Hotel Chefs Dish

Opening spread 805 Living Hotel Chefs Dish March 2020Creators of the farE served at 10 prestigious area resorts share their best new menu items, observations on industry trends, favorite local ingredients, and go-to eats made by other chefs.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Great chefs love great food. So who better qualified to share their insights on the 805 dining scene than top chefs at local resorts? With their insider intel on what’s new in Central Coast restaurants right now, crave-worthy dishes from their own kitchens and other chefs, as well as their favorite local ingredients, here’s what 10 area hotel chefs say is trending in the 805.

EXECUTIVE CHEF JOHAN DENIZOT

Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? Upscale Mexican cuisine. At least three new Mexican restaurants opened between last year and this year.

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? Our vegan ramen. It’s comfort food that pleases everyone.

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? The veggie burger at the Goat Tree restaurant [hotelcalifornian.com] in Santa Barbara’s Hotel Californian is very tasty, my to-go dish for lunch.

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? Chef Yoichi Kawabata at the Japanese restaurant Yoichi’s [yoichis.com] in Santa Barbara, for clean flavors and clean presentations.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? There are too many to list, but one in particular is the finger lime caviar. It’s fun to use and fits many dishes—from raw fish to desserts—with its bright and bold flavor.

Second spread 805 Living Hotel Chefs Dish March 2020

EXECUTIVE CHEF EDWARD RUIZ

The Gardens of Avila, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, San Luis Obispo, sycamoresprings.com

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? My go-to dish is always a steak, medium rare. My favorite steak place is The Hitching Post II [hitchingpost2.com] in Buellton. I remember having one on my birthday. It was a 32-ounce rib eye grilled over oak.

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? Chef Brian Collins at Ember in Arroyo Grande. He does farm-to-table and the menu changes every month. It’s a really good experience from the service to the food.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? I’m very lucky to have a one-acre garden that we harvest a lot of our ingredients from, including melons, cucumbers, radishes, heirloom tomatoes, beets, greens, herbs, and edible flowers. We have a full-time farmer on-site—Haley Trengove—who is super helpful and really knowledgeable. That is something most restaurants in the area don’t have, and it sets us apart.

EXECUTIVE CHEF MATT JOHNSON

San Ysidro Ranch, Montecito, sanysidroranch.com

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? Microbrews are popping up everywhere, which has food trucks coming to serve small plates, whether they’re taco, wood-fired pizza, or barbecue trucks. Also with more and more vegans and gluten-free diners, a lot of restaurants are going in that direction with healthier and lighter dishes. There are so many different options now in the 805 compared to 10 years ago when it was mainly tacos, Italian food, and cafés.

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? One of our dishes at Stonehouse restaurant is Local Spiny Lobster with gnocchi, romanesco, speck ham, and Meyer lemon emulsion. The lobster is from Santa Cruz Island and the Meyer lemons that make up the sauce are from our gardens at San Ysidro Ranch.

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? One of my favorite dishes is at Kitanoya Ramen & Sushi [805-382-1222] in Oxnard. It’s the Fried Chicken Ramen with crispy garlic, pickled egg, and spicy miso, along with a side of their house-made kimchi. It is my comfort dish on a cold evening; it’s so good.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? My favorite ingredient right now is definitely Meyer lemons from our property. We also have beehives on the property that make our honey. It’s got flavors of rosemary and lavender.

EXECUTIVE CHEF RICHARD PFAFF

Lido, Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, Pismo Beach, thedolphinbay.com

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? Not just in the 805 but countrywide, diners have moved to either a plant-based diet or have chosen to omit gluten and carbs from their diets. We here at Lido make an effort to accommodate diners with a host of different diets. Recently we released a house-made vegan burger consisting of edamame, shiitake mushrooms, garbanzo beans, and hominy, which is very popular. We also appeal to gluten-free diners who frequent our resort. I am most proud of this, considering 80 percent of our menu is gluten-free or has the option to be prepared that way, everything from our crab cakes and French fries all the way to our garbanzo bean flour–breaded fritto misto appetizer.

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? Oh, hands down the pork belly and abalone dish by chef Brian Collins at Ember [emberwoodfire.com] in Arroyo Grande. I usually am off on Mondays when they are closed, but every time I visit Ember that is my go-to dish!

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? Nicola Allegretto at Mistura [misturarestaurants.com] in San Luis Obispo. Mistura stands out because of the lack of Peruvian food represented here in the 805. With fun, eclectic flavors and beautiful presentation, it’s just a fun and interesting place all around.

