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: 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.

Cocktail Corner: Oh Hanukkah!

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

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

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

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

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

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

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

Then, on Monday, December 18, the second-to-last night of Hanukkah, the holiday party travels to K’Syrah Catering & Events’ venue (478 4th Pl., Solvang), where a ticketed reception will showcase eight different Hanukkah-inspired plates in a passed hors d’oeuvres format. A cash bar will also be available that evening, offering a full bar plus creative craft cocktails entailing ingredients traditionally used in Jewish holiday celebrations. Tickets for the food portion of the evening of December 18 are $25 per person if purchased through December 13, or $30 per person if purchased after December 13 or at the event entrance, and are available at 8-days-edible-hanukkah-collaboration.eventbrite.com. (Cash cocktail bar is not included in the ticket price.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets for the Tuesday, December 19 finale event run $85 per person with optional wine pairings for an additional $40 per person, and are available at 8-days-edible-hanukkah-collaboration.eventbrite.com (advance ticket purchase is required).

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

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

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

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

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

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 6, 2017. 

Local Dish: A Flavorful Feast at Finch & Fork

Finch & Fork's Kanpachi Crudo, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Kanpachi Crudo, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Some good news for Goleta: longtime Finch & Fork Executive Chef James Siao has taken on the dual role as Executive Chef of the Canary Hotel‘s sister property, Outpost at the Goodland. For the past five years, Siao has done an excellent job creating elevated comfort food at Finch & Fork. Our recent meal was no exception. 

Executive Chef James Siao, courtesy photo.

Executive Chef James Siao, courtesy photo.

Leaving our menu in Siao’s very capable hands, we started the evening off with the beautifully bright Kanpachi Crudo, made with avocado and cilantro crema, pickled pearl onions, jicama, yuzu and jalapeño. This was followed by a seasonal salad of Burrata & Heirloom Tomatoes, complimented with stonefruit, kale & pistachio pesto and outstanding grilled bread.

Finch and Fork Burrata and Heirloom Tomatoes, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch and Fork Burrata and Heirloom Tomatoes, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I could have died and gone to heaven quite happily right there, but Siao continued to bring out wonderful dishes, including a creamy Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli made with spinach, peas, preserved lemon and pecorino; and an incredibly flavorful Cauliflower, with romesco, hazelnut dukkah (an Egyptian nut and spice mix) and lemon.

Finch & Fork's Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The entrees (yes … there was still more!) were also terrific. A colorful Duck Breast with carrot cardamom puree, farro, onions and blackberry gastrique and perfectly prepared Sea Scallops with gold beet relish, grapefruit, chorizo vinaigrette and sliced avocado.

Finch & Fork's Cauliflower, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Cauliflower, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I can’t wait to see what Siao does with the Outpost menu. According to Spokeswoman Nicole Lazar, “Siao looks to add dishes that fit perfectly into the laid-back and sociable setting, including playful interpretations of classics. At Outpost, expect to see more sharable plates that highlight the season’s best, and focus on vibrant, flavorful ingredients. He and the culinary team at Outpost are currently working on new menus, starting with dinner, so stay tuned for exciting new creations.” 

Finch & Fork's Sea Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Sea Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

For more information on Finch & Fork (31 West Carrillo St. at the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara), visit www.finchandforkrestaurant.com. For more information on Outpost (5650 Calle Real at the Goodland hotel in Goleta), visit www.outpostsb.com

Finch & Fork's Duck Breast, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Duck Breast, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 14, 2017.

Local Dish: Santa Barbara Author Pens “A Visitor’s Guide to Mexico City Street Food”

Courtesy photo.

Richard Lambert, the local chef behind the beloved (and now gone) Santa Barbara Tamales To Go, has turned his culinary talents toward Mexico City’s colorful street food scene with a new book, A Visitor’s Guide to Mexico City Street Food, that turns the spotlight on the world’s number one travel destination (New York Times).

Lambert lived in Mexico City for much of last year with his daughter Juliet, who owns a restaurant and catering business there, and says he “grabbed the opportunity to eat my way across the city, finding something new on every street. The options are endless when there are an estimated half million street food vendors in the city.”

Cleverly written, with tongue-in-cheek chapter titles like “Tacos are King of the Night” and “The Salsa Tells You Who is Cooking,” Lambert’s 37-page guide provides street food recommendations, descriptive photos, food and health safety tips, and on-the-street videoclips. The ebook also comes with a separate 40-page Spanish-English glossary of food terms, which is particularly useful, as Lambert describes Mexico’s pambazos, tlayudas, arrachera, costras and huitlacoche as “some of the best street foods you’ve probably never heard of, and will have fun discovering.”

