The Biltmore’s Amazing Gingerbread House

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara's Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

With the smoke starting to clear, we’re all in need of a little holiday cheer. I recommend you check out the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara‘s incredible gingerbread house!

To honor the Resort’s 90th anniversary, talented Pastry Chef Javier Franco and the rest of the pastry team created a stunning replica of the Resort out of gingerbread using 70 lbs. of powdered sugar. Pastillage, fondant, cooked sugar, royal icing, chocolate and gingerbread were the main components used for the construction and most of the pottery is made of pastillage, a type of icing that is similar to gum paste. This incredible creation took 1,500 roof tiles, all hand-made and hand-painted.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara's Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Mini ice cream cones were used to make the pine trees, red hot gum sticks make the entrance driveway and pathways, the windows are made of clear sugar and the 140+ year old Moreton Bay fig tree is made of white chocolate. This masterpiece, along with a beautiful display of Christmas decorations are on display at the resort lobby until New Year’s Eve. All are welcome to stop by and view Chef Franco’s amazing creation.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara's Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is located at 1260 Channel Dr.

Leslie Dinaberg

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara's Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s Gingerbread House, courtesy photo.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 21, 2017.

La Arcada Christmas Walk

La Arcada Christmas Walk, courtesy La Arcada.

La Arcada Christmas Walk, courtesy La Arcada.

Get ready to get in the mood for the holidays! The spirit of Christmas—both past and present—is alive and well at this favorite annual celebration taking place on Wednesday, November 29, from 5–8 p.m. The charming, historic holiday open house has all the trimmings of the season, including twinkling lights, costumed carolers, refreshments and the chance to tell Santa what a good boy or girl you’ve been this year (and even snap a photo if you’ve been really, really good!).

In its 23rd year, the La Arcada Christmas Walk is a festive way to start the holiday season, and spend time with the whole family in a beautiful setting wandering down the enchanting, tree filled courtyard as it is transformed into a winter wonderland.  Hungry? Andersen’s, Viva, Jeannine’s, La Arcada Bistro, Petit Valentien and State & Fig will all be open for dining that evening.

Waterhouse Gallery, La Arcada, courtesy photo.

Waterhouse Gallery, La Arcada, courtesy photo.

Photos with Santa are FREE, as are fresh popped popcorn, treats in shops and the chance to sing-a-long to familiar holiday tunes.

Retail stores and specialty shops including Socorro, Renaissance, Ace Rivington, Lewis & Clarke, LaTavola Fine Linen, August Ridge Vineyards, The Barber Shop, Bread & Butter, Chocolats du CaliBressan, Coast 2 Coast Collection, Peanuts Maternity & Gifts, Sanford Winery and Urban Optics will extend their hours for this very special evening.  Art enthusiasts will enjoy visiting Gallery 113, Santa Barbara Arts, Waterhouse Gallery and the historically significant permanent collection of interactive sculptures throughout the Historic La Arcada Courtyard.

La Arcada is located at 1114 State St. between Figueroa and Anapamu streets.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 20, 2017.

Dreaming Big: Congregation B’nai B’rith’s 90 Year Celebration

Images from Congregation B'nai B'rith Dreamers Ball. Photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Images from Congregation B’nai B’rith Dreamers Ball. Photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Honoring yesterday, today and tomorrow, supporters of Congregation B’nai B’rith (CBB) recently gathered at Bacara Resort & Spa in tribute to the founding families who had the vision to create the home for Santa Barbara’s Jewish community in 1927.

This festive, elegant celebration was packed to the gills with 450 guests to mark the 90th anniversary of Congregation B’nai B’rith, Santa Barbara’s largest Jewish synagogue, which now serves as the spiritual home to more than 800 families.

Dubbed the Dreamers Ball, the Marc Chagall-inspired gala was beautifully reflected in decorations and touches throughout the ballroom and live music by We the Folk (whose talented accordion player is David Childs, son of Shari and Cantor Mark Childs).

