverest cocktail embellishments I’ve seen: a little rubber ducky floating in the Bathtub Martini at the new Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro in Buellton. Made with Andrew John’s Premium Gin and a twist of lemon, this isn’t the only clever cocktail on the menu.

The Bottlest Bistro Lavender Gin Paloma, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Bottlest Bistro Lavender Gin Paloma, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Gin is clearly having a moment, as evidenced by the lovely Lavender Gin Paloma (made with house-infused lavender gin, simple syrup and grapefruit juice) on the Bottlest menu.

We also liked the Dirty Flamingo (made with Giffard pamplemousse liqueur and crushed Prosecco), the Happy Canyon Daiquiri (comes standard with Real McCoy 3 year rum, lime, simple syrup and a dehydrated lime wheel, but can also be upgraded with Mount Gay Eclipse or even Plantation 5 Year Old Grand Reserve), and The Vandenberg (made with Milagro Silver Tequila, lime, simple syrup and a soda sidecar).

The Bottlest Margarita with Pinot Noir Salt Rim, courtesy photo.

The Bottlest Margarita with Pinot Noir Salt Rim, courtesy photo.

Also getting rave reviews is the Bottlest Margarita, made with Sauza Blue Reposado Tequila, orange liqueur, and a Pinot Noir salt rim—a clever touch that brings the wine and cocktail worlds together, as does this delicious new restaurant.

Hibiscus Lemonade and Lew's Gimlet from Bottlest Bistro, courtesy photo.

Hibiscus Lemonade and Lew’s Gimlet from Bottlest Bistro, courtesy photo.

The restaurant is new (with a fabulously elevated menu from former Head Chef of Barbareño Owen Hanavan), but the space (in conjunction with Terravant Winery) still offers its trademark “Wine Wall” of 52 constantly changing wines available by the taste, half glass or full glass. This is a definitely a destination that’s well worth the drive!

Cheers! Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro is located at 35 Industrial Way in Buellton (805/686-4742, bottlest.com/bistro).

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Bottlest Bistro Old Fashioned cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Bottlest Bistro Old Fashioned cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 April 21, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Easter Dining and a Toast to Spring!

by lesliedinaberg on April 10, 2017

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Spring is in the air, so what better time to sample some of the lovely new libations at our local watering holes. Hop on over and give these spring cocktails and dining options a taste:

Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, courtesy photo.

Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, courtesy photo.

Ty Lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara has a delicious Smoked Apricot Daiquiri—featuring Zaya 12 Year Rum, Apricot Puree, Chipotle Simple Syrup and Lemon—that will tingle your tastebuds. Bella Vista Restaurant at the Biltmore is always an elegant spot for brunch, but they’re an extra “Hoppy” Easter celebration for the whole family at Santa Barbara’s most beautiful al fresco setting, with an abundant holiday buffet, featuring traditional favorites as well as an extensive selection of seafood, salads, house-made pastas and carvings. Click here for reservations.

The Bottomless Bellini at Belmond El Encanto, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Bottomless Bellini at Belmond El Encanto, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The beautiful rooftop Easter Brunch at the Canary is a special place to celebrate the holiday with breathtaking views, great food and live music. Finch & Fork Executive Chef James Siao has seasonal brunch items available like Create-Your-Own Omelets, a Pastry and Bread Bar, Seafood and Carving Stations, and an indulgent dessert table. Reservations can be made by calling 805/879-9100.

The Bottomless Bellini Brunch at Belmond El Encanto is another great way to toast the holiday season. The Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne is flowing every Sunday, with delectable California-coastal cuisine and live jazz music. A seasonal selection of shared appetizers starts the experience. Then, select from à la carte entrées like Seared Local Swordfish or Riviera Clam Bake. Following this sumptuous meal, head to The Wine Room where an irresistible selection of desserts awaits. Click here for reservations.

Cocktails at the Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

Cocktails at the Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

Outpost at the Goodland is also serving brunch this Easter, where Chef Nick Bajal will be serving a buffet full of brunch favorites. Start with one of his tarts, like the PB&J or Summer Squash with cherry tomatoes and cheese, or the Crab Biscuit with uni butter. Then move on to Baked Egg Frittata with ham, asparagus and goat cheese, Chicken & Waffles with tabasco maple syrup and Build-Your-

Breakfast at Viva!, courtesy photo.

Breakfast at Viva!, courtesy photo.