Courtesy photo.

For the record, pambazos are a Torta (sandwich) that takes its name from the bread it is traditionally made with, pan basso. Lambert writes, “This peasant roll is chewy-tough and able to hold up well when it is split and fully dipped in guajillo chile sauce and briefly fried. The roll is then filled with potatoes, chorizo, refried beans, lettuce, crema, and garnished with queso fresco. This torta originated in Mexico City.”

He describes tlayudas as “large, thin crusted, fried or toasted tortilla covered with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables and salsas. It is often called a Mexican pizza because it looks similar. The tlayuda originated in the state of Oaxaca.”

Arrachera is “thin sliced, grilled hanger steak with spice and cilantro marinade. (A) popular taco filling.” Costras are a “popular late night Mexico City street food item that is like a taco, but the ‘tortilla’ is made of cheese that is melted on a grill and then wrapped around the filling of your choice.”

Courtesy photo.

Courtesy photo.

Huitlacoche, (pronounced “wheet-lah-KOH-cheh”) is “a fungus that invades growing corn kernels and changes them into soft blackish lumps,” writes Lambert. “In the United States, it is called corn smut or devil’s corn, and is treated as a disease. In México, however, it is prized as a culinary delicacy and is even referred to as a Mexican truffle by gourmet chefs. Huitlacoche is used to flavor quesadillas, tamales, burritos, soups, as well as other dishes.”

If those descriptions don’t make you hungry, flipping through the ebook’s colorful photos certainly will.  A Visitor’s Guide to Mexico City Street Food is $12.95, and may be ordered online here.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 12, 2017.

 

Local Dish: Angel Oak Celebrates its One-Year Anniversary

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Believe it or not, it was about a year that Angel Oak first opened its doors, offering a unique twist on the traditional steak and seafood concept—not to mention that killer ocean view! 

The signature restaurant of Bacara Resort & Spa celebrates its one-year anniversary with a community party on June 25. To showcase Angel Oak’s appreciation to the local community, the restaurant hosts a “One Under the Sun” party on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. The leisurely afternoon includes chef bites, lawn games, live music and dozens of local wine and craft beer tastings. All of the festivities take place on Angel Oak’s expansive outdoor patio and bluff overlooking captivating ocean views.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa's new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa’s new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate our first anniversary, which represents a significant milestone for our resort and destination,” says Vincent Lesage, executive chef of Bacara Resort & Spa. “Our goal was to build a restaurant that would stand the test of time. We are honored our local community has embraced us.”

Tickets for One Under the Sun are $50 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. A special guest room rate starting at $250 (normally $500) is also available. Space is limited. For tickets and more information, please visit AngelOakSB.com. Angel Oak at Bacara Resort & Spa is located at 8301 Hollister Ave.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 20, 2017.

Local Lowdown: The Dish on Santa Ynez Valley’s New Eateries

Bacon & Brine burger by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Bacon & Brine burger by Tenley Fohl Photography.

From refined ranch cooking to gourmet burgers and creative couplings of unexpected ingredients to upscale wine country cuisine, the Santa Ynez Valley has a host of terrific new places to dine out and indulge in this summer.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Beer & (Big) Bites in Buellton

“The Kitchen” at FigMtnBrew is now open and, as Executive Chef Brian Champlin vows, this place definitely has, as he modestly states, “under-promised and over-delivered!” The eatery now offers a full menu of beer-friendly gastropub fare such as creative burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, tacos, salads and more. Our group particularly loved the 21+ and over grilled cheese, Davy Brown nachos and chorizo cheese fries—but honestly, everything that came out of the kitchen was delicious, especially paired with craft beers like Fig Mtn Mosaic and Paradise Rd. Pilsner.

Jeff Hawxhurst, left, and Brian Champlin of The Kitchen at FigMtnBrew, courtesy photo.

Jeff Hawxhurst, left, and Brian Champlin of The Kitchen at FigMtnBrew, courtesy photo.

“We wanted to provide top-notch food with great prices,” says General Manager Jeff Hawxhurst, a longtime local chef who started his career as a teenager working at the original Habit in Goleta and most recently worked with the Chumash Casino Resort. “The casual environment helps us keep prices affordable while offering fresh farm-to-table cuisine.”

