Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Vintners Festival

Courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Vintners Festival.

Courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Vintners Festival.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

This weekend is the 36th Anniversary of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Vintners Festival on Saturday, April 21, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the beautiful River Park in Lompoc (CA-246 & Sweeney Rd., Lompoc).

The festival is a wonderful opportunity to taste a prestigious list of wines from more than 100 local wineries and savor delicious bites from a bevy of local foragers, farmers, and restaurants. In addition to the beautiful setting, there’s also live music and culinary demos throughout the day, as well as Bubba, the prized Parker Ranch bull of The Bear and Star, the excellent Los Olivos restaurant specializing in “refined ranch cuisine” that is intrinsically intertwined with the 714-acre Fess Parker Home Ranch.

Festival attendees will have the opportunity to meet Bubba and learn how the team at The Bear and Star and its celebrated Chef John Cox sources farm to table from their own ranch, including fresh produce, wagyu beef, chicken, rabbit, and duck. Alongside that, The Bear and Star will get your mouth watering with their 30’ smoker where they will showcase Smoked Wagyu Beef Albondigas with Guajillo Chile and Queso Fresco.

Bubba is the prized Parker Ranch bull of The Bear and Star, a Los Olivos restaurant offering a “refined ranch cuisine” that is intrinsically intertwined with the 714 acre Fess Parker Home Ranch. Courtesy photo.

Bubba is the prized Parker Ranch bull of The Bear and Star, a Los Olivos restaurant offering a “refined ranch cuisine” that is intrinsically intertwined with the 714 acre Fess Parker Home Ranch. Courtesy photo.

Additional food purveyors include:


555 Bar and Lounge “By Marriott”
Bara’s Fresh Almond Pate
Biker Spice
Black Bow Sweets
Bottlest Winery, Bar & Bistro
Brasserie Solera
California Coast Naturals
Cattaneo Brothers
Cecco Ristorante
Central Coast Specialty Foods
Frankland’s Crab & Co.
Heritage Fine Meats & Sausage
Hippy Pop
Hitching Post II
il Fustino
Imlakesh Organics
Industrial Eats & New West Catering
Jessica Foster Confections
Le Sorelle Imports
Leonardo’s Cucina Italiana
Lori’s Lemonade
Los Olivos Olive Oil and Olive House
LunaOlivo
Mesa Salsa Company
Quality Time Dinner
Santa Barbara Popcorn Co.
Santa Rita Organic Farm
SB Paella Catering
Scratch Kitchen & Bar
Solvang Olive Press
Succulent Café
Suro Cha Inc
Three Flies On A Knife
Valle Eatery
Valley Grind Coffee
Winfield Farm

Some of the tasty bites available at the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival. Courtesy photos.

Some of the tasty bites available at the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival. Courtesy photos.

Participating wineries include:

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Ampelos cellars
​Au Bon Climat
Babcock Winer & Vineyards
Baehner Fournier
Bernat Winery
Bien Nacido & Solomon HIlls
Brander Vineyard
​Brewer-Clifton
Bottlest
Brick Barn Wine Estate 
​Bridlewood Estate Winery
Brophy Clark Cellars
Buttonwood Farm Winery
Ca’ Del Grevino Estate and Winery
Carr Winery
Casa Dumetz
Clos Pepe Estate
Cambria Winery
Chamisal Vineyards
Cnagy wines
Coquelicot Estate Wines
CrossHatch Winery
Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards
Dragonette Cellars
Ferguson Crest
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Fiddlehead Cellars
Flying Goat Cellars
FOXEN and foxen 7200
Gainey Vineyard
Grace & Vine
Grassini Family Vineyards
​Hilliard Bruce
Hitching Post Wines
Imagine Wine
Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Jamie Slone Wines
J. Wilkes
Kaena Wine Company
Ken Brown Wines
Lafond
Lieu Dit Winery
Lions Peak Vineyards
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Lumen Wines
Malene Wines
Margerum Wine Company
Martian Ranch & Vineyard
Melville Winery
Montemar Wines
Municipal Winemakers
Nielson
​Pence Vineyards & Winery
Presqu’ile
​Qupé Wine Cellars
Rancho Sisquoc
Refugio Ranch Vineyards
Riverbench
Roblar Winery
Rusack Vineyards
​Samsara
​Sanford Winery & Vineyards
Santa Barbara Winery
Spear
Stolpman Vineyards
Sweetzer Cellars
Temperance Cellars
​The Central Coast Group Project
Toccata wines
Toretti Family Vineyard 
Tyler Winery
Zaca Mesa Winery

This year’s festival also includes the Bubble Lounge, a unique and playful opportunity to enjoy a bubble machine and DIY bubble bottles! Sip on world-class bubbles while you blow some bubbles into the wind to melt your cares away. The line-up includes:

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Flying Goat Cellars
Imagine Wine
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Municipal Winemakers
Pence Vineyards & Winery
Riverbench Winery
Sanford Winery & Vineyards

The Rent Party Blues, one of the top blues bands in California, performs alongside another local favorite, The Bryan Titus Trio.

