Cocktail Corner: Oh Hanukkah!

The final 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} takes places on Dec. 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

The final 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} takes place on Dec. 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

The first night of Hanukkah is December 12, and that night also kicks off an awesome edible Hanukkah collaboration between two Santa Ynez Valley Chefs—PICO’s Drew Terp and Brooke Stockwell of K’Syrah Catering & Events—on an eight-day foodie fest building up to a final eight-course, seated dinner with wine pairings—featuring some of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Jewish winemakers.

The “8 Days” event begins on December 12, with the first Hanukkah candle at PICO restaurant (458 Bell St., Los Alamos) and Chef Drew’s reveal of a new Hanukkah-themed dish hinting at the courses destined for the final night’s seated, eight-course dinner. Diners at PICO will be able to view all six nights’ special dishes, but will only be able to order the dishes as they are “lit”–in other words, “Dish #1” will be available on night one and all subsequent nights, whereas on night three, guests will be able to order Dish #1, #2 and/or #3. In addition, winemakers scheduled to pour at the final night’s event will pour their wines at PICO on select nights of candles one through six.  

The last two evenings of 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} take place at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

The last two evenings of 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} take place at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

Then, on Monday, December 18, the second-to-last night of Hanukkah, the holiday party travels to K’Syrah Catering & Events’ venue (478 4th Pl., Solvang), where a ticketed reception will showcase eight different Hanukkah-inspired plates in a passed hors d’oeuvres format. A cash bar will also be available that evening, offering a full bar plus creative craft cocktails entailing ingredients traditionally used in Jewish holiday celebrations. Tickets for the food portion of the evening of December 18 are $25 per person if purchased through December 13, or $30 per person if purchased after December 13 or at the event entrance, and are available at (Cash cocktail bar is not included in the ticket price.)

The finale takes place on Tuesday, December 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events and includes an eight-course collaborative Hanukkah menu from Chef Drew and Chef Brooke and an optional selection of associated wine pairings. 

Here’s the delicious sounding “8 Days” Finale Menu” (Wine Pairings TBA)

1 — Potato latke, smoked salmon, black pepper, salmon chicharrónes, crème fraîche, chive oil

2 — Roasted beet salad, honey vinaigrette, goat cheese crouton

3 — Fritto Misto (zucchini, winter squash, apple, fennel, with sage brown butter emulsion)

4 — Savory Kugel (kale, cipollini, gruyere, challah breadcrumbs)

5 — Parsnip latke, grilled quail, pomegranate, with charoset

6 — Braised brisket, fermented apple sauce, grilled root vegetables, smoked sunchoke cream, crispy taro root

7 — Olive oil cake, cherry soup, bay leaf chantilly lace

8 — Apple beignet, dulce de leche, sour cream ice milk

Tickets for the Tuesday, December 19 finale event run $85 per person with optional wine pairings for an additional $40 per person, and are available at (advance ticket purchase is required).

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

Are you cooking your own meal this Hanukkah? Israel’s leading wineries just released a food and wine-pairing guide for the holiday, offering an innovative spin on matching wine with traditional Hanukkah dishes.

The guide, from Israel’s Golan Heights and Galil Mountain wineries, and their North American importer, Yarden Inc., calls for creative pairings such as gewurztraminer with potato latkes and sour cream. “The spicy and off-dry notes of the gewurztraminer will accentuate the subtle spices of the latkes,” the wineries suggest. “The medium-bodied viscosity will work great with the cream.”

However, if you are among those who prefer applesauce with your potato pancakes, the wineries suggest sauvignon blanc should be your go-to bottle. “You will want a bit more acidity to go with the underlying acidity in the applesauce,” the guide says. “The dryness of the sauvignon blanc will make the applesauce taste slightly sweeter; and the grass and herbal notes will bring out the earthiness of the potato.”

Other creative twists include viognier with sweet potato latkes and applesauce, and chardonnay with zucchini latkes and sour cream. For those who prefer to head straight to the classic jelly doughnuts, the wineries suggest a moscato as “the perfect foil.” Download the entire, free guide 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 on December 6, 2017. 

