Local Dish: An Edible Tribute to Hanukkah

As my grandmother used to say, the best way to come to Hanukkah feast is to come hungry! That advice definitely still holds for next week’s special event, 8 Nights {an Edible Tribute to Hanukkah}.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

This exclusive holiday food happening is hosted by Chef Brooke Stockwell, Executive Chef for K’Syrah Catering & Events (www.kscateringandevents.com). A contemporary culinary twist on traditional Jewish celebratory foods, the event takes place on Dec. 7 at K’Syrah Catering & Events (478 4th Place, Solvang) from 6:30-10 p.m. The ticketed evening includes six seated courses of Chef Brooke’s special Hanukkah menu, preceded by two passed appetizer courses.

“This holiday holds so many happy family memories for me, and most of those, food-related. These Hanukkah events give me a chance to honor those memories and traditions, and share them with the whole community—and visitors.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

I’m using local and seasonal ingredients that showcase this region, to craft a Hanukkah menu which would be fairly recognizable as such,” says Chef Brooke.

Raised in Lompoc, Chef Brooke’s culinary style has evolved over the past dozen years as she has plied her trade in Santa Barbara and Las Vegas, in Morro Bay, and now, back in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chef Brooke’s culinary career began as a private chef at age 19, while she was still in culinary school in Santa Barbara. After working for celebrity chef Rick Moonen in Las Vegas, Chef Brooke returned to the Central Coast where she happily fed locals and tourists alike, as the Executive Chef of the Inn at Morro Bay. Now, upon her return to the Santa Ynez Valley, Chef Brooke became the Executive Chef of K’Syrah Catering & Events, where she continues to share her passion for food and the stories that coincide with the ingredients she selects.

Participating Jewish Santa Barbara County winemakers who will be featured include Sandra Newman, Cebada Wine; Michael Roth, Lo-Fi Wines; and Larry Schaffer, tercero wines. In addition, a portion of the event’s proceeds will support the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

The “8 Nights” Menu for Friday, Dec. 7, with participating Jewish Winemakers, includes:

Tray Passed

1 — potato latke // house-cured salmon // black pepper crème fraîche // chives

2 — savory olive oil cake // cherry coulis // salted bay leaf Chantilly

Seated

3 — roasted beets // frisée // orange // honey vinaigrette // goat cheese crouton

4 — fritto misto // zucchini, winter squash, apple, fennel, lemon // sage brown butter // edible flowers

5 — savory kugel // kale, cipollini, broccolini, mushrooms // gruyere // challah bread crumbs // herbs

6 — grilled quail // parsnip latke // pomegranate // charoset

7 — smoked brisket // roasted apple sauce // grilled root vegetables // smoked Jerusalem artichoke cream // crispy taro root

8 — apple beignet // dulce de leche // sour cream ice milk // edible flowers

Tickets for the event are $85 per person, plus an onsite cash bar, and are available at 8-nights-edible-tribute-to-hanukkah.eventbrite.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 30, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Seasonal Sips & Bites at Finch & Fork

In the Pines, photo by Michael Sharp, courtesy Finch & Fork.

In the Pines, photo by Michael Sharp, courtesy Finch & Fork.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

We got the chance to taste Finch & Fork’s seasonal cocktail menu and the late fall/early winter dinner menu, both of which are delicious!

Lead Bartender George Piperis‘s new cocktails embrace the season with sensational sippers like the Daughter of Man with copper & kings brandy, honey crisp apple, black currant, honey and eucalyptus bitters, and the Captain Jack Sparrow with jack daniels rye, chairman’s forgotten cask rum, roasted banana and blackstrap and tobacco bitters. Christmas is definitely in the air with the In the Pines cocktail, made with death’s door gin, cardamaro, cocchi torino and pine pollen, and you can’t help but smile when you taste the frothy and tasty You Got Chocolate in My Peanut Butter, made with peanut butter–washed toki japanese whisky, tempus fugit créme de cacao and peanut butter foam. The little girl in me loved Barbie’s Bath Bomb, garnished with Barbie-sized shoes and made with Hangar One vodka, rhubarb, grapefruit, and a pouf of tarragon air. So fun!

Finch & Fork's Barbie Bath Bomb, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork’s Barbie Bath Bomb, courtesy photo.

