SBIFF Announces Virtuosos Award Winners

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award—honoring (clockwise from top left) Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman),
Hong Chau (Downsizing),
 Mary J. Blige (Mudbound),
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick),
and John Boyega (Detroit)—takes place on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre. Courtesy photos.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award—honoring (clockwise from top left) Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman),
Hong Chau (Downsizing),
 Mary J. Blige (Mudbound),
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick),
and John Boyega (Detroit)—takes place on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre. Courtesy photos.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award will once again honor many of the most notable performances in Hollywood this year. The award, presented by UGG, takes place on February 3 at the Arlington Theatre.

“2017 has seen a variety of breakout performances,” states Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF. “We are thrilled to celebrate this diverse group of actors who have earned their place as some of the most talented individuals working in the industry today.”

The group will be recognized for their breakthrough roles in 2017 and careers thus far. Daniel Kaluuya gives a star-making performance as the unsuspecting yet resourceful Chris Washington in the speculative thriller Get Out. Bringing to life the enduringly popular comic book character of the same name, Gal Gadot balances formidable prowess and a genuine sense of hope in her role in this summer’s critically praised, conversation-changing Wonder Woman. Hong Chau delivers an inspiring performance in the social satire Downsizing, in which she brings humor and compassion to the role of Ngoc Lan Tran. In Detroit, John Boyega gives a captivating turn as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who is falsely accused of killing three men on one of the most horrific nights in American history. Based on a true story that he co-wrote, Kumail Nanjiani brings comedy, pathos, and dramatic stakes to The Big Sick as a man whose girlfriend falls into a mysterious coma. In Mudbound, renowned singer/songwriter Mary J. Blige delivers a powerful and solemn turn as Florence Jackson, a mother struggling to maintain land in 1940s Mississippi. In Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Chalamet gives a brilliant and heartfelt performance as Elio, a teenage boy who begins a relationship with his father’s assistant.

Prior recipients for the award include Dev Patel, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Ruth Negga, Alicia Vikander, Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Redmayne, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Brie Larson, Jared Leto and June Squibb.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

Postcards from the Past

Cabrillo Boulevard, as it once looked. Note Los Banos del Mar pool in the foreground. Originally built in 1901, it was rebuilt with a Public Works Administration grant after the 1925 Earthquake and opened in 1939. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

You never know where story inspiration is going to come from.

When my brother-in-law, Eric States, casually mentioned that he was creating large-scale metal prints from vintage postcards that belonged to long-time local businessman and philanthropist Peter Jordano, I was intrigued. Especially when Eric said the collection was “impressive.”

The word impressive was definitely an understatement. It turns out that Jordano owns about 6,000 pre-1950 Santa Barbara postcards, all meticulously organized into photo albums that document the history of Santa Barbara’s waterfront and downtown development, as well as the leisurely lifestyle of days gone by.

A significant part of Jordano’s collection is from Osborne’s Book Store, a retail fixture on State Street until it closed in 1987, which published hundreds of Santa Barbara postcards. The postcard collection also parallels the Jordano’s history.

The Masonic Temple. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Beach scene. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Oil wells off the coast of Summerland. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

De la Guerra Plaza courtyard with cars. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

El Encanto hotel. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

A 1923 postcard of the beach at Castle Rock from the Osborne’s Book Store collection. The remainder of Castle Rock was removed to build the Santa Barbara Harbor, which was completed in 1930. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

El Paseo Restaurant during Fiesta. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Santa Barbara street scene. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Old De la Guerra mansion. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

El Paseo Restaurant. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

The Santa Barbara Mission, just after the 1925 earthquake. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

The family-owned business started in Santa Barbara in 1915, with four brothers, a family loan and a little grocery store on State Street. On March 1, 1915, the first Jordano Bros. opened at 706 State St., making deliveries by horse and buggy.

By the early 1970s, Jordano’s had weathered two world wars, the Depression and a number of minor recessions; had 18 stores throughout Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties; and operated a distributing business stocking hotels and restaurants. One son from each of the original four brothers joined the family business, including our postcard collector Peter C. Jordano, who leads Jordano’s Inc. today.

Under Jordano’s leadership, the company diversified into what it is today: a distributing conglomerate including food and beverage distributors, a kitchen supply business and an institutional foods distributor. Now it’s a multi-million-dollar corporation with more than 500 employees.

Jordano’s postcard collection has also continued to grow and, with help from Eric’s painstakingly high-resolution reproductions, will be digitized and preserved for generations to come. Here is a selection of our favorite postcards from the past. To view more of the collection and for more information about metal prints, visit santabarbaraphotographs.com.

