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

Santa Barbara Visitor’s Magazine

Santa Barbara Visitor's Magazine 2020

I had the honor of writing several pieces for the Santa Barbara Visitor’s Magazine this  year, as well as serving as the copy editor.  To read the magazine in its entirety, click here.

Festival Pick: World of Pinot Noir

World of Pinot Noir is coming to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara March 5-7, courtesy photo.

One of my all-time favorite wine festivals is coming to the Central Coast next week. The 20th Annual World of Pinot Noir (March 5-7) brings together an impressive lineup of producers from the most exceptional and unique regions in the world with Pinot Noir enthusiasts for a weekend of celebration and education at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort & Spa.

The event kicks off on Thursday with the unique opportunity to visit the legendary Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard and learn firsthand about the history of winemaking — particularly Pinot Noir — on California’s Central Coast. This celebrated spot, now owned by WALT Wines, is not usually open for visitors, so don’t miss out on the exclusive kickoff for the 20th anniversary of World of Pinot Noir. I went to a media exclusive version of this event back in 2017 and trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

The tasting tour, coined as Mile Marker 60 referencing WALT’s 1,000 Miles of Pinot concept, includes a vineyard tour, moderated panel conversation alongside a vertical tasting, and a backyard BBQ with live music. Guests will embark on a guided shuttle from the The Ritz-Carlton Bacara to the Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard in on Route 246 in Lompoc.

Clos Pepe Estate, photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

Clos Pepe Estate, photo courtesy World of Pinot Noir.

Other events on Thursday:

Exploring the Elegance of Alto Adige Pinot Noir – Seminar & Luncheon

Take a deep dive into Italy’s preeminent Pinot Noir region, Alto Adige. Led by Tim Gaiser, Master Sommelier, the seminar and luncheon will explore the region’s rise as a Pinot Noir powerhouse, forecast its exciting future and delve into the wines of its top producers.

— Opening Night Party

Kick off the 20th Anniversary of World of Pinot Noir with a wine-filled feast and fête featuring Pinot Noir wines from all over the world poured by America’s leading sommeliers. This year, the main bar is hosted by the Carneros Wine Alliance and will feature a special selection of wines from the famed region. You’ll meet and talk with winemakers, indulge in tasty bites prepared by The Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Executive Chef, Umit Kaygusuz, and dance the night away with DJ Malik. Click here for a peek at delicious menu.

World of Pinot Noir is coming to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara March 5-7, courtesy photo.

Events on Friday, March 6:

— What’s Altitude Got To Do With It? – Seminar & Luncheon

Michael Schachner, Spanish and South American Editor at Wine Enthusiast, leads a winemaker panel discussion and tasting that explores the wines, the effect of elevation (or lack thereof), and the exciting future of these regions.

— Siduri: 25 Years of Cruising the Pacific Coastline – Seminar

Siduri winemaker Adam Lee facilitates a celebratory retrospective tasting. Explore the wines, along with Siduri’s partners in the vineyard, a handful of growers from this famously sunny yet cool stretch of coastline, who will share  stories about growing and making Pinot Noir together for the last 25 years.

—Friday Grand Tasting

Here’s your opportunity to do a true vertical tasting. The room is conveniently organized by region as you taste through more than 100 Pinot Noir producers from around the world gathered in the Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara’s Grand Ballroom.

World of Pinot Noir is coming to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara March 5-7, courtesy photo.

—The Bollinger Experience – Seminar

This seminar (for passport holders only) explores Bollinger Champagne’s age-old winemaking artistry, the role of Pinot Noir in its bubbles

– The World of Pinot Noir’s 20th Anniversary Founders Dinner

The festival founders in attendance include, Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards, Dick and Jenny Doré of Foxes Vineyards & Winery, Anne Moses and James Hall of Patz & Hall Winery, David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, and Steve and Paula Dooley of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. The wine will flow and the stories will unfold as guests enjoy a five-course menu prepared by Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Executive Chef Umit Kaygusuz.

—The World Tour of Pinot Noir Pairings Dinner

Spotlighting the preeminent wines and cuisines from some of the most storied Pinot Noir frontier regions on the planet, including Italy’s Alto Adige, Argentina and Chile.

— Celebrating Bouchard & Champagne Henriot Dinner

The World of Pinot Noir has the honor of presenting Maisons & Domaines Henriot’s two most storied brands – Bouchard Père & Fils, one of Burgundy’s oldest estates, and the famed Champagne Henriot.

World of Pinot Noir is coming to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara March 5-7, courtesy photo.

Events on Saturday, March 7:

– The Grand and Premier Crus of Burgundy – Seminar & Luncheon

This Burgundy seminar spotlights the region’s marquee designations: Grand and Premier Crus.

– Rosé Lawn Party – Presented by United Airlines

Always one of my favorite spotlight events at World of Pinot Noir, this “drink pink” event is held on the lush seaside lawn of Angel Oak, where you can’t beat the ocean view — especially while sipping  more than 50 of the best Pinot Noir Rosés available.

Rose Lawn Party at World of Pinot Noir, courtesy photo.

– Exploring the Neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley – Seminar

This winemaker panel discussion and tasting will explore “The Neighborhoods” of Sonoma’s famous Russian River Valley, home to some of the most sought-after Pinot Noir in the world.

– Saturday Grand Tasting

Here’s your opportunity to do a true vertical tasting. The room is conveniently organized by region as you taste through more than 120 Pinot Noir producers from around the world gathered in the Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara’s Grand Ballroom.

– Vintage Burgundy Dinner

Jay James, Master Sommelier and Chairman of SommFoundation, presents vintage Burgundy wines from their extensive cellar in this one-of-a-kind, six-course gourmand experience.

– The 20th Anniversary Soirée Dinner

Don your cocktail attire for an evening of epicurean delights, wine and dancing as you mingle amongst the legends of Pinot Noir and meet the rising stars. This special dinner features a walk-around mixer of the World of Pinot Noir winemakers, sommeliers, wine world celebrities and a gourmet menu prepared by Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Executive Chef, Umit Kaygusuz. For a peek at the menu, click here.

– Bollinger: Le Grand Dinner

This special dinner is open exclusively to Weekend Passport guests to explore the pairing power of one of Champagne’s historic houses, Bollinger.

For more information on all of the outstanding World of Pinot Noir events taking place March 5-7, visit worldofpinotnoir.com. Hope to see you there!