Also honored at the event was Cantor Childs, who has served the congregation for the past 25 years, touching thousands of lives in the process.

The Dreamers Ball was organized by co-chairwomen Hallie Avolio, board president Judi Koper, Liat Wasserman, Marcy Wimbish, Bethy Fineberg and executive director Elizabeth Gaynes. Ruth Hartzman and Adele Rosen were the honorary co-chairwomen.

An impressive tribute book detailed the congregation’s history and leadership and was filled with glowing personal tributes to Childs and congratulations on the 90th anniversary of Congregation B’nai B’rith. Included in the tribute are excerpts from local historian Erin Graffy’s upcoming book about the history of Jewish Santa Barbara.

“Right now, we are setting the stage for the next 100 years of our CBB communal life,” writes Rabbi Steve Cohen. “We are establishing patterns of congregational life which draw deeply upon the best of Jewish tradition and values, and which are vibrantly alive … full of humor, creativity, moral integrity, intellectual rigor and honesty … and connect us deeply to this place, Santa Barbara, a place of awesome natural beauty and resources, nestled between the ocean and the mountains.”

For more information about Congregation B’nai B’rith, visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 16, 2017.

It’s Football Season at the Garden

Courtesy The Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Courtesy The Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Sunday Funday is now happening every week at The Garden inside the Santa Barbara Public Market. With NFL Sunday Ticket and wide coverage of NCAA Football, you’ll never miss a game. Plus, the Garden is now serving up breakfast on weekends starting at 9 a.m. in this fun, family-friendly new venue.

Plant yourself in The Garden and enjoy Fried Chicken & Waffles, Chilaquiles, Monster Breakfast Burritos and lighter fare including egg white omelettes and housemade granola served with yogurt and locally grown fruit. Breakfast drink specials also include fresh mimosas and micheladas.

Courtesy the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Courtesy the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Located inside the Santa Barbara Public Market, The Garden offers guests the ability to view all the games while enjoying food and 41 craft beers and eight wines on the always rotating on-tap menu.

The Garden is located at 38 W. Victoria St. (at Chapala) with free underground parking. For more information, visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Fried Chicken and Waffles from the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Fried Chicken and Waffles from the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Mary’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich topped with jalapeno slaw & house pickles on a sesame bun from the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Mary’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich topped with jalapeno slaw & house pickles on a sesame bun from the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Courtesy the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Courtesy the Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 6, 2016.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Gold Ribbon Luncheon

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Honorees Shaun and Carla Tomson, courtesy photo.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Honorees Shaun and Carla Tomson, courtesy photo.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) celebrates its Gold Ribbon Luncheon on October 5 at the Coral Casino at Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore in Santa Barbara. The Annual Gold Ribbon Campaign, held in recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, culminate at this luncheon where community members and supporters gather in support of an imperative cause—supporting children with cancer. The event also honors this year’s Gold Ribbon Luncheon Award recipients.

Andrew Firestone serves as host and honorees include  Shaun and Carla Tomson. The 2016 Santa Barbara Teen Star USA, Jackson Gillies, will perform and there will be entertainment by other youth talent.

“The heartbreak that a family that has a child diagnosed with cancer faces is unimaginable,” says Andrew Firestone. “As a father, I want to help alleviate the financial and emotional challenges that families endure. Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is one of the most critical organizations in town. Let’s bring together our generous community and raise money to help these brave families and kids.”

This year’s Heart of Gold Award recognizes a couple that has gone above and beyond in giving of their time and talent for the benefit of TBCF and the families served. Carla and Shaun Tomson’s interaction with the families, volunteers, and staff has been genuine and compassionate, demonstrating a huge heart for the cause, say TBCF representatives.

This year’s Humanitarian Award recognizes Cottage Children’s Medical Center, a group that has been dedicated to improving the human condition of TBCF families. Day in and day out, they work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of children who are battling cancer—supporting and contributing to the welfare and well-being of not only the child going through treatment, but their whole family too. The staff members of Cottage Children’s Medical Center are true advocates for youth with cancer and their families and go the extra mile in providing comfort, care, and the resources they need.