Santa Barbara State Teachers College on the Riviera, the predecessor to UCSB. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Mar Monte Hotel and East Beach. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Winter bathing on Miramar Beach. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

Winter bathing on Miramar Beach. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

 

An overview of State Street. Image from the collection of Peter Jordano.

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

The Funk Zone Gets Even Artier with New Public Art Installations

Silver Spoon #125, The Import by Leslie Lewis Sigler, 123 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

Silver Spoon #125, The Import by Leslie Lewis Sigler, 123 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

By Leslie Dinaberg

The Arts Fund recently unveiled a handful of new projects for the Funk Zone Public Art Program, featuring new public works by Ken Bortolazzo, Chadillac Green, Ruth Ellen Hoag, Michael Irwin, Danny Meza, Leslie Lewis Sigler and Luis Velazquez. These works join existing projects by Chad Avery, Phoebe Brunner, Tofer Chin and R. Nelson Parrish. Each project is intended to be temporary and rotate every one-three years.

Maps are available at the Arts Fund Gallery (205-C Santa Barbara St.) to take a free, self-guided tour.

Artwork currently in the Funk Zone Public Art Program includes:

(Pictured at top) Silver Spoon #125, The Import by Leslie Lewis Sigler

123 Santa Barbara St.

Leslie Lewis Sigler is a still-life painter who explores the histories and lifespans of silver family heirlooms, their ability to reflect our own personal life stories and family histories, and the way they continue to connect us to one another. By composing portraits of these objects, she studies the character evident in their inherent design and ever-changing patina. Each singular object’s form, condition, and character transform an otherwise functional object into something rich with history and artistic beauty, with the power to reflect our own life stories and family histories in the process.

Thank you to The Squire Foundation for funding this project. Special thanks to PPG  Paints for materials and Max Torres and Manuel Unzueta for lending their time and expertise.

Hexad by Ken Bortolazzo, 116 Yanonali Street, courtesy photo.

Hexad by Ken Bortolazzo,
116 Yanonali St., courtesy photo.

Hexad by Ken Bortolazzo

116 Yanonali St.

“Hexad” is titled for the six identical interlocking pieces that make up the sculpture. Bortolazzo’s early passion for complex puzzles evolved through his interest in Minimalism, Op Art, and Kinetic sculpture. Having spent the last 30 years working almost exclusively with stainless steel, he has created two main bodies of work, his Optikinetics that he currently pursues and before that his puzzle series. These puzzle works involve interlocking geometric shapes that exploit the radiance of burnished steel. From his studio in Santa Barbara, Bortolazzo has developed a national reputation in contemporary sculpture.

The Arts Fund thanks its amazingly supportive board member Joanne Holderman for funding this project. Special thanks to Sullivan Goss and Allen Strubing for lending his time and expertise.

Totally Awesome by Chadillac Green, 132 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

Totally Awesome by Chadillac Green, 132 Santa Barbara St., courtesy photo.

Totally Awesome by Chadillac Green

132 Santa Barbara St.

“Totally Awesome” is inspired by Green’s memories of growing up in the 80s and early 90s, drawing from the work of Patrick Nagel and the motifs and imagery of daily life at the time. Green began his early days spray painting in the streets of Kansas, Missouri, and continues his love of creating as a “wizard of arts” through his work as a local tattoo artist, DJ, painter, and mural artist in Santa Barbara.

The Arts Fund thanks MichaelKate Interiors, the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture for funding this project. Special thanks to Milpas Rentals for the equipment, PPG Paints for materials, and Martin Diaz and Shane Tuthill for lending their time and expertise.

 

East of Yesterday by Ruth Ellen Hoag, 10 East Yanonali Street, courtesy photo.

East of Yesterday by Ruth Ellen Hoag, 10 E. Yanonali St., courtesy photo.

East of Yesterday by Ruth Ellen Hoag

10 E. Yanonali St.

“I was given the challenge to depict the history of the Funk Zone through current day. Hours were spent combing through the Gledhill Library, talking to long-time residents and businesses in the area. Never the glamorous part of town, little visual information was available. It was warehouses, boats and fishermen, airplanes, surfboards, skateboards and artists. Today, it remains an area for craftsmen and artists, plus tourists, food, wine, beer and the beach. Little by little it all became visible to me, and I’ve painted it as I see it. We live in the moment, as those portrayed along the lower portion of the murals, unaware of those who came before, those who walked the same streets.” —Ruth Ellen Hoag

The Arts Fund thanks Yanonali Partners, LLC and Santa Barbara Beautiful for funding this project. Special thanks to Milpas Rentals for the equipment, Impact Hub for hosting, and Gregory Beeman, Manuel Unzueta and John Hood for lending their time and expertise.

