Cocktail Corner: Spring Delights at S.Y. Kitchen

Fennel & Raspberry Sour (fennel vodka, fresh raspberry, lemon, lime, simple syrup and dill) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Fennel & Raspberry Sour (fennel vodka, fresh raspberry, lemon, lime, simple syrup and dill) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

S.Y. Kitchen Mixologist Alberto Battaglini takes his spring cocktail inspiration from local market produce, herbs and botanicals. He’s created three new seasonal cocktails to delight your senses.

The Fennel & Raspberry Sour—made with fennel vodka, fresh raspberry, lemon, lime, simple syrup and dill—has a nice balance of sweet and herbal flavors, as does the Pineapple & Basil Mojito—made with the Real Mccoy three year Private Barrel Rum, pineapple, basil, lime and sugar. Mescal is one of the hottest ingredients in cocktails right now, and Battaglini combines it with tequila, basil, jalapeño, cucumber and salt to create La Gritona, a handcrafted blend designed to pair perfectly with S.Y. Kitchen Executive Chef Luca Crestanelli‘s seasonally driven Italian cuisine.  

Pineapple & Basil Mojito (with the Real Mccoy 3 year private barrel rum, pineapple, basil, lime and sugar) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Pineapple & Basil Mojito (with the Real Mccoy 3 year private barrel rum, pineapple, basil, lime and sugar) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

A native of Verona, Battaglini dreamed of a restaurant career when he was still in elementary school. Attending Scuola Alberghiera, he learned the fundamentals of cooking and food service, and soon learned that being a chef was not for him. He did, however, start his ardent love affair with spirits, which took him to Gatwick, London where he met his mentor in mixology, Ian Slater. Battaglini then further honed his mixology passion and skills in Spain and Mexico before meeting up with his old school friend Chef Crestanelli at Bar Toscana in Brentwood.

This spring, as one of the few finalists in the western division, Battaglini competes for the regional win for the United States Bartenders Guild which moves on to the national competition in June.

La Gritona (tequila, mescal, basil, jalapeño, cucumber and salt) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

La Gritona (tequila, mescal, basil, jalapeño, cucumber and salt) is one of the new spring cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Battaglini says, “The soul of mixology is found in all the old recipes that we twist with modern ingredients and tools, to play with tastes and to give every customer an extraordinary experience.”

Check them out at S.Y. Kitchen (1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez), and let us know what you think.

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 March 20, 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.

Cocktail Corner: Toasting the New Year

Local favorite band King Bee performs at Dargan's on New Year's Eve, courtesy photo.

Local favorite band King Bee performs at Dargan’s on New Year’s Eve, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to the New Year!  By Leslie Dinaberg

There’s no shortage of great ways to ring in the New Year in Santa Barbara County! Here are a few options to start 2018 off in style:

King Bee at Dargan’s, courtesy photo.

King Bee Dance Party at Dargan’s

One of my favorite local bands, King Bee, performs a rare New Year’s Eve at Dargan’s. They’ll have a full menu available, including a champagne toast and a filet and shrimp special, as well as loads of dancing and loads of fun! This is a ticket-only event ($10), with limited dinner seating.

Dargan’s is located at 18. E. Ortega St. in downtown Santa Barbara. For more information, click here.

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

The Bear and Star, photo by Grey Crawford.

The Bear and Star’s Jazzy Celebration

The Bear and Star, Los Olivos’ hot new restaurant, which has been quickly embraced by food lovers for Chef John Cox‘s inspired, refined ranch cuisine, celebrates New Year’s Eve with a lively jazz quartet reminiscent of bygone days and a five-course menu.

Begin the evening with a flute of complimentary Fesstivity Rosé Sparkling Wine and Sunny Side Quail Egg, Black River Caviar and Tater Tot; followed by a Spicy Winter Greens with Smoked Lamb Bacon, Caramelized Apple and Pomegranate Vinaigrette; then a course of Shrimp & Grits with Santa Barbara Spot Prawn and Stone Ground Grits. The main course is a Petite Wagyu Filet with Cast Iron Sunchoke Hash, Brussels Sprouts and Bone Marrow Bordelaise. Top off the evening with Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake with Fuyu Persimmon and Speculose. Pricing for the prix-fix New Year’s Eve Dinner is $95 per person, with optional pairings by General Manager and Sommelier Robert Williams offered at $50 per guest.

For reservations, call The Bear and Star (2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos) at 805/688-7788 or visit OpenTable.com

Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

Outpost at the Goodland, courtesy photo.

