Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History‘s beloved wine festival, and they are commemorating the event with a new name—the Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival—which more accurately reflects the bounty of sips and bites found at this signature fundraiser.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

While the food and the wine have always flowed freely at the festival, this year events manager Meridith Moore has set a goal to have 50 food vendors on the roster this year to accompany the 50 wineries. “My hope is that the name change will help to attract even more of Santa Barbara county’s incredible food vendors and highlight the ones that have been participating all these years,” she says.

As of press time, food vendors include: BarbarenoBenchmarkBob’s Well BreadBrophy Bros.Buena OndaCa’ DarioCoffee Bean and Tea LeafChooket/Your Cake Baker, Corazon CocinaCountry CateringFarmer BoyFinch and Fork RestaurantGelson’s ~ Santa BarbaraHelena Avenue BakeryHippypopIl FustinoIndustrial EatsLa MousseLa SorelleLoquitaMichael’s CateringMr. E’s FreezeMulberry LovePacific Pickle WorksPicoRenaud’s Patissiere and Bakery , Slate Catering CoSolvang BakeryThe Bear and StarThe Berry ManTondi GelatoVia Maestra 42 and Whole Foods Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

Wineries pouring this year include: Alexander & WayneAlma RosaAndrew Murray VineyardsArea 5.1Arthur Earl WineryAu Bon ClimatBabcock WineryBeckmen VineyardsBedford WineryBlair FoxBrander VineyardBrewer-CliftonButtonwoodByron by NielsonCa Del GrevinoCambriaCarr Vineyards and WineryCasa DumetzCebada, ConsilienceCORECrawford Family WinesDierbergDe PaolaEpiphany CellarsFalcone Family VineyardsFeliz NocheFess Parker Winery & VineyardFiddlehead Cellars,

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

Flying Goat CellarsFoxenGainey VineyardsGrassini Family VineyardsHilliard BruceJaffurs Wine CellarsJamie SloneKalyraKen Brown WinesKenneth Volk VineyardsKoehler WineryKuninLaFond WineryLarner WinesLongoriaLoring Wine CompanyLumenMargerum Wine CompanyMelvilleMosby Winery & VineyardMunicipal WinemakersNotary Public WinesOreanaPalminaPoint ConcepcionPotekPure Order Brewing CompanyQupéRancho Sisquoc WineryRefugio RanchRideauSagebrush Annie’sSanta Barbara WinerySilver WinesSpear WineryStar Lane VineyardSunstone WineryTablas CreekTatomerTercero WinesThird Window BrewingToucan WinesTranscendence WinesVogelzangWhitcraft Winery and Zaca Mesa.

The beautiful grounds of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta del Sol) are a wonderful spot to appreciate being out in nature, and what better way to enjoy a summer weekend than sipping wine underneath the oaks along Mission Creek? Especially when the proceeds go to support the work of the museum. The event takes place on Saturday, June 24.

Guests 21 and older may purchase admission on the Museum’s website (www.sbnature.org/winefestival). This event is always a sellout, so if you want to join in the fun, act quickly or you not get tickets.

Hope to see 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 on June 2, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Easter Dining and a Toast to Spring!

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Spring is in the air, so what better time to sample some of the lovely new libations at our local watering holes. Hop on over and give these spring cocktails and dining options a taste:

Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, courtesy photo.

Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, courtesy photo.

Ty Lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara has a delicious Smoked Apricot Daiquiri—featuring Zaya 12 Year Rum, Apricot Puree, Chipotle Simple Syrup and Lemon—that will tingle your tastebuds. Bella Vista Restaurant at the Biltmore is always an elegant spot for brunch, but they’re an extra “Hoppy” Easter celebration for the whole family at Santa Barbara’s most beautiful al fresco setting, with an abundant holiday buffet, featuring traditional favorites as well as an extensive selection of seafood, salads, house-made pastas and carvings. Click here for reservations.