Tengoku by Michael Irwin, 205 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

Tengoku by Michael Irwin, 205 Santa Barbara St., courtesy photo.

Tengoku by Michael Irwin

205 Santa Barbara St.

“‘Tengoku’ (Sky Country) is a combination of three of the many motifs that I’ve worked in. The atmospheric sky and clouds, the field, is from my meditational seascape series, the painted pole from my squeegee works and lastly, the tubular rectangular element is from my abstract illusionistic series.  The three components come together to create an intersection of whimsy and possibilities ~ hopefully optimistic and a portal accessible to all.” —Michael Irwin

This project was funded by The Arts Fund. The Arts Fund thanks to Art Essentials and PPG Paints for Materials, Milpas Rentals for the equipment and Max Torres and Shane Tuthill for lending their time and expertise.

Birds of a Feather by Luis Velazquez, 205 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

Birds of a Feather by Luis Velazquez, 205 Santa Barbara St., courtesy photo.

Birds of a Feather by Luis Velazquez

205 Santa Barbara St.

“I was born and raised in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. My mother is a seamstress and my father a farm worker. One of my earliest recollections, from when I was six years old, is that of gathering flower petals to extract their pigment and color the walls of my home. I often got into trouble with my mother for picking flowers from her plants and cutting down branches from our lemon trees to make slingshot frames to terrorize local birds. For this particular piece, I was inspired by the many caged birds my mother kept when I was growing up and one of my favorite places to visit: the colorful city of Guanajuato, Mexico. The artwork I create is a combination of recollections of my past mixed with my present experiences. Bright colors and raw materials are hallmarks of my childhood memories and culture. My daily life is filled with unexpected, spontaneous, and sometimes random events. My work reflects this in my choice of materials and subject matter, mainly inspired by nature and social issues.”  —Luis Velazquez

Dark Waves Covering My Eyes by Danny Meza, 219 Gray Avenue, courtesy photo.

Dark Waves Covering My Eyes by Danny Meza, 219 Gray Ave., courtesy photo.

Dark Waves Covering My Eyes by Danny Meza

219 Gray Ave.

“The best way I can describe this piece without talking about death is to say that this person is lost. Although it may be hard to see it, there is a person being caught in mysteriously dark waves, it wasn’t water, so it might not have been in the ocean. Sometimes as an artist, I don’t know what my paintings are about or always understand them but I always have a sense of what’s going on, like it’s telling me a story, fictional or non-fictional. In this case, what I see here is a person has no idea how they got there, so I imagine that they are frightened. As they look around to find out what’s going on, their insides start to glow bright like lights. The light from the left eye shines so bright it cuts a hole through a wave covering their eyes, finally being able to see that they are not going home after this.” —Danny Meza

This project was funded by The Arts Fund.

Previously Completed Projects

Long Days, Short Year by R. Nelson Parrish, 121 Santa Barbara Street, courtesy photo.

Long Days, Short Year by R. Nelson Parrish, 121 Santa Barbara St., courtesy photo.

Long Days, Short Year by R. Nelson Parrish

121 Santa Barbara St.

Long Days, Short Year is a translation of color, motion and the passion for the hustle. Inspired by Minimalist artists, Santa Barbara light and geography, and the history of national parks, the pieces pull threads from disparate dialogues to weave an abstract narrative designed to engage and inspire. The first of the artist’s career, the mural was created solely using Montana Cans spray paint, purposefully to connect and challenge the discourse surrounding “street art.”

The Arts Fund thanks Mesa Lane partners for funding this project and being early supporters of the program. Special thanks to Milpas Rentals for the equipment.

Hurry Home by Phoebe Brunner, 127 Gray Avenue, courtesy photo.

Hurry Home by Phoebe Brunner, 127 Gray Ave., courtesy photo.