Champlin also has impressive foodie credentials, most recently as co-owner and executive chef of Succulent Café in Solvang. Taking the farm-to-table concept up a notch, “Our brewery actually gives our spent grain to a local farm who then feeds it to their cattle. We are then able to serve the local beef on our menu. It’s a sustainable cycle that ensures we know what’s in our food and where it is coming from. We call it ‘brewery-to-farm-to-table’ cuisine.” The Kitchen, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, 45 Industrial Way, Buellton,
FigMtnBrew.com.
 

Refining Ranch Cuisine at The Bear and Star

The Bear and Star (a nod to patriarch Fess Parker’s California and Texas roots) gets its culinary inspiration from the 714-acre Fess Parker Home Ranch located seven miles away, where 75 head of Wagyu cattle are raised and finished with the spent grains and pomace from the family brewery and winery, along with chickens, quail, rabbits, pigs, bees and a number of heirloom fruits and organic vegetables.

The Bear and Star by Kodiak Greenwood.

The Bear and Star by Kodiak Greenwood.

This impressive ecosystem was developed under Chef/Partner John Cox’s passion and vision. Also integral to the restaurant is a 30’ custom reverse-flow Texas smoker that he specially designed for slow smoking and barbecuing many of the dishes. Cox, formerly with Sierra Mar at Big Sur’s renowned Post Ranch Inn, has created an inventive ranch-inspired menu offering lunch and dinner items like Wagyu Fries with garden herb aioli; deviled ranch eggs with Santa Barbara urchin and espelette; fried green tomatoes with “cheese wiz” and BBQ spice; Parker Ranch Wagyu burger with smoked cheddar, tomato jam and butter pickles; crispy catfish with re-fried black-eyed-peas and “blackened” smoked tomato sauce; Wagyu meat loaf with potato puree, garden vegetables and pan jus; Parker Ranch chile with cheddar, chives and cornbread crouton; local stuffed quail with farro risotto, bay laurel and red wine demi glace; and an array of steaks, ribeyes and filets, among other items.

Highlights for breakfast are dishes of cheddar biscuit and country gravy; steel cut oatmeal brûlée with local blueberries and caramelized palm sugar; and smoked Wagyu hash with farm eggs, root vegetables and lemon-thyme hollandaise.

The Parker family’s acclaimed wines are prominently featured and the offerings also showcase expressive small-production wines from Santa Barbara County’s most sought-after wineries, and beyond, as well as a stunning
wine-walled private dining room. The Bear and Star, Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn, 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, 805/686-1359, thebearandstar.com.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro

Already offering one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences in California—with its expansive “Wine Wall” of 52 constantly changing wines available by the taste, half glass or full glass—the new Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro has stepped up its cuisine tremendously, with a new restaurant concept from Executive Chef Owen Hanavan, the former Head Chef of Barbareño, whose culinary résumé includes time spent at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara and the Michelin-starred COI Restaurant in San Francisco.

Utilizing a bounty of locally sourced organic produce, meats and fish, a recent sampling of Chef Owen’s creations was so delicious that it’s hard to name a favorite dish. Definitely high on my list are the beautifully plated “Sixteen Spiced Pork Shoulder” (with almond rice pilaf, date glaze, romanesco broccoli and lemon oil), melt-in-your-mouth New York strip (with sousbise, duck fat potato, chimichurri and crispy leeks) and yellowtail (with poached tuna, rice cracker, nori vinaigrette and micro cilantro). In addition to the elevated evening cuisine, the lunch and midday menus include a variety of small plates (the lamb meatballs on housemade potato chips are divine), as well as sandwiches, salads and pizzas sure to please every palate.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, photo by Bottle Branding.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, photo by Bottle Branding.

Also a crowd pleaser is the view of Terravant Winery’s popular custom-crush facility, which shares the space with Bottlest Bistro and the soon-to-be-launched bottlest.com online wine experience, where you can craft your own wine (and labels) from start to finish, based on a sliding scale of personal preferences. For more information, visit bottlest.com. Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, 35 Industrial Way, Buellton, 805/686-4742,
bottlest.com/bistro.

Blissful Bellies at Bacon & Brine

Hyper local culinary entrepreneurs Chef Pink and Courtney Rae DeLongpré’s Bacon & Brine sits at the top of the ever-evolving Santa Ynez Valley food chain. This delicious addition to the Solvang scene opened last summer to eager fans and customers of the duo’s previous sandwich shop. With guidance from Chef Pink, we ate our way through much of the menu, an impressive gastronomic collection of delights that evidence the couple’s full commitment to utilizing local organic vegetables and organic grass-fed pasture-raised animals. In fact, none of their food items come from more than 10 miles away, except spices and seasonings, which are all fair-trade.

