2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington

Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington, originally published in Touring & Tasting, spring/summer 2020.

Explore the Heart of Washington Wine Country

A sojourn to the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland) is an excellent way to savor the heart of Washington Wine Country and experience a winning combination of sun, water and wine. Whether you want to tour wine country, play outdoors, feast on the local culinary bounty or enjoy a wide variety of cultural pursuits, the Tri-Cities has it all!

DAY 1

10 a.m. Start in Benton City with Washington’s hottest AVA, Red Mountain. Encompassing about 4,000 acres of vineyards, Red Mountain provides grapes to over 175 wineries throughout the Pacific Northwest, consistently earning critical acclaim. With 11 on-mountain wineries and tasting rooms to choose from, you’ll enjoy meeting with vintners during this hands-on experience. For an even more intimate exploration of the Red Mountain Trails, ride from winery to winery on horseback or take a horse-drawn  wagon ride. Redmountainava.com | redmountaintrails.com

DAY 2

9 a.m. Get outside and breathe some fresh air along the sparkling Columbia River. There are fun, outdoor recreation activities for everyone, with stand up paddle board yoga, bike rentals, kayaking and more available. greenielife.comnorthwestpaddleboarding.com

11 a.m. Visit Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village in historic downtown Kennewick for an urban tasting experience at their boutique tasting rooms and wine production facilities.

12:30 p.m. Choose from one of the three charming wineries on Tulip Lane in Richland —J. Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin and Tagaris — for cuisine that’s expertly paired with their wines. bookwalterwines.combarnardgriffin.com | tagariswines.com

3:30 p.m. Indulge in a bit more tasting, with a number of excellent wineries to choose from in Richland and Kennewick, including Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery, Longship Cellars, Badger Mountain Vineyard & Powers Winery, Kitzke Cellars, Farmhand Winery and Market Vineyards. gooseridge.com | longshipcellars.combadgermtnvineyard.comkitzkecellars.com | farmhandwinery.commarketvineyards.com

6 p.m. Revel in a stunning sunset and a gourmet dinner, as well as all of the luxuries of a 96-foot yacht, on a Water2Wine Cruise along the Columbia River. water2winecruises.com

DAY 3

10 a.m. Enjoy the short drive from the urban Tri-Cities to the small, agricultural community of Prosser. Often recognized as the “Birthplace of Washington Wine,” Prosser has a variety of wineries to visit at the Prosser Wine & Food Park. Vintner’s Village has over 12 wineries, as well as the Winemaker’s Loft, a winery incubator that houses a half-dozen wineries and tasting rooms. gotastewine.com/prosservintners-village.php

2 p.m. Don’t miss the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center. Named after Washington wine pioneer Dr. Walter Clore, the Clore Center is a unique wine tasting and education destination that showcases Washington wine’s quality and diversity by offering an in-depth taste of each wine region. theclorecenter.org

There are always loads of special events going on in the Tri-Cities, with entertainment for all ages and interests. May’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is a true cultural experience with traditional music, amazing Mexican cuisine, horse dancing and more. June’s Cool Desert Nights takes car-lovers throughout the Tri-Cities. Every July brings the three-day Tri-City Water Follies boat racing tournament. Labor Day weekend is the Tumbleweed Music Festival, with more than 100 talented performers participating in three days of amazing concerts and events, many of which are free. Check out visittri-cities.com/events to stay up-to-date on all of the local happenings.

VisitTri-Cities.com

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

Discoveries: Napa Valley Wine Train

A Taste of Mystery Along the Rail

A nice glass of Napa red enhances just about any experience, including the twists, turns and whodunits you’ll find aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train’s exclusive murder mystery dining experiences. These stunningly preserved antique rail cars have plenty of stories to tell, with a cast of characters fueled by deadly secrets, and plenty of intrigue — in addition to a sumptuously prepared three-course meal!

The 2020 playbill features an intriguing new series of immersive, themed murder mystery experiences on board the dinner train. Thrilling themes such as Crime and Punishment; Death of a Gangster; Dance with Death; Totally 80’s; Midnight at the Masquerade; Wizards and Witches; Now You See It, Now You Don’t; Till Death Do Us Part and The Most Wonderful Crime of the Year take center stage, and guests are encouraged to dress up accordingly for each incredible evening.

This unforgettable, three-hour journey evokes the romance and adventurous spirit of opulent rail travel at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wine Train is also an incredible way to experience the beauty of Napa Valley Wine Country.

The Murder Mystery adventures are not the only way to enjoy a Napa Valley Wine Train journey aboard this elegant train. You can choose from a variety of lunch, dinner, romance, mystery and exclusive private tours — all of which feature fresh, gourmet California cuisine as the lush vineyards of the Napa Valley landscape pass you by. The leisurely pace of the train evokes a more relaxed and reflective era, and allows you to really take in the vineyards and majestic mountain views.

The Napa Valley Wine Train truly is the ride of a lifetime.

For info., visit winetrain.com

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting

This 25 Top Experiences Feature is a great way to do some armchair traveling! Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

New Zealand, Croatia, Ireland and England — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia; Finger Lakes, New York; Virginia and Michigan — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Texas, New Mexico, Sierra Foothills (CA), Santa Barbara County (CA) and Paso Robles (CA) — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Napa Valley, CA (this section by Hana-Lee Sedgwick) — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Sonoma County, CA (this section by Hana-Lee Sedgwick) — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Livermore (CA), Lodi (CA), Rogue Valley (OR) and Willamette Valley (OR) — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Hood River (OR), Woodinville (WA), Walla Walla (WA) and Prosser, Yakima Valley (WA) — from the Top Experiences: 25 Ways to Enjoy Touring & Tasting, originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

There are so many wonderful travel destinations for wine lovers these days, narrowing down the list to our top 25 experiences was quite a challenge.

Spectacular scenery, gorgeous vineyards and top-notch vino are all essentials, of course. We also tried to come up with a balanced mix of must-sees and more off-the-beaten-track fun activities to reflect the vast array of interests and price points available for today’s trekkers.

Here are but a few of the many, many wonderful, fun and unique ways to stoke your wanderlust and your oenophilia. Whether you’re an experienced traveler or just beginning to develop your wine adventure bucket list, here are 25 destinations that are ripe for the sipping.