Hurry Home by Phoebe Brunner

127 Gray Ave.

“My mural, Hurry Home, is a personal fairy tale. The little red house, perched atop a giant tree stump, springs out of a tequila plantation. Many years ago, I lived in Guadalajara. While driving to and from Santa Barbara, I’d pass through the little town of Tequila, in Jalisco, Mexico. The infinite rows upon rows of magical blue tequila plants have stayed in my imagination. The little house seems like the perfect place to enjoy the view.  So climb the ladder and Hurry Home. By creating an alternative view to traditional landscape painting, my re-conceived landscapes of the American West and the coast of California, simultaneously real and surreal, invite the viewer to experience our surroundings with a new perspective and to lose oneself in an environment of nature enhanced and unexpected. Through the interplay of light and space, unorthodox colors, patterns and movement, a symbolic narrative with a mystical presence arises. Primal emotions and instinctive, intuitive forces from within the human psyche are accessed through awareness of our natural world. Derived from, but not documentations of specific places, these views are “re-imaginings”. The viewer is led to wonder where these landscapes exist—with a longing to visit, and at the same time search in their own subconscious to find a personal location.” —Phoebe Brunner

The Arts Fund thanks Santa Barbara Beautiful for funding this project. Special thanks to Joseph Garred for being an early supporter of the program.

Shift No. 1 by Tofer Chin, 118 Gray Avenue, courtesy photo.

Shift No. 1 by Tofer Chin, 118 Gray Ave., courtesy photo.

Shift No. 1 by Tofer Chin

118 Gray Ave.

Los Angeles based artist Tofer Chin creates geometric paintings, sculptures, and photographs that interpret his observations of urban and natural landscapes. He investigates images and patterns in locations around the world and represents them as minimalist forms and patterns. In addition to his gallery-scale works, he also paints large outdoor murals around the world, as well as site specific sculptural installations.

Shift No. 1 is a continuous investigation of view through a keyhole perspective while shifting one’s view away from the familiar by opening up a new architectural dimension of color and emotion.” —Tofer Chin

The Arts Fund thanks Mesa Lane partners for funding this project and being early supporters of the program. Special thanks to Milpas Rentals for the equipment.

Variable Door Style by Chad Avery, 121 Helena Avenue, courtesy photo.

Variable Door Style by Chad Avery, 121 Helena Ave., courtesy photo.

Variable Door Style by Chad Avery

121 Helena Ave.

“Over millennia, the door has become an inescapable icon of the human condition, simultaneously welcoming and reticent, able to bring you in or take you out. The mere outline of a door can trigger a variety of impressions limited only by the number of viewers. We are free to go as far as our minds can take us, or to go nowhere. Accordingly, a abstraction does not end at physical and mental boundaries, but extends beyond these dimensions into the realm of infinite possibility. Abstraction is a gate, and what lies on the other side is for everyone to discover for themselves.”—Chad Avery

This project was funded by The Arts Fund.

Funk Zone Public Art Project Map

Funk Zone Public Art Project Map

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 11, 2017.

RFK, California 1968: Never Before Published Photographs by Jesse Alexander

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

Renowned photographer Jesse Alexander says he didn’t even have a press pass when he took a pilgrimage to Delano to see young Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail. “I was really a fan of RFK and was very aware of his interest in farm workers and his work with Cesar Chavez,” says Alexander. These never-before publically viewed images were taken on the campaign trail in San Francisco and the Central Valley in California a short time before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

Alexander, a legendary motorsports photographer since the early 1950s when he covered the original Mexican Road Race, says that no matter what his subject, a passion for beauty and an interest in people consistently drive his work. “It doesn’t really matter what you’re shooting,” says the 88-year-old. “I’m just a happy snapper.”

Alexander will share these historic images for the first time in an exhibition from Aug. 19-Sept. 16 at Patricia Clarke Studio, 410 Palm Ave. A-18, Carpinteria. Fifty percent of all sale proceeds benefit The Fund for Santa Barbara. In addition, Alexander will give a free artist talk with Clarke at the studio on Sept. 9 from 4-5 p.m.

—Leslie Dinaberg

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

House of Clues is a Great Escape From the Ordinary

The Escape Room's Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The Escape Room’s Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

Escape room games are super popular and Santa Barbara finally has its own one-of-a-kind venue: the House of Clues, 629 N. Salsipuedes St., 805/229-9179, TheHouseofClues.net.

Co-owners Assel Abdrakhmanova and Oscar Zevalos (they also have a third partner, Whitman Heining) were designing props and sets for themed events and escape rooms for outside clients when they decided to create their own, custom, one-of-a-kind attraction.

“We knew we could do a better job and make it even better and more challenging,” says Zevalos.

Their goal is eventually to franchise their concepts, with Santa Barbara as the first location, and I think they’ve got a winner. Not only was our “Pirate Ghost Ship” game well designed and challenging, it truly was exciting and fun for our entire group—which included my college age niece and her boyfriend, as well as my husband and I, and my sister and brother-in-law.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The “fun for all ages” claim seems truly legit as evidenced by the enthusiastic group of 13-year-old boys who went before us. This would also be a great team building activity for companies, students, group of friends, date nights and other group events.