Third spread 805 Living Hotel Chefs Dish March 2020

EXECUTIVE CHEF TRAVIS WATSON

Blackbird, Hotel Californian, Santa Barbara, hotelcalifornian.com

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? My favorite dish on the Blackbird menu right now is our Prime New York Steak. It is a grass-fed, all-natural product that is aged for at least 33 days. It’s so tender and delicious by itself, but we accompany it with heirloom carrot variations, caramelized cipollini onions, chimichurri, and a smoked–blue cheese bread pudding. The preparation is beautiful and over-the-top delicious!

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? The buttermilk fried quail from chef Jason Paluska at The Lark [thelarksb.com] in Santa Barbara. It is spectacular, and I love that he took such a classic approach to a great ingredient.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? One of the best things about living and cooking in Santa Barbara is the access to great seafood. Right now we are getting the best spiny lobsters I can remember. At Hotel Californian we have great relationships within our local fishing community and are able to get fresh lobsters right off the boat. It doesn’t get any fresher than that! Forging those partnerships means that Hotel Californian will always be able to source the best product in the area. I have such respect for the fishermen and farmers who are passionate about sustainability and being stewards of our natural resources.

EXECUTIVE CHEF MICHAEL PATRIA

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, fourseasons.com/santabarbara

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? We just introduced a new dish to the Bella Vista menu which is, to me, Santa Barbara on a plate! Santa Barbara Uni with cauliflower panna cotta, smoked crême fraîche, trout roe, finger lime, and sea grass. This dish is not only absolutely gorgeous but also packed with flavor.

What are your current go-to dishes by other chefs? In Santa Barbara, The Tia Juana [spanish octopus and wild white shrimp] tacos at Corazon Cocina [corazoncocinasb.com] from chef Ramon Velazquez. I crave these weekly! The Ceviche Verde at Santo Mescal Restaurante [santomezcalsb.com] from executive chef Ricardo Garcia. The Tri Tip at Barbareño [barbareno.com] by executive chef Julian Martinez is seriously one of the most tender and flavorful pieces of meat in town. Of course I am pretty new to town, so I’m still exploring.

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? I would have to say chef Yoichi Kawabata from Yoichi’s [yoichis.com] in Santa Barbara. The kaiseki is steeped in tradition but packed full of creativity. His attention to detail is amazing. And his use of micro-seasonal Japanese ingredients is inspirational.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? The amazingly fresh local seafood. Coming from Atlanta, which is minimally three to four hours from the ocean, I find it pretty fantastic being able to work with seafood that is literally only a couple hours out of the water.

EXECUTIVE CHEF JOSE FERNANDEZ

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, fourseasons.com/westlakevillage

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? What I see now is more attention to flavors, how you can take the best avocado, the best cabbage, or the best carrot to the next level.

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? Our whole California avocado with Santa Barbara pistachios and seaweed. I think this dish really symbolizes what our restaurant, the region, and the farmers are all about: putting vegetables on the front seat of the plate. The dish has such an interesting story, it is so simple yet so complex and delicious, especially in peak seasons when we get the avocados from Apricot Lane Farms [apricotlanefarms.com].

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? Lately I have been in Tyger Tyger [tygertygersb.com] in Santa Barbara more than once. I love what Daniel Palaima has done in that space—best Crispy Chicken Wings and Crispy Brussels Sprouts.

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? Collin Crannell from Moody Roster [moodyroosterwlv.com] in Westlake Village is super creative in the way he prepares the dishes and incorporates seasonal ingredients into the mix.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? From this particular area, so many: fresh avocados, strawberries, Santa Barbara spot prawns, pistachios, citrus, and the list continues.

Fourth spread 805 Living Hotel Chefs Dish March 2020

EXECUTIVE CHEF LISA BIONDI

Westlake Village Inn, westlakevillageinn.com

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? Trending in the 805 and the restaurant scene in general are regional foods that highlight a specific cuisine and serving more vegetable-centered items.

Of your latest dishes, which are your favorites? Mediterraneo’s Roasted Cauliflower Bagna Cauda, which is roasted and bathed with a garlic anchovy sauce that has such umami-rich flavors. Salatim, because it offers a different, healthy way to start your meal with vegetables that are marinated and turned into dips and spreads, and our grilled Whole Branzino.