Can’t get enough of Santa Barbara County wines? This weekend you can also visit up to 12 tasting rooms on an all-inclusive wine tasting pass with a Vintners Visa Wine Country Tasting Pass  for unique and complimentary offerings at your choice of twelve participating tasting rooms from Thursday – Monday.  Over 40+ wineries and tasting rooms are participating in this program. An opportunity that is truly unsurpassable.

Need a bit more incentive? The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation also has a silent auction that benefits the Enology/viticulture program at Allan Hancock College (hancockcollege.edu ) as well as DirectRelief.org  and its medical relief activities at home and around the globe. Local vintners are digging deep into their cellars as well as creating unique private events to compile an unprecedented offering of auction lots for this year’s Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Silent Auction. Only Vintners Festival Grand Tasting attendees will have access to the array of unique wine lots including over two dozen impressive large format bottles such as a double magnum of Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills and a 5 Liter bottle of Qupe 2013 Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard “Hillside” Estate.  Among the one-of-a-kind collections will be a 6 bottle sampler displayed in an engraved wooden box from Kenneth Volk Vineyards. Bidders will also be able to access private events including a private tour and tasting for 4 at Presqu’ile Winery’s beautiful hilltop winery overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and a private vineyard tour, tasting and lunch for 4 at Martian Ranch & Vineyard. Proceeds from the silent auction will provide scholarships for two Allan Hancock Enology/viticulture students as well as a grant to the Enology/viticulture department.

“In addition, this year we are working to raise money to support Direct Relief in the replenishment of their First Responder Backpacks. Participants will have an opportunity to donate directly towards the items to fill these kits, many of which were used during Direct Relief’s response to the Thomas fire and Montecito mudslide in recent months. Visiting the Silent Auction pavilion is a great way to get your hands on some great wines as well as support the community,” says Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation President, Elaina Kroll. 

For more information about the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, go to sbvf.org.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit sbvintnersweekend.com.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

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

Local Dish: Smithy Kitchen + Bar

The outdoor patio at Kitchen + Bar is a beautiful place to dine, day or night. Photo courtesy Smithy.

The outdoor patio at Kitchen + Bar is a beautiful place to dine, day or night. Photo courtesy Smithy.

There’s nothing better than good food in a beautiful setting, and the new Smithy Kitchen + Bar (7 E. Anapamu St.) has both! I’ve dined on the lovely outdoor patio—under its gorgeous canopy of 100-year-old olive trees—twice in the last few weeks—once on a cold night and once on a warmish one—and the well-placed heaters make it a comfortable and cozy spot to be in almost any weather.

Designer Steve Hermann has redone the former Somerset space in an upscale yet approachable style, with a more “Santa Barbara” vibe and every day price point. Originally a blacksmith shop, hence the name “Smithy,” this prime downtown location (near the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Public Library and Sullivan Goss Gallery) is now a great spot for lunch, dinner with friends and family, nighttime drinks and bites or a leisurely Sunday brunch. There’s also a special Easter Brunch menu, if you’re eager to check it out this weekend.

Smithy's "Baby I'm a Star" cocktail and roasted sunchokes with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Smithy’s “Baby I’m a Star” cocktail and roasted sunchokes with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Chef Lauren Herman’s new menu is delicious, and nothing is over $20. We loved the mussels and clams with shallot, garlic, crispy pork belly, and bok choy served with grilled toast. The sauce was so savory we asked for extra toast (homemade) to lap up every last bite. The pastas were also terrific. Try the Cavatelli combined with pork ragu, mustard greens and tomato confit for a hearty dish. The squid ink casarecce in lobster bisque with uni and nori breadcrumbs was also fabulous.

The vegetables really shine as well. We loved the fried delicata squash with cauliflower, bagna cauda, calabrian chili and anchovy aïoli, as well the roasted rainbow carrots with spiced cashew butter, coconut yogurt and carrot top pistou. I also enjoyed the sunchokes, roasted with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree. Overall, everything was tasty and ideal for sharing.

Smithy's Polenta Dumplings and Mushroom Flatbread. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Smithy’s Polenta Dumplings and Mushroom Flatbread. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Partners in life and in the kitchen, Lauren Herman’s wife, Christina Olufson, is a terrific pastry chef.  The flourless chocolate cake with crushed honeycomb was amazing, as was the butterscotch pumpkin cake. Our friends at a nearby table also raved about the brioche doughnuts, so those are definitely on my list to try next time. 