The way that escape rooms work is they combine mental puzzles with physical challenges and a beat-the-clock element keeps things moving along quickly. With 45 minutes to escape from a given room (which is actually a series of rooms), you are under constant video and audio surveillance and can communicate with the game master at any time, as well as receive clues when needed. Every move counts, and nothing is as it seems. The game was much more challenging than any of us were expecting and we needed a few helpful tips from Assel to move us along in places.

In addition to the “Pirate Ghost Ship,” the House of Clues also has a “Psycho Dentist” game on the menu with another theme on the way soon.

Currently operating Mon.-Thurs. from 5-10 p.m., Fri. from noon- 11.30 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. from 10a.m.-11:30 p.m., the House of Clues is a great new addition to the local scene. Cost is $35 per person, children must be at least eight years old to play, and an adult must accompany those under age 15. For more information, visit TheHouseofClues.net.

Leslie Dinaberg                

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 28, 2017.                                         

First Person: Sullivan Goss Gallery’s Nathan Vonk

 New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush.

New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush. Courtesy photo.

Preserving the Legacy, Embracing the Future

By Leslie Dinaberg

The link between Burning Man’s annual bacchanal festivities and Sullivan Goss Gallery’s 30-plus-year legacy of celebrating important 19th-, 20th– and 21st-century American art may seem tenuous, but it was a visit to Burning Man that first sparked Nathan Vonk’s interest in art and the friends he made in the desert that first brought him to Santa Barbara.

Armed with a master’s degree in post-modern literature theory, Vonk taught night school at Ventura College and walked dogs during the day. He eventually bought out the owners of the dog business, ran it for a few years and then sold it for a profit, right before the market crashed in September of 2008.

Now fully enmeshed in the Santa Barbara scene, Vonk contemplated going back to school and getting a doctorate in art history or curatorial sciences and asked Sullivan Goss curator Jeremy Tessmer if he “could volunteer some hours at the gallery, so I could see if it was something that I wanted to do in graduate school.” Vonk laughs, “I came in and volunteered for the week, and on Friday, Frank [Goss] offered me a job. I never went back to school, and I’ve been there ever since.”

He continues, “I was the one guy in the whole country who got a new job in October of 2008. When everyone else was going on unemployment and Bear Stearns was crashing, I was one of the luckiest people in the country. I’ve been at Sullivan Goss ever since, and I couldn’t be happier.”

So happy, in fact, that when Goss told the team (which includes Tessmer and fellow curator Susan Bush) he planned to retire after 2016, Vonk bought the gallery because he wanted to make sure the legacy continued, with its staff intact.

If you think of arts in Santa Barbara as an ecosystem, the part that Sullivan Goss fulfills—if that goes away, the whole ecosystem suffers greatly and it’s not a part that someone is going to step in and fill that void. That was a large part of my motivation to take on the risk of running a commercial gallery,” says Vonk.

He and his wife, Erin Smith, have a son, Lowen, who, Vonk says, “has been to more art shows at age 2-1/2 than I think the average Santa Barbaran probably has.”

Part of what Vonk loves about Santa Barbara is its casual, egalitarian nature. “I think we all understand how lucky we are to work in a gallery like this, in a town like this. Shortly after working for Frank, I had the opportunity to go to New York and visit galleries…the whole vibe there is so different than it is in Santa Barbara. If you don’t look like you can afford it, they don’t give you the time of day.…It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole situation, and it made me all the more excited to come back and work for Frank, because we don’t operate that way. In part we can’t, because the man or woman who comes into our gallery in shorts and flip-flops could very easily be a billionaire, and I don’t know that. So I have to treat everyone like they are billionaires, and I like that.”

Vonk views part of his art-dealer role as acting like a sort of docent, saying, “What we sell are not just pretty pictures; they are pretty pictures that come with a history and a provenance and some other interesting part of them that, hopefully, people who are interested in buying them will understand that if they buy them, they are only going to be a small portion of that object’s history.”

He also clearly loves the work. “One of the great things about Sullivan Goss is that I was sort of an academic, and I loved studying and writing essays and we do all that.… We’ve written four or five books…all the things I wanted from going back to school I got. Plus I got to stay in Santa Barbara so it was even better.”

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

A Day Away: The Oaks at Ojai

Healthy spa cuisine at the Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Healthy spa cuisine at the Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Looking for a bit of spring cleaning for the mind, body and soul? The Oaks at Ojai (122 E. Ojai Ave.) is a great place to refresh and recharge your spirit any time of the year. I had a girlfriend getaway for a few days last fall and was pleasantly surprised and charmed at every turn.