The Bottomless Bellini at Belmond El Encanto, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Bottomless Bellini at Belmond El Encanto, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The beautiful rooftop Easter Brunch at the Canary is a special place to celebrate the holiday with breathtaking views, great food and live music. Finch & Fork Executive Chef James Siao has seasonal brunch items available like Create-Your-Own Omelets, a Pastry and Bread Bar, Seafood and Carving Stations, and an indulgent dessert table. Reservations can be made by calling 805/879-9100.

The Bottomless Bellini Brunch at Belmond El Encanto is another great way to toast the holiday season. The Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne is flowing every Sunday, with delectable California-coastal cuisine and live jazz music. A seasonal selection of shared appetizers starts the experience. Then, select from à la carte entrées like Seared Local Swordfish or Riviera Clam Bake. Following this sumptuous meal, head to The Wine Room where an irresistible selection of desserts awaits. Click here for reservations.

Cocktails at the Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

Cocktails at the Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

Outpost at the Goodland is also serving brunch this Easter, where Chef Nick Bajal will be serving a buffet full of brunch favorites. Start with one of his tarts, like the PB&J or Summer Squash with cherry tomatoes and cheese, or the Crab Biscuit with uni butter. Then move on to Baked Egg Frittata with ham, asparagus and goat cheese, Chicken & Waffles with tabasco maple syrup and Build-Your-

Breakfast at Viva!, courtesy photo.

Breakfast at Viva!, courtesy photo.

Own Tacos. And don’t forget to order a brunch cocktail like a house Bloody Mary or lead bartender Chris Burmeister‘s signature Smokemosa (made with Scotch, orange juice and sparkling wine). Call 805/964-1288 to reserve your Easter brunch seat. 

Spice up your spring at Viva!, which is now serving both brunch and breakfast (and excellent Mimosas in three flavors—cranberry, peach or raspberry—Bloody Mary’s and “Turtle Juice” with homemade agua fresca and Cruzan Rum) on its beautiful patio with the turtle filled pond in La Arcada. Try the Upside Down Pancakes, assorted Breakfast Burritos, Southwest Scramble or Breakfast Tacos for some inspired modern Mexican cuisine. Click here for reservations.

Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch is always a treat, but their Easter Brunch menu is especially spectacular. It features specialties like Jumbo Lump Crab Benedict, Pepper Crusted Wagyu Striploin and Citrus Cured King Salmon, along with sparkling wine, mimosas and bellinis. Call 805/565-1700 for reservations.

Loquita, photo by Kaitlin Chamblin.

Loquita Tortilla Espanola, photo by Kaitlin Chamblin.

Loquita‘s three-course Easter brunch begins with a choice of Charcutería  y Queso or Manchego Tasting, followed with a choice of one Tapas per guest—Patatas Bravas,  Ensalada de Cítricos, Chorizo Picadillo, or Tortilla Espanola. That’s followed by Torrijas–Spanish French Toast with Cara Cara Orange & Crema Catalana—and a choice of their splendid Sangria–Sangria Rojo with Tempranillo, Torres Orange Brandy & Lemon;  Sangria Blanco with Albarino, Gin & White Peach or house Agua Frescas. Click here for reservations.

The Easter Brunch at Les Marchands features an array of menu items from Chef Weston Richards, including House-Made Ricotta with Seasonal Jam & Brioche Toast; House-Made Chorizo & Butternut Squash Frittata with Parmesan Cheese; Breakfast Poutine with Sausage Gravy, Cheddar Cheese & Poached Egg;  and Tres Leches French Toast with Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Berries, among others. Guests can also  indulge in specialty cocktails like the Easter Pamplemousse Spritz with Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice, Muddled Basil Leaf, Topped with Crémant Rosé, Splash of Soda and Grapefruit Garnish, as well as variety of other cocktails, wines and beers. For reservations, click here.

Breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach is always beautiful

Breakfast at the BoatHouse, courtesy photo.

Breakfast at the BoatHouse, courtesy photo.

