Cocktail Corner: Lots of Local Food & Libations

The Pullman Room at The Lark, photo by Rob Stark.

The Pullman Room at The Lark, photo by Rob Stark.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

There are a lot of fun spring festivities going on in town this month. Here are few worth checking out:

March 6: Wild Brew Fest 

Cultivate Events (CE), The Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival (SBFF) and Soho Restaurant & Music Club (Soho) host their first annual Wild Brew Fest on Mar. 6. The event is at Soho, 1221 State St., from 3-6 p.m.

Wild Brew Fest serves various traditionally brewed and fermented alcoholic beverages including spirits, beer, cider, mead and wine. Visitors can enjoy these drinks en plein air with snacks featuring the freshest and finest food of the county. Wild Brew Fest also features do-it-yourself stations such as a pickle station where guests can learn the art of fermentation, courtesy of the Pacific Pickle Works and Pure Order Brewing Company, and Valley Brewers‘ home-brew station.

For information and tickets visit

March 12: Buellton Wine and Chili Festival

Give your taste buds a thrill at the 2016 Buellton Wine and Chili Festival where over 20 chili/salsa chefs and 30 wineries will compete! Come and see these amazing individuals battle it out to win prizes such as the Best Red Chili, Chili Verde, and Homemade Salsa. And have your say with the People’s Choice Awards for both wine and chili categories. Ticket price includes a souvenir wine glass, unlimited tastings, and live music. Make it a family event and spend the day eating good food and playing games like horse shoes, table tennis, and bocce ball. Bonus: children under 12 get in for free!

The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m. at Flying Flags RV Resort, 180 Avenue of the Flags, Buellton. If transportation is a concern, take the Brew Bus from Santa Barbara for $25. Leaves at 10:15 a.m. from Figueroa Mountain Brewery, 137 Anacapa St.) and brings you back at the end of the festival.

Presqu'ile Photomontage, courtesy Presqu'ile.

Presqu’ile Photomontage, courtesy Presqu’ile..

March 12: Presqu’ile Winery’s Tri-Tip Cook-Off

Presqu’ile Winery hosts its first annual Presqu’ile Tri-Tip Cook-Off,  featuring a stellar lineup of top-ten local culinary talents, including Chef Nick Barainca, the Auten Boys and more. Manning the grills in our beautiful al fresco setting, each will prepare their own inspired take on tri-tip for our guests and a panel of distinguished culinary judges.

To purchase tickets, contact Estates Manager Cameron Porter at (805) 937-8110 ext. 103 or

March 16-20: Taste of Solvang

In its 24th year, Taste of Solvang  is a fabulous destination for food and wine lovers alike. Some of the highlights include the Taste of Solvang Blind Tasting Challenge on March 17 at 6 p.m. at Wandering Dog Wine Bar, where guests will challenge their palates while learning more about wine as they match up varietals, regions, alcohol percentage, vintage and price points. Tastings will include four half-glasses of red wine and cheese pairings.

Saturday, March 19 brings the Solvang “Tasting Trail” (various locations, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.), where guests will sample and shop their way through Solvang as dozens of food businesses welcome Tasting Trail guests with edible treats. The Tasting Trail will overlap with this year’s Wine & Beer Walk, (various locations, Saturday 2–7 p.m. and Sunday 12–4 p.m.) so attendees may simultaneously take part in both food and drink activities. The Wine & Beer Walk features 15+ wine & beer tasting spots, and is a great way to discover new favorites, and sample local, boutique wines and craft beers as you work up a hunger for more Taste of Solvang happenings.

Courtesy Wandering Dog

Courtesy Wandering Dog Wine Bar.

March 20, 6 p.m.: The Lark Presents “Local Treasures Dinner” With Telegraph Brewing Company

The Lark Executive Chef Jason Paluska teams with Brian Thompson of Telegraph Brewing Company for an exceptional tasting menu of seasonal and locally sourced products designed to complement the acclaimed brewery’s signature beers and ales. Thompson, Founder and Brewmaster of Telegraph will be on hand to describe how adjustments in process and recipe manifest themselves in the beer’s flavor profiles. Telegraph Brewing Company is the recipient of numerous Gold, Silver and Bronze awards from the Great American Beer Festival and the Beer World Cup.