All those great cocktails helped up work up an appetite, and Executive Chef Peter Cham‘s tasty selections fit the bill to a tee. Among our favorites were the Sweet Potato Baba Ganoush, a surprising mashup of sweet and savory served with incredible housemade bread and pickled veggies. The Harissa Buffalo Wings are another favorite starter, along with hearty Mushroom Soup made with puffed​ rice, black truffle powder and chives (so aromatic and lovely!).

The Burrata & Roasted Squash with pumpkin seed pesto, pomegranate, vadovan honey and rye croutons is a mouthwatering, original variation on one of our favorite cheese dishes. As for mains, the Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli with pork cheek ragout, poblano sofrito and aged manchego is fabulous. You also can’t go wrong with the Sea Scallops. This season’s version sits on a brown butter cauliflower puree, with romanesco, pickled kumquat and crispy capers. And even better yet, a  portion of the proceeds from the scallops is donated to No Kid Hungry, a movement of teachers, chefs, community leaders, parents, lawmakers and CEOs with a shared belief: no kid in America should go hungry.

Finch & Fork Sweet Potato Babaganoush, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork Sweet Potato Babaganoush, courtesy photo.

Speaking of hunger, Finch & Fork is offering yet another way to make your taste buds sing, when Chef Cham offers a special CHAMily Holiday DinnerGather around the table for an evening that takes you back to his Cambodian roots. The multi-course, family-style dinner features traditional Cambodian cuisine, like Prahok Ktiss and Noum Prajok, served alongside truly great company. The CHAMily Dinner is Saturday, December 8 at 7 p.m. Reservations can be made for $55 per person, which includes a welcome drink from lead bartender George Piperis. Optional wine and beer pairings are available. 

Call 805/879-9100 to make your reservation. Seating is limited. Finch & Fork is located at 31 W. Carrillo St. in the Kimpton Canary

Daughter of Man, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Daughter of Man, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Harissa Wings, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Harissa Wings, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Chocolate in my Peanut Butter, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Chocolate in my Peanut Butter, photo courtesy Finch & Fork.

Finch & Fork Scallops, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork Scallops, courtesy photo.

Finch in the Pines, photo by Kevin Claiborne, courtesy Finch & Fork.

Finch in the Pines, photo by Kevin Claiborne, courtesy Finch & Fork.

Finch & Fork's Burrata and Cauliflower, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork’s Burrata and Cauliflower, courtesy photo.

In the Pines, photo by Michael Sharp, courtesy Finch & Fork.

In the Pines, photo by Michael Sharp, courtesy Finch & Fork.

Finch & Fork's Black Pepper Cavatelli, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork’s Black Pepper Cavatelli, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork's Daily Special Board, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Daily Special Board, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 30, 2018.

Local Dish: Tyger Tyger, Dart Coffee and Monkeyshine Roar With Flavors

Follow the pink lanterns to the Tyger Tyger team, waiting to serve you at the new Funk Zone spot. Photo by Rob Stark.

Follow the pink lanterns to the Tyger Tyger team, waiting to serve you at the new Funk Zone spot. Photo by Rob Stark.

Follow the pretty pink lanterns to a terrific new place in the Funk Zone.

The neighborhood marketplace home to Tyger Tyger, Dart Coffee Co. and Monkeyshine is finally open, and this yummy addition to the waterfront area was well worth the wait!

Acme Hospitality (of The Lark, Loquita and Lucky Penny fame, to name just a few) has created a collective that’s been a hit from day one.  The three-concept venue includes Tyger Tyger, a fast-fine restaurant with Thai-Vietnamese influenced dishes; Monkeyshine, with exotic soft serve ice cream and popsicles; and local roaster Dart Coffee Co., to keep everyone caffeinated and happy,. The marketplace is located  at 121 E. Yanonali St., on the corner of Gray Avenue near the Arts Fund.

It’s hard to miss the hundreds of illuminated pink lanterns on the interior and exterior ceilings of this pretty new food hall. Large windows peek into the building and bring all-day sunshine into the airy room. The palette of bright pink, saffron yellow, orange and turquoise warm the interiors and definitely let you know that you’re in for a unique treat, evoking elements of Thailand, Vietnam and the Central Coast—flavors which are also echoed in the menu.

Inside the Funk Zone's new marketplace, which features Tyger Tyger, Dart Coffee Co. and Monkeyshine. Photo by Rob Stark.

Inside the Funk Zone’s new marketplace, which features Tyger Tyger, Dart Coffee Co. and Monkeyshine. Photo by Rob Stark.