New Zealand

STAY HERE The perfect place for wine lovers to unwind and explore, Hans Herzog Vineyard Cottage in Marlborough is a secluded, romantic spot tucked away among the vines. This hidden gem has a large veranda with panoramic views, with an enchanting private garden featuring a water lily pond. Plus it’s just steps away from the boutique Hans Herzog winery, wine lounge, gourmet restaurant, vineyards and bistro. For a special treat, reserve the Winemaker Table — an exclusive long lunch hosted by Therese and Hans Herzog, who share their incredible wine knowledge and tales of wine growing, wine making and fine wines from around the world. herzog.co.nz

SIP THIS Vines cascade beautifully to the water’s edge at Rippon Winery, making it the most photographed vineyard in New Zealand, if not the world. Set against a backdrop of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, Rippon’s breathtaking landscape is home to mature vine Pinot Noirs that are as impressive as the view. rippon.co.nz

DINE HERE Step back in time at the Moutere Inn, New Zealand’s Oldest Pub (circa 1850). Since 2008, the Inn has been a craft beer freehouse with 13 rotating taps from around the country, including real ale handpumps. All of their wines are sourced within 10 km of the Inn, with pub meals made from scratch. moutereinn.co.nz

DO THIS Central Otago is the adventure capital of New Zealand and that includes world-class cycling trails. The Otago Central Rail Trail is on many “don’t miss” lists. The Roxburgh Gorge Trail is known as the Grand Canyon of New Zealand, and the Clutha Gold Trail follows the powerful Clutha River and showcases the region’s farming, fruit growing and gold mining history. newzealand.com |otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz | centralotagonz.com/roxburgh-gorge-trail

Croatia

STAY HERE It’s no wonder that in HBO’s epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” the Croatian city of Dubrovnik doubled for King’s Landing. A five-star seaside escape, Hotel Dubrovnik Palace features breathtaking Adriatic views from every room, as well as direct access to a quiet and peaceful beach, three swimming pools, scuba diving center, tennis courts, and a leafy jogging path and walking routes through the picturesque woods that rise up the hills behind the hotel. adriaticluxuryhotels.com/hotel-dubrovnik-palace

SIP THIS Saints Hills Winery sits in an old stone house in the little village of Oskorušno. “Vinaria,” which was a winery up until the 1920s and then sat dormant for 80 years, is once again a winery, producing acclaimed bottles from a number of different regions around Croatia. Don’t miss visiting the traditional Dalmatian restaurant, the Treasury tasting room and the property’s three vineyards. saintshills.com

DINE HERE Truffle hunting with cute dogs (primarily terriers) in Buzet’s forests, followed by a truffle feast, promises an unforgettable foodie experience. The natural habitat of the famed Istrian fungus is home to the Prodan Tartufi business, which provides truffles to the world, as well as guided truffle adventures and an authentic family-run experience. prodantartufi.hr

DO THIS Croatia’s natural beauty is on full display with eight national parks offering a diverse array of activities for hikers, rock climbers and island hoppers. find-croatia.com/national-parks

Ireland

STAY HERE A nautical landmark for almost 200 years, Clare Island Lighthouse is perched high on craggy cliffs at the entrance to Clew Bay, off Ireland’s western Atlantic coast. Now lovingly converted into a boutique hotel, the property offers luxurious accommodations surrounded by magnificent sea views — with loads of nesting seabirds — and beautiful countryside with hills, bogs and woodlands that are ideal for walking and perfect for a peaceful escape. clareislandlighthouse.com

SIP THIS David Llewellyn, owner of Llewellyns Orchard, is probably best known for his cider and other apple products, but for the past decade he has been selling wine made from the nearly 1,000 vines on his farm in North County Dublin. The small-production vineyard produces a line of wine called Lusca, Gaelic for Lusk (“vault” or “cave”), which is the name of the village where the vineyard and orchard are located. Make an appointment to visit and uncork the true farm-to-table essence of Irish wine. llewellynsorchard.ie/premium-quality-from-irish-orchards/lusca-irish-wine

DINE HERE Take a cooking class in the original 18th-century Georgian kitchen in historic Howth Castle, where the team of professional chefs at Howth Castle Cookery School share their passion and knowledge about food and carry on the traditions of exceptional cooking and grand dining practiced in the castle for centuries. howthcastlecookeryschool.ie

DO THIS See what the excitement is all about when you join the more than 20 million guests who have visited Guinness Storehouse — a 125-foot high attraction (it would take 14.3 million pints of Guinness to fill the giant glass atrium in the center of the building) devoted to the story of Ireland’s most iconic beer. Begin your journey at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass and continue up through seven floors filled with interactive experiences that fuse Guinness’s long brewing heritage with Ireland’s rich history. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a pint at world-famous rooftop Gravity Bar, with incredible panoramic views. guinness-storehouse.com

England

STAY HERE It’s not every day you get to spend the night in a shepherd’s hut, belle tent, yurt or wigwam (some with private hot tubs) at a working organic farm. Secret Valley in Somerset offers a wondrous mix of Christmas trees, alpacas, glamping and wine making. Lucky guests can tour the vineyard to learn about Secret Valley’s five varieties of grape — Pinot Noir, Rondo, Orion, Solaris and Reichensteiner — or simply enjoy the glamping life of kicking back with a glass of wine and watching the sunset over beautiful rolling hills. secret-valley.co.uk

SIP THIS The creators of the only English wine ever to have been listed at the George V in Paris, Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely are old friends who embarked on a quest in 2008 to create a sparkling wine to rival the best in the world. They succeeded indeed, and you can sip their sparklers (by appointment) at the bucolic Coates & Seely vineyards in the ancient chalk downlands of Hampshire, in Southern England, where they have spent the past decade creating their international award-winning sparkling wines, using their “Britannique” method proudly declared on their label. coatesandseely.com

DINE HERE British celebrity chef Rick Stein has cooked for the Queen of England and Prince Philip, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and French President Jacques Chirac, among others. You can experience his famous fresh catch at The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. An iconic spot since 1975, it was also the subject of several popular BBC TV shows. Uber enthusiasts can also enroll in the on-site cookery school to learn to cook the Rick Stein way. rickstein.com

DO THIS Educate your taste buds at Cambridgeshire Wine School. Nestled among Cambridge’s stunning architecture and canals, the school offers relaxed and informal instruction in the ancient art of wine tasting. cambridgeshirewineschool.com

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

STAY HERE An elegant wellness spa inspired by the simple elegance of the Okanagan landscape, Sparkling Hill Resort is the culmination of the vision of Gernot Langes-Swarovski, patriarch of the Swarovski crystal family. A total of 3.5 million Swarovski crystals dance within the resort’s walls, creating an ambiance of calm and serenity with the occasional fiery sparkle. Between the stunning location and holistic treatments, this is an excellent place to relax and refresh. sparklinghill.com

SIP THIS Savor your way along a meandering country road with spectacular views of vineyards, mountains and Okanagan Lake, as you taste your way through more than 20 wineries that draw on the rich terroir of the Naramata Bench. Each winery is dedicated to bringing out the superb local qualities in their wine making, and to providing a personal, relaxed and authentic experience for visitors. naramatabench.com