Annual rituals are often as important and appreciated as the season

Photo by

Photo by

No matter how you celebrate this holiday season, chances are it will be remarkably similar to the way you celebrated last year. December is a time that we cling to our family traditions — even when those traditions consist of, for example, not celebrating Christmas by going to a movie and then out for Chinese food, as many Jewish families do.

While the religious observances of the season are an important part of the celebration for some, for others the holidays are more about family and the sense of connectedness that enjoying the annual rituals reinforces.

Whatever the activity — whether it’s decorating the tree with the family, lighting the menorah during Hanukkah, exchanging special gifts, preparing traditional meals, sending cards, baking cookies, clothing the homeless or hosting gatherings at your home, it becomes a tradition when it’s repeated each year.

“These traditions are the factors that help hold us together and help us identify who we are,” said sociologist Herbert Smith. “If it’s done enough, people expect it and if it’s positive enough, people want it. The key is not so much of doing anything elaborate or expensive; anything that’s done within the family that creates a sense of ‘we-ness’ is what you want to establish.”

Here’s a look at how some local families will be celebrating that “sense of we-ness” this holiday season and in the years to come.

“Spending quality time with family you wouldn’t normally get to see,” is a favorite part of the holidays for student Rollin Gartzke, a sentiment echoed by many.

Another student, Tony Tan, said he likes, “Seeing all my old relatives and just talking about life in general.”

Gift giving also plays a part in family favorites.

“Some of my favorite traditions are letting the kids open one present on Christmas Eve, playing Christmas music while we decorate the tree, and driving around to look at neighborhood Christmas lights,” said Matt Randmaa, an electrical engineer.

Dos Pueblos High student Rashad Crew said his favorite holiday tradition was “giving presents and spinning dreidels.

“Christmas breakfast is a big deal in our family, involving Chelsea rolls, grapefruit and an attempt by parents to stretch out the meal as long as possible. It has become a time-honored tradition for the kids to lobby constantly for an end to breakfast and a start of the opening of presents,” said Steve Parry, a venture capitalist.

Whether it’s Chelsea rolls or turkey, tamales or latkes, food definitely plays a big role in South Coast holiday celebrations.

“Eating latkes, spinning the dreidel and making pictures of cool holiday things,” are some of 10th-grader Emily Solomon’s favorite traditions.

“Eating latkes and opening presents” also got a vote from 10th-grader Ariel Horwitz.

“Each year, my extended family, despite having not the slightest bit of Mexican ancestry, has tamales with rice, beans and salsa for Christmas dinner. How this came about, I do not know; someone just decided that having tamales each year would be a novel idea,” said Grant Smith, a Cate School sophomore.

“Also, every year since I can remember, my family put up a quilted Advent calendar with Velcro pieces on the first of each December. Until about two years ago, my sister and I would argue every morning over who would get to put up the day’s piece, which I suppose is a tradition in itself,” said Smith, who added, “I’ve since let go and allow her to put all of the pieces up.”

“Some of my favorite holiday traditions are everyone going to the local elementary school to play baseball, football and handball while the Christmas feast is cooking, and baking Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve day then having the family over that night to eat them … The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer then go online to to see where Santa is located,” said Kathy Randmaa, an attorney.

“I like going up to the mountains after Christmas and having another big celebration there and playing in the snow. I also like driving around looking at Christmas lights,” said Randmaa’s third-grade son, Kurtis.

Indeed our childhood memories often become more vivid at Christmas.

“The holiday tradition I remember as a child was going to my grandfather’s house on Christmas Day. There were seven granddaughters and he always bought us identical dolls and had a dressmaker make three or four outfits for these dolls, said Diane Freeman, a nurse.

“Grandfather had a hard time changing this habit and the last doll I got from him was in my senior year in high school when he gave us all three-foot tall dolls that would walk with you if you held her hand,” Freeman said.