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? Executive chef Peter Lee at Loquita [loquitasb.com] in Santa Barbara is doing fantastic fresh Spanish small plates with a lot of seafood and vegetables.

EXECUTIVE CHEF JUSTIN PICARD

Allegretto Vineyard Resort, Paso Robles, allegrettoresort.com

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? An example of old made new is the Burgundy Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs. I have rejuvenated and improved a perennial favorite. These were on the menu the entire five years [I was] at Roberts Restaurant & Wine Bar [now closed]. It’s like reuniting with an old friend, old faithful. It starts off right, using prime grade steak, heavily marbled and thick-cut, lots of fresh herbs picked right here on the Allegretto property, fistfuls of toasted spices, gallons of burgundy, and three hours of slow cooking—and that’s just the beginning.

Brian Terrizzi and his crew at Etto [ettopastificio.com] pasta help to take this dish to the next level with their great pappardelle noodles, which I get fresh every few days. A luxurious sherry cream sauce with oak-roasted oyster and cremini mushrooms coats everything. Rustic, rough-chopped parsley, lemon, and green onion gremolata brighten the palate. The surprise for this dish, which I discovered while snacking in the kitchen late one night, is that the carrots used in the braising of the beef become so delicious. They get their own groove on and just melt in your mouth, so yes, they go on the dish, too.

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? Larb ga—Thai chicken salad—is my perennial favorite morning, noon, and night. Extra fish sauce, extra lime, extra cilantro, and brown rice. In Paso Robles, Basil Thai [805-238-9945] and Thai Classic [805-226-9032] always hook me up.

What 805-area ingredients have contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? Tomatoes! Paso Robles tomatoes are the best I’ve ever had. Vanessa Harris from Heart of Paso Produce [heartofpasoproduce.com] and Zina Engel of Loo Loo Farms [looloofarms.com] have blessed me with an unlimited abundance of simply amazing fruit, when the season happens. Harris had plus or minus 180 tomato varieties growing. That means they start early and stay late in the season, and the diversity of color and flavor is mind-blowing. Also plum-basil balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil from Chaparral Gardens [chaparralgardens.com] in Atascadero, sea salt, basil, real mozzarella di buffalo, and pink peppercorns.

CHEF DE CUISINE ANDREW FOSKEY

Olivella at Ojai Valley Inn, ojaivalleyinn.com

What’s trending on the 805 restaurant scene right now? Simplicity. Looking around at what other chefs and restaurants are doing throughout Ventura County, I feel they all kind of echo this philosophy of simplicity, and that food doesn’t need to be so far out of the box. It should just taste delicious and make diners feel warm and satisfied.

Of your latest dishes, which is your favorite? I do have a soft spot for our pan-roasted lamb loin. Beside the fact that it tastes yummy, what makes this dish special is the skill and patience required to execute it consistently. It all starts with the sauce, making a proper lamb jus, simmering it down with marsala, roasted lemons, aromatics, and proper seasoning. The sauce must be just right, balanced between sweet and savory, playing off the flavors of ground espresso seasoning on the lamb loin. Every component on the plate must be done with 100 percent thought and focus, from beginning to end. The result showcases balanced flavors in what I would consider a very simple and restrained dish.

What is your current go-to dish by another chef? The Lamb Korma at The Taj Cafe [thetajcafeventura.com] in downtown Ventura is without a doubt my go-to dish. It is just simply delicious!

What other 805-area chef is doing particularly creative, interesting things with food? What Ted and Yong Kim of Seoul Sausage Co. [seoulsausage.com] are doing at The Annex in the Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard is some of the most thoughtful and creative food in the county. It is flat‑out soul-satisfying and delicious.

What 805-area ingredient has contributed the most to the elevation of your culinary creations? The largest contribution that the local farming community has provided us at Olivella is the bounty of fruits that are being showcased year-round. Whether it’s persimmons, pixies, lemons, limes, strawberries, or melons, they all give us an opportunity to elevate our food and add unique flavors and textures.

805 Living Cover, March 2020.Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine 805 Living March 2020 Hotel Chefs Dish

Surviving the Era of Unlimited Distraction

A team of scientists is helping teenagers learn to calm and focus their minds

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 – 16:15
Santa Barbara, CA

Stress, distraction, unhealthy use of technology and rising rates of mental illness — life is increasingly tough for teenagers today, and educating them is a challenge at best. But researchers at UC Santa Barbara have found success in a new program to address those four themes, which stand out as struggles for the majority of high school students in the United States.