EAT HERE A partnership between Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and British Columbia culinary legend Manuel Ferreira, Miradoro Restaurant is a lovely place to enjoy panoramic views of the valley with Mediterranean-inspired cuisine emphasizing seasonal, locally sourced ingredients prepared by an award-winning chef. From the authentic forno oven to a diverse wine list (including library wines), this is the place for food lovers to indulge. tinhorn.com/Restaurant

DO THIS The Great Bear Rainforest is a vast area of pristine wilderness that encompasses a quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest. Soak up a whole lot of silence and drink in the lush green surroundings of the only corner of the planet where you can spot the elusive white Kermode bear, also known as the “spirit bear.” hellobc.com

Finger Lakes, New York

STAY HERE Located on the first winery to open on Seneca Lake in 1977, The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars offers 30 rooms with private patios or balconies and stunning views of the lake and vineyards on the beautifully groomed 40-acre estate of Glenora Wine Cellars. glenora.com

SIP THIS With a community of more than 35 wineries, a distillery, two breweries and a meadery, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail in the heart of New York state’s Finger Lakes region is the largest and most active wine trail in New York. Taste classic, well-known European wine varieties like Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner, alongside unique regional hybrids such as Traminette or Marechal Foch, and classic natives such as Catawba and Niagara. senecalakewine.com

EAT HERE The high end, low brow food at F.L.X. Weinery is an ideal way to enjoy some sustenance between stops on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. This venture by the husband and wife team Isabel Bogadtke and Christopher Bates is a fascinating amalgamation of their years in the fine dining world (he’s a master sommelier and they also own Element Winery) with fast, casual counter-style service. Think fresh ground burgers with creative toppings like Korean kimchi and miso mayo, and hearty dogs — including house-made brats, chorizo and Italian sausages — with a variety of toppings, most of which are locally sourced. flxwienery.com

DO THIS Dazzle your senses at the home of the largest glass collection in the world. Nearly 50,000 glass objects are on display at the Corning Museum of Glass, which also offers live hot glassmaking and flameworking shows each day, as well as opportunities to work with glass yourself during a Make Your Own Glass experience at The Studio. cmog.org

Virginia

STAY HERE Providing the finest of accommodations since it opened its doors in 1895, The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia has been regarded as one of America’s best by countless distinguished guests, including 12 U.S. Presidents, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Elvis Presley. jeffersonhotel.com

SIP THIS Visit the eight wineries located in the Chesapeake Bay wine region, which encompasses the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula of Virginia. Don’t miss the Chesapeake Bay Trail’s newest member, Rivah Vineyards at the Grove, with 125 scenic acres of farm, woods and riverfront on the Yeocomico River. chesapeakebaywinetrail.com | rivahvineyards.com

EAT HERE Located in the Landsdowne Resort & Spa in Leesburg, Coton & Rye celebrates Virginia’s rich culinary history. Inspired by a farm that stood on the land in the 1700s, this is a tavern with classic Virginia recipes reinvented. lansdowneresort.com

DO THIS Soar among the treetops on the luxurious grounds of Salamander Resort & Spa, home to Empower Adventures’ TreeTop Zip tour in Middleburg. This 20-acre guided experience includes five fast zip lines, two sky bridges and eight stations. Post adventure, enjoy a celebratory glass of wine or a relaxing spa treatment. empoweradventures.com

Michigan

STAY HERE Nestled among the freshwater beaches and hardwood forests of Traverse City, with three championship golf courses, an award-winning spa and restaurant, the 900-acre Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is certainly one of Michigan’s foremost resort destinations. grandtraverseresort.com

SIP THIS Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the oldest and largest wineries and vineyards in northern Michigan. This scenic, family-owned and -operated winery offers guests premium wine tasting, winery tours, lodging and a beautiful setting. Tour the bustling wine cellar to witness firsthand premium wine production from the vine to the bottle. cgtwines.com

EAT HERE There are 32,000 acres of tart cherries planted in Michigan, and Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor is the largest cherry exporter in the world. Take a crooked pathway under the cherry trees and through perennial gardens to the Great Hall, where you can buy 200+ cherry products and sample to your heart’s content. Visit the Winery, and head to the Cherry Public House to enjoy inventive cherry-inspired selections. cherryrepublic.com/locations/glen-arbor

DO THIS Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and take the 7.4 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, looping through the forest and sand dunes and spectacular overlooks of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan. nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/psscenicdrive.htm

Texas

STAY HERE Wake up in the beautiful Texas Hill Country to the comforts of home, and enjoy breakfast in the privacy of your room at The Back Forty of Fredericksburg, a charming bed and breakfast, spa and ranch. Watch the Peruvian Pasos in training, enjoy a massage at the European Spa Center or try your hand at fly fishing at the on-site lake. back40-fredericksburg.com

SIP THIS One of the fastest growing wine destinations in the nation, Texas Hill Country has more than 80 wineries. For a nice overview of the region’s offerings, visit The Grapevine tasting room and bar in the Gruene Historic District, which features one of the largest selections of Texas wines available in one place. grapevineingruene.com

DINE HERE Last year the famous Blue Bonnet Cafe celebrated its 90th year of serving up tasty comfort food in the Texas Hill Country. The list of honors for this sweet slice of down-home heaven are impressive: best breakfast, best restaurant, best service, best dessert, best chicken-fried steak, and on and on and on. bluebonnetcafe.net

DO THIS Do-si-do over to a real Texas dance hall. Built in 1878, Gruene Hall in New Braunfels is the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas — and the most famous! Live entertainment fills the air of this 6,000-square-foot space. A long list of music legends like George Strait, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett have come to Gruene Hall to pay respects and try out new material. gruenehall.com

New Mexico

STAY HERE Visit New Mexico in style. A 25,000-square-foot stone mansion that was once Ted Turner’s private quarters, Casa Grande sits on a 590,000-acre preserve and bison ranch, opening onto expanses of prairie and mountains full of wildlife and more than 180 species of birds. As you navigate through the marble column hallways of this historic home turned seven-room hotel, you’ll feel transported to an elegant 1920s soirée. vermejoparkranch.com

SIP THIS Located in scenic northern New Mexico, Black Mesa Winery owners Jerry and Lynda Burd produce over 25 wines from local grapes. Lynda designs the hieroglyphic-influenced labels, many of which are inspired by actual writings on the property. blackmesawinery.com

DINE HERE There’s an incredible amount of great food in Santa Fe, which is arguably the food capital of New Mexico. Suzan, where Chef Fernando Olea has been enthralling diners since 1991 with his unique interpretations of contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes, is notable, particularly for the mole sauces. sazonsantafe.com

DO THIS Check out the Santa Fe Margarita Trail to visit some of the fun spots offering special, uniquely designed Margaritas. Pick up a free passport for directions and recipes. bit.ly/2R5aXRrMargarita