The dinner begins with Steelhead Ocean Trout Crudo with Thai Chile & Avocado Mousse, Hearts of Palm, Pickled Kumquat and Candied Coriander Seed paired with Telegraph White Ale; followed by Grilled Delta Asparagus with Bone Marrow Hollandaise, Meyer Lemon Peel, Crispy Sunchokes and Nasturtium paired with Telegraph California Ale.  The main course is Paluska’s succulent Roasted Pork Belly Porchetta with Creamy Hominy, Red Cabbage, Escabeche Pickled Vegetables, Crispy Pig Ears, Preserved Lime and Oregano paired with Telegraph Los Padres Saison. Completing the dinner is a dessert of Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Warm Donuts with Hibiscus Caramel and Duck Fat Pecans, created by Executive Pastry Chef Jeff Haines and paired with Telegraph Reserve Wheat with Hibiscus.

Served in The Lark’s private Pullman Room (pictured), pricing for “Local Treasures” with Telegraph Brewing Company is $111 per person, all inclusive of taxes and service charge. Tickets may be purchased by calling The Lark at 805.284.0370 or visit Local Treasures at The Lark.  Seating is limited.

The Lark is located at 131 Anacapa St. in the Funk Zone.

Steve and Crystal Clifton, courtesy photo.

Steve and Crystal Clifton, courtesy photo.

March 22, 6:30 p.m.: Les Marchands and Palmina Wine Dinner

Another delicious event in Funk Zone is Les Marchands and Palmina Wines celebration of Spring with a five course paired dinner and an intimate evening with Palmina’s Steve and Crystal Clifton. For more than 20 years the pair has produced compelling, food friendly wines that showcase the tremendous versatility the Santa Barbara County wine growing region has to offer.  Add Chef Weston Richards into the equation and you get an exquisite five-course menu to compliment and showcase the depth and brilliance of the Palmina line-up! Chef Weston’s menu will be revealed later this week, but reservations are now being taken.

The cost is $99, excluding tax and gratuity, and seating is limited. To purchase tickets and reserve your seats, email

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant is located at 131 Anacapa St., Suite B. in the Funk Zone.

Hope to see some of you there. Cheers!

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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 March 4, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: SB Passport … to Libations!

Courtesy Santa Barbara Passport

Courtesy Santa Barbara Passport

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

As far as I’m concerned, there’s almost nothing better than the buzzy fun of enjoying summertime cocktails with friends—but one thing that does beat that is getting a great DEAL on summertime cocktails with friends.

There’s a new player in town—The Santa Barbara Passport—that offers great deals on drinks this summer at 28 establishments for just 20 bucks. This cleverly illustrated, pocket-sized booklet offers loads of drink deals—you receive a stamp in your booklet upon redemption—and the specials will run all summer through Labor Day (September 7), providing ample time to collect stamps and explore.

It even includes a section on Beer 101 and Wine Labels for Dummies, as well as cocktail fundamentals for making—and ordering—classic libations like Negronis, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.

Courtesy Santa Barbara Passport

Courtesy Santa Barbara Passport

“The Passport is the friend that helps you decide where to go for happy hour, on a date or a Sunday afternoon,” says Casey Berry, co-founder of the Passport Program, who describes it as “a curated guide to the beverage culture of Santa Barbara.”

Indeed, participating venues include some of my favorites:

“Santa Barbara offers not just a great nightlife, but the drinks culture is so diverse that you won’t be disappointed when sipping a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Funk Zone or a cold White Rascal beer at American Ale,” says Jane Pimcomrie, city manager for the Santa Barbara branch of the Passport Program. “The Santa Barbara Passport features enough wineries for wine-lovers, breweries for after work socializing, and unique bars for cocktail and spirits junkies. Plus it will make the heat of summer that much more enjoyable.”

Can’t argue with that logic. For more information or to purchase a passport, go here.

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 June 5, 2015.

Arthritis Foundation’s 33rd Annual Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation's Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation’s Taste of the Town

We got a preview last week of what’s in store for the 33rd annual Santa Barbara Taste of the Town, and there’s a lot to be excited about for this signature culinary event benefiting the Arthritis Foundation.

Taking place on Sunday, Sept. 7 at the picturesque Riviera Park Gardens, 2030 Alameda Padre Serra,  from noon-3 p.m., the fundraiser is expected to attract more than  1,000 guests for an afternoon of wine tasting and delicious nibbles presented from many of Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants and wineries.

Mingle and support a good cause over live entertainment overlooking the beautiful city below.

Opal Restaurant & Bar co-owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates are co-chairs for the event. Some of the participating restaurants include: Aldo’s Italian Restaurant, Blue Tavern, Ca’ Dario, Fresco Café & Bakery, Il Fustino, Los Agaves, Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant, Louie’s California Bistro, Michael’s Catering, New West Catering/Industrial Eats, Olivos del Mar, Opal Restaurant & Bar, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, Santa Barbara City College, The Chase Restaurant, The Faculty Club, The Palace Grill and Via Maestra 42, among others.