A new, evidence-based, online course that provides students with personalized attention training is being developed at the Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential (CMHP), part of the university’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The course teaches students to focus their minds and manage their emotions so they can succeed academically.

Practicing mindfulness are (L-R) UCSB's Alissa Mrazek, Jonathan Schooler and Michael Mrazek. Photo by Matt Perko, UC Santa Barbara.

Practicing mindfulness are (L-R) UCSB’s Alissa Mrazek, Jonathan Schooler and Michael Mrazek. Photo by Matt Perko, UC Santa Barbara.

Twenty-five high schools around the country are currently using the course.

“We are quite encouraged by the enthusiasm that our program has received from both students and teachers. We are also heartened by preliminary findings of benefits for students who participate in the program,” said Jonathan Schooler, CMHP director and a professor of psychology.

In one study, published in the journal Education Sciences, the researchers surveyed 190 high school students before and after they completed the 22-day course. They found that students improved their ability to manage stress and regulate emotions. The study also revealed that students came to view their ability to focus as a trainable skill, and they felt more motivated and confident to train this ability. “We found that among the 82% of students who initially reported paying attention in class less than they felt they should, classroom focus significantly improved following our intervention,” Schooler said.

UCSB Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential (CMHP) app.

“Teachers everywhere are reporting that it’s increasingly hard to get students to actually pay attention,” noted Michael Mrazek, CMHP research director. “We’ve interviewed more than 200 high school teachers and principals over the last two years to understand their biggest challenges as well as their perspective about current challenges for teens. There’s a palpable sense of concern around increasing distraction, stress and mental illness. Individually, those are each distinct and important problems. Yet a lot of research has shown that mindfulness-based attention training is an elegant solution that can help address each of those issues. That’s why we’re so excited about finding the most effective way to bring this training into high school settings.”

Michael Mrazek, CMHP research director. Courtesy photo.

The project is primarily funded by a development and innovation grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the grant is to use empirical research to iteratively refine a digital course that can ultimately scale to provide evidence-based training to millions of high school students in the United States. The online course includes not only four 12-minute lessons and daily 4-minute exercises for students, but also a teacher interface that makes it easy for teachers to enroll students and monitor their progress.

“We deliberately designed this resource so that teachers don’t need to become topic experts to be able to share attention training with their students,” Mrazek said. “When a teacher creates an account, they get access to facilitator training as well as their own personalized 22-day course. Time is a precious resource for teachers, so the course is largely plug-and-play.”

Alissa Mrazek, senior postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, photo by Matt Perko, UC Santa Barbara.

Music plays an important role in most of the daily exercises. As Alissa Mrazek, a senior postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, explained, the researchers have partnered with dozens of famous musicians to create training exercises for students. Students learn to focus their attention by listening deeply to music that is personalized to their preferred genre. “We ask students to try to keep their attention focused on the sounds they hear,” she explained. “Then when distractions arise, as they inevitably do, it’s an opportunity to practice letting go of that distraction and coming back to the music.”

Music plays an important role in most of the daily exercises.

Keeping the students engaged in the lessons is critical but also challenging, noted Michael Mrazek. “We’re constantly striving to use all of the best practices from educational psychology that optimize learning, and to implement them in fast-paced videos that resonate with a teenage audience,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance, and it’s forced us to develop a unique style that can both captivate and educate.”

Jonathan Schooler, CMHP director and a professor of psychology, photo by Matt Perko, UC Santa Barbara.

“I was skeptical initially, just because I thought that pairing a digital format with mindfulness is kind of antithetical, that digital programs are really one of the largest distractions for our teens,” said Gabriel Villegas, a teacher at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, which uses the course. The program soon won him over. “I tried it with some of our students, and they loved the music options that were chosen and they loved the lessons.”

In Santa Barbara, San Marcos High School teacher Jeffrey Bailey is also a fan. “The feedback that I got from the students was that they felt, especially when they had a stressful day, the program helped them to recalibrate and refocus, as well as to be able to notice their emotions a little bit more without judging themselves.”

Each exercise is designed to help students achieve a mental state of calm and focus. “What we’ve heard from students and seen in some of our data is that these 4-minute exercises give students an immediate way to relax,” Alissa Mrazek said. “We’ve also had teachers say that when they start class with an exercise, students are suddenly more present and receptive to learning because they’ve let go of some of the anxiety that they had before class.