Sierra Foothills, California

STAY HERE Serving the public since 1856, Murphys Historic Hotel is centrally located in Calaveras County and California’s historic Gold Rush country. The hotel offers easy access to wineries, art galleries, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Yosemite National Park, and outdoor activities like golf, skiing, river rafting, cycling, gold panning, fishing and hiking. One of a hundred Wells Fargo Bank stops with a long history of famous guests — including Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony and John Wayne — this historic landmark is a favorite destination for visitors. murphyshotel.com

SIP THIS Mark Twain gave the area its first claim to fame with his best-selling story “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” but Calaveras County is now home to family vineyards and wineries that produce award-winning, handcrafted wines and offer unique tasting experiences as well as events at 30 boutique tasting rooms and wineries. Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Foothills, the area is known for rich reds like Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet. calaveraswines.org

DINE HERE Downtown Plymouth, the gateway to Amador Wine Country, is home to Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar, which has been consistently rated as the area’s best dining experience for its creative wine pairings, fresh seasonal foods and simply elegant preparations. restauranttaste.com

DO THIS  Explore the farms and ranches in El Dorado’s Apple Hill area. The Apple Hill Growers have expanded from 16 original ranchers in 1964 to more than 50 ranchers who share the fruits of their labor with thousands of visitors every year. Enjoy berry farms, u-pick apple ranches, pastries, pies, the locally famous “Apple Hill Cake,” and old-fashioned fun, as well as fine wines and handcrafted beers in an incredible Sierra-soaked setting. applehill.com

Santa Barbara County, California

STAY HERE The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort blends the spirit of the Old West with loads of things to do in a pristine natural setting. You can fish or boat in the private lake, get pampered at the spa, hit the links, spend time in the barnyard, ride horses along 50 miles of trails or learn to shoot at the archery and air rifle sites. alisal.com

DINE HERE A charming “California version of a little Italian farmhouse” with a focus on unfussy, rustic Italian food made from fresh local ingredients, S.Y. Kitchen is a delicious and friendly place to fortify yourself after a day of wine tasting. sykitchen.com

SIP THIS Whether you bike or drive along The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, this 30-mile road is home to some of the most accomplished winemakers in California. The 14 wineries and tasting rooms represent a diverse selection of highly-rated, world class wines. foxencanyonwinetrail.net

DO THIS Established in 1972 as Santa Barbara County’s first resort course open to the public, the gorgeous Sandpiper Golf Club in Goleta is an inspiring 18 holes of seaside golf on extraordinary terrain, featuring rolling fairways leading to enormous greens with ocean views from nearly every hole. sandpipergolf.com

Paso Robles, California

STAY HERE Chic Hotel Cheval is just a half-block from Paso Robles Downtown City Park, and walking distance from fine restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. The horse-loving owners gave the two-story inn an equine theme — each of the 16 individually decorated rooms bears the name and associated photos of historically significant horses plus original paintings and other art. Guests can enjoy the glow of outdoor fireplaces, peruse a book in the Library, get pampered with a spa treatment, or catch up with friends in the Pony Club bar. hotelcheval.com

SIP THIS Savor the award-winning wines at Calcareous, while taking in breathtaking 180-degree views of Paso Robles. With glass walls, the Tasting Room — named Lloyd’s Lookout for Lloyd Messer, the winery’s co-founder — is a stunning showcase for the lush wines and beautiful, tranquil vineyard setting. Options also include an elevated hilltop tasting, where you’re transported by ATV to the top of the vineyard overlooking the winery and the valley, and treated to current releases, along with special library wines. calcareous.com

DINE HERE The new Tin Canteen at Tin City Paso Robles boasts an open kitchen, a sleek, industrial-style dining area and a large patio with a dramatic rock waterfall. Tin Canteen’s menu, which changes regularly, takes its cues from Italy and local, seasonal ingredients — all of which pair perfectly with Tin City’s 20+ producers of locally sourced beer, wine and spirits. tincanteenpaso.net | tincitypasorobles.com

DO THIS While mansions certainly abound in California, nothing compares to the storied grandeur of Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Lavishly designed by architect Julia Morgan (one of the first females to break into the field) as the residence of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, the complex, completed in 1947, is an extraordinary temple to opulence and excess. It’s also one of the state’s most visited historical monuments, and an eye-popping extravaganza with a 165-room castle, 127 acres of terraced gardens, sparkling fountains, towering palms, and wraparound views of the Central Coast. Don’t miss the world-famous Neptune Pool, a gorgeous swimming pool with water that refracts light to create a brilliant turquoise hue. hearstcastle.org

Livermore, California

STAY HERE A relaxing way to enjoy wine country, the Purple Orchid Resort and Spa is set in the hillsides of Livermore Valley and features ten suites designed for comfort, tranquility and relaxation. Each suite has its own fireplace and Jacuzzi tub, with either orchard, garden or vineyard views. Enjoy a full complimentary breakfast each morning, full service spa, and relaxing and socializing in one of many common areas. purpleorchid.com

SIP THIS One of the best ways to explore beautiful Livermore Valley Wine Country is by bike. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine as you ride your way to several of the area’s favorite vineyards, recreational and scenic areas. Start your day at Nottingham Cellars, then make your way to Concannon Vineyard (a mainstay of California wines since 1883). Also on the trail are Steven Kent Winery, Garré Vineyard & Winery, McGrail Vineyards and Winery, Rubino Estates Winery, Ruby Hill Winery and Wente Vineyards (the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery in the country). visittrivalley.com/activities-and-things-to-do/bike-trails/winecountry-bike-tour

DINE HERE Indulge your sweet tooth on the Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail, which includes 12 different frozen specialty stores, including CREAM Livermore, which specializes in ice cream sandwiches that use homemade cookies, brownies, do’sants, and fresh off the griddle waffles. visittrivalley.com/activities-and-things-to-do/ice-cream-2-3creamnation.com/livermore

DO THIS Enjoy a concert at Wente Vineyards, where summer after summer, the natural amphitheater fills with incredible music in a picturesque setting. Artists in 2019 included Seal, Styx, The Temptations, The Four Tops, REO Speedwagon, Boz Scaggs, Aaron Neville, The Doobie Brothers and Josh Groban, among others. There are no bad seats in this beautiful venue, but for a special treat reserve one of the 40 seats in the front-row restaurant section, which is only ten feet from the stage. wentevineyards.com/concerts

Lodi, California

STAY HERE You’d be hard pressed to find a more idyllic wine country retreat than Wine & Roses, a seven-acre property with 66 individually designed guest rooms and suites with amenities including botanical gardens, a modern fitness center, beautiful pool, relaxing jacuzzi and gracious hospitality. Don’t miss the chance to relax your mind, body and spirit with a truly organic experience at The Spa at Wine & Roses, offering an extensive menu of services and packages in a natural environment with the soothing touch of spa professionals. winerose.com