The cocktails are also worth noting, with creative names like “Ortega Undead II: The Resurrection”  (tequila blanco, lime , thai chile, wild elderflower, falernum and chili-salt rim), “From Tokyo to Mars” (iwai japanese whiskey and bittered grapefruit cordial) and “Baby I’m a Star” (pear and fennel, vodka, fino sherry, absinthe, lemon and peychauds bitters) that are just as delicious as they are irresistible for wordsmiths.

One of several communal dining tables at Smithy Kitchen + Bar, courtesy photo.

One of several communal dining tables at Smithy Kitchen + Bar, courtesy photo.

While I loved the aesthetic of Somerset, Smithy is definitely a more welcoming space, not to mention significantly less expensive. The building’s original exposed brick walls with white weathered board and batten walls, rustic reclaimed table tops, and original school house chairs create a beautiful restaurant that is both airy and open, yet still feels intimate. As is becoming a trend, there are three separate communal tables and bar seating, as well as an additional 130 seats located inside and out, offering a myriad of dining possibilities. The nights I was there, there were large groups of people (both young and less young), lots of couples and smaller groups, as well as some solo diners.

Smithy's Kale Salad. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Smithy’s Kale Salad. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

“We want Smithy to provide a dining oasis in the heart of Santa Barbara,” states owner and designer, Steve Hermann.  “We hope to become that bar/restaurant that feels like home for all of our guests’ dining and drinking needs, whether small or large.  Our food is delicious yet accessible, and our environment is welcoming and comfortable.  We’d like to create a new history with Smithy that matches the history of our iconic Santa Barbara location.”

Smithy is located in downtown Santa Barbara at 7 East Anapamu St.  Call 805/845-7112 or visit Open Table for reservations. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 – 2:30 p.m.; dinner from 5p.m. – close; and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Happy hour runs daily from 4 – 6 p.m.

Leslie Dinaberg 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 29, 2018.

Interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Bar interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Bar interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Local Dish: Islands Restaurants Sails to Santa Barbara

Islands Hawaiian Burger, courtesy photo.

Islands Hawaiian Burger, courtesy photo.

Family-friendly and surf-inspired, the new Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks is a great fit for La Cumbre Plaza (3825 State St.). Probably best known for specialty burgers, fresh cut fries and tropical drinks, we tried Islands out recently and it didn’t disappoint.

The 4,900 square-foot restaurant (formerly occupied by Marmalade) features an open layout, beach-vibe décor, including surfboard-inspired booths, and a large outdoor patio area, equipped with heaters and a cozy communal fire table.

The expansive menu emphasizes burgers, including the classic Big Wave (your basic burger ingredients), the Hawaiian (topped with fresh grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce and Swiss cheese), and the spicy Kilauea (a Jalapeño & black pepper crusted burger with pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, lettuce, tomato and Island Reds, which are fried onion strings), among others, along with tacos, bowls, fresh salads and fresh-cut Island Fries.

Islands Big Wave, courtesy photo.

Islands Big Wave, courtesy photo.

In the mood for something sweet? Don’t miss the Kona Pie, made with mocha almond fudge ice cream & cookie crust topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, roasted almonds and a cherry on top!

Islands Kona Pie, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Kona Pie, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I can also vouch for the tropical drink selection. Mojitos, Mai Tai’s, Long Island Ice Tea’s, Margaritas, they’ve got it all, as well as locally sourced wine and beer. They have happy hour weekdays from 3-6:30 p.m., with discounted offers on sliders, nachos, beer, wine and cocktails, as well  an all-day happy hour in the bar area as part of March Madness basketball games, in addition to all-day happy hour for Women’s NCAA games for the Final Four (March 30 & April 1). 

Islands Mojito, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Mojito, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

“We’re incredibly proud to open our first restaurant in Santa Barbara, an iconic beach city that resonates with our own coastal culture and origins,” says Michael Smith, president of Islands Restaurants. “We look forward to being a part of this close knit community and offering a spot for visitors to grab great food and drinks with family and friends.”

It’s right in our neighborhood. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Islands Taco and Onion Rings, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Taco and Onion Rings, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Photo courtesy Islands.

Photo courtesy Islands.

Islands Cheddar Fries, courtesy photo.

Islands Cheddar Fries, courtesy photo.

Islands Hula Burger with Island Reds, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Hula Burger with Island Reds, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 22, 2018.

Local Dish: Bibi Ji

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

By Leslie Dinaberg

An innovative take on Indian food paired with locally made wines and locally sourced seafood with Australian influences all adds up to what is easily one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit downtown Santa Barbara in a long, long time!  