Tyger Tyger and sister operation Monkeyshine are led by Santa Barbara born-and-raised Chef Daniel Palaima who returned home from Chicago to lead the team after stints with internationally acclaimed, award-winning chefs. Bold Thai and Vietnamese inspired dishes we’ve tried so far include melt-in-your-mouth Weeping Brisket with coconut sticky rice; almost-too-pretty-to-eat Shrimp Summer Rolls; Spicy Pork Larb Salad (we tried the impossible “pork” meatless version and it was amazing); Octopus Salad with glass noodles and nouc cham; and Curried Noodles with braised pork and fermented mustard greens, among others. Everything was delicious and great to share with friends.  

Tasty Thai and Vietnamese-inspired dishes at Tyger Tyger. Photo by Rob Stark.

Tasty Thai and Vietnamese-inspired dishes at Tyger Tyger. Photo by Rob Stark.

Offering the perfect deserts to accompany Tyger Tyger’s spicy flavors, Monkeyshine  is an ice cream counter serving frozen treats flavored with Asian spices and ingredients. The menu features soft serve ice cream flavors like Green Tea; Toasted Rice; Ginger; Thai Chili Chocolate; Orange Szechuan Pepper; Vegan Coconut Lemongrass; and Black Sesame, with exotic toppings, as well as house-made Popsicles. 

Monkeyshine offers a pretty array of toppings for soft service ice cream served in fish-shaped cones. Photo by Rob Stark.

Monkeyshine offers a pretty array of toppings for soft service ice cream served in fish-shaped cones. Photo by Rob Stark.

Dart Coffee Co. completes the trio with its specialty coffee counter. The Funk Zone’s own small-lot specialty coffee roaster, Dart Coffee offers espresso drinks, cold brew, nitro cold brew and locally-made kombucha. Fair trade organic beans are roasted onsite daily and retail coffee is available in addition to an extensive menu of espresso drinks—try the Corena Cortado for the most delicious cinnamon churro-like treat, or the June Bug for a sweet kiss of lavender with your java—and specialty loose leaf organic teas alongside locally made pastries and bites.

Dart Coffee Co. is owned and operated by husband and wife team Erika Carter Dart (a beloved local artist) and David Dart (a beloved local dentist) who have lived and worked in the Funk Zone for more than 16 years. This location marks their first retail shop, bringing ethical craft-roasted coffee to the public, sourcing only the finest organic, fair-trade coffee beans from small-lot indigenous farmers who share their vision. Plus a percentage of every bean sold helps sustain artist studios in Santa Barbara’s diverse art districts through The Yanonali Street Artist Fund.

The Dart Coffee team (that's owner Erika Carter Dart in front) is ready to serve delicious, sustainably roasted coffee and treats. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Dart Coffee team (that’s owner Erika Carter Dart in front) is ready to serve delicious, sustainably roasted coffee and treats. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Follow the bright pink lanterns to the marketplace. A delicious adventure awaits!

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 15, 2018.

Local Dish: Outpost’s New Executive Chef Hits a Home Run

Outpost Executive Chef Damien Giliberti, photo by Nicole Lazar.

Outpost Executive Chef Damien Giliberti, photo by Nicole Lazar.

Outpost at the Goodland recently promoted Damien Giliberti to Executive Chef, and if our recent meal was any indication, the Kimpton-run property made a great decision to put the kitchen in his capable hands.

The property’s former Executive Sous Chef, Damien Giliberti, a native of Northern New Jersey, worked at Finch & Fork for four years, then Outpost for the past two years. He draws his culinary inspiration from his Italian-American upbringing, where his family owned and lived next to their pizzeria. A graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Miami, he worked in kitchens from North Carolina to Miami, before heading West to Santa Barbara, where he now specializes in contemporary and rustic American cuisine with touches of Latin and Asian influences.

Outpost’s Fried Brussels Sprouts with Yellow Curry, Roasted Garlic Aioli and Chili Flakes, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Outpost’s Fried Brussels Sprouts with Yellow Curry, Roasted Garlic Aioli and Chili Flakes, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Our dinner started out with one of my favorite dishes of the night, Fried Brussels Sprouts with Yellow Curry, Roasted Garlic Aioli and Chili Flakes. Brussels Sprouts are, as they say, “having a moment” on local menus, but this preparation was both unique and delicious, with the warm notes of curry trumpeting the beginning of the fall season.