SIP THIS Enjoy exciting small-lot wines that showcase the flavors of the Lodi Wine country region as you sip among 70-acres of lush vines and majestic century-old oaks at Oak Farm Vineyards. This magnificent, colonial style estate was built in 1876 and is an excellent spot to revel in a picnic lunch with a bottle of estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese. oakfarmvineyards.com

DINE HERE Soak up the sunshine at The Farm Café at Michael David Winery, which offers breakfast and lunch made with seasonal selections of produce grown on-site (owners and brothers, Michael and David Phillips represent the fifth generation of growers in Lodi) or at other local farms. Enjoy a piece of handmade signature pie (made from Michael and David’s mother’s recipe), as you play bocce ball and sip wine among 650 acres of premium grapes. michaeldavidwinery.com

DO THIS Stroll around the 132-acre Micke Grove Regional Park. It offers a small zoo, a 3-acre lake with a 40-foot water fountain, a bucolic Japanese garden with cherry blossom trees, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum and an 18-hole disc golf course. sjparks.com

Rogue Valley, Oregon

STAY HERE The casually elegant Rogue Regency Inn & Suites offers the perfect location to dine, celebrate and explore Rogue Valley wine country. Accommodations include a variety of suites and room options, some with cozy fireplaces, private Jacuzzis, kitchenettes and special treats for man’s best furry friends. rogueregency.com

SIP THIS Named after the two hawks who have soared over the estate and vineyard since its original planting, 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery creates estate-grown, handcrafted wines that express the vineyard’s natural beauty and singular terroir. Enjoy a memorable day with chef-inspired, winemaker-recommended food and wine pairings in the environmentally friendly tasting room, which was constructed with reclaimed lumber from across the country — including Wisconsin breweries, Pennsylvania shipyards and the old Lithia Building in downtown Medford. 2hawk.wine

DINE HERE Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine takes diners on a delicious spin through Oregon’s culinary landscape. With restaurants in both Ashland and Medford, guests can savor seasonally inspired, elegant and flavorful dishes that showcase the region’s best farm-fresh ingredients for a celebration of the classics — with a twist. Cooking innovative comfort food from scratch, the culinary team is inspired by local farms, orchards, creameries and wineries. larksrestaurant.com

DO THIS Inspired by Shakespeare’s work and the cultural richness of the U.S., the world renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland presents approximately 800 performances per year. The 2020 season runs through November 1, and includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Copper Children, Poor Yella Rednecks, Bring Down The House, Confederates, Everything That Never Happened, The Tempest, Black Odyssey and Bernhardt/Hamlet. osfashland.org

Willamette Valley, Oregon

STAY HERE The tranquil setting of Le Puy, a destination bed-and-breakfast, makes for an ideal romantic retreat for couples. The B&B strives to be an authentic “eco-inn” and exemplify sustainability in every possible way, from the food it offers, to the products it uses, to the way it carefully considers the environment. Enjoy spa-like amenities and personal service in an idyllic setting. lepuy-inn.com

SIP THIS Enjoy the wines of the famed Dundee Hills appellation with a visit to The Four Graces. Named for the four daughters of the Black family who originally purchased an existing vineyard in the Willamette Valley, taste these sustainably farmed wines in a charming, renovated farmhouse overlooking the vineyard. thefourgraces.com

DINE HERE Delight in fresh off the farm, handcrafted and aged goat and cow’s milk cheeses from Briar Rose Creamery. Each small batch is nurtured with an intimate, time-honored process to achieve the best flavor and texture, highlighting the seasonal qualities of the cheeses. Briar Rose cheeses are made to pair well with craft beers and Oregon Pinot Noir. Don’t miss the award-winning chocolate goat cheese truffles. briarrosecreamery.com

DO THIS You can see a lot of Oregon from behind the wheel. Spanning more than 3,000 miles, the Beaver State has more scenic byways than any other state in the U.S., covering distinct landscapes and including numerous historical and cultural landmarks. The Willamette Valley Scenic Byways are all beautiful trips to take year-round: Explore McKenzie River Scenic Byway, Marys Peak to Pacific Scenic Byway, West Cascades Scenic Byway, and Over the River and Through the Woods this season. oregonwinecountry.org

Hood River, Oregon

STAY HERE Situated on the edge of a 200-foot cliff boasting awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area — where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade mountains, with cliffs and overlooks of Washington to the north and Oregon’s mountains and waterfalls to the south — the luxurious Columbia Cliff Villas Hotel prides itself on providing a home away from home atmosphere. columbiacliffvillas.com

SIP THIS Choose from over 25 award-winning wines at Cathedral Ridge Winery, featuring unique big, bold reds, signature blends and delicious whites. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, Cathedral Ridge offers an excellent picnic spot, a Barrel Viewing Room, a Vineyard Exhibit Room, as well as five different tour and tasting options, including a private tasting of wines on the verge of bottling all the way through exclusive library wines. Stave & Stone Wine Estates has a downtown Hood River tasting room as well as an estate winery at Broken Boulder Vineyard. It features beautiful views of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams. cathedralridgewinery.com | staveandstone.com

DINE HERE Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with the unique on-farm cooking classes at The Kitchen at Middleground Farms. From bread baking camp to paella and special holiday and date night themes, The Kitchen is a true gem that sells farm-fresh foods and offers an extensive array of cooking classes that teach fundamental skills in the garden as well as the kitchen. middlegroundfarms.com

DO THIS Set in the rolling foothills of the Blue Mountains, the Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop farm tour is a terrific way to explore abundant orchards and wineries and meet artisan producers who make delicious food and handcrafted beverages. The self-guided exploration begins in the charming town of Milton-Freewater and ends in the famous streets of Pendleton. bit.ly/35A0P8tWhiskyRocks

Woodinville, Washington

STAY HERE A fabulous location for wine, beer and spirits lovers alike, with more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms nearby and Redhook Brewery right next door, Willows Lodge offers a relaxing retreat in the heart of Woodinville wine country. The Sammamish River Trail, which provides access to plenty of outdoor activities, is also adjacent to the property. willowslodge.com

SIP THIS One of the newest tasting rooms in the area, Maryhill Winery — which also has tasting rooms in Goldendale, Spokane and Vancouver — occupies nearly 10,000 square feet of Woodinville’s historic Hollywood Schoolhouse, a beloved landmark since its construction by the Derby School District in 1912. Visitors can now enjoy Maryhill’s wide selection of Washington wines from both inside the lovingly restored building and outside among the beautiful gardens and outdoor balconies. maryhillwinery.com

DINE HERE A unique celebration of the foods and wines of the Pacific Northwest, The Herbfarm Restaurant offers only one seating per night. As a part of this thematic dining experience, you’ll help harvest for the restaurant kitchen, and watch as the chefs prepare you a fabulous nine-course dinner, sourced from the fruit of your own labor. theherbfarm.com/activities