Spring is an even better time to visit The Oaks, as April in Ojai brings special celebrations to honor the Pixie Tangerine, a special orange orb grown only in that area. In prior years, The Oaks’s guests have devoured more than 7,000 sweet, seedless Pixies during Pixie month. Expect to find special deals on tangerine tints and scents everywhere this time of year.

The Oaks at Ojai is a great spot for a getaway with friends, courtesy photo.

The Oaks at Ojai is a great spot for a getaway with friends, courtesy photo.

The Oaks is first and foremost a health spa, offering an all-inclusive healthy fitness and weight loss program with up to 15 optional fitness classes every day; hikes; three surprisingly tasty calorie-conscious meals per day, plus snacks and beverages; an on-site health advisor; evening activities and wellness lectures; and complete use of all resort facilities.

Fitness classes are a key component of the packages at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Fitness classes are a key component of the packages at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Other than spa treatments (which are included with some of the package deals), you won’t have to open your wallet for anything additional at The Oaks. Everything is included, which makes it a perfect time to try out new types of fitness classes. In just a couple of days, I was able to take classes in yoga, aqua cardio, Qigong, stretching, Zumba, aqua tone,Pilates and world grooves dance. Hiking, cardio/sculpting, balance, ballet/barre, dance Beliu and ball & band toning are also offered, along with other classes. There’s also a pool and a nicely outfitted weight room, for those who can’t get enough fitness!

A complete menu of spa treatments is available at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

A complete menu of spa treatments is available at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

The pampering side of the spa experience is also well done, with a nice steam room and sauna available, as well as any spa treatment your heart desires. I had an excellent Skin Authority Signature Facial, as well as a pedicure that lasted several weeks beyond my spa experience.

Fresh local ingredients are on the menu at The Oaks at Ojai, including Pixie Tangerines, which are only grown in the Ojai area. Courtesy photo.

Fresh local ingredients are on the menu at The Oaks at Ojai, including Pixie Tangerines, which are only grown in the Ojai area. Courtesy photo.

The food was also surprising tasty. Quinoa was once a dirty word in our house, but after trying Chef Christine Denney’s clever incarnations, I’m hooked and have tried several ideas from her Recipes From the Heart cookbook. All in all, the 1,200- 1,500-calorie-per-day menu was balanced and tasty, inspired by an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein featuring wild fish and poultry, all without a touch of additional salt or refined sugar used in the preparation. Sure, my friend and I brought in our own wine to reward ourselves at night after all of those exercise classes, but it wasn’t because we were actually hungry!

The Oaks at Ojai is located right on the main drag in Ojai, within walking distance of boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. Courtesy photo.

The Oaks at Ojai is located right on the main drag in Ojai, within walking distance of boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. Courtesy photo.

An active and inspiring presence at the resort is founder Sheila Cluff, an internationally known fitness expert who created cardiovascular dance in the 1950s, later known as “Aerobics,” and pioneered the concept of the modern destination spa in the 1970s. Now an 80-year-old mother of four and grandmother of seven, Cluff still leads some of the brisk morning walks and hikes at The Oaks and absolutely embodies the lifestyle she teaches.

Cluff has said that she created the retreat to fit the needs of women over 40, and we certainly make up the bulk of the clientele these days. That’s not to say that all ages (and men) are not welcome. The Oaks at Ojai is truly a great place for a girlfriend getaway, but the spa’s approach is casual and welcoming to all, as well as affordable and fun. Plus the charming 1920s Spanish Mission Revival-style hotel fits right in with the artsy laid-back vibe of the town and is right on the main drag of Ojai, within walking distance to boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. It’s an excellent place to regenerate or spring clean your mind, body, and spirit.  

Leslie Dinaberg

The Oaks at Ojai, 122 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 800/753-OAKS (6257), oaksspa.com.

Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Angel Oak at the Bacara

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa's new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa’s new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak, which recently opened at Bacara Resort & Spa, is a heavenly new addition to the local fine dining scene.

First of all, the restaurant is beautiful. The open-air design takes full advantage of the oceanfront views, with each of the 162 seats from the dining room and bar ensured a view of the Pacific Ocean. The dark wood and earth-toned accents of restaurant are dramatic and unique and include a hand-carved granite podium, exotic Chamcha wood table, hand-blown chandeliers, and an Amazonite bar that serves as a focal point and anchor in the dining room. And of course, the ocean view from the outdoor dining terrace can’t be beat.