Outpost’s Tuna Crudo with Yuzu Dressing, Fuji Apples, Avocado Puree, Red Radish and Chili Oil and Some Like It Hot cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Outpost’s Tuna Crudo with Yuzu Dressing, Fuji Apples, Avocado Puree, Red Radish and Chili Oil and Some Like It Hot cocktail, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Next up was a bright Tuna Crudo dish with Yuzu Dressing, Fuji Apples, Avocado Puree, Red Radish and Chili Oil, followed by another fall favorite, Carmelized Sweet Potato with Tumeric Yogurt, Crispy Chickpeas and Garam Masala. 

Outpost’s Carmelized Sweet Potato with Tumeric Yogurt, Crispy Chickpeas and Garam Masala, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Outpost’s Carmelized Sweet Potato with Tumeric Yogurt, Crispy Chickpeas and Garam Masala, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We also loved the Pork Belly Bao Buns (even my sometimes vegetarian friend indulged) with Pickled Cucumber, Jalapeno Kewpie, Sesame Seed, Cilantro and Hoisin Sauce. The larger entrees—Pork Chop with Carmelized Fuji Apples, Spicy Mustard Aioli and Upland Cress; and Salmon with Romanesco Puree, Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas and Chipotle Hollandaise—were also very tasty.

Outpost’s Pork Belly Bao Buns with Pickled Cucumber, Jalapeno Kewpie, Sesame Seed, Cilantro and Hoisin Sauce, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

Outpost’s Pork Belly Bao Buns with Pickled Cucumber, Jalapeno Kewpie, Sesame Seed, Cilantro and Hoisin Sauce, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

Other new menu highlights include the Lamb Burger with Date Chutney, Harissa Yogurt, Pickled Red Onion and Watercress; and Grilled Strip Loin with crispy Red Potatoes, charred Mexican Green Onions and Chimichurri Sauce.

Outpost’s Pork Chop with Carmelized Fuji Apples, Spicy Mustard Aioli and Upland Cress (left), and Salmon with Romanesco Puree, Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas and Chipotle Hollandaise, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Outpost’s Pork Chop with Carmelized Fuji Apples, Spicy Mustard Aioli and Upland Cress (left), and Salmon with Romanesco Puree, Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas and Chipotle Hollandaise, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

“Working and living in Santa Barbara has allowed me to experience first-hand how food brings people together. It feels good to be a part of a community like ours, and to connect with our guests through food,” says Giliberti.

With food like this, let’s hope he continues to feed our community for a good long time!  

Outpost at the Goodland  is located at 5650 Calle Real, Goleta. For more information, visit www.OutpostSB.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 14, 2018.

Local Dish: Smithy Kitchen + Bar

The outdoor patio at Kitchen + Bar is a beautiful place to dine, day or night. Photo courtesy Smithy.

The outdoor patio at Kitchen + Bar is a beautiful place to dine, day or night. Photo courtesy Smithy.

There’s nothing better than good food in a beautiful setting, and the new Smithy Kitchen + Bar (7 E. Anapamu St.) has both! I’ve dined on the lovely outdoor patio—under its gorgeous canopy of 100-year-old olive trees—twice in the last few weeks—once on a cold night and once on a warmish one—and the well-placed heaters make it a comfortable and cozy spot to be in almost any weather.

Designer Steve Hermann has redone the former Somerset space in an upscale yet approachable style, with a more “Santa Barbara” vibe and every day price point. Originally a blacksmith shop, hence the name “Smithy,” this prime downtown location (near the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Public Library and Sullivan Goss Gallery) is now a great spot for lunch, dinner with friends and family, nighttime drinks and bites or a leisurely Sunday brunch. There’s also a special Easter Brunch menu, if you’re eager to check it out this weekend.

Smithy's "Baby I'm a Star" cocktail and roasted sunchokes with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Smithy’s “Baby I’m a Star” cocktail and roasted sunchokes with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Chef Lauren Herman’s new menu is delicious, and nothing is over $20. We loved the mussels and clams with shallot, garlic, crispy pork belly, and bok choy served with grilled toast. The sauce was so savory we asked for extra toast (homemade) to lap up every last bite. The pastas were also terrific. Try the Cavatelli combined with pork ragu, mustard greens and tomato confit for a hearty dish. The squid ink casarecce in lobster bisque with uni and nori breadcrumbs was also fabulous.