DO THIS It’s not everywhere you can find an outlandish combination of circus acts, magic, comedy and dinner, but after operating from tents around the country, Teatro Zinzanni has found a permanent home in a former brewery in Woodinville. Each show includes a multicourse feast and elegant libations. zinzanni.com

Walla Walla, Washington

STAY HERE The pastoral comforts of The Barn B&B reflect its beautiful setting, surrounded by rolling farmland and bordered on one side by the Little Walla Walla River, rolling hills and views of the Blue Mountains. This country inn has seven unique suites, each with a view of the mountains, a private entrance, and its own Zen garden and outdoor hot-water shower. bnbwallawalla.com

SIP THIS The family-owned Leonetti Cellar became the first bonded winery in Walla Walla in 1977 and is still the most renowned. You have to join the waiting list to visit, but insiders say it’s worth the wait! Also excellent, but easier to access, is the sister winery FIGGINS— open for private tasting appointments. Chris Figgins (son of the Leonetti founders) is the winemaker for both labels. leonetticellar.com | figginswine.com

DINE HERE Formerly home to the historic downtown Train Depot, in 2018 the space was transformed into Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing, and these two unique spaces have been delighting visitors ever since with steakhouse classics and beer-friendly tap room fare. wwsteakco.com

DO THIS Some of the best bird-watching in the country can be found in Walla Walla. During the annual spring and fall migrations, birders flock to the area to marvel at the more than 300 bird species that make this place their home. experiencewa.com/wa/birding-trails/walla-walla-river-delta

Prosser, Yakima Valley, Washington

STAY HERE Built by Willis Mercer in 1906, the family-owned Historic Mercer provides upscale, boutique accommodations in a quintessential rural downtown setting, in the heart of Washington State’s Prosser wine country. Still owned by the Mercer family, the property now has beautifully restored suites with the original wood floors, stunning eight foot windows, full kitchens, the finest beds and en suite bathrooms, along with fast Wi-Fi and other modern amenities. historicmercer.com

DO THIS Go rock climbing. Nearby Leavenworth was chosen by Rock and Ice magazine as one of the top 10 climbing cities in the U.S. It’s not hard to understand why. Within 10 miles of town are 50 crags featuring climbs of varied difficulty on clean, solid granite, with a wide range of bouldering, sport and trad cragging and access to some of the state’s best alpine rock. washingtonclimbers.orgleavenworth.org

SIP THIS Kestrel Vintner’s story — like its excellent wines — begins in the vineyard. Kestrel View Estate Vineyard is home to the oldest continually producing Chardonnay block in the state of Washington, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot plantings dating back to 1972 and many more varieties. Sip and savor the wines at three tasting rooms located in Prosser, Leavenworth and Woodinville, where you can sample all four tiers of Kestrel wines along with delectable food offerings. kestrelwines.com

DINE HERE Born and raised in Yakima, chef Lindsay Park and her team draw hungry locals and visitors back again and again to satisfy their cravings for elevated comfort food at Provisions Restaurant & Market. This chef-driven, Pacific Northwest-inspired restaurant has a deep commitment to supporting local farmers and purveyors, with a vegan and vegetarian friendly menu and rotating specials that keep eager guests returning to taste the newest culinary creations each week. provisionsyakima.com

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

A Standing Ovation for The Silver Bough

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough culinary team, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Like its Irish mythological legend, The Silver Bough—the entry into the Celtic otherworld, believed to offer everlasting youth, beauty, health and joy, and a rich paradise of delights, where food was ever abundant and where travelers were treated as kings and queens—is an impressive bounty of elegantly prepared food and dramatic culinary theatrics. This intimate, eight-seat tasting menu fine dining experience is one of the most ambitious restaurant endeavors I’ve ever experienced.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

From the moment you enter the Montecito Inn, the new home of The Silver Bough, you are transported into an exquisite, magical world of high-class indulgence. The evening starts in the lobby lounge, where a personal concierge offers you specialty libations or champagne from a custom-made bar cart.  

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Promptly at 7 p.m. (there’s only one seating per night, Thursdays-Sundays), you are escorted in a dark, theatrically anointed room, with an intricately designed Silver Bough-themed table as the focal point. Handcrafted and modeled after a voluminous Ginkgo tree, completed with painted brass butterflies and a glass top, the table—as well as the dishes, silverware, candelabras and serving pieces—was custom designed by award-winning American artist Michael Aram. Here the overture for the journey officially begins, with the host acting as narrator, guiding guests through the story of The Silver Bough and correspondingly gorgeous canapes that are almost too beautiful to eat—but I force myself, to the delight of my taste buds.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

At the end of the canape courses, a curtain I didn’t notice before is dramatically opened, revealing the main stage, a 16-foot, kitchen-facing Brazilian Quartzite chef’s counter, with Owner/Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee and his team of chefs there to greet us. There are from three to five executive-level chefs at your service on any given night. 

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Owner/Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee at The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Each chapter in the main room starts out with an introduction of the ingredients. Act 1, the seafood chapter, previews a platter of moving King Crab legs, live spiny lobster, sea urchin, caviar and more.

The theme—that guests are to be treated royally—is impressively executed, as we watch Chef Lee and his team prepare each dish as if it were a precious work of art. Indeed, this meal is probably museum worthy. With the precision of a jeweler, Chef Lee adds gold leaf to the Sturgeon Caviar, which sits atop a gorgeous concoction of Lobster Gelee, Hazelnut Cream and Smoked Eel.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

And, in a dramatic dance that takes place for each of the 18 courses, the chefs have mastered  impressive choreography to ensure that each dish gets to each patron (along with thoughtfully selected wine or nonalcoholic beverage pairings) at precisely the same moment. Additional seafood dishes, each more incredible than the next, include Live Spiny Lobster Tartare, topped with local Sea Urchin and puffed quinoa; Pommes Souffle stuffed with Lobster innards whipped with Crème Fraiche, and topped with Sea Urchin and Carnations; and Vermillion Crudo. The Act 1 finale, which includes almost every ingredient used in the seafood chapter, is a delicious preparation of lightly grilled King Crab in sea urchin emulsion, with sourdough bread crumbs and caviar.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Act 2, an equally impressive series of land-based courses, is again introduced with a peek at the ingredients, including Kings Pigeon from Flying H Ranch in Carpinteria, Olive Wagyu Ribeye, pasture-raised venison, caviar and an abundance of truffles.