Starters at Angel Oak include, clockwise from top left, American Wagyu Beef Tatki, Dungeness Crab Cake and Beef Tartare. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Starters at Angel Oak include, clockwise from top left, American Wagyu Beef Tatki, Dungeness Crab Cake and Beef Tartare. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The bar is also top notch. A List Mixologist Cassie Hesse spearheads the cocktail program, which includes hip takes on time-honored classics such as the Manhattan’s Angel with High West Rendevous Rye, Sweet Vermouth, and Bitters; Our Signature Daiquiri No 6 with Denizen, Lime, Sugar and Absinthe; and the very impressive Smoke on the Water, a cherry wood smoked spirit forward cocktail served tableside. 

Angel Oak’s wine and spirits program features a curated selection of Old and New World wines housed inside the restaurant’s 12,000-bottle cellar. The expansive cellar is climate controlled to ensure quality, doubling as an impressive event space for up to 40 seated guests. If you ever get invited to an event there, don’t miss it! 

Angel Oak's local fish ravioli, bouillabaisse broth, sardines and basil foam, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s local fish ravioli, bouillabaisse broth, sardines and basil foam, courtesy photo.

Then there’s the food, the absolutely mouthwatering food. Executive Chef Vincent Lesage says, “the inspiration behind the menu was to reimagine the ordinary, what you classically see in a steakhouse with a twist. We wanted to showcase the best of seasonal ingredients and preparing every single one of them with an element of surprise.”

He’s definitely succeeded. The Angel Oak menu celebrates the theme of duality, showcasing traditionally robust steakhouse offerings juxtaposed alongside refined seafood dishes, all crafted with Lesage’s classically-trained and deft hand.

Angel Oak's Dry Aged New York steak with shaved black truffle, brown butter. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Dry Aged New York steak with shaved black truffle, brown butter. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We tried a variety of dishes, all delicious. Some of the highlights:

Market Seafood, poached Maine lobster, daily selection of oysters, split king crab legs, boiled jumbo shrimp, fresh lump crab ceviche, house cocktail sauce, signature mignonette, lemon caviar

Kobe Beef Tataki, soy-cured melon, yuzu, puffed rice

Angel Oak Dry Aged New York (12 oz.), shaved black truffle, brown butter

Dungeness Crab Cake, pan seared, local citrus sabayon, lobster claw

Beef Tartare, potato crisp, black garlic, egg yolk spinach

Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, brown butter puree, pickled cauliflower

For dessert, Pastry Chef Brooke Martin’s Warm Dark Chocolate Molten with malt ganache, almond nougatine, and a bailey’s milkshake; and Cinnamon Apple Cobbler with hazelnut feuilletine crunch and vanilla ice cream, were both amazing. 

Angel Oak's Warm Chocolate Molten, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Warm Chocolate Molten, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak is open for dinner from 5–10 p.m. seven days a week. For more information or to make reservations, visit angeloaksb.com

Angel Oak's Heirloom tomato salad from Elwood farm, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s Heirloom tomato salad from Elwood farm, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak's Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak's Halibut Crudo, chili oil, nuoc nam, mint & cilantro, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s Halibut Crudo, chili oil, nuoc nam, mint & cilantro, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak's Cinnamon Apple Cobbler, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Cinnamon Apple Cobbler, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on October 3, 2016.

A Day Away: Palm Springs

The pool at the Hyatt Palm Springs, photo by Hayley Danner.

The pool at the Hyatt Palm Springs, photo by Hayley Danner.

By Leslie Dinaberg

A recent quest to experience “two sides of the desert” has convinced me that the Palm Springs area has something for just about everyone to enjoy.

I began my adventure in the heart of the city at Hyatt Palm Springs (285 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/322-9000, palmsprings.hyatt.com), where I stayed in a plush suite overlooking the golf course, within walking distance of many downtown hot spots. Actually, the Hyatt itself is a hot spot, with a lively and creative bar scene both inside at the SHARE Small Plate Bistro & Wine Lounge and outside at the Hoodoo Outdoor Cocktail Garden, which features live music and fabulous people watching.

Dinner our first evening was at the recently renovated Mr. Lyons (233 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/327-1551, mrlyonsps.com), a local institution for more than 70 years. Evoking the Hollywood glamour of yesteryear, this fine dining steakhouse features black and white marble, wood, brass, leather and velvet interiors, along with a menu that carnivores will adore.

Brunch the next day was at the charmingly eclectic Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge (849 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/325-8490, eight4nine.com). Located in the vibrant Uptown Design District in what used to be the Palm Springs post office, the restaurant features loads of white with brilliant pops of color and whimsical decor. Every bite was delicious—we’ll definitely return next time for dinner and to sample the inventive cocktail menu.