“The exercises help you relax in the moment,” she continued, “but they also train underlying skills that can be used to regulate your focus anytime you start getting worked up about something.”

The program is designed to be a “tier-one universal intervention that can teach preventative techniques to every single student in a high school,” Alissa Mrazek said. “All students experience stress and emotional challenges, and they all need access to evidence-based tools that help them understand and care for their own minds.”

Noted Villegas, “I think there is a movement in schools to be teaching the whole child, kind of a more holistic style instead of just academics. We’re realizing that hasn’t worked very well with all of the anxiety, depression and suicide rates.”

But how would training your focus improve your mental health? “Most people think about attention in terms of how long you can concentrate, but it’s much more than that,” Michael Mrazek explained. “Attention is a fundamental cognitive capacity that works like a spotlight, influencing what you actually experience in any given moment. If you train that fundamental skill, it not only allows you to focus better on a test but also gives you much more influence over how you relate to your entire inner world.

“I’m so excited about this project,” he continued. ‘What we’re trying to accomplish is very challenging, but all of my life I wanted to do something that really makes a difference in the world. When we were awarded this grant it was the first time I felt like we had a genuine opportunity to do it.”

Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on January 28, 2020.

High Impact Housing

High Impact Housing from 805 Living Magazine, Winter 2020.

Tragedy can sometimes lead to innovation. One example: Plant Prefab’s (plantprefab.com) new scalable prefabricated home, the Sunset Bud LivingHome, designed by Burdge Architects (buaia.com) and presented in partnership with Sunset magazine.

“As a resident and one of the leading architects in Malibu, Doug Burdge [founder of Burdge Architects] wanted his first LivingHome to be especially capable of meeting the needs of those who lost their homes during the Woolsey fire and who want a way to return to their property as soon as possible,” says Plant Prefab CEO Steve Glenn of the recent addition to his company’s LivingHome line.

Created in response to a City of Malibu program that allows victims of the 2018 fire to install accessory-dwelling units (ADU) as a temporary housing solution, the Sunset Bud LivingHome offers an efficient and flexible model for ADU-compliant properties everywhere.

The modular units can be configured in a range of housing sizes from studio (445 square feet) to two bedrooms plus a studio and garage (1,200 square feet), with prices starting at $315,000.

Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Click  here  to   read the story as it appeared in 805 Living. 805 Living Pulse Winter 2020

Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide 2019

 

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Ynez Valley, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Faces in the Crowd: Michael Christie

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

THE NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR OF NEW WEST SYMPHONY BRINGS HIS GRAMMY AWARD–WINNING TALENT TO THE VENTURA COUNTY ENSEMBLE’S 25TH SEASON.

After winning the 2019 Best Opera Recording Grammy Award for The (R)evolution of Steve JobsNew West Symphony’s (newwestsymphony.org) new music director Michael Christie is bringing his own kind of (r)evolution to the West Coast.

“We threw a lot at the audience,” Christie says of his first concerts in his new role with the Thousand Oaks–based symphony this past October. “Our concert format is slightly tweaked,” he says, “and we had our new venue [Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo], so people had a fair amount to take in.”

Patrons were treated to a Gershwin concerto, Corigliano’s “Salute” with kazoos, and a “Scheherazade” performance that Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed praised as, “supplying far and away the most spectacular playing from what should no longer be considered a regional symphony.”

“The biggest difference,” says Christie, “is that we are using intermission as an opportunity for people to experience some new things if they choose.” This includes a question-and-answer session with the guest artist and an entr’acte. Up next is the global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday on January 25 and 26, featuring the Eroica Trio, whom Christie calls, “three very vibrant, genius women who are just amazing [with] the energy that they bring.”

Christie has led top orchestras all over the world and served as music director for Minnesota Opera, The Phoenix Symphony, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (now defunct). He now lives part-time in Ventura County, while his wife, Alexis, who is a physician, and their two children are in Minneapolis.

Much of the life of a musician-conductor is spent on the road, says Christie, a trumpeter, who first conducted when his middle school band director let him give it a try back in Buffalo, New York. “I was never sure how one became a conductor,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to know more about it. People were very generous with their time and always willing to answer questions.”