This year’s Pay-It-Forward Award recognizes the Krasnoff Family, a TBCF family who has given back to the organization by paying-it-forward. This family, despite the hardships they faced with the loss of their daughter Lexi to cancer when she was just two, have chosen to give back to TBCF by providing support to other families, sharing their personal story at events, and being advocates of the cause.

This year’s Helping Hands Award recognizes Pati Kern, an individual who has fully immersed herself in the cause for more than a decade. Kern has shown outstanding volunteerism and has participated in the inner workings of TBCF by coordinating major fundraising events and creating unique opportunities for our kids within the Moments in Time program. She has shown great support to both the staff and the families and has been a tremendous supporter of the organization ever since the day they were first introduced to her kind heart.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s September Gold Ribbon Campaign seeks to generate awareness about pediatric cancer and how it affects families; bring attention to the critical role TBCF plays in supporting Tri-County families that have a child who is battling cancer; raise funds to support TBCF’s financial, educational, and emotional support programs; and provide networks for youth with cancer and their families. The gold ribbon is the universal symbol to raise awareness about pediatric cancer. Gold represents a precious metal and the children battling cancer are precious.

The Gold Ribbon Luncheon Event Committee includes Connie Gillies, Erin Griffin, Pamela Gruen, Jamie Hansen, Kathy Kelley, Stephanie J. Noel Kirlin, Corey Lester, Monique Montgomery, Hal Price, Lacy Taylor, Michael Taylor and John Weninger.

This year, TBCF has raised $123,500 of their $300,000 goal during the Gold Ribbon Campaign. The organization is asking the community to “Go Gold” and help kids fighting cancer by making a contribution towards the Campaign. Admission tickets to the Luncheon are available for $150 and raffle tickets are $20, buy five tickets and receive the sixth ticket free! For more information, to purchase Luncheon or raffle ticket(s), or to make a donation, please visit or call 805/962-7466 today.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on September 28, 2016.

CALM Celebrates 30 Years of Celebrity Authors and Unforgettable Stories

Frances Schultz will be interviewed at CALM's annual Celebrity Author's Luncheon, photo by Tiffany Evitts.

Frances Schultz will be interviewed at CALM’s annual Celebrity Author’s Luncheon, photo by Tiffany Evitts.

Always one of our favorite literary and philanthropic events, the CALM Auxiliary‘s  30th Annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon on April 2 is a benefit for CALM’s (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) vital programs across the county that help prevent child abuse and treat children and families who have suffered from violence and abuse.

This year’s event features interviews and book signings by a variety of critically acclaimed writers, including Meg Waite Clayton, Gregg Hurwitz, and Frances Schultz (featured on the cover of Santa Barbara Seasonscurrent spring 2016 issue).

The event, which starts with book sales and signings at 10 a.m. at The Fess Parker – A Doubletree by Hilton Resort (633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.), also includes a lunch (11:45 a.m.) and author interviews (12:45 p.m.) with Clayton, Hurwitz and Schultz.

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Meg Waite Clayton is the author of five novels, including The Race for Paris and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time. Her first novel, The Language of Light, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether). She’s written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Runner’s World and public radio, often on the subject of the particular challenges women face. Clayton’s new novel was 15 years in the making and inspired by real women journalists who defied military regulations and gender barriers to report on WWII.

Meg Waite Clayton will be interviewed at CALM's annual Celebrity Author's Luncheon, courtesy photo.

Meg Waite Clayton will be interviewed at CALM’s annual Celebrity Author’s Luncheon, courtesy photo.

Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers, most recently, Orphan X. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and been translated into 26 languages. He is also a New York Times bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Additionally, he’s written screenplays for or sold spec scripts to many of the major studios, and written, developed, and produced television for various networks.