Wine, beer and beverages will be provide by: Adelaida, Alexander & Wayne/Arthur Earl, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards (winemaker Richard Sanford is a special honoree), Au Bon Climat, Babcock Vineyards, Brander Vineyard, Brewer-Clifton, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, Carr Vineyards & Winery, Consilience Winery/Tre Anelli, Daniel Gehrs Wines, Falcone Family Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery, Fiddlehead Cellars, Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Foxen, Giessinger Winery, Grassini, Island Brewing Company, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Ken Brown Wines, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Lafond Winery and Vineyards, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards/Toccata Wines, Margerum Wine CompanyMelville Vineyards & Winery, Mosby Winery, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Qupe, Sanford WinerySanta Barbara Winery, Scott Cellars, Silver Wines, Sort This Out Cellars, Starlane & Dierberg Vineyards/Three Saints, Sunstone Vineyards, Tolosa, Whitcraft Winery, William James Cellars and Zaca Mesa, among others.

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation's Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation’s Taste of the Town

Kendall Viera, a 13-year-old middle school student from Santa Ynez has been named this year’s Youth Honoree. She was diagnosed at the age of 6 with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) and is currently in remission, thanks to medical advances. To see a video of Viera talking about why she supports the Arthritis Foundation click here.

Dr. Timothy Spiegel has been named the event’s Medical Honoree. Hel is a rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) in Santa Barbara that has been diagnosing and treating patients for almost 40 years. 

All proceeds from Taste of the Town support local programs and services of the Arthritis Foundation. The foundation is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of 53 million people (including nearly 300,000 children) with arthritis through research and local programs of education, advocacy and juvenile arthritis support.

Taste of the Town tickets purchased in advance are $125 per person; tickets at the door will be $140, if available, and corporate group discounts are also available. Tickets are limited, so early reservations are encouraged. For tickets and information call 805/463-4685 or visit

Sponsors and their guests will also enjoy the exclusive Connoisseurs’ Circle, co-chaired by Jennifer Jaqua and Jacques Habra. Celebrating its fifth year, this unique VIP experience will feature a progressive tasting menu designed and prepared by a visiting chef of distinction at Belmond El Encanto on Friday, Sept. 5, along with a live auction. Taste of the Town sponsorship opportunities are still available by contacting Asher Garfinkel at 805/563-4685.

–Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on July 31, 2014.

Cocktail Corner: Enjoy Cocktails With Culture at 1st Thursday: After Hours

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

It used to be that the fun was just getting started when 1st Thursday ended…but not anymore! Lobero Theatre, The Granada and The New Victoria Theatre have teamed up for a terrific new production: Historic Theatre District’s 1st Thursday: After Hours from 7:30–9:30 p.m., where you can enjoy your cocktails with culture every 1st Thursday.

Premiering on Thursday, December 5,  1st Thursday: After Hours  is a fun FREE event featuring entertainment by magician Mark Collier, bites from Sojourner Café, and beer tasting by Figueroa Mountain Brewery. This first one will be on the historic (newly reopened) Lobero Esplanade in front of the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.

In addition, the party also features a no-host bar and additional live entertainment.

This is the first of six “1st Thursday After Hours” celebrations with Santa Barbara’s newly formed Historic Theatre District in which the Lobero Theatre, the Granada Theatre and The New Vic are teaming up for new ways to access the best in Santa Barbara’s performing arts. After enjoying the exhibits throughout the downtown galleries and local shops, guests are invited to keep the fun going  in Santa Barbara’s Historic Theatre District.

Hosted at a different theater each month, the 1st Thursday After Hours will feature sips and bites from one of the Theatre District’s restaurant partners and live local entertainment.

“This creative partnership between the three theaters is a great example of cultural organizations coming together to increase access to the arts and expand their audiences, while engaging the community,” says Ginny Brush, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. “1st Thursday has become an immensely popular tradition for local Santa Barbara arts and culture enthusiasts, igniting the Cultural Arts District after 5 p.m. With the addition of ‘After Hours’ at the theaters, that energy can continue!”
The schedule of 1st Thursday: After Hours through the Spring is:
·       December 5, 2013 at the Lobero Theatre
·       Skipping January due to holidays
·       February 6 at The Granada Theatre
·       March 6 at the New Vic
·       April 3 at the Lobero Theatre
·       May 1 at The Granada Theatre
·       June 5 at the New Vic

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally featured in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 29, 2103.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”