Bibi Ji, the new restaurant from James Beard Award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr (who also makes his own wine labels—Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi—nearby in Lompoc) and acclaimed Chef Jessi Singh (who’s been lauded for his inventive “unauthentic” Indian cooking at the popular Babu Ji restaurants in San Francisco, Manhattan and Melbourne) opened this month at 734 State St., a beautiful location across from Paseo Nuevo with an outdoor courtyard overlooking De La Guerra Plaza.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

The name Bibi Ji—an Indian term of endearment for women in the family—pays tribute to the formative women in both Singh and Parr’s lives who cultivated their love for food and hospitality. 

Drawing from his Australian and Indian roots, Chef Singh (who now lives in Santa Barbara) has created a menu featuring his self-proclaimed “unauthentic take” on many traditional American seafood dishes, with a strong focus on using local Santa Barbara purveyors. With the Santa Barbara Farmers Market just steps away, Singh is excited to change his menu regularly depending on what’s available in the market that week.

Currently on the menu are SB UNI Biryani, made with local sea urchin and fried rice—a dish so beautiful plated it looks like a mythical sea creature; Local Oysters with green mango pickle butter (from famed Santa Barbara fish monger Stephanie Mutz); delicious Hope Ranch Black Mussels in a curry broth; and melt-in-your-mouth Aussie Lamb Chops with mint and dill raita and apricot chutney.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

We also enjoyed a zesty array of “unauthentic curries,” such as Beef Korma with beef short rib, curry leaves, cashew and hearty shiitake mushrooms; Unauthentic CTM, Chef Singh’s delicious riff on chicken tikka masala; Coconut Curry with turmeric and mustard seeds and pink shrimp, a dish I’m still dreaming about, even though I normally am not a coconut lover; Chana Masala, with chickpea, dry pomegranate and green mango powder; Punjabi Kadhi, with fenugreek and turmeric yogurt curry; and Bibi Ji Daal, with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.

Bibi Ji's SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji’s SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Favorite dishes from Singh’s Babu Ji restaurants in New York and San Francisco are also on the menu, like Mr. Tso’s Cauliflower, Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato & chili sauce, and Gol Gappa, delicious tangy crispy stuffed shells.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu—offering a variety of favorite appetizers, curries, naan, rice and dessert for $50 per person—is an excellent way to savor a variety of these exciting flavors without having to make a lot of decisions.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

In addition to a “serve yourself” assortment of beers which made my husband’s heart sing, Bibi Ji’s carefully curated wine offerings are designed to complement the playful menu. The wines focus on highlighting organic, biodynamic and natural wines from artisanal producers in Europe, Australia and Santa Barbara. At the moment, producers include Gonon, Jean Michel Stephane, Allemand, Metras, Laporte and Richard Leroy, with varietals ranging from Gamay and Syrah to Riesling and Chenin Blanc, which pair well with the spices in many of the dishes.

Nearly all of the wines at the restaurant will also be available at Bibi Ji’s bottle shop, which is located inside the restaurant and offers an esoteric collection of more than 100 bottles.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

The inviting interior, designed by Chef Singh, features a 40-seat dining room with exposed brick, high ceilings adorned with hanging golden chandeliers and a skylight that brings natural light into the space. A brown leather banquette spans along one side of the restaurant, and on the other side is the 15-seat bar. Pops of color come from red-cushioned dining chairs and bar stools, as well as from the vibrant Indian artwork that decorates the walls. Empty wine bottles, sourced from Parr’s personal collection, are showcased throughout the restaurant.

Bibi Ji is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit bibijisb.com or call 805/560-6845.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: The Wondrous World of Pinot Noir

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy MaxPixel.freegreatpicture.com.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy MaxPixel.freegreatpicture.com.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

“Discover. Indulge. Celebrate.” is the tagline for the World of Pinot Noir, and I can’t think of better advice when it comes to imbibing at this favorite annual event. Held Mar. 2-3 at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, this festival gathers the world’s most highly regarded Pinot Noir wineries and winemakers, renowned chefs, sommeliers and leading wine scholars for two days of in-depth tasting seminars and excursions, Grand Tastings, a Burgundy seminar and tasting and gourmet, locally-influenced lunches and dinners.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

As I’ve said in the past, I get to go to a LOT of wine festivals and this is definitely one of my favorites. Here’s an overview of this year’s schedule:

WEEKEND PASS – $1150
Includes an invitation to the Opening Night Celebration March 1; admission to the Friday and Saturday Tasting Seminars & Luncheons; VIP Admission to the Friday and Saturday Grand Tastings; and Pinot Noir Pairing Dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings.