The vegetables really shine as well. We loved the fried delicata squash with cauliflower, bagna cauda, calabrian chili and anchovy aïoli, as well the roasted rainbow carrots with spiced cashew butter, coconut yogurt and carrot top pistou. I also enjoyed the sunchokes, roasted with chanterelles, brown butter hazelnuts and butternut squash puree. Overall, everything was tasty and ideal for sharing.

Smithy's Polenta Dumplings and Mushroom Flatbread. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Smithy’s Polenta Dumplings and Mushroom Flatbread. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Partners in life and in the kitchen, Lauren Herman’s wife, Christina Olufson, is a terrific pastry chef.  The flourless chocolate cake with crushed honeycomb was amazing, as was the butterscotch pumpkin cake. Our friends at a nearby table also raved about the brioche doughnuts, so those are definitely on my list to try next time. 

The cocktails are also worth noting, with creative names like “Ortega Undead II: The Resurrection”  (tequila blanco, lime , thai chile, wild elderflower, falernum and chili-salt rim), “From Tokyo to Mars” (iwai japanese whiskey and bittered grapefruit cordial) and “Baby I’m a Star” (pear and fennel, vodka, fino sherry, absinthe, lemon and peychauds bitters) that are just as delicious as they are irresistible for wordsmiths.

One of several communal dining tables at Smithy Kitchen + Bar, courtesy photo.

One of several communal dining tables at Smithy Kitchen + Bar, courtesy photo.

While I loved the aesthetic of Somerset, Smithy is definitely a more welcoming space, not to mention significantly less expensive. The building’s original exposed brick walls with white weathered board and batten walls, rustic reclaimed table tops, and original school house chairs create a beautiful restaurant that is both airy and open, yet still feels intimate. As is becoming a trend, there are three separate communal tables and bar seating, as well as an additional 130 seats located inside and out, offering a myriad of dining possibilities. The nights I was there, there were large groups of people (both young and less young), lots of couples and smaller groups, as well as some solo diners.

Smithy's Kale Salad. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

Smithy’s Kale Salad. Photo by Kay Cheon, courtesy Smithy.

“We want Smithy to provide a dining oasis in the heart of Santa Barbara,” states owner and designer, Steve Hermann.  “We hope to become that bar/restaurant that feels like home for all of our guests’ dining and drinking needs, whether small or large.  Our food is delicious yet accessible, and our environment is welcoming and comfortable.  We’d like to create a new history with Smithy that matches the history of our iconic Santa Barbara location.”

Smithy is located in downtown Santa Barbara at 7 East Anapamu St.  Call 805/845-7112 or visit Open Table for reservations. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 – 2:30 p.m.; dinner from 5p.m. – close; and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Happy hour runs daily from 4 – 6 p.m.

Leslie Dinaberg 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 29, 2018.

Interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Bar interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Bar interior shot, courtesy Smithy Kitchen + Bar.

Local Dish: Islands Restaurants Sails to Santa Barbara

Islands Hawaiian Burger, courtesy photo.

Islands Hawaiian Burger, courtesy photo.

Family-friendly and surf-inspired, the new Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks is a great fit for La Cumbre Plaza (3825 State St.). Probably best known for specialty burgers, fresh cut fries and tropical drinks, we tried Islands out recently and it didn’t disappoint.

The 4,900 square-foot restaurant (formerly occupied by Marmalade) features an open layout, beach-vibe décor, including surfboard-inspired booths, and a large outdoor patio area, equipped with heaters and a cozy communal fire table.

The expansive menu emphasizes burgers, including the classic Big Wave (your basic burger ingredients), the Hawaiian (topped with fresh grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce and Swiss cheese), and the spicy Kilauea (a Jalapeño & black pepper crusted burger with pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, lettuce, tomato and Island Reds, which are fried onion strings), among others, along with tacos, bowls, fresh salads and fresh-cut Island Fries.

Islands Big Wave, courtesy photo.

Islands Big Wave, courtesy photo.

In the mood for something sweet? Don’t miss the Kona Pie, made with mocha almond fudge ice cream & cookie crust topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, roasted almonds and a cherry on top!