(can anyone beat that view!). Try one of their many Breakfast Benedicts (Classic, Pork Belly, California or Smoked Salmon style Eggs Benedict, all with breakfast potatoes) or French Toast with a “Pancake Breakfast Cocktail” (Tullamore Dew/Butterscotch schnapps, OJ chaser and a strip of smoked bacon) for a special Easter treat. They don’t take reservations, so go early and plan to take a stroll on the beach to work up an appetite.

If an Easter lunch is your preference, head to Santa Ynez, where Alberto Battaglini of S.Y. Kitchen presents five new spring cocktails inspired by the warming temperatures, first of the season local market produce, herbs and botanicals: the Chamomile Sour; Spring

Pear & Honey Bramble pear-infused gin, honey liquore, pear, lemon, gomme syrup, crème de mure, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Pear & Honey Bramble, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Negroni; Rio Nexpa; Rustic; and the Pear & Honey Bramble. Try the T-Bone Truffle Sliders, Wild Mushroom Papardelle or Yellow Beet Salad for lunch. You won’t be sorry! The wrap-around patio is an especially lovely spot to toast the season as well. Click here for reservations.

The Lark offers a tasty array of Easter holiday dinner specials such as Deviled Easter Eggs, Grilled Texas Quail and Roasted Banana Panna Cotta, as well as debut spring menu that includes Brillat Savarin Triple Crème Brie, Colorado Lamb Sirloin Tartare; Dungeness Crab Risotto; Slow-Roasted Niman Ranch Ribs; and ‘Shrimp & Grits’ with Fresh Caught Kauai Prawns. Toast the holiday with craft cocktails, like the new-to-the-season Hummingbird and Jackrabbit; as well as house specialties like Alice’s Flip; JP’s Paloma; Black Manhattan; The Mule; Old Aztec; El Topo; Industry Sour; and the Dirty One-Thirty-One. Click here for reservations.

Cheers to the season! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

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.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on April 7, 2017.

Local Lowdown: Alcazar Wins Official Drink of SB Bragging Rights

The competition heats up as the eventual winners from Alcazar Tapas Bar prepare their entry for 2017 Official Drink of Santa Barbara craft cocktail contest. Photo by Danielle Methmann

It was a heated contest, but Alcazar Tapas Bar’s Ginspiration Point came out the big winner in the 2017 “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” craft cocktail contest.

An homage to Inspiration Point, one of the most famous—and famously beautiful—hiking trails in Santa Barbara’s foothills, this refreshing, citrus-forward cocktail features locally sourced ingredients—from the base spirit, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits Gin, to Nostrum’s Pineapple Turmeric Ginger Shrub—along with Bénédictine, Chartreuse, and fresh produce and herbs sourced from Santa Barbara farmers markets: lime, mint, rosemary flowers and egg white.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to be carrying the torch for Santa Barbara’s cocktail community among some truly gifted barkeeps,” says Alvaro Rojas, owner of Alcazar Tapas Bar, who was joined by bartender Kyle Pete at the competition. “This cocktail is really an homage to the local makers and growers that have made Santa Barbara not only a beautiful place to live but also a world-class pantry of ingredients.”

The cocktail will be on the menus at both Alcazar (1812 Cliff Dr.) and its sister restaurant, milk & honey (30 W. Anapamu St.), for the remainder of the year.

Visit Santa Barbara challenged local restaurants, bars and lounges to develop a new, unique signature mixed drink to celebrate the distinctive attributes of The American Riviera. The other four finalists were “La Reina” by The Boathouse; “Montecito” by Loquita; “True North, The Quintessential Santa Barbara Cocktail” by Olio e Limone; and “The Passion of the Pacific” by Rodney’s Grill at Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort.

I was honored to be part of the judging panel, and they were all quite delicious.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

Enjoy the Holidays at Loquita

Paella from Loquita, photo by Laura Ray.

Paella from Loquita, photo by Laura Ray.

Executive Chef Peter Lee of LOQUITA and POQUITA—the new hot spots Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone—has special celebratory menus for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking these restaurants out yet, the holidays are a perfect time to do so.