New Year’s Eve 1920s Countdown Party at the Goodland

Party like its 1920 at Goleta’s Goodland and Outpost restaurant’s 1920s inspired countdown party! Wear your best flapper dress or pinstripe suit  and get into the speakeasy spirit. General admission tickets are $10, which gets you access to Goodbar and a champagne toast at midnight. VIP tickets are $20, which includes access to Goodbar and an exclusive speakeasy with a specialty welcome cocktail, passed appetizers specially a live jazz band and DJ, and a champagne toast at midnight.

The Goodland is located at 5650 Calle Real, Goleta. For tickets, go to https://nightout.com/events/new-years-eve-countdown-party/tickets.

DJ Darla Bea, courtesy photo.

DJ Darla Bea will spin into the wee hours on the rooftop at the Canary, courtesy photo.

Get Glitzed & Glammed Then Get Down at Finch & Fork and the Canary this New Year’s Eve

Kick off the New Year in style with dinner at Finch & Fork, where Executive Chef James Siao prepares a tasteful a la carte menu with specials set to festive décor and served with a champagne toast. Guests can also ring in the New Year by taking part in Finch & Fork’s New Year’s Eve tradition, where from 11 p.m.-midnight they’ll be serving complimentary passed bites and offering a midnight toast. Reservations: 805/879-9100

After dinner, head to the Canary’s rooftop for spectacular views and, starting at 9 p.m., the Canary’s Glitz, Glam & Get Down rooftop celebration, which includes a welcome cocktail, midnight toast and sweet bites from Finch & Fork. DJ Darla Bea will be spinning and setting the tone for the New Year! Tickets to the Glitz, Glam & Get Down party at Canary are $110, and can be purchased at NightOut.com.

 The Canary and Finch & Fork are located in downtown Santa Barbara at 31 West Carrillo St. Call 805/879-9100 for reservations.

Champagne, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Champagne, courtesy S.Y. Kitchen.

Ring in the New Year at S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez 

In dedication to the rich provisions found in the Central Coast, Chef Luca Crestanelli and his brother, Sous Chef Francesco, have planned a bountiful and elegant dinner to celebrate New Year’s Eve. 

In addition to S.Y. Kitchen’s dinner menu, start the evening off with a platter of freshly-shucked Kumamoto Oysters with Mignonette; or a Dungeness Crab Salad with Frisée, Mushroom, Green Apple and Pomegranate. For the Pasta course, try Francesco’s hand-made Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragout and Pecorino Romano. Main courses include fresh Wood-Fired Roasted Orata with Saffron-Braised Fennel, Tomato Confit and Roasted Castelvetrano Olives; and a tender Wood-Oven Grilled Delmonico Steak with Porcini Mushrooms, Polenta and Black Truffles. Finish the evening with an extraordinary Italian Tortino al Cioccolato crafted by Francesco Crestanelli.

Optional wine suggestions by Sommelier Bingo Wathen are also available by the glass or bottle, featuring Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut; Araldica Barbaresco 2014; and Ronco del Gelso Pinot Grigio 2015. The holiday menu items are offered à la carte and are meant to be enjoyed alongside other seasonal offerings and signature dishes from S.Y. Kitchen’s dinner menu.

S.Y. Kitchen is located at 1110 Faraday St. in Santa Ynez.  For reservations, call 805/691-9794. 

Chumash Casino Resort New Year’s Eve Dance Party featuring The Boogie Knights and The Spazmatics

Fill your New Year’s Eve with flashbacks from the 1970s and ’80s as you dance the night—and the year—away at the Chumash Casino.

The party kicks off at 9 p.m. in the Samala Showroom and is free for all Club Indulge members. The Boogie Knights were originally formed in 1992 as a Halloween gag in Los Angeles. Almost overnight, the group took the live music scene by storm. Complete with choreography, polyester, afros and bell bottoms, The Boogie Knights have been proclaimed “The greatest disco revival show in the world.” You can expect to hear covers from Disco sensations such as Heatwave, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, The Bee Gees, Kool and the Gang, the Village People, Rick James and Earth, Wind and Fire.

When The Spazmatics take the stage, you’ll find yourself feeling right back in the 1980s. Complete with skinny ties, brylcreem hair, and horn-rimmed glasses, The Spazmatics deliver the ultimate new wave ‘80s show. The band specializes in music from favorites such as Duran Duran, Men at Work, The Knack, Thomas Dolby, Men Without Hats and Devo.