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Golf Course, courtesy photo.

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Golf Course, courtesy photo.

Our stomachs sated, it was time to head to the other side of the desert. Hyatt Regency Indian Wells (44600 Indian Wells Ln., Indian Wells, 760/776-1234, indianwells.regency.hyatt.com) is a mere 25-minute drive, but this luxurious resort is a world away from the bustling downtown area. Located on 45 acres of lush gardens, this beautiful property has seven pools, golf, tennis, a spa, a salon and much more. Our spacious room once again overlooked the golf course, a pleasing site, even for those of us who don’t play.

Instead, I visited the resort’s Agua Serena Spa. It’s a blissful place, and treatments include the use of a relaxation room, eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, Jacuzzi and a reflection patio, where the sounds of dancing waters wash all of your worries away.

I could have happily stayed in the spa for several more hours, but, instead, I dressed for a fabulous private dinner that included a sampling of many dishes from the Hyatt’s romantic Lantana restaurant. Executive Chef Chris Mitchum talked us through an inspired spread that highlighted local ingredients from Coachella Valley.

Then it was on to Indian Wells Tennis Garden (78-200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells, 760/200-8400, iwtg.net) for an impressive behind-the-scenes tour that included a look inside two center court stadiums, the international pressroom and owner Larry Ellison’s private Nobu Restaurant, which is only open once a year during the annual BNP Paribas Open every spring. We also met vivacious singer Mindi Abair, who headlined that evening’s Desert Lexus Jazz Festival, along with Brian Culbertson and the Boneshakers. Not only is this a great venue for tennis, but it’s a wonderful spot to listen to music under the stars.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tram, courtesy photo.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tram, courtesy photo.

Although I had been to Palm Springs many times in the past, this trip was my first time on Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 Tram Way Rd., Palm Springs, 888/515-8726, pstramway.com). What an amazing, majestic capper to the desert experience! I can’t believe I had never done this. Ascending 2.5 miles up into the sky on the world’s largest rotating tramcar is almost an indescribably breathtaking experience as the tram journeys up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon. A 10-minute ride from 2,643 ft. at Valley Station up to 8,516 ft. at Mountain Station took us from desert heat into more than 50 miles of snow-covered hiking trails and beautiful terrain. The pristine wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park offers a “third side” of the desert experience and was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Whether you prefer your getaway action-packed, full of pampering or enjoying nature, there’s a desert destination designed just for you.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Cocktail Corner: Calivore Spirits

Aaron Bergh, the "President & Commander-in-Mischief" of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Aaron Bergh, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

I had the opportunity to sample some spirits with Aaron Bergh this week, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, a new California born and bred business specializing in regionally made liquor.

Bergh started his venture just a few years ago as a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who basically made hooch in his dorm room. Studying agriculture, he started fermenting the fallen fruit from Cal Poly’s orchards and initially made fruit brandy, followed by rum, whiskey and assorted liqueurs. He quickly realized he might have a legitimate business in the making, and got help from a campus group for budding entrepreneurs. He soon won a “Shark Tank” style business plan competition and started working with a craft distillery to produce spirits from his recipes, teaming up with two friends (Raleigh Nejame and Luke Beaton) to help send the resulting Calivore Spirits brand out into the world this year.

So far they’ve got three products—Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin—I sampled all three and this is not just a great young entrepreneurial story, they’re quite tasty.

Intermezzo's "Cali Mai Tai," made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Intermezzo’s “Cali Mai Tai,” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Calivore Blonde Rum is fermented from US-grown raw sugar cane and rested in chardonnay barrels. The Calivore Spiced Rum is a delicious autumnal mix of orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, ginger and molasses, also mellowed in wine barrels. The Calivore Big Sur Gin is unusual in that it’s grape-based (a very California influence) with 12 different herbs including juniper, sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel, and elderberry—the idea is to bring you the experience of a Big Sur hike in a bottle.

Wine Cask and Intermezzo Bar & Cafe Beverage Director Matt Pickett whipped us up a wonderfully refreshing “Cali Mai Tai” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. It’s on the specialty cocktail menu and well worth a try, especially with these hot autumn days we’ve been having.  Calivore Spirits are also on the menu at The Bobcat RoomChase Bar & GrillLa Arcada BistroThe Nugget Bar & Grill, Sama Sama KitchenScarlett Begonia and Viva Santa Barbara, with more outlets soon to follow. 

Calivore Spirits are also carried in Whole Foods, with additional distributors coming soon. For more information, go to calivorespirits.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 considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on September 30, 2016.