Frances Schultz, journalist, tastemaker, world traveler, hostess, Southerner, Sunday painter, and outdoors lover, is an enthusiast on decoration and design, food and entertaining, travel and style. She is author and co-author of several books, including The Bee Cottage Story—How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness. A contributing editor to House Beautiful magazine and former editor-at-large for Veranda, she has also written for The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, Indagare and The New York Social Diary. She was the on-air host for six years of the award-winning cable television show Southern Living Presents and has appeared on The Today Show, The Nate Berkus Show, CNN’s Open House and many others. With husband Tom Dittmer, dog Stella, assorted horses and critters, she lives in the Santa Ynez Valley with visits to Manhattan and summers at Bee Cottage in East Hampton.

Andrew Firestone is serving once again as Master of Ceremonies. Hank Phillippi Ryan, an interviewed author at last year’s luncheon, returns to the stage this year alongside Tom Weitzel, to interview the 2016 celebrity authors.

Greg Hurwitz will be interviewed at CALM's annual Celebrity Author's Luncheon, courtesy photo.

Greg Hurwitz will be interviewed at CALM’s annual Celebrity Author’s Luncheon, courtesy photo.

In addition to the interviewed authors, these authors will also attend the event and be available for book signing:

Melissa Broughton, Cowboy Dad: Love, Alcoholism, and a Dying Way of Life

Jane Coleman, Life Is All About Range

Lydia Edwards, Odyssey of Innocents

Margarita Fairbanks, Valentino, The Love Bunny

Jeff Farrell, My Olympic Story, Rome 1960

Lisa Guadagno, The Lucky Ones

Dana Kent, Brussels to Beirut to Bali: The 1958 World Travels of Four Girls in a Second-Hand Chevy

Peggy O’Toole, Then I Won’t Seem So Far Away

Chris Messner, Cuba Open From the Inside, Travels in the Forbidden Land

Tracy Shawn, The Grace of Crows

M.L. VanBlaricum, Reflections in a Boomer’s Eye

Ernie WithamWhere Are Pat and Ernie Now? A Santa Barbara Couple’s Humorous Travel Adventures

“The CALM Auxiliary is very proud to have hosted such a wonderful community event for 30 years. We have been so lucky to have had some of the greatest authors donate their time and talent, all the while supporting CALM’s important cause. The entire Auxiliary has been behind this project from the start and we couldn’t do our job without every one of them. We feel fortunate to be involved and are proud to help CALM in its mission to protect children and families from abuse,” say event co-chairs Becky Cohn and Carolyn Gillio.

For tickets and event information, please call 805/969-5590 or click here.  All ticket proceeds and a percentage of book sales will benefit CALM, the only nonprofit in Santa Barbara County focused solely on preventing and treating child abuse. CALM was founded in 1970 to reach stressed parents before they hurt their children.  CALM continues to be the only nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focusing solely on preventing, assessing, and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive, cutting-edge programs.  CALM offers children, families, and adults a safe, non-judgmental, caring, and strength-based environment to heal and increase family well-being.  For more information about all of CALM’s services, please call 805/965-2376 or visit

Leslie Dinaberg

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on March 22, 2016.

A Passion for Business Innovation

The Manzo-McKaig Melting Pot 

By Leslie Dinaberg

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

Like many immigrant families, the Manzo-McKaig patriarch came to the U.S. to pursue the American Dream.

Mission accomplished. From the Italian Store to the Pan-American Market chain, Enrico’s Deli and Casa Flores Tortillas, to their current successes in entrepreneurial ventures, hard work—and a love of food and family—run deep in the Manzo-McKaig gene pool.

Luigi Manzo came to the United States from Italy shortly after World War I, and together with his wife Luigina, opened the Italian Store, on February 1, 1929, according to a 1956 story in the Santa Barbara News-Press (“Store Will Give Birthday Orchids”). The imported food market was the first of its type in Santa Barbara, says Manzo’s granddaughter, Louise McKaig, The original Italian Store was located at 10 E. Cota St., the historic building that now houses the Palace Restaurant.