Islands Kona Pie, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Kona Pie, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I can also vouch for the tropical drink selection. Mojitos, Mai Tai’s, Long Island Ice Tea’s, Margaritas, they’ve got it all, as well as locally sourced wine and beer. They have happy hour weekdays from 3-6:30 p.m., with discounted offers on sliders, nachos, beer, wine and cocktails, as well  an all-day happy hour in the bar area as part of March Madness basketball games, in addition to all-day happy hour for Women’s NCAA games for the Final Four (March 30 & April 1). 

Islands Mojito, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Mojito, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

“We’re incredibly proud to open our first restaurant in Santa Barbara, an iconic beach city that resonates with our own coastal culture and origins,” says Michael Smith, president of Islands Restaurants. “We look forward to being a part of this close knit community and offering a spot for visitors to grab great food and drinks with family and friends.”

It’s right in our neighborhood. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Islands Taco and Onion Rings, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Taco and Onion Rings, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Photo courtesy Islands.

Photo courtesy Islands.

Islands Cheddar Fries, courtesy photo.

Islands Cheddar Fries, courtesy photo.

Islands Hula Burger with Island Reds, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Islands Hula Burger with Island Reds, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 22, 2018.

Local Dish: Bibi Ji

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

By Leslie Dinaberg

An innovative take on Indian food paired with locally made wines and locally sourced seafood with Australian influences all adds up to what is easily one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit downtown Santa Barbara in a long, long time!  

Bibi Ji, the new restaurant from James Beard Award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr (who also makes his own wine labels—Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi—nearby in Lompoc) and acclaimed Chef Jessi Singh (who’s been lauded for his inventive “unauthentic” Indian cooking at the popular Babu Ji restaurants in San Francisco, Manhattan and Melbourne) opened this month at 734 State St., a beautiful location across from Paseo Nuevo with an outdoor courtyard overlooking De La Guerra Plaza.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

The name Bibi Ji—an Indian term of endearment for women in the family—pays tribute to the formative women in both Singh and Parr’s lives who cultivated their love for food and hospitality. 

Drawing from his Australian and Indian roots, Chef Singh (who now lives in Santa Barbara) has created a menu featuring his self-proclaimed “unauthentic take” on many traditional American seafood dishes, with a strong focus on using local Santa Barbara purveyors. With the Santa Barbara Farmers Market just steps away, Singh is excited to change his menu regularly depending on what’s available in the market that week.

Currently on the menu are SB UNI Biryani, made with local sea urchin and fried rice—a dish so beautiful plated it looks like a mythical sea creature; Local Oysters with green mango pickle butter (from famed Santa Barbara fish monger Stephanie Mutz); delicious Hope Ranch Black Mussels in a curry broth; and melt-in-your-mouth Aussie Lamb Chops with mint and dill raita and apricot chutney.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

We also enjoyed a zesty array of “unauthentic curries,” such as Beef Korma with beef short rib, curry leaves, cashew and hearty shiitake mushrooms; Unauthentic CTM, Chef Singh’s delicious riff on chicken tikka masala; Coconut Curry with turmeric and mustard seeds and pink shrimp, a dish I’m still dreaming about, even though I normally am not a coconut lover; Chana Masala, with chickpea, dry pomegranate and green mango powder; Punjabi Kadhi, with fenugreek and turmeric yogurt curry; and Bibi Ji Daal, with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.

Bibi Ji's SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji’s SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Favorite dishes from Singh’s Babu Ji restaurants in New York and San Francisco are also on the menu, like Mr. Tso’s Cauliflower, Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato & chili sauce, and Gol Gappa, delicious tangy crispy stuffed shells.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu—offering a variety of favorite appetizers, curries, naan, rice and dessert for $50 per person—is an excellent way to savor a variety of these exciting flavors without having to make a lot of decisions.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

In addition to a “serve yourself” assortment of beers which made my husband’s heart sing, Bibi Ji’s carefully curated wine offerings are designed to complement the playful menu. The wines focus on highlighting organic, biodynamic and natural wines from artisanal producers in Europe, Australia and Santa Barbara. At the moment, producers include Gonon, Jean Michel Stephane, Allemand, Metras, Laporte and Richard Leroy, with varietals ranging from Gamay and Syrah to Riesling and Chenin Blanc, which pair well with the spices in many of the dishes.