The Chumash Casino is located  at 3400 Hwy. 246 in Santa Ynez, Tickets for all events are available at the Chumash Casino Resort’s Club Indulge or online at www.chumashcasino.com. 

For even more New Year’s Eve celebration ideas, Visit Santa Barbara has compiled a great list. Go here to to get the scoop!

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 22, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Cheers to Fall Cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen

S.Y. Kitchen's new Kiwi-Tini, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s new Kiwi-Tini, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year in the Santa Ynez Valley. Why not toast the season with one of General Manager and Mixologist Alberto Battaglini‘s delicious and creative new fall cocktails at S.Y. Kitchen!

S.Y. Kitchen's new Fig & Licorice Margarita, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s new Fig & Licorice Margarita, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Now available are five new fall cocktails inspired by autumn’s seasonal local market produce, herbs and botanicals. In addition to the restaurant’s impressive list of specialty drinks, Kiwi-Tini; Pom-Passion; Fig & Licorice Margarita; Honey & Berry Sour; and the Kiwi Caipirinha are now on the menu, designed to complement the acclaimed cuisine by Executive Chef Luca Crestanelli. 

S.Y. Kitchen's new Pom-Passion, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s new Pom-Passion, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Battaglini is renowned for his infusions of spirits and bitters from a local bounty of fruits, vegetables and herbs. He says, “The soul of mixology is found in all the old recipes that we twist with modern ingredients and tools, in order to play with tastes to give every customer an extraordinary experience.”

S.Y. Kitchen's new Kiwi Caipirinha, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s new Kiwi Caipirinha, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, the Kiwi-Tini is made with kiwi, vodka, lime & parsley, while the Pom-Passion is a mixture of pomegranate, basil, gin, lemon & simple syrup. The Fig & Licorice Margarita has fig, licorice, tequila, lime & agave; the Honey & Berry Sour has crème de mûre, gin, lemon, honey, egg white & violet; and Kiwi Caipirinha is made with kiwi, cachaca, lime & sugar.

S.Y. Kitchen's new Honey & Berry Sour, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s new Honey & Berry Sour, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

Try them all … and let us know what you think! S.Y. Kitchen is located at 1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez, 805/691-9794, sykitchen.com.

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 November 10, 2017.  

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.

Cocktail Corner: Sweet Summer Sips

Eureka's new summer cocktails, courtesy photo.

Eureka’s new summer cocktails, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Santo Mezcal's Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Nothing says summer like sipping a Margarita on the rocks on 4th of July weekend, as far as I’m concerned, but if you want to mix it up a bit, there are lots of great cocktail options around town.

Switching out Tequila for Mezcal is one way to change things up, and Santo Mezcal (119 State St.) has some delicious options in that regard. Try the Margarita Jamaica with Mezcal (or Tequila) and spiced hibiscus syrup, lime and hibiscus flowers for a drink that’s as pretty as it is tasty.

Sama Sama Kitchen (1208 State St.)  is always coming up with interesting cocktail concoctions, and right now they’ve

Sama Sama Kitchen's Cherimoya Daquiri, courtesy facebook.com.

Sama Sama Kitchen’s Cherimoya Daquiri, courtesy facebook.com.

got a seasonal Cherimoya Daiquiri on the menu, made with white rum, spiced liqueur, cherimoya juice, orange blossom honey and lime. Yum!  

Alberto Battaglini, the talented Mixologist at  S.Y. Kitchen (1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez), has a delicious Watermelon Cooler on the menu right

S.Y. Kitchen's Watermelon Cooler with gin, watermelon, lemon and gomme syrup, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s Watermelon Cooler with
gin, watermelon, lemon and gomme syrup, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

now, made with gin, watermelon, lemon, gomme syrup. This is summer in a glass! 

And what could be more summery than a cocktail called Tan Lines, new on the menu at Eureka! (601 Paseo Nuevo) and made with vodka, Chareau Aloe, lemon, mint, watermelon and sparkling wine. 

Bar 29 (1134 Chapala St.) is a fun, newish place to do some summer sipping. New to their menu this month is The Arlington, made with Bourbon, White Peach, Grapefruit, Lemon and Honey.

The Arlington at Bar 29, Courtesy photo.

The Arlington at Bar 29, Courtesy photo.

Sweet and summery!

Viva!  (1114 State St.) has an extensive Margarita menu, including  a delicious Blackberry Margarita made with fresh lime, agave, and Combier blackberry liqueur.