In the early days, Luigi and Luigina operated the store themselves. “Specialty and imported groceries and their own make of salumi and sausage brought popularity to the store. With a small truck they delivered orders as far as Santa Paula, Camarillo, Oxnard and Carpinteria,” according to the Santa Barbara News-Press.

“My Grandma always told me she came through Ellis Island [also from Italy] when she was nine,” says Louise. “She said that her father and his brother went to work in the coal mines in Oklahoma.” According to the 1930 U.S. Census records, Luigina arrived in this country in 1915, and classified herself as an “unpaid worker, member of the family” at the “Family Grocery Store” in Santa Barbara.

The Manzo’s son Enrico “Pete” (Louise’s father) also began working at the store at the tender age of seven. “His first job was dusting, straightening shelves, and stacking the bulk eggs into cartons,” says Pete’s wife Dorothy “Dottie” Manzo. “Pete was still in high-school when his father, Luigi Manzo, got sick and handed Pete the keys to the store. ”

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

In 1947, the family moved the store to larger quarters at 802 Chapala St. (now the back side of Paseo Nuevo Mall). Enrico graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1948, and served as an Army medic during the Korean War. He formally took over the management of the store when he completed his military service in 1953.

He also came back to home to his sweetheart, Dorothy “Dottie” Flores. “She was an elevator girl at the Granada Theatre,” says Louise. Shortly after Enrico’s return from the war, the couple was married at St. Raphael’s Church in Goleta in 1954. “Seven days after we married, Pete put an apron on me and taught me to use the cash register,” recalls Dottie. “I was the head checker and was in charge of training the other checkers. I also prepared the figures for bookkeepers and accountants.”

The Manzo family grew quickly. Michael, Louise and then Louis were born—all three siblings still reside in Santa Barbara. Michael is an architect and Louis and Louise are both real estate agents. Dottie also lives in town and enjoys lots of family time.

The business grew too. In 1955 the store more than doubled its floor space. “At that time there weren’t very many grocery stores in Santa Barbara,” says Dottie.

Unheard of for the time, Enrico also built a 14,000-square-foot paved parking lot in the rear of the Chapala store. “My father was always so innovative,” says Louise. “We were one of the first stores to have a parking lot, which made it easier for people to buy more groceries since they didn’t have to carry them as far.”

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

“I remember we were probably all under ten years old and during the Fiesta Parade one year … our dad gave all of us kids a refrigerated chest full of drinks and sodas and told us to make sure the parking lot was used by customers only, and that we could sell drinks to parade goers in the meantime and keep all the profit from the soda sales for ourselves, says Michael.

“That was probably our first taste of running a business without our parents,” says Louise.

According to the Santa Barbara News-Press report, at that point the Italian Store had 15 employees—including six butchers in the meat department—and stocked more than 5,000 grocery items.

In 1956, they changed the store’s name to Pan American Market, which quickly became a chain of five stores (co-owned with Jack Woolsey), including one on Milpas Street, where Chapala Market is now, one on upper State Street where Bev Mo is now, one in Carpinteria, and one on the Mesa. “Jack was a partner for a while when we opened our second store on the Mesa, where Lazy Acres is now,” says Dottie.

Enrico continued to be creative and pioneering with his stores—which featured state-of-the-art checkout equipment, modernized frozen-food departments and other innovations to make shopping easier. He was also always cutting edge with his marketing strategies.

One such promotion delighted local children. “We had a store in Carpinteria,” says Louise, “and my dad had this friend who was a helicopter pilot fly over the store dressed as Santa for Christmas.” Helicopter Santa also visited the Mesa store, according to Dottie.

This kind of attention-getting stunt wasn’t being done at that time; it was unheard of, Louise says.

“Pete was always coming up with new innovative business ideas, something inherited by our daughter Louise,” says Dottie. “We had special events, guests, or prizes for customers throughout the year especially for holidays and special occasions.”