In addition to the complete menu that Loquita has made popular with bold flavored Mediterranean dishes of olives, lemons, tomatoes, peppers, vinegars, Jamon and Sherries, simply executed and beautifully plated, on Christmas Eve, Chef Lee’s specials feature Bunuelo de Bacalao—Salt Cod, Potato, Lemon & Nora Chili Aïoli; and Cannelloni with Mushroom, Foie Gras; Bechamel & Manchego. Reservations are recommended and are available from 5–8:30 p.m.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Loquita presents elegant New Year’s Eve specials, in addition to their acclaimed menu, perfect for an end of year celebration. Selections include Foie Gras with Figs, Dandelion Greens & Celery Root; Paella con Costilla – Iberico Pork Ribs with Artichokes, Mushrooms, Iberico Soffrito, Grilled Lemon & Herb Aïoli; and Cochinillo Asado – Suckling Pig with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Mojo Verde. Loquita’s chefs will display a live “performance art,” preparing the Paella con Costilla outdoors on the patio in a huge paella pan for all guests to experience. Reservations are recommended and are available from 5–10:45 p.m.

Also now open is Poquita, the little sister of Loquita, a perfect choice for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for those seeking a spontaneous evening. Drop in while exploring the Urban Wine Trail, drinking in the colorful ambiance of the Funk Zone.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Poquita serves many of the same delicious pintxos, tapas, cheeses and charcuterie as Loquita at their artful, standing-room-only pintxos bar, ideal for casual small bites without the structure of a reservation. Hours are 5 p.m. – midnight.

Also starting on New Year’s Day, Loquita begins serving Sunday Brunch. Chef Lee introduces his inspired daytime menu of exquisite Spanish specialties created with a Santa Barbara sensibility—a Paella Pan Skillet with either Mushroom, Tomato, Spinach, Potato, Eggplant, Chermoula & Eggs; or Chorizo with Bell Pepper, Tomato, Potato, Broccolini, Parsley & Eggs; Benedicts on Pan De Cristal in two versions – Jamon Serrano, Spinach, Eggs & Chorizo Hollandaise; or Cured Salmon, Pickled Red Onion, Eggs & Lemon Hollandaise. Try Lee’s two spins on the Tortilla Espanola – Traditional with Potato, Onion, Frisee & Herb Aïoli; or Especial with Avocado, Piquillo, Potato, Onion, Mushroom & Chorizo. Loquita brunch hours are 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and will continue every Sunday after the new year. 

To view all holiday menus visit Holiday Menus or www.loquitasb.com/nye.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, “an endearing Spanish colloquial term for a wild, fun loving young girl, is a playful love letter to the Spanish origins and history of Santa Barbara.” The space is designed by San Francisco restaurateur and designer Doug Washington, who created the distinctive styling at The Lark, Lucky Penny, Les Marchands, Santa Barbara Wine Collective and Helena Avenue Bakery. Architect Joe Andrulaitis and the Young Construction team led by Rick Musmecci completely restored the historic building that has served as numerous restaurants and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission over the past century. Interior finishing touches by Stephanie Greene Fuller incorporated handsome furnishings fabricated by Brothers of Industry of Carpinteria.  

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita, photo by Rob Stark.

“I was inspired by a quote I read in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine that said ‘Spain is a country with a big heart, a big thirst for wine, a big appetite for great food and a big affinity for art, music and sports.’ Those who live, work and play in Santa Barbara share these values,” says Sherry Villanueva, Managing Partner for Acme Hospitality, the group behind the restaurant. Bringing a Spanish restaurant to the Funk Zone has been something she has envisioned since the space first became available more than two years ago.

“Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish colonial history has defined our city in ways that span architecture, food, wine and even informs our community celebrations. It’s the right time to dedicate our next restaurant to the incredible culture and food that Spain is known for, but interpreted by a contemporary California sensibility that is our company’s signature,” says Villanueva. “It’s no wonder that Spain is recognized as one of the greatest countries for food and dining today.

The restaurant is located at 202 State St., 805/880-3380.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 19, 2016.