Nearly all of the wines at the restaurant will also be available at Bibi Ji’s bottle shop, which is located inside the restaurant and offers an esoteric collection of more than 100 bottles.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

The inviting interior, designed by Chef Singh, features a 40-seat dining room with exposed brick, high ceilings adorned with hanging golden chandeliers and a skylight that brings natural light into the space. A brown leather banquette spans along one side of the restaurant, and on the other side is the 15-seat bar. Pops of color come from red-cushioned dining chairs and bar stools, as well as from the vibrant Indian artwork that decorates the walls. Empty wine bottles, sourced from Parr’s personal collection, are showcased throughout the restaurant.

Bibi Ji is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit bibijisb.com or call 805/560-6845.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2018.

Local Dish: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week returns Jan. 21-27 to showcase wine country restaurants at once-a-year prices.  Back for the eighth consecutive year, Restaurant Week features three-course meals prepared by the Valley’s most creative chefs for just $20.18 Foodies can savor a rare value to celebrate the food and wine pairings that have made this region a gem in California Wine Country.

Representing each of the Santa Ynez Valley’s six distinct communities, 26 restaurants—ranging from the region’s emerging establishments to long-time favorites—will participate in Restaurant Week this year. The list includes a Puerto Rican-inspired menu at Industrial Eats in Buellton, which is donating 100% of the proceeds to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

This year’s list of participating restaurants includes:

RESTAURANTS
Ballard

The Ballard Inn & Gathering Table, 2436 Baseline Ave., 800/638-2466

Buellton

 

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, Bottle Branding photo.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, Bottle Branding photo.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, 35 Industrial Way, 805/686-4742

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.,45 Industrial Way, 805/694-2252

Firestone Walker Brewing Co., 620 McMurray Rd., 805/697-4777

Hitching Post II, 406 E. Hwy 246, 805/688-0676

Industrial Eats, 181 Industrial Way, 805/688-8807

Los Alamos

Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, 550 Bell St., 805/344-3000

Plenty on Bell, 508 Bell St., 805/344-3020

Valle Fresh, 380 Bell St., 805/865-2282

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

Los Olivos

The Bear and Star, 2860 Grand Ave., 805/6861359

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, 2879 Grand Ave., 805/688-7265

The romantic S.Y. Kitchen Firepit at Night , Photo by Rocco Ceselin.

The romantic S.Y. Kitchen Firepit at Night , Photo by Rocco Ceselin.

Santa Ynez

The Lucky Hen Larder, 1095 Meadowvale Rd., 805/691-9448

S.Y. Kitchen, 1110 Faraday St., 805/691-9794

The Vineyard House, 3631 Sagunto St., 805/688-2886

Trattoria Grappolo, 3687 Sagunto St., 805/688-6899

Solvang

Cecco Ristorante, 475 1st St., 805/688-8880

First & Oak, 409 1st St., 805/688-1703

Fresco Valley Café, 442 Atterdag Rd., 805/688-8857

Leonardo’s Ristorante, 632 Alamo Pintado Rd., 805/686-0846

Mad & Vin at The Landsby, 1576 Mission Dr., 805/688-3121

Petros Kafe, 487 Atterdag Rd., 805/686-5455

Root 246, 420 Alisal Rd., 805/686-8681

Santa Ynez Café, 606 Alamo Pintado Rd. #1, Solvang, 805/688-3543

Solvang Brewing Co., 1547 Mission Dr., 805/688-2337

Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie, 1555 Mission Dr., 805/691-9444

The Ridge, 1618 Copenhagen Dr., 805/325-9820

For the latest updates on Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week, including menus and dining hours, visit www.DineSYV.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 20, 2018.

Local Dish: The Bear and Star Chef’s Table

Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in Los Angeles (left) joins the Bear and Star Chef John Cox on Tuesday, January 16 for a special Chef's Table dinner. Courtesy photos.

Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in Los Angeles (left) joins the Bear and Star Chef John Cox on Tuesday, January 16 for a special Chef’s Table dinner. Courtesy photos.

The Bear and Star‘s next installment in their popular Chef’s Table Dinner series features Guest Chef Vartan Abgaryan of critically acclaimed restaurant 71 Above in downtown Los Angeles and takes place on Tuesday, January 16, with two seatings at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Dinner begins with an Amuse – Oyster with Uni, Caviar, Tarragon, Champagne and Parsnip Crème Brûlée; followed by a First of Beet with Tofu, Huckleberry and Black Walnut; then a Second of Sturgeon with Soy Pearls, Black Garlic, Crispy Skin and Finger Lime; Third course of Lasagna with Porcini, Pistachio and White Truffle; Fourth of Turbo with Potato, Leek, Vin Jaune, Meyer Lemon and Smoked Clams; followed by a Fifth of Oxtail with Bone Marrow, Horseradish and Red Sorrel. To finish for a Sixth and final course, guests will enjoy Chocolate with Coffee, Caramel and Pecan. Wine pairings are available for the dinner by The Bear and Star’s General Manager Robert Williams.