THURSDAY

THURSDAY OPENING NIGHT PARTY – $110
Thursday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Kickoff the World of Pinot Noir with a wine-filled feast and fête, presented by The SOMM Journal. Meet participating winemakers, America’s leading sommeliers and preview the weekend while sampling wines, indulging in tasty bites prepared by The Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Executive Chef, Umit Kaygusuz. It’s time to get this weekend-long Pinot party started.

FRIDAY

FRIDAY SINGLE-DAY PASS – $480
Includes admission to the Exploring the Oregon-Burgundy Connection Tasting Seminar & Luncheon, VIP Admission to the Friday Grand Tasting and a Friday evening Pinot Noir Pairing Dinner.

SEMINAR & LUNCHEON: Exploring the Oregon-Burgundy Connection – $265
Joshua Greene, Editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine will lead a winemaker panel discussion and tasting that explores Oregon’s deep and growing ties to Burgundy, and the how this is influencing the current and future state of this exciting New World region. The wineries include Maison Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Domaine du Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Chapter 24 Vineyards, Domaine des Comtes Lafon and Lingua Franca. The seminar includes a three-course Pinot Noir-paired lunch prepared by the Ritz-Carlton Bacara culinary team, with wine service by World of Pinot Noir Sommeliers.Friday, March 2, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

FRIDAY LUNCHEON NO. 1: Celebrating the New Petaluma Gap AVA – $75
This three-course luncheon will showcase the award-winning wine made from grapes grown in the newly-minted Petaluma Gap AVA. Located in southern Sonoma and northern Marin counties, the cool-climate, windswept Petaluma Gap AVA boasts 4,000 acres of vineyards, of which, 75 percent are planted with Pinot Noir. Friday, March 2, 11:30 a.m.

CENTRAL COAST SEMINAR: Discover the Cool Climate Terroirs of the Central Coast – $65
Wine Enthusiast magazine’s contributing editor, and Central Coast expert, Matt Kettmann, will explore Pinot Noirs from the top cool-climate terroirs of the vast Central Coast. Along with a panel of acclaimed winemakers, Kettmann will guide the tasting of nine award-winning wines he scored 92 points or above. The wineries include Adelaida, Big Basin, Black Kite, Dierberg, Ken Brown Wines, Laetitia, Stephen Ross Wines and Talbott. Friday, March 2, 1 p.m.

FRIDAY VIP GRAND TASTINGS – $135
This exclusive VIP ticket provides you with early entry to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Grand Ballroom, where you’ll be able to meet winemakers, be the first to bid on silent auction items, and taste through hundreds of Pinot Noir producers from around the world. Several other exclusive VIP experiences will be announced soon. Friday, March 2, 2:30-6 p.m.

FRIDAY GRAND TASTING – $85
Taste through more than 150 Pinot Noir producers from around the world gathered in the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara’s Grand Ballroom, bid on silent auction items and “taste the place” while you nibble on fresh, local and seasonal wine country appetizers from the Ritz-Carlton Bacara culinary team. Friday, March 2, 3:30-6 p.m.

FRIDAY DINNER NO. 1: The Art of Japanese Cuisine and Freeman Winery Pinot Noir, with Guest Chef Ken Tominaga – $275
Chef Ken Tominaga, founder of PABU in San Francisco and Boston, and Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma, crafts a multi-course umami-fueled feast designed to pair perfectly with the award-winning Pinot Noirs from Freeman Winery. This intimate, one-of-kind dinner experience is limited. Friday, March 2, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY DINNER NO. 2: The Bounties of the Santa Maria Valley: A Celebratory Farm-to-Fork Dinner – Presented by the Santa Maria Valley – $125
The Santa Maria AVA is home to some of America’s highest regarded Pinot Noir vineyards and producers. But this renowned sub-region of Santa Barbara is just as famous for its hearty and robust eponymously-named style of steak made from locally raised beef. Enjoy an elevated take on Santa Maria barbecue prepared by Ritz-Carlton Bacara Executive Chef, Umit Kaygusuz all paired with wines from the region’s most famous wineries. Friday, March 2, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY DINNER NO. 3: 101 Years of Single-Vineyard Pinot Noir Along the Historic Highway 101 – $165
A collection of winemaking expertise gathers for this epic dinner featuring winemakers Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton, Adam Lee of Siduri, Wells Guthrie of Copain and Jonathan Nagy of Byron. Join us for an evening of food, laughter, and of course, fabulous Pinot Noir, as these trailblazing winemakers share their stories of their collective 101 years of crafting some of California’s most expressive Pinot Noirs along the Golden State’s historic coastal corridor. Friday, March 2, 7 p.m.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

SATURDAY

SATURDAY SINGLE-DAY PASS – $525
Includes admission to the Tasting Through The Best of Burgundy Tasting Seminar & Luncheon, VIP Admission to the Saturday Grand Tasting and a Saturday evening Pinot Noir Pairing Dinner. (Dinner upgrades will be available after purchase.)