And of course, we can’t leave out the Blood Orange Margarita at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (2981 Cliff Dr.), made with Mastero Dobel Blanco, blood orange, lime and  Triple Sec served with a salted rim. (Add fresh jalapeno for some heat!) Your cares will melt away as you watch the sunset over the water and sip this refreshing treat.

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 June 30, 2017. 

 

Cocktail Corner: Test Your Taste Buds

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Are you curious to learn all about the secrets behind recognizing a wine from just a glance and a taste? Next week, on Thursday, May 18, you can try your skills at blind tasting. Starting at 6 p.m. at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St., Ste. B),  Advanced Sommelier Emily Johnston leads a fun, interactive event that is open to everyone at any level of wine knowledge.

Sommelier Secrets is a monthly series of SOMM-led tastings, and at $25 per person, it’s a fun way to deepen your general knowledge and also learn about new wines.

The SOMM tastings take place on the third Thursday of each month. They’re basically guided educational events hosted by Johnston and focused on understanding the nuances of a specific wine producing region or a particular grape. The tasting is comprised of flights of three or four wines to highlight classic styles and current trends.

This is an opportunity for wine lovers of all experience levels to learn more about wine in the most enjoyable way possible.

Les Marchands, photo by Rob Stark.

After the blind tasting on May 18, next up is a White Burgundy Tasting on June 15.

“Tasting wines that speak to a region is not only a key study tool of mine, it can also be a method of transport to another place or time,” states Johnston. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more wine lovers in our community and sharing this experience.”

Johnston’s early training includes interning at Brander Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley followed by wine sales for a small Italian wine import company in Santa Barbara. Thoroughly inspired, Johnston left for Italy to study as a sommelier at ALMA Scuola Internazionale di Cucina’s Wine Academy where she received the highest academic honors in her class

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

and achievement in Italian fluency. She became a Certified Sommelier with the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) in 2011 while working alongside AIS Master Sommelier, Roberto Jacquemod Pane.

She became a Certified Advanced Level Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2016. Before arriving at Les Marchands as General Manager in 2017, Johnston served as Wine Director/Sommelier for the Toscana Restaurant Group overseeing the wine programs at four operations–Toscana, Bar Toscana, S.Y. Kitchen and Nerano for four years.

At Les Marchands, she oversees the wine bar’s ever-changing menu of selections, educational programs and retail offerings. In 2015, she was awarded Zagat’s “30 Under 30” award for young talent to be watched in the hospitality industry.

For further information and to make reservations contact Les Marchands at 805/284-0380, email inquiries@lesmarchandswine.com, or visit www.lesmarchandswine.com.

Cheers! 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 May 12, 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.

Cocktail Corner: Walt Wines

Clos Pepe Vineyard, photo courtesy Walt Wines.

Clos Pepe Vineyard, photo courtesy Walt Wines.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

“Wines of a Place” was the theme for a recent media event put on by Walt Wines, and this place was certainly a beauty!

We started the day boarding a shuttle at the Bacara Resort & Spa, which was all abuzz with World of Pinot Noir festivities coming up that weekend. Thanks to our recent rains, the hills were abundantly lush and green as we made our way north on the freeway to the renowned Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Lompoc.

Megan Gunderson Paredes and Steve Leveque lead a tasting of Walt Wines "Clos Pepe" Pinot Noir, photos courtesy Walt Wines.

Megan Gunderson Paredes and Steve Leveque lead a tasting of Walt Wines “Clos Pepe” Pinot Noir, photos courtesy Walt Wines.

Founder Steve Pepe (who retired in 2015, giving Walt Wines a long-term lease on the vineyard) led us on a walking tour of the vineyard, which is acclaimed for producing excellent wines under the Clos Pepe label, as well providing grapes, from 1998-2014, to pinot noir and chardonnay producers such as Walt (Hall Wines), Siduri/Novy Wines, AP Vin, Liquid Farm, Arcadian, Au Bon Climat, Hitching Post, Ojai Vineyard, Ken Brown Wines, Longoria Wines, Babcock Winery, Loring Wine Company, Flying Goat Cellars, Small + Tall, Conarium and Wan Fiore Project.

“Great wine is about place,” said Pepe, as a lead in to our vertical tasting of Walt “Clos Pepe” Pinot Noir vintages 2013, 2014 and 2015. All were delicious—and unique—and as we sipped Walt winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes walked us through

WALT Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, courtesy photo.

WALT Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, courtesy photo.

the process that went into creating these three wines. They use optical sorter technology to hand-sort the fruit, with the ability to make adjustments throughout the process, as she explained. For example, in 2013 harvest took place in October and in 2015 they lost 30-40% of the crop to frost and started harvest much earlier, in late August.