Own Tacos. And don’t forget to order a brunch cocktail like a house Bloody Mary or lead bartender Chris Burmeister‘s signature Smokemosa (made with Scotch, orange juice and sparkling wine). Call 805/964-1288 to reserve your Easter brunch seat. 

Spice up your spring at Viva!, which is now serving both brunch and breakfast (and excellent Mimosas in three flavors—cranberry, peach or raspberry—Bloody Mary’s and “Turtle Juice” with homemade agua fresca and Cruzan Rum) on its beautiful patio with the turtle filled pond in La Arcada. Try the Upside Down Pancakes, assorted Breakfast Burritos, Southwest Scramble or Breakfast Tacos for some inspired modern Mexican cuisine. Click here for reservations.

Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch is always a treat, but their Easter Brunch menu is especially spectacular. It features specialties like Jumbo Lump Crab Benedict, Pepper Crusted Wagyu Striploin and Citrus Cured King Salmon, along with sparkling wine, mimosas and bellinis. Call 805/565-1700 for reservations.

Loquita, photo by Kaitlin Chamblin.

Loquita Tortilla Espanola, photo by Kaitlin Chamblin.

Loquita‘s three-course Easter brunch begins with a choice of Charcutería  y Queso or Manchego Tasting, followed with a choice of one Tapas per guest—Patatas Bravas,  Ensalada de Cítricos, Chorizo Picadillo, or Tortilla Espanola. That’s followed by Torrijas–Spanish French Toast with Cara Cara Orange & Crema Catalana—and a choice of their splendid Sangria–Sangria Rojo with Tempranillo, Torres Orange Brandy & Lemon;  Sangria Blanco with Albarino, Gin & White Peach or house Agua Frescas. Click here for reservations.

The Easter Brunch at Les Marchands features an array of menu items from Chef Weston Richards, including House-Made Ricotta with Seasonal Jam & Brioche Toast; House-Made Chorizo & Butternut Squash Frittata with Parmesan Cheese; Breakfast Poutine with Sausage Gravy, Cheddar Cheese & Poached Egg;  and Tres Leches French Toast with Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Berries, among others. Guests can also  indulge in specialty cocktails like the Easter Pamplemousse Spritz with Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice, Muddled Basil Leaf, Topped with Crémant Rosé, Splash of Soda and Grapefruit Garnish, as well as variety of other cocktails, wines and beers. For reservations, click here.

Breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach is always beautiful

Breakfast at the BoatHouse, courtesy photo.

Breakfast at the BoatHouse, courtesy photo.

(can anyone beat that view!). Try one of their many Breakfast Benedicts (Classic, Pork Belly, California or Smoked Salmon style Eggs Benedict, all with breakfast potatoes) or French Toast with a “Pancake Breakfast Cocktail” (Tullamore Dew/Butterscotch schnapps, OJ chaser and a strip of smoked bacon) for a special Easter treat. They don’t take reservations, so go early and plan to take a stroll on the beach to work up an appetite.

If an Easter lunch is your preference, head to Santa Ynez, where Alberto Battaglini of S.Y. Kitchen presents five new spring cocktails inspired by the warming temperatures, first of the season local market produce, herbs and botanicals: the Chamomile Sour; Spring

Pear & Honey Bramble pear-infused gin, honey liquore, pear, lemon, gomme syrup, crème de mure, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Pear & Honey Bramble, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Negroni; Rio Nexpa; Rustic; and the Pear & Honey Bramble. Try the T-Bone Truffle Sliders, Wild Mushroom Papardelle or Yellow Beet Salad for lunch. You won’t be sorry! The wrap-around patio is an especially lovely spot to toast the season as well. Click here for reservations.

The Lark offers a tasty array of Easter holiday dinner specials such as Deviled Easter Eggs, Grilled Texas Quail and Roasted Banana Panna Cotta, as well as debut spring menu that includes Brillat Savarin Triple Crème Brie, Colorado Lamb Sirloin Tartare; Dungeness Crab Risotto; Slow-Roasted Niman Ranch Ribs; and ‘Shrimp & Grits’ with Fresh Caught Kauai Prawns. Toast the holiday with craft cocktails, like the new-to-the-season Hummingbird and Jackrabbit; as well as house specialties like Alice’s Flip; JP’s Paloma; Black Manhattan; The Mule; Old Aztec; El Topo; Industry Sour; and the Dirty One-Thirty-One. Click here for reservations.

Cheers to the season! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 April 7, 2017.