Bacon & Brine by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Bacon & Brine by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Beef, chicken and vegetarian options mingle with the pork menu items (all of the cattle and poultry come from Shadow Creek Ranch, a small Santa Ynez Valley farm), but the flavors are even more impressive than the menu’s provenance. Our favorites include Korean Fried Chicken (KFC), “The Hipster” sandwich (buttermilk fried chicken, shredded lettuce, pickle and aioli on a doughnut bun), the kimchi burger (wagyu beef, bacon, housemade “legit” kimchi, farm egg, chives and bacon aioli), fried Brussels sprouts, roasted beets and the to-die-for salted caramel bacon doughnuts.

Chef Pink, the “bacon” half of this business, is a 17-year food and restaurant industry veteran who has worked with California chefs and restaurants stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco, as well as in New York and Paris kitchens. She’s also a bit of TV food celebrity, appearing on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and FYI’s Man vs. Child.

The “brine” half of “Bacon & Brine” is Courtney Rae DeLongpré, a proponent of healthy eating with a passion for food, nutrition and small-scale homesteading, which led to her studies of traditional old-world food preparations, segueing to her fermentation craft.

“We want to share with the surrounding community our personal mix: fine dining techniques using local ingredients and our use of fermentation to create flavor profiles, which let those ingredients shine,” says Chef Pink. “I’m meshing my years of training as a proper chef, with our philosophies of hyper-local organic, whole, sustainable food systems…and my love of, and allegiance to, a great food experience that’s accessible to everyone.” Bacon & Brine, 1618 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, 805/688-8809, baconandbrine.com. Hours vary by season.  

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

Outpost Menu Highlights New Flavors for the New Year

Bao Buns at the Outpost, courtesy photo.

Bao Buns at the Outpost, courtesy photo.

The New Year brings a new menu to Outpost at the Goodland, where Chef Nick Bajal has added seasonal dishes to his already very tasty menu.

Start with one of the new starters, like the Plantain Empanada with pork carnitas, tomatillo broth, and queso fresco; or the Crispy Chicken Thighs with miso potato salad, Korean chili cucumber and grilled lime. Next, move on to larger plates, like the Acorn Squash with red quinoa, shaved heirloom carrot, ginger vinaigrette, crispy lotus root and pickled fresno chili; the Confit Duck Leg with coriander vinaigrette, greens, mirin roasted apples and parsnip; or Lamb with braised red cabbage, nori butter peas and crispy white sweet potato.

Outpost has also made some changes to the “Pick Three” smaller bites section, offering a variety of street tacos and bao-buns, like a Mushroom Bao-Bun with hoisin leeks, scallions and sesame seeds, and the Seafood Scrapple Bao-Bun with uni aioli and green onion.

Don’t miss dessert! New to the menu is a tasty Mexican Spiced Chocolate Pudding with salted caramel whipped cream and crispy sugar cookie.

Outpost at the Goodland is located at 5650 Calle Real, Goleta, www.outpostsb.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 26, 2017.

Local Dish: Les Marchands Expands Food Offerings

Clockwise: Cheddar- Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche, Couscous Salad, Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad Photo credit Laura Ray

Clockwise: Cheddar- Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche, Couscous Salad, Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad
Photo credit Laura Ray

Best known for having an impressive variety of wines and exceptional wine education classes and special events, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant has expanded its menu options to include an everyday lunch menu created by Chef Weston Richards

The lunch menu includes snacks like Pastrami Fries and Cheddar-Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche.

Also available is a Couscous and Tomato Salad with feta, olives, avocado and Moroccan spice, the Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad, and a Cold Fried Chicken Sandwich with blue cheese dressing and house-made pickles served on Helena Avenue Bakery brioche. Chef Weston’s Weekly Cheese and Charcuterie Selections are available for lunch and throughout the day. 

Oven Roasted Porchetta, Rosemary Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Salsa Verde | Photo Credit Laura Ray

Oven Roasted Porchetta, Rosemary Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Salsa Verde | Photo Credit Laura Ray

In addition, Les Marchands has added Porchetta Thursdays, featuring a new Porchetta Dinner in addition to the regular menu options.

 Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

 Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant is located at 131 Anacapa St., 805/284-0380.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on August 21, 2016.