SATURDAY BURGUNDY SEMINAR & LUNCHEON: Tasting Through The Best of Burgundy – $265
Founder of the San Francisco Wine School and Master Sommelier David Glancy–along with a panel of Burgundy experts and winemakers–will lead a fun and educational tasting of some of the most notable producers and most acclaimed vintages from France’s famed Pinot Noir region, and will discuss the varying classification systems of Burgundy’s sub-regions, their history, trends and the changing roles of growers and negociants. This seminar will feature multiple vintages of premier cru wines from Domaine Faively, Domaine Henri Gouge and Domaine Chanson. The seminar includes a three-course Pinot Noir-paired lunch prepared by the Ritz-Carlton Bacara culinary team, with wine service by World of Pinot Noir Sommeliers. Saturday, March 3, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

SATURDAY LUNCHEON NO. 1:
Rosé Lawn Party Atop the Bluff presented by United Airlines – $80
Held on the seaside bluff of the Angel Oak veranda, this daytime lawn party will feature over 35 of the best Pinot Noir Rosés on planet, a gourmet buffet lunch crafted by the Angel Oak Chef du Cuisine, and the unobstructed and downright jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. Saturday, March 3, 11 a.m.

SATURDAY SEMINAR NO. 1:
Attack Of The Clones Seminar – $65
In this fun and educational winemaker-led seminar, you’ll learn–and taste–the difference between many key Pinot Noir grape clones. Panelists include: Greg Morthole – Davis Bynum, Heidi Bridenhagen – MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, Ben Papapietro – Papapietro Perry Winery, Amy Thorn – Thorn Hill Vineyards and Ben Cane – Westwood Estate Winery. Saturday, March 3, 1 p.m.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

World of Pinot Noir comes to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara March 2-3. Photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

SATURDAY VIP GRAND TASTINGS – $150
This exclusive VIP ticket provides you with early entry to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Grand Ballroom, where you’ll be able to meet winemakers, be the first to bid on silent auction items, and taste through hundreds of Pinot Noir producers from around the world. Several other exclusive VIP experiences will be announced soon. Saturday, March 3, 2:30–6 p.m.

SATURDAY GRAND TASTING – $100
Taste through more than 100 Pinot Noir producers from around the world gathered in the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara’s Grand Ballroom, bid on silent auction items and “taste the place” while you nibble on fresh, local and seasonal wine country appetizers from the Ritz-Carlton Bacara culinary team. Saturday, March 3, 3:30–6 p.m.

SATURDAY DINNER NO. 1: Celebrating the Women of Pinot Noir – $150
This feast will showcase 12 wineries: Bouchaine Vineyards, Chenoweth Wines, La Crema, Lumen Wines, Meiomi, Merry Edwards Winery, Rideau Vineyards, Seagrape Wine Co & Buttonwood, St. Francis Winery, Stolo Family Vineyards, Trombetta Family Wines & Furthermore Wines, Wrath Wines and their trailblazing winemakers. Held in the downstairs Director’s Lounge and outside terrace, this multi-course feast will feature a gourmet whole-roasted pig crafted by Ritz-Carlton Bacara Executive Chef, Umit Kaygusuz. Saturday, March 3, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY DINNER NO. 2: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Feast – $165
This five-course dinner will shine a spotlight on Oregon’s most famous region, the Willamette Valley, home to arguably some of the most food-friendly Pinot Noirs in the world. Emceed by Joshua Greene, the editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine, and Master of Wine Bree Boskov of the Oregon Wine Board, the evening will feature a long list of award-winning wines and their winemakers. Saturday, March 3, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY DINNER NO. 3:
 Vintage Burgundy Dinner with the Guild of Sommeliers – $450
The World of Pinot Noir is thrilled to present an extraordinary wine dinner hosted by the Guild of Sommeliers. Jay James, Master Sommelier, will present vintage Burgundy wines from the Guild’s extensive cellar in this six-course gourmand experience. This intimate, one-of-kind dinner experience is limited. Saturday, March 3, 7 p.m.

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

Leslie Dinaberg

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

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

Cocktail Corner: SB County Women Winemakers Dinner

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, and I can’t think of a better way to toast the occasion than by attending the second annual Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner.

Last year’s festivities were, quite simply, amazing, delicious and fun, with a great spirit of collaboration and mutual admiration among the winemakers and chefs taking part.  Because the inaugural event—which was planned, executed and sold out within the space of a few weeks—was so popular, the event’s organizers have expanded this year’s dinner to accommodate more guests and to provide different levels of options for participation and support. 

I can’t wait! 