The company—is part of the Hall Wines family in Napa Valley, owned by Vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall—has a unique approach to crafting Pinot Noir. Essentially, as Vice President of Winemaking Steve Leveque explained, Walt sources its fruit from premier vineyards along the Pacific Coast representing 1,000 miles of Pinot. Each wine is designed to express the character of the site where it is grown.

Tasting the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Clos Pepe Walt Wine Pinot Noirs, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Tasting the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Clos Pepe Walt Wine Pinot Noirs, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

In addition to Clos Pepe, in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Walt also sources grapes from Rita’s Crown, Radian, Bentrock and Fiddlestix.  They also create estate and single vineyard wines from Santa Lucia Highlands, Anderson Valley, Los Carneros (Napa County), Sonoma Coast and Willamette Valley—hence, the 1,000 miles of Pinot.

Clos Pepe Vineyard, courtesy Walt Wine.

Clos Pepe Vineyard, courtesy Walt Wine.

After the tasting we made our way to S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez for a delicious Italian feast, paired with Walt Wines from other appellations, including:

—Lobster tail, onion mousse, fried salsify and citrus with Walt 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

—Yellow beet, pickled plum, hazelnuts, goat cheese and fresh lemon thyme with Walt 2014 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

—Prosciutto and Burrata with Walt 2014 Rita’s Crown Hills Pinot Noir

and

—Ricotta gnocchi with taleggio and porcini with Walt 2015 Bob’s Ranch Pinot Noir.

Walt Wine pairing lunch at S.Y. Kitchen, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Walt Wine pairing lunch at S.Y. Kitchen, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Talk about a delicious day. For more information, visit www.waltwines.com.

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 March 10, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: S.Y. Kitchen’s Refreshing Spring Cocktails

SOL y ARENA made with fresh pineapple, cilantro, smoked agave, mescal, lime, roasted pineapple bitter, chipotle powder, courtesy SY Kitchen.

SOL y ARENA made with fresh pineapple, cilantro, smoked agave, mescal, lime, roasted pineapple bitter, chipotle powder, courtesy SY Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Inspired by our warm, spring days, S.Y. Kitchen Mixologist Alberto Battaglini has added five creative new cocktails to the menu, all inspired by local market produce, herbs and botanicals.

Battaglini is the General Manager and resident Mixologist at S. Y. Kitchen where he creates his own infusions of spirits and bitters from a local bounty of fruits, vegetables and herbs.  “The soul of mixology is found in all the old recipes that we twist with modern ingredients and tools, in order to play with tastes to give every customer an extraordinary experience,” he says.

His newest cocktails include:

DOUBLE FRENCH BERRIES with cognac, blackberry, raspberry, mandarin napoleon infused with vanilla, simple syrup, courtesy SY Kitchen.

DOUBLE FRENCH BERRIES with cognac, blackberry, raspberry, mandarin napoleon infused with vanilla, simple syrup, courtesy SY Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

DOUBLE FRENCH BERRIES

cognac, blackberry, raspberry, mandarin napoleon infused with vanilla, simple syrup

 SOL y ARENA

fresh pineapple, cilantro, smoked agave, mescal, lime, roasted pineapple bitter, chipotle powder

VALLEY GIRL made with berries, mint, vodka, sambucus nigra, lime, vanilla sugar, courtesy SY Kitchen.

VALLEY GIRL made with berries, mint, vodka, sambucus nigra, lime, vanilla sugar, courtesy SY Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

 VALLEY GIRL

berries, mint, vodka, sambucus nigra, lime, vanilla sugar

S.Y. JULEP with mint, cynar, grapefruit juice, zesty attitude bitter, courtesy SY Kitchen.

S.Y. JULEP with mint, cynar, grapefruit juice, zesty attitude bitter, courtesy SY Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

 S.Y. JULEP

mint, cynar, grapefruit juice, zesty attitude bitter 

SELLE FRANÇAISE with cucumber, raspberry, gin, sambucus nigra, simple syrup, courtesy SY Kitchen.

SELLE FRANÇAISE with cucumber, raspberry, gin, sambucus nigra, simple syrup, courtesy SY Kitchen. Photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

SELLE FRANÇAISE

cucumber, raspberry, gin, sambucus nigra, simple syrup

 S.Y. Kitchen is located at 1110 Faraday St. in Santa Ynez. For further information visit www.sykitchen.com.

Happy spring sipping! 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 April 29, 2016.