In February he’ll pay it forward with a one-month teaching and conducting stint at Indiana University. Christie is eager to communicate with students about the duties of an American music director, which he says, “are very specific to our particular situation of creating artistic vision and raising lots of money. It’s very particular to our country. I feel a great sense of responsibility for helping to convey that information, having lived it for the last 25 years. It’s fun to be asked to help the next generation start to figure that out.

“We [music directors] are the face of the organization in many ways,” Christie says. “We should be viewed by our audience as open, friendly, fun, and adventurous but also sensible, engaging, and concerned for our community, what it’s going through, and what it’s aspiring to be. And none of those words really say Mozart or Gershwin,” he says, laughing. “It’s all kind of wrapped together.”

Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living cover Dec. 2019Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, December 2019 805 Living Faces in the Crowd Dec 2019

SBCC Brings the World to the Kitchen 

Free Tuition Program Covers School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management 

From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

SBCC Culinary Program, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Aspiring chefs whirl around the industrial-size kitchen classroom in clean white threads, cooking up a mouth-watering array of Northern African and Moroccan dishes like Mtuzi Wa Samaki (fish in coconut curry), homemade merguez sausage, and Ghanaian chicken-and-peanut stew. 

This intricate dance of chopping, stirring, sautéing, and learning is conducted by Chef Charlie Fredericks, who is clearly delighted to be orchestrating the SBCC class called “Modern Food: Style, Design, Theory, and Production.” Students create dishes from a different country every week — and once the global-themed feast is complete, they all share a meal together. 

“It’s so much fun,” said Fredericks, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at restaurants in San Francisco, the Caribbean, Europe, and Napa before returning home to open bouchon in Santa Barbara in 1998. “This is definitely my favorite time,” he said. “It’s pretty much a Disneyland class.” 

Indeed, it’s a small world after all, and the Culinary Arts students seem to be enjoying the ride. “I really enjoy learning about the different countries and their different ways of cooking and different spices and how they have a connection to their culture,” said Claudia Garcia, a returning student who also has a son and a daughter enrolled at SBCC. 

The Chinese cooking lesson had a special resonance for Ava Engle, who grew up in Carpinteria and is attending the culinary school as part of the SBCC Promise Program, which provides the region’s high school graduates with the opportunity to attend for two years, free of charge. “I was actually adopted in China,” explained Engle, “and we made the Chinese food on my adoption day, just coincidentally, so that was great. I was kind of unfamiliar with the dishes we made, so it was fun to learn about them.” 

Alejandro Hernandez, a 2019 graduate of the SBCC School of Extended Learning Bilingual GED Program, is another one of 19 students enrolled in the Promise who’s attending the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Program this semester. Hernandez has supported himself and his family by working full-time at a Vietnamese restaurant for many years. He says the Promise — which covers enrollment costs and all required fees, books, and supplies for two years — is a great opportunity for him to bring a global perspective to combine with his family culinary roots from Guerrero, Mexico. “Hopefully, I’ll open my own restaurant in the future,” Hernandez said. 

“I’d love to work in a hotel and travel internationally,” said Miriam Martinez, another aspiring chef. “The Modern Foods is definitely my favorite class. I love the opportunity to taste — and cook — food from every country.”

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

Roses in November

805 Living Roses in November

Macchiato Roses photo by Debbie Kline, Florabundance. Courtesy 805 Living Magazine.

During the fall, roses in warm earthy colors are in high demand. Among the newest additions to this palette are Macchiato roses. The color of blushing cheeks, these beauties are available locally at Florabundance (florabundance.com), a wholesale flower supplier in Carpinteria.

“Growers in the flower world are working on new varieties all the time,” says Florabundance buyer Debbie Kline, who suggests a few options to consider in an arrangement of Macchiato roses for the Thanksgiving table. “I personally like to see the brown tones mixed with burgundies and even blushes or peach; natural elements with texture always bring interest, too, like bronze Amaranthus, burgundy Scabiosa, and chocolate lace flowers.

“The process for creating new, natural varieties is actually quite fascinating,” Kline says, “and anticipating future trends is tricky. [Growers] also work on producing new colors and varieties that are stronger and more productive to grow.” —Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living Magazine, November 2019.

805 Living Magazine, November 2019.

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, November 2019 805 Living Magazine November 2019.

2019 Best of Santa Barbara

SB Independent Best of

From the Santa Barbara Independent, October 17, 2019.

So, I had the honor of writing up the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa winners this year. It was a huge, fun project. People were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing (203 winners at last count) by clicking here, or on the PDF below.