“One year, my dad brought Engineer Bill, the famous kids TV show host, to our Pan American Market in Carpinteria and publicized it to bring new customers. Engineer Bill would be my kids’ generation’s version of Mr. Rogers,” explains Louise. “Sometimes Dad would hire a photographer to take family photos for customers wanting a keepsake. Creating an experience is an important approach to running a successful business. I’ve tried to follow in my father’s footsteps by implementing a lot of his teachings into my business like by selling a good product but also a good experience. On Mother’s Day he would have orchids given to all the mothers who were shopping at the store.”

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

Courtesy Montecito Magazine

“Growing up, my brothers, Mike and Louis and I spent a lot of time at the grocery stores. Most of the employees were like aunts and uncles to us,” recalls Louise.

“I remember bagging groceries for customers, stocking shelves, unloading cases of food off delivery trucks and miscellaneous repairs around the stores, ” says Louis.

“There were a lot of good characters and we had a lot of fun times,” says Michael.

“One time there was a butcher who wasn’t very nice to us. My dad suggested we give him ‘Happy Pills.’ So the next time he wasn’t being nice, my brothers and I made a little jar with M&Ms and wrote ‘Happy Pills’ on it,” says Louise.

“After that he was a lot nicer to us,” adds Michael.

The family business ethos was backed up with innovative business strategies. For example, the Pan-American Market was also one of the first grocery stores to have a full service deli on the premises, says Louise. A portion of the Chapala Street store eventually became Enrico’s Deli, which was beloved for its Enrico sandwich with Enrico sauce. “It was olive oil with really finely chopped celery and parsley and salt and pepper and garlic and a few other things—it was just really good,” recalls Louise. “It had just enough strength that you probably didn’t want to go on your first date to Enrico’s, but it was so good! Plus, we used really good Italian meats.”

“Enrico’s Deli was a success because we had great food and quick lunches,” says Louis. “The fast food chains were not in Santa Barbara yet, and for customers that wanted a reasonably priced, quick, hot lunch, such as a meatball, roast beef, turkey or pastrami sandwich on a French roll, Enrico’s was the place to be.”

The folks at the website also remember Enrico’s Deli and the Italian Market fondly, writing: “They sold salami, salciccie, cotechini alla vaniglia, etc, as well as ‘delicacies’ of every sort. Many people remember… the extraordinary sandwiches that were made to order, and no matter how long the line was, it was worth the wait.  The deli cases were full of cheeses, olives, and meats.  The shelves were still stocked with “delicacies” that were hard to find anywhere else – authentic Italian food in colorful packages and tins, and treats from other places, too … France, Germany, Spain …The air was heavy and rich with possibilities. It seemed like the whole city was sad when they closed their doors.”

Of course, the Manzo business doors didn’t stay closed for long.

“My father would retire and then decide ‘I’m too young to retire, I’m not retired,'” laughs Louise. “And then he’d start something again.”

“We sold the stores because we wanted to go into our next businesses,” says Dottie.

That next business was Casa Flores, a brand of tortillas.

“When my dad went into the tortilla business, tortillas weren’t produced and distributed at the level that my father envisioned,” says Louise. “My dad’s idea for Casa Flores Tortillas was to make tortillas the most popular substitute to the American bread industry.”

Prior to that, people either manufactured flour tortillas or they manufactured corn tortillas, she explains. “But this was the first time they were both under same roof. … His goal was to have people think of tortillas like bread.”

“For Casa Flores Tortillas the boys were our route managers, in charge of the trucks and routes while Louise and I ran the day-to-day of the business, accounting, payroll, human resources, scheduling of over a hundred employees, and the office side of things. The main office headquarters were located on Laguna Street,” says Dottie.

“Our family set a lot of standards in the food industry like seeing tortillas in every store with their own section, ‘food best by’ dates, and tortilla delivery schedules that matched the bread schedules, ” says Louise. “These are expected these days but before my dad thought of these things it was relatively unheard of.”