Dishes include Kings Pigeon Breast with Pistachio Crust; a Liver Tartlette with a tasty Mini-Parker House Roll; a Kings Pigeon Leg. Both the Aged Venison Saddle with brown butter Roasted Chestnuts and the Venison Tenderloin with butter roasted Chantrelles smell every bit as terrific as they taste. In fact, the whole dining room is designed for amazing aromatics. Despite the huge number of courses, each one continued to dazzle both my eyes and my nose. 

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

While I hesitate to choose a favorite in a menu so filled with delights, perhaps with most memorable dishes were the two made with Legendary Olive Wagyu Ribeye. According to Chef Lee, the Silver Bough is only restaurant in the world to have this beef, and it’s no wonder. Billed as “the rarest steak on the planet,” it currently retails for more than $200 a pound and is sourced via Santa Barbara resident Ethan Lowry, co-owner of the online meat seller Crowd Cow. 

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

A mouthwatering cheese course of Andazul Goat’s Milk Blue with Fried Sourdough, Warm honey and Black Truffle bridges the savory and the sweet worlds with amazing flavors. 

The Act 3 finale, the domain of talented Pastry Chef Margarita Kallas-Lee, who is married to Chef Frankland Lee, begins with a Citrus vanilla Tea emulsion combining blood orange sorbet with basil blossoms and black lime. Additional jewel box-worthy dessert courses include the Strawberry Duck Liver Mousse, a Chamomile Custard with Shaved Truffles, Candied Bee Pollen and 24k Gold Leaf, and literally, a jewel box of Mignardises, comprised of a Kalamansi Pate de Fruit, a Blood Orange Pate de Fruit, a Strawberry-Creme Fraiche Bon Bon and a Tarragon-Buttermilk Bon Bon.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Not quite ready to end such an enchanted evening, the chefs invite us to continue to imbibe and enjoy after-dinner drinks and aperitifs with the team, which was quite fun and the perfect capper to an amazing culinary experience.  

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The all-inclusive tasting menu has a ticket price of $550/person, with a non-alcoholic specialty pairing available for $450/person (both inclusive of tax and gratuity). Obviously, this price point isn’t something most of us can indulge in every day, but I’m hopeful that a one-of-a-kind, gastronomic, theatrical experience like this will find its audience. 

For more information, visit silverboughmontecito.com 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 1, 2019.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough opening culinary team, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

The Silver Bough, photo by Joel Schmelzer.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Dancing the very fine line between high art and high camp, the internationally-beloved Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo bring their brilliant pointe work and vibrant drag costumes to the Granada Theatre (1214 State St., Santa Barbara) on Sunday, January 27 at 7 p.m.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Presented by UCSB Arts & LecturesLes Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 in New York City on the heels of the Stonewall riots, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (also affectionately called “The Trocks”)  is a company of professional male dancers performing the full range of the ballet and modern dance repertoire, including classical and original works in faithful renditions of the manners and conceits of those dance styles. The comedy is achieved by incorporating and exaggerating the foibles, accidents and underlying incongruities of serious dance. The fact that men dance all the parts—heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, sylphs, water sprites, romantic princesses, or angst-ridden Victorian ladies—enhances, rather than mocks, the spirit of dance as an art form, delighting and amusing the most knowledgeable, as well as novices, in the audiences.

“The funniest night you will ever have at the ballet,” writes The Sunday Times (U.K). 

The Trocks’ numerous tours have been both popular and critical successes—the company’s annual schedules have included six tours to Australia and New Zealand, 25 to Japan (where annual visits have created a nation-wide cult following and a fan club), 10 to South America, three to South Africa and 55 tours of Europe. In the United States, the company has become a regular part of the college and university circuit, in addition to frequent presentations in all of the 50 states. The company has appeared in more than 35 countries and more than 500 cities worldwide since its founding.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.eduTickets are also available through The Granada Theatre at 805/899-2222 or granadasb.org.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 24, 2019.

The Christmas Revels: An Irish Celebration of the Winter Solstice

The Christmas Revels, Dec. 22-23 at the Lobero Theatre.

The Christmas Revels, Dec. 22-23 at the Lobero Theatre.

One of Santa Barbara’s favorite holiday traditions for the whole family is the annual Christmas Revels musical production. This year’s story, An Irish Celebration of the Winter Solstice, is a joyous theatrical production celebrating the spirit and strength of the Irish emigrants who came to America in the early 1900’s to build new lives in a new land. At sea over the holidays, these strangers bond over spinning stories, singing songs, and sharing seasonal traditions; friendships are formed, romance blossoms.

The Christmas Revels, Dec. 22-23 at the Lobero Theatre.

The Christmas Revels, Dec. 22-23 at the Lobero Theatre.

Joining the Revels Company are accomplished guest artists, including award-winning actors and Irish dancers as well as vocal soloists, a brass ensemble and a string and wind quintet.

The Christmas Revels is an exciting and heartwarming entertainment experience for every age and a favorite Santa Barbara holiday tradition created by and for our community for the past 11 years. The show takes place at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara) Dec. 22 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 2:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 16, 2018.

“Storm Reading” Celebration

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

When Access Theatre’s pioneering play Storm Reading debuted at the Lobero in 1988, it was a ground-breaking piece of theater, which went on to inspire audiences in show after show worldwide for nearly a decade. Part of what made this play so extraordinary is the central character, Neil Marcus, who played himself during the play’s six-year run. Marcus lives with a very visible disability and works hard to represent life in a realistic way that is not focused on the fear of being different.

“The world says ‘You are a spastic quadriplegic.’ I say I’m a dancer. There’s a new movement happening in the world. People are beginning to realize they are more than what they’ve been told they are. The flame is fanned. The fire spreads. Every moment is a new moment to do what’s never been done before,” says Marcus in Storm Reading.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Now a new generation has the opportunity to familiarize itself with the show, when Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation hosts “Celebrating Storm Reading,” an evening with the acclaimed Access Theatre cast (Neil Marcus, Matthew Ingersoll and Kathryn Voice) and Director/Producer Rod Lathim. Along with special guest Anthony Edwards, the cast and creators will return to the Lobero Theatre to take a look back at the impact the play had on audiences and at the sustaining message that art holds the transformative power to heal body and mind. Selected scenes from the show will be staged and scenes from the television version will be screened.

“This year is the 30th anniversary of the debut of Storm Reading,” says Lathim, founder and artistic director of the award-winning theatre company, Access Theatre, from 1979-1996. “Storm Reading was unique because it was created here in Santa Barbara and went on to tour internationally.”

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading went on to tour through 20 states in the USA, as well as Canada and England over six years, and it garnered recognition from several luminaries in the entertainment world. Maria Shriver interviewed Marcus on The Today Show, and Linda Wertheimer featured him on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Storm Reading was performed as part of the NBC TV Special “From the Heart” at the Kennedy Center with Access Theatre Honorary Board Member Michael Douglas.