The Bear and Star’s Chef Room, photo by Kodiak Greenwood.

The Bear and Star’s Chef Room, photo by Kodiak Greenwood.

Chef Abgaryan, a native Angeleno, was formally trained at Le Cordon Bleu, mentoring at the iconic André Soltner restaurant, Lutèce. He returned to Los Angeles to lead the kitchens of acclaimed restaurateur Tim Goodell’s Red Pearl Kitchen, ‘A’ Restaurant, and Public Kitchen. For the next three years, Abgaryan served as executive chef at Cliff’s Edge Restaurant to great critical acclaim. LA Weekly’s restaurant critic Besha Rodell wrote, “Abgaryan’s food is composed above all else—the chef focuses as much on visual beauty as on taste.”

In 2015, Chef Abgaryan joined forces with Emil Eyvazoff to debut a new, world-class dining destination on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower. At 950 feet above ground level, 71Above is the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi. Offering elevated modern American cuisine, 71Above boasts breathtaking ocean views from Malibu to Laguna Hills, along with spectacular views of the Los Angeles basin and the surrounding mountain ranges. In addition to the magnificent views, 71Above was designed to provide a number of varying dining experiences. Guests may choose to dine within the buzz of the bar or in our adjacent lively main dining room. The Chef’s tables offer views of the open kitchen and transition into a semi-private dining area, offering a quieter and more intimate dining environment.

For reservations, call 805/686-1359 to prepay by credit card or visit Eventbrite for tickets.

Mark your calendars for upcoming guest chef collaborations:

February 25—Chef Neal Fraser, Redbird, Los Angeles

March 21—Chef Josiah Citrin, Melisse, Santa Monica

The Bear and Star is located at 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 9, 2018.

Local Dish: Pacale Beale Launches Les Légumes

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

Popular local chef and cookbook author Pascale Beale has a new book out, the third in the Market Table series (after Salade and Les Fruits) and this one is all about vegetables, titled Les Légumes: Vegetable Recipes from The Market Table.

Filled, as we’ve come to except from Chef Beale, with gorgeous photography and easy to follow recipes, the book can be purchased at  www.pascalekitchen.com, as well as in major retailers and book stores.

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

Some local events and signings are also scheduled, including:

On Saturday, November 4 from 12:30-3 p.m. Beale will have a Cooking Class, Book Signing & Tasting at Buttonwood Farm and Winery (1500 Alamo Pintado Rd., Solvang). Beale will be making dishes from Les Légumes and sharing the delights of cooking with participants. Each dish will be paired with one of Buttonwood’s fabulous wines. Cost: $50

On Thursday, November 16 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. is a Book Signing, Food and Tasting at Santa Barbara Gift Baskets (230 Magnolia Ave., Goleta). Join the owner of Santa Barbara Gift Baskets, Anne Paizier, for a special evening of delicious nibbles from Les Legumes, with a wine tasting and book signing too! FREE.

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

From Les Légumes by Pascale Beale, photo by Media 27.

Porch (3823 Santa Claus Ln., Carpinteria) hosts a Book Signing & Tasting from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, November 18.  Join Beale and the team from Porch for their special TA DA holiday event. Beale will be sampling dishes from her new book, Les Légumes, as she signs copies for you! FREE.

On Sunday, November 19 from noon to 3 p.m. is a Book Signing & Tasting at Riverbench Winery (147 Anacapa St.). Beale returns to Riverbench Winery for an autmnal tasting at the winery. She will be signing copies of her latest book, Les Legumes, as well as offering a tastes from the book. Cost: $20.

On Saturday, November 25 from noon to 3 p.m. join Beale at Zaca Mesa Winery‘s (6905 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos) Thanksgiving Weekend Event for a book signing and tasting with the great tasting-room crew. FREE.

Les Légumes Book Launch Party on Thursday, November 30 at 6 p.m. at C’est Cheese (825 Santa Barbara St.),  where Beale will be signing copies and sampling a dish (or two) from the book. FREE.

For more information and additional book-related events, visit pascaleskitchen.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 15, 2017.