She continues, “He was very smart. He gave people things that no one else was getting. For example, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing was new then, and he sold a lot of that. One of the first distributors was a family friend. When our family opened the first Enrico’s Deli, people could design their sandwich with a quarter pound of meat, their choice of bread, their choice of toppings, a salad choice plus a side green salad with Ranch dressing. As a child I remember lines out the door every day at lunchtime. The new deli and the new salad dressing were a very big hit in Santa Barbara.”

According to a 1975 story in the Santa Barbara News-Press (“Fiscal Front: Tortillas Abound at Casa Flores”), the wholesale Casa Flores Food Factory, located at 526 Laguna St. (now Santa Barbara Paint Depot), had a million dollar gross per year, turning out 30-40,000 dozen tortillas a day, with a daily fleet of 30 trucks taking tortillas to stores and restaurants between San Diego and Paso Robles. The company was eventually purchased by Mission Foods, which is now the number one tortilla company in the United States.

But back in the day, Louise would travel to various supermarkets and food trade shows to demonstrate how to make quesadillas and other things with the tortillas.

She explains, “At that time, bread was at the center of the American meal, but my dad wanted people to think of tortillas like bread was at the time. As part of our campaign I would travel doing food demonstrations in various grocery stores, which was a new concept but has become a common marketing strategy today.”

She continues, “My father employed a chemist and they would experiment with new formulas to make tortillas but also new ways to use them. … In those days, tortillas were typically fried, which is not as healthy, so I started steaming tortillas at trade shows and it became a big hit. I was running our tortilla booth at a big Smith’s Food King trade show in Salt Lake City and every day we had a long line of people wanting to taste our new healthier method of ‘steaming tortillas.’ This man kept coming up to me saying, ‘You’re more popular than Miss America!’ I finally asked ‘who is that guy?’ It turned out to be Dee Smith of Smith’s Food King, and Miss America was actually there hosting another booth that wasn’t as popular as ours. That impressed Dee Smith. I made so many quesadillas that week and I had so many people lining up to try our ‘steamed tortilla’ quesadillas that I remember making them in my dreams.”

“I love that my grandpa actually came up with the idea and was the first to do a honey wheat tortilla, no one was doing that back then,” says Louise’s son, Samuel McKaig. “It my mom’s idea to have a little bee on the front of the package.”

He continues, “I think something that added to the company was it wasn’t just my grandpa, [the kids] were always running it for him. The kids ran the operations and the corporate side of things and my grandma did the accounting and the payroll. So it was always a family thing.”

“We learned a lot doing that,” says Louise. “Even just the mind set of you either are building skills and what you don’t know how to do you learn to do because you just keep building on your knowledge, and surround yourself with knowledgeable people too.”

Louise—an agent with Village Properties—says her family grew up having family meetings about the businesses. This is a tradition she’s continued with her own family, which includes her high school sweetheart husband Bruce McKaig, a retired Santa Barbara County Firefighter. The couple actually met when they were students at La Colina Junior High. Louise says she still teases Bruce that he’s not really a native Santa Barbaran because he didn’t move to town till he was six months old. They have two sons, Samuel and Ian, and a daughter, Shelby McKaig Rowe.

“My brother and I started in media and film, so we were doing commercials and helping Louise with her marketing,” says Samuel. “My grandfather was always trying to come up with innovative things and that was something he passed on to us, our business meeting family dinners,” he laughs.

In addition to business, the kitchen is also at the heart of this family. “Another thing that we’ve duplicated from my childhood is that we lived three generations together,” says Louise. “So my grandmother would be cooking and we had our chores for how everything would run smoothly, because my mom was working full time. At some point my Uncle Joe came to live with us too. … Now my husband’s mom lives with us. And now with me working full time and my husband retired we sort of switch off making meals.”

“And we all cook different meals,” adds Samuel. “I married a French person, so we got some different cuisine in there. She cooks a lot.”