Don’t miss “Celebrating Storm Reading” at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara) on Friday, September 21 at 7 p.m. A VIP reception begins at 5:30 pm. For tickets and more information, visit cottagehealth.org/crhevent.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 19, 2018.

The Invisible Hand

Ensemble Theatre's production of The Invisible Hand, April 12-29. Courtesy photo.

Ensemble Theatre’s production of The Invisible Hand, April 12-29. Courtesy photo.

Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) (in a co-production with the English Theatre Frankfurt) presents a witty and provocative new thriller, The Invisible Hand, written by Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) and directed by Jonathan Fox. The Invisible Hand begins previews on Thursday, April 12, opens on Saturday, April 14, and runs through Sunday, April 29 at The New Vic, 33 W. Victoria St. in Santa Barbara. The production will then transfer to the English Theatre Frankfurt on May 9.

Set in Pakistan, American investment banker Nick Bright is kidnapped by an extremist organization and held for a $10 million ransom. When his company refuses to meet the terrorists’ demands, Bright convinces his captors that he can manipulate the stock market to meet his own ransom. Capitalism intersects with Islamic fanaticism in a race against time in this heart-pounding thriller by the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter Akhtar.

John Tufts and Mujahid Abdul-Rashid in ETC's production of "The Invisible Hand," photo by David Bazemore.

John Tufts and Mujahid Abdul-Rashid in ETC’s production of “The Invisible Hand,” photo by David Bazemore.

“Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar is one of the most compelling writers working today and we are so fortunate to be presenting this high-voltage thriller,” says Ensemble Theatre Company Artistic Director Jonathan Fox. “Our subscribers and audiences are in for quite the ride as money and religious devotion collide with devastating consequences.  We’re delighted that it brings a great cast to Santa Barbara, and to once again partner with the English Theatre of Frankfurt.”

John Tufts, who wowed area audiences in ETC’s 2016 production of I Am My Own Wife (a production that transferred to Laguna Playhouse), returns to Santa Barbara to play the role of Nick Bright. He recently played multiple roles in an acclaimed New York production of Pride and Prejudice. Jameal Ali, who plays the volatile Pakistani kidnapper Bashir, starred in the original New York production.  Rounding out the cast are Mujahid Abdul-Rashid and Sarang Sharma.

There are several special events and promotions associated with the production:

  • Book Club, April 18, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.: Scripts are now available for checkout at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. Join other theatre-goers for a lively discussion about the play from a literary and dramatic perspective. FREE! 
  • Pre-Show Talk, April 18 & 25,  at 7:15 p.m.: Join guests in the courtyard of The New Vic for an informative and insightful discussion about the play before you see it, sure to enhance your theatrical experience.
  • Martini Night, April  20, at 7:15 p.m., performance at 8 p.m.: Free to ticket holders. Come early to enjoy a complimentary martini and mingle before the show.
  • Talk Back, April 26: Meet the cast after the show and discuss the production.

Tickets are available here.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on April 11, 2018.

UCSB Arts Walk

UCSB’s Department of MusicDepartment of Theater and DanceDepartment of ArtCollege of Creative StudiesArt, Design & Architecture MuseumMultiCultural Center and Library to host an open house of visual & performing arts

UCSB presents the inaugural UCSB Arts Walk on Wednesday, April 11, from 4:30-8 p.m. at various locations across the campus. The event gives students, faculty, staff and community members the opportunity to visit galleries and studios, watch preview performances and behind-the-scenes rehearsals, and participate in programming designed to highlight the artistic creativity and talent of the UCSB community. Best of all, everything is free of charge.

The Art, Design, & Architecture Museum has several exhibitions on display, including Chiura Obata: An American Modern, UCSB Campus Architecture: Design and Social Change, Jane Gottlieb Photographs France, and Keith Puccinelli. In addition, the museum hosts a Kitchell Architecture and Design lecture at 6 p.m., featuring UCSB Associate Campus Architect, Dennis Whelan. Whelan recounts the history of UC Santa Barbara campus planning and design, in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibition.

Image by Jane Gottlieb, currently on view at UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Image by Jane Gottlieb, currently on view at UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Highlights from the Department of Music include an open rehearsal of a faculty duet featuring cellist Jennifer Kloetzel and pianist Robert Koenig, plus performances by members of the Chamber Choir, Music of India Ensemble, Flute Choir, Jazz Combos, Middle East Ensemble, Chamber Players, Clarinet Choir, Gamelan Ensemble, and more. Guests can interact directly with performers during Q&A sessions following several of the events, such as a performance of scenes from UCSB Opera Theatre’s February production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and composition graduate student Brandon J. Rolle’s electro-acoustic music exhibition.

The Department of Theater and Dance also presents a wide variety of performances, open rehearsals, and exhibitions, including an open rehearsal for the department’s upcoming production of Cabaret (May 25-June 3), as well as performances by UCSB Dance BFA students in outdoor spaces surrounding the Theater and Dance buildings. The UCSB Dance Company and Freshmen Dance Company presents a special concert in the Old Ballet Studio (HSSB), while exhibitions showcasing puppets and work by UCSB Design students are also on display. Interactive playwright showcase stations will give guests the unique opportunity to work with student playwrights to compose novelty pieces on the spot.

On view from the Department of Art are multiple exhibitions of student work in the Art Building #534 and at the Red Barn Project Space in the Old Gym, Building #479, (near the bus loop by the Pollock Theater). Highlights include an exhibit of senior artwork in the GlassBox Gallery in Arts 1328, and from 7 p.m. on, Windows—a sampler of videos from Maya Gurantz’s “Intermediate Digital Video” class projected from the second story windows of Arts 2220, overlooking the bike path. In the Red Barn Project Space, UCSB Womanhouse Collective presents SHE-DEN, an intersectional, multi-media group exhibit exploring the place of women in contemporary art and culture.

The MultiCultural Center’s lounge features an exhibition by UCSB graduate student Andrew Morrison, entitled “Indian Heritage,” a Native American art exhibition that compliments his film, Great Walls of Indian Heritage. This exhibit speaks to all walks of life, its genesis is from the red road, and the American Indian Student Association inspires its vitality. The exhibit is on display in the MultiCultural Center Lounge through June 15, with an opening reception on April 12 at 6 p.m.

The College of Creative Studies (CCS), which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary during the current academic year, offers a glimpse into the work of the College’s Art, Music Composition, and Writing and Literature students in the CCS Gallery and the Old Little Theater. An exhibition of student artwork fills the CCS Gallery, while the Old Little Theater’s programming includes performances of Music Composition students’ original pieces as well as readings from Writing & Literature students and faculty.

Event link: https://www.library.ucsb.edu/artswalk

Directions and parking information: https://www.library.ucsb.edu/directions-parking

Campus map: http://www.aw.id.ucsb.edu/maps/ucsbmap.html

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on April 9, 2018.