Cocktail Corner: Local Restaurants Earn Wine Spectator’s Top Honors

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As if there were any doubt that Santa Barbara County is Wine Country, Wine Spectator recently honored 20 local restaurants with their highest honors for excellence.

“Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers,” according to the guidelines.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch earned The Grand Award, which is Wine Spectator‘s highest honor, given to only 89 restaurants around the world. According to Wine Spectator, this honor is “given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs. These wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation. These restaurants offer the highest level of wine service.”

Angel Oak at the Bacara Resort & Spa, Los Olivos Wine Merchant & CafeOpal Restaurant & Bar and Wine Cask all earned The Best of Award of Excellence. “These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” according to Wine Spectator.

“We are thrilled for the honor in our first year of opening,” says Anne Elcon, Director of Marketing & Communications at Bacara Resort & Spa.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Also receiving The Award of Excellence, for “wine lists, which typically offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style,” were several other local restaurants: BarbareñoBella Vista at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Bouchon Santa Barbara, Chuck’s Steak House Of Hawaii, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Olio Pizzeria, Olio e Limone Ristorante, S.Y. Kitchen, Sly’s, The Harbor Restaurant, The Hitching Post II, The Lark, Tre Lune and Willows at Chumash Casino Resort.

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 July 14, 2017.

SBIFF Film Feast Returns with 12 Days of VIP Experiences

Film Feast illustration courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

Film Feast illustration courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s fifth annual Film Feast returns from January 27 to February 7, offering 12 straight days of VIP access to the top libations and dining offerings as well as exclusive lodging packages throughout Santa Barbara’s theater district. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), Santa Barbara’s Film Feast is a unique take on Restaurant Week and part of California’s Restaurant Month.

Special menus and hotel packages will celebrate the theme “30 Years of Filmmaking,” with offers available at participating restaurants, wine tasting rooms and hotels throughout Santa Barbara. Visitors and locals alike will enjoy themed offerings inspired by the blockbuster films and indie favorites of the past 30 years.  And don’t forget to share your red carpet experience on Twitter or Instagram using #SBFilmFeast for the chance to win a Santa Barbara getaway and other great prizes!

According to the folks at Visit Santa Barbara, you can rediscover your favorite films with cinema-inspired menus and tasting flights at Santa Barbara’s top restaurants, tasting rooms and lounges, with highlights including:

·         Belcampo Meat Company will run a special meatball sandwich during Film Feast, inspired by 2009 comedy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  Mention the film for a 30% discount on your sandwich!

·         C’est Cheese introduces guests to 2005 British-American animated film Wallace + Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, with a menu featuring Wallace’s favorite cheeses.

·         Ty Lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara will be debuting three specialty cocktails inspired by this year’s festival honorees. Imbibe with a Birdman Martini, an Outstanding Carell Collins or a Cousteau Margarita.

·         Olio Crudo Bar and Olio e Limone Ristorante bring you the flavors and filmmaking of Italy, with exclusive prix fixe menus celebrating 30 years of Italian cinema.

See what’s on the menu at SBFilmFeast.com.  Santa Barbara’s Film Feast 2015 is presented as part of California Restaurant Month, held each January to showcase the destination’s unforgettable dining experiences.  Learn more at DineinCA.com.

 —Leslie Dinaberg

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 25, 2015.

Cocktail Corner: Loving Limoncellotinis

Limoncellotinis combine Limoncello and Vodka to create a deliciously refreshing cocktail. (courtesy photo)

Limoncellotinis combine Limoncello and Vodka to create a deliciously refreshing cocktail. (courtesy photo)

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

As we like to say around here, when life gives you lemons … make Limoncello!

An Italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally made from lemon zest steeped in grain alcohol (also known as the deadly Everclear to those of you who went to college frat parties) until the sunny yellow oils are released, then mixed with a simple syrup to create a strong, sweet lemony digestif, Limoncello is delicious all by itself on the rocks and—as I recently discovered—even more deletable when combined with Vodka to create a Limoncellotini.

Although widely available at our local bars and restaurants, I actually traveled to Portland (no, sadly not the Amalfi Coast) to try this refreshing summer sip at the wonderful a Cena Ristorante last week. Talk about a match made in heaven! The Limoncellotini (featuring the restaurant’s house-made Limoncello) paired delightfully well with the house-made Agnolotti pasta, featuring corn and mascarpone raviolini and butter-poached Maine lobster.

My mouth waters just typing those words, that’s how good it was!

Luckily for us, California lobster season is coming up soon, plus we also have the wonderful Ventura Limoncello Company right in our backyard, and plenty of convenient locations stock this regional delicacy, including The Biltmore Four Seasons Resort, Crocodile Restaurant, Maggie’s at State & A, Olio e Limone Ristorante, TOMA and Tydes Restaurant & Bar at the Coral Casino, among others.

If you want to make your own Limoncellotini at home, recipes vary from the simple (combine one part Limoncello with two parts Vodka and shake) to extremely complicated variations involving flavored Vodkas, fresh juices, edible flowers and magic spells. OR here’s a simple video explanation from the Ventura Limoncello Company and Lure Fish House.

Cheers!
Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.

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.”