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part1

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part2

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part3

Best of Independent Cover

Getting Schooled in Museum Education

student interns strike a pose. Courtesy UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Art, Design & Architecture Museum student interns strike a pose. Courtesy UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Interns at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum earn academic credit and valuable experience

By Leslie Dinaberg
Wednesday, August 28, 2019 – 06:00 Santa Barbara, CA

When this year’s cohort of interns take their place at UC Santa Barbara’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum (AD&A Museum), they’ll have the opportunity not only to add valuable skills to their own resumes, but also serve to the University and the broader Santa Barbara community.

“We are contributing to the development of the museum field by fostering future professionals,” said Elyse Gonzales, AD&A Museum’s acting director. “I also see the internship program, and all of our efforts really, as a means of developing future museum visitors, members, and donors for our museum and all museums in general. Our goals for the undergraduate internship program at the AD&A Museum are quite ambitious.”

Internships for academic credit are offered in the curatorial, collections management, archival management, programs/events, education outreach and public relations departments of the AD&A Museum. The museum also offers collaborative internships with the University Library’s special collections department; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where interns serve as gallery guides for students in grades six through 12; and with online platform impactmania — in collaboration with the Neuroscience Research Institute, Department of Religious Studies and global partners — where interns work to deliver a suite of interviews, interactive presentations, and events related to the topic “Human Mind and Migration.”

“I approach all of our UCSB students — really all students — who come to the museum the same way, with a warm welcome, emphasizing that the museum is for them,” Gonzales said. “If we can get them to visit while they are at UCSB, give them a positive experience and help them understand that the museum is not an intimidating place — this is not a place that is about exclusion, it’s about inclusion — then you’ve hooked a museum-goer for the rest of their life.

The more we can reach out to and engage younger generations, the better we are going to be in the long run. And when I say ‘we’ I mean the AD&A Museum, but also museums in general.”

Gonzales credits much of the vision for the internship program to Bruce Robertson, the recently retired museum director. “Studies reveal that most museum professionals and others in the arts became interested in these fields because they had a pivotal moment with an object or a formative creative experience. Knowing that, and with education as the imperative of the entire university, we immediately understood that we could make a significant contribution to our field,” Gonzales said. “But, also the reality of our situation is that we have a lot of tasks, projects, and events that need to be executed and managed and loads of ambitions to do even more. Knowing this, it became clear that working with students would not only help them but help us achieve our goals and mission.”

Focused on professional development, the resulting program pairs students with employees at the museum.

“The students have been great to work with — they are excited to learn new things, go ‘behind the scenes’ at the museum, and are able to explore possible career paths,” said Architecture and Design Collection Reference Archivist Julia Larson. “The students are eager to come in for their intern shifts because they are working on concrete projects — putting materials in folders, organizing and labelling collections, assisting with cataloging which they can cite as examples of work projects for future jobs or grad school. They also ask a lot of good questions and force me to think through my work and how best to explain things.

“The students learn how to process archival collections,” she added, “which is very hands-on work.”

Said Susan Lucke, collections manager and registrar, “We rely on our interns so much. They’re just not doing entry-level work. They actually get to do work that I would do. We need the help, and they gain a lot of experience and that’s so useful when they start to look for a job.

“I think it’s helpful for kids to look at all their options in school and this is a really a good program,” Lucke continued. “It’s not like sitting in a classroom with 300 other kids. It’s more of an intimate experience, and students get a lot of one-on-one attention plus it enables them to look at another side of life.”

AD&A Museum interns have gone on to graduate school; the Peace Corps; and to careers at many different kinds of museums, including the Smithsonian, the Peterson Automotive Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara and the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, among others.

For-credit internships are open to undergraduates in all majors. “We find that many of our interns love art and architecture but also feel like they need to have a degree in something else, something they perceive as being more stable,” said Gonzales.

“The impetus behind this internship program is primarily to help give students professional experiences but also to help alleviate student and parental concerns about future career opportunities,” she added. “In addition, one of my goals is to help reflect the diversity of our campus and to create opportunities to diversify the field for future museum leadership.”

What she feels most proud about the internship program is that when students leave, they have concrete real- world experiences they can put on a resume and several individuals willing to give them a great reference. “A really smart and committed intern can do wonders,” Gonzales noted. “We should know, our museum wouldn’t function half so well without their terrific help.”

Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on August 28, 2019.

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.