“I grew up in a Jewish home, so we celebrated Hanukkah when I was small,” said Daniel T. Colbert, a venture capitalist. “We did the usual things — lighting of the candles each night. While I was small, we received presents each of the eight nights! In those years, we felt luckier than our Christian friends! As an adult with my own family, we would always walk the neighborhood in the evening near Christmas, to see the lights on all the houses.”

Just think, as you admire the lights in your own neighborhood this year, inside they could be celebrating the holidays with traditions like some of these.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 16, 2004.

Building blocks of Hanukkah tradition

Lego Menorah by Elijah,

Lego Menorah by Elijah,

Santa Barbara’s Hanukkah festivities began a new way Tuesday night, when many families gathered at La Cumbre Plaza to build a six-foot-tall menorah out of Legos.

Young and old alike had a great time celebrating by lighting the candles for the first night of Hanukkah, playing the dreidel game to earn chocolate coins or gelt, and eating traditional foods like latkes and doughnuts.

Both latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts are eaten on Hanukkah because they are fried in oil, which symbolizes the miracle of the oil found in a lamp in a decimated temple. It seemed to be only enough to burn for one night yet, miraculously, it burned for eight days. This is why the menorah is lighted for eight nights and Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights.

Throughout the eight-day holiday, families play the dreidel game and eat traditional foods. Most families also exchange gifts, although in some families, only the children receive presents.

“We celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the candles each night, singing the traditional songs and reading books. Of course, there is always a little gift attached to the celebration. Mostly, it is just being together and enjoying this very festive holiday,” said Shaunah Smith.

With so many mixed marriages, many families create their own, modified versions of the Hanukkah celebration.

Tisha Levy was raised a Catholic, but her husband is Jewish and they are raising their two sons to be Jewish. When Hanukkah comes around she decorates her entire house in blue and white, including a tree with only Hanukkah ornaments. “We have this Merry Hanukkah Troll doll on the top,” she laughed.

Her sister also made her a stunning silver wreath with blue glass dreidels and Jewish stars, which decorates her front door each December.

Like most families, every night the Levys light the candles and say the Hanukkah prayers. “It’s really interesting to try to teach the kids not to blow out the candles (like birthday candles),” she said. She also reads Hanukkah books to her sons, like “My Merry Hanukkah” and “Jalapeño Bagel.”

Other popular children’s titles include “A Confused Hanukkah;” “Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah;” “Spin the Dreidel;” and “Papa’s Latkes.”

Levy noted there actually are some positive aspects to Hanukkah becoming a more commercial holiday. “My mother-in-law told me when her kids were growing up it was really hard-to-find Hanukkah wrapping paper and toys and books and stuff,” she said.

That’s certainly not the case anymore.

To join in the Hanukkah celebration and learn more about the traditions, why not participate in some of these free, upcoming events:

Erev Shabbat/Hanukkah with the Congregation B’nail B’rith Band Friday, 7- 8:15 p.m.; Congregation B’nai B’rith, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road; 964.7869 x16.

Hanukkah Children’s Book Reading Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m.; Borders, 7000 Marketplace Drive; 683.1544.

Family Hanukkah Celebration and Concert featuring storyteller Michael Katz Sunday, 4-5:30 p.m.; Congregation B’nai B’rith, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road; 964.7869 x16.


Rolling the Dreidel

Playing the dreidel game is a lot of fun for children of all ages. The four letters that appear on the four corners of a dreidel allude to the miracle of Hanukkah. They spell out Nes (N-miracle), Gimel (G-great), Hay (H-happened) and Shin (S-there, meaning in Israel).

To begin the game, each player should have about 20 items (chocolate coins, or gelt, peppermint candies, chips, etc.).

Each person puts one piece of candy in the middle of the table. Then each person takes a turn at spinning the dreidel. The Hebrew letter on each side of the dreidel tell you what to do:

= If you roll a Nun you neither pay nor gain anything.

= If you roll a Gimel you win everything.

= If you roll a Hay you win half.

= If you roll a Shin you lose everything.

When only one piece of candy or no candy is left in the middle each player adds another piece of candy. When a player has all the candy, that person wins!

To play online visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 9, 2004.