The charitable event, which runs in its entirety from 5:30-9 p.m. at K’Syrah Catering & Events (478 4th Place, Solvang, www.kscateringandevents.com) will, for the second year, benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County. Tickets to the March 8 event are currently on sale, at womenswinemakerdinner.eventbrite.com.

Last year's Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Last year’s Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

More than 20 female winemakers will be joined at the March 8 event by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s leading culinary ladies, the latter of which are collaborating to create a four-course, sit-down dinner to pair with some of their winemaker colleagues’ wines. In addition to the seated dinner portion of the evening, this year’s event features a tent on a closed-to-traffic street in front of K’Syrah’s downtown Solvang venue. Housed inside the tent is a pre-dinner tasting reception (available as a separate ticket), where more than 20 women winemakers will be on-hand to pour tastes of their wines and talk with event guests from 5:30-7 p.m. The tent festivities also include passed appetizers and a cheese table from local female cheesemonger Janelle McAtamney of Solvang’s Cailloux Cheese Shop.

Participating winemakers and wineries confirmed include: Karen Steinwachs, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard; Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz Wines; Brooke Carhartt, Carhartt Vineyard & Winery; Alison Thomson, Lepiane Wines; Lane Tanner, Lumen Wines; Adrienne St. John, Rideau Vineyard; Gretchen Voelcker, Moon Unit Wines; Jessica Gasca, Story of Soil; Tara Gomez, Kitá Wines; Angela Osborne, A Tribute To Grace; and Kimberly Smith, LaMontagne Winery, with more to be announced  soon.

Chef Brooke Stockwell, Executive Chef at K’Syrah Catering & Events, will be joined in the kitchen by baker Amy Dixon, of The Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez; Theo Stephan, owner of Los Olivos’ Global Gardens; and additional Santa Ynez Valley chefs and food crafters, to be announced as the event nears. 

VIP-level tickets for this year’s event will include both the tasting tent and the seated dinner, where guests will be treated to wine pairings by, and conversation with, an exclusive selection of some of Santa Barbara County’s female winemakers, who will also be announced in the coming weeks. A dessert reception will follow the seated dinner, where guests may continue to mingle with the winemakers.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1909, with a focus on working women’s achievements and issues. In a working environment that sees about 10% of the global wine industry as female winemakers, Santa Barbara County boasts a much higher percentage of women winemakers than most places in the world, with nearly double the average. The March 8 event will bring together a good portion of the County’s female winemakers in a show of support for each other, and other working women, world-wide; those who toil and labor while honing and elevating their craft in their workplace, while also balancing work-lives with family and community service.

It’s going to be a wonderful evening. Hope to see some of you there! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

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

Local Lowdown: Santa Barbara Restaurant Week

Experience the most exciting flavors in town at the first annual Santa Barbara Restaurant Week, taking place February 23–March 4.

With an abundant number of restaurants to choose from in Santa Barbara, the possibilities for exceptional dining experiences are endless, with everything available from prime steak to fresh local seafood, from classic American fare to internationally inspired cuisine.

Participating restaurants will offer special discounted rates ($25–$45) for a prix fixe three-course menu, and local wineries and hotels are also getting in on the fun.

“We are so excited to be launching the first annual Santa Barbara Restaurant Week, which is long overdue with all the culinary talent at our fingertips,” says Leslee Garafalo, owner of Santa Barbara Uncorked, LLC, who is one of the organizers. “This is an opportunity for our restaurant community to come together and showcase their establishments by offering an accessible dining experience for both Santa Barbara and surrounding communities.”

Leslie Dinaberg

Local Dish: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week returns Jan. 21-27 to showcase wine country restaurants at once-a-year prices.  Back for the eighth consecutive year, Restaurant Week features three-course meals prepared by the Valley’s most creative chefs for just $20.18 Foodies can savor a rare value to celebrate the food and wine pairings that have made this region a gem in California Wine Country.

Representing each of the Santa Ynez Valley’s six distinct communities, 26 restaurants—ranging from the region’s emerging establishments to long-time favorites—will participate in Restaurant Week this year. The list includes a Puerto Rican-inspired menu at Industrial Eats in Buellton, which is donating 100% of the proceeds to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

This year’s list of participating restaurants includes:

RESTAURANTS
Ballard

The Ballard Inn & Gathering Table, 2436 Baseline Ave., 800/638-2466

Buellton

 

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, Bottle Branding photo.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, Bottle Branding photo.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, 35 Industrial Way, 805/686-4742

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.,45 Industrial Way, 805/694-2252

Firestone Walker Brewing Co., 620 McMurray Rd., 805/697-4777

Hitching Post II, 406 E. Hwy 246, 805/688-0676

Industrial Eats, 181 Industrial Way, 805/688-8807

Los Alamos

Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, 550 Bell St., 805/344-3000

Plenty on Bell, 508 Bell St., 805/344-3020

Valle Fresh, 380 Bell St., 805/865-2282

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

Los Olivos

The Bear and Star, 2860 Grand Ave., 805/6861359

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, 2879 Grand Ave., 805/688-7265

The romantic S.Y. Kitchen Firepit at Night , Photo by Rocco Ceselin.