Along with the international cuisines of the various family businesses, Louise also had another business coordinating internal programs for travelers who came to Santa Barbara. “I learned all kinds of different skills doing that, ” she says. “You have to, especially when someone can’t communicate in your own language.”

The family legacy of creativity and always working to improve oneself continues to live on in Santa Barbara. “That was something he (Grandpa Enrico) was always teaching (my mother) and he was trying to teach me is being innovative and coming up with the next thing that no one has done before,” says Samuel. “He taught that to Louise and that’s what she uses in her real estate and that’s what she taught me… being creative and pushing the limits.”

“My parents and grandparents taught me that if you work hard, provide the best products and great service your customers and clients will keep coming back,” says Louis.

“Dad taught us to treat our employees and coworkers the way you want to be treated. He always made sure that everyone in the company was taken care of,” says Michael.

“As a kid I had learned so much about business and being an entrepreneur from working with my dad. My dad taught me that a successful business is created by long-time personal relationships, by always giving a customized experience, and by providing a better service to your clients than they can get anywhere else. I think these values have always been at the core of our family’s businesses from my grandfather’s first Italian Store in the 1920s to my real estate business and my children’s businesses. He taught by example that to make a business successful you need people to want to work for you. He helped our employees from top to bottom feel like they were an essential part of a team.”

Originally published in Montecito Magazine, Spring-Summer 2015.

Reel Cool Movies at the Granada

The Muppet MovieGet ready for a fun series of family favorite movies at the Granada this summer.  The 2015 Summer Film Series offers audiences an especially rare opportunity to see memorable favorites on the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art digital 4K rear-projection screen at the historic Granada Theatre.

These family friendly films screen on Wednesdays throughout the summer.

June 10,  6 p.m.: The Muppet Movie (1979), G

June 24, 6 p.m.:  Ghostbusters (1984), PG

July 8, 6 p.m.:  E.T. (1982), PG

July 22, 6 p.m.: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (2005), PGThe Chronicles of Narnia

August 12, 6 p.m.: Surf’s Up (2007), PG

August 26, 6 p.m.: Despicable Me (2010), PG

General Admission tickets are $10 with discounts for multiple series purchases. Click here to purchase tickets for each movie performance, or by calling The Granada Theatre’s Box Office at 805/899-2222. The theater is located at 1214 State St. For more information please visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on June 6, 2015.

La Primavera Fiesta Kick Off

El Presidente Cas Stimson (center) celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

El Presidente Cas Stimson (center) celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

Last weekend was the official kick off for the 2015 Fiesta season, La Primavera, where El Presidente Cas Stimson unveiled the official Fiesta theme, poster design, and pin.

The theme, Fiesta Romántica, states Stimson, “recalls the time in the early 19th century when people met at parties filled with music and dance… that lasted for days! During this charming era, young men wooed their ladies with music and song under the moonlight. Old Spanish Days continues this romance of people coming together in celebration with their best friends and spouses. As has been the case with many visitors and residents of Santa Barbara, my wife Kathy and I met during Fiesta 25 years ago.”

La Primavera was held at the historic El Paseo Restaurant. Here’s a look at the event, featuring photos by Fritz Olenberger.

The 2015 Old Spanish Days poster,  photo by Fritz Olenberger

The 2015 Old Spanish Days poster, photo by Fritz Olenberger

Celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

Celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

Celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

Erin Graffy de Garcia, celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

2015 Spirit of Fiesta Alexandra Freres celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

2015 Spirit of Fiesta Alexandra Freres celebrating at La Primavera, photo by Fritz Olenberger

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on May 13, 2015.

Editor’s Pick: STOMP


This high-energy percussive symphony of matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more has to be seen and experienced to be believed. The whole family is sure to enjoy the inventive and invigorating stage show that’s dance, music and theatrical performance blended into one electrifying rhythm. Feb. 9, 8 p.m. The Granada, 1214 State St. 805/899-2222,

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Winter 2014/15.