The romantic S.Y. Kitchen Firepit at Night , Photo by Rocco Ceselin.

Santa Ynez

The Lucky Hen Larder, 1095 Meadowvale Rd., 805/691-9448

S.Y. Kitchen, 1110 Faraday St., 805/691-9794

The Vineyard House, 3631 Sagunto St., 805/688-2886

Trattoria Grappolo, 3687 Sagunto St., 805/688-6899

Solvang

Cecco Ristorante, 475 1st St., 805/688-8880

First & Oak, 409 1st St., 805/688-1703

Fresco Valley Café, 442 Atterdag Rd., 805/688-8857

Leonardo’s Ristorante, 632 Alamo Pintado Rd., 805/686-0846

Mad & Vin at The Landsby, 1576 Mission Dr., 805/688-3121

Petros Kafe, 487 Atterdag Rd., 805/686-5455

Root 246, 420 Alisal Rd., 805/686-8681

Santa Ynez Café, 606 Alamo Pintado Rd. #1, Solvang, 805/688-3543

Solvang Brewing Co., 1547 Mission Dr., 805/688-2337

Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie, 1555 Mission Dr., 805/691-9444

The Ridge, 1618 Copenhagen Dr., 805/325-9820

For the latest updates on Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week, including menus and dining hours, visit www.DineSYV.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 20, 2018.

Local Dish: The Bear and Star Chef’s Table

Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in Los Angeles (left) joins the Bear and Star Chef John Cox on Tuesday, January 16 for a special Chef's Table dinner. Courtesy photos.

Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in Los Angeles (left) joins the Bear and Star Chef John Cox on Tuesday, January 16 for a special Chef’s Table dinner. Courtesy photos.

The Bear and Star‘s next installment in their popular Chef’s Table Dinner series features Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in downtown Los Angeles and takes place on Tuesday, January 16, with two seatings at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Dinner begins with an Amuse – Oyster with Uni, Caviar, Tarragon, Champagne and Parsnip Crème Brûlée; followed by a First of Beet with Tofu, Huckleberry and Black Walnut; then a Second of Sturgeon with Soy Pearls, Black Garlic, Crispy Skin and Finger Lime; Third course of Lasagna with Porcini, Pistachio and White Truffle; Fourth of Turbo with Potato, Leek, Vin Jaune, Meyer Lemon and Smoked Clams; followed by a Fifth of Oxtail with Bone Marrow, Horseradish and Red Sorrel. To finish for a Sixth and final course, guests will enjoy Chocolate with Coffee, Caramel and Pecan. Wine pairings are available for the dinner by The Bear and Star’s General Manager Robert Williams.

The Bear and Star’s Chef Room, photo by Kodiak Greenwood.

The Bear and Star’s Chef Room, photo by Kodiak Greenwood.

Chef Abgaryan, a native Angeleno, was formally trained at Le Cordon Bleu, mentoring at the iconic André Soltner restaurant, Lutèce. He returned to Los Angeles to lead the kitchens of acclaimed restaurateur Tim Goodell’s Red Pearl Kitchen, ‘A’ Restaurant, and Public Kitchen. For the next three years, Abgaryan served as executive chef at Cliff’s Edge Restaurant to great critical acclaim. LA Weekly’s restaurant critic Besha Rodell wrote, “Abgaryan’s food is composed above all else—the chef focuses as much on visual beauty as on taste.”

In 2015, Chef Abgaryan joined forces with Emil Eyvazoff to debut a new, world-class dining destination on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower. At 950 feet above ground level, 71Above is the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi. Offering elevated modern American cuisine, 71Above boasts breathtaking ocean views from Malibu to Laguna Hills, along with spectacular views of the Los Angeles basin and the surrounding mountain ranges. In addition to the magnificent views, 71Above was designed to provide a number of varying dining experiences. Guests may choose to dine within the buzz of the bar or in our adjacent lively main dining room. The Chef’s tables offer views of the open kitchen and transition into a semi-private dining area, offering a quieter and more intimate dining environment.

For reservations, call 805/686-1359 to prepay by credit card or visit Eventbrite for tickets.

Mark your calendars for upcoming guest chef collaborations:

February 25—Chef Neal Fraser, Redbird, Los Angeles

March 21—Chef Josiah Citrin, Melisse, Santa Monica

The Bear and Star is located at 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

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.