Eat For Good: The 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity Challenge

Take part in a delicious opportunity to help support worthy causes

It’s been quite a year, and the fact that 2020 is drawing to a close seems like reason enough to celebrate by dining at local restaurants in support of some worthy causes.
This issue marks the fifth 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity challenge, and a great selection of eateries in the region have agreed to participate once again this year.

Each participant has selected a favorite dish or created a special new one for the challenge, and for each and every one sold during the months of November and December, they have pledged to donate $2 to the charity of their choosing. Last year’s challenge raised more than $17,300 for 22 deserving nonprofits. Generous local restaurants have stepped up to the plate once again, even during this unprecedented time when restaurants themselves need support just like the charities they’re supporting.

This spirit of giving is so heartwarming, we hope that you too will be inspired to participate by dining at these community-minded venues.

This year, Acme Hospitality’s ( Funk Zone restaurants, Helena Avenue Bakery, The Lark, Loquita, and Lucky Penny have all chosen to support Know Your Rights Camp ( “Acme Hospitality’s company ethos is greatly aligned with Know Your Rights Camp,” says spokesman Willie Simpson, adding “the equality and well-being of all employees is what builds a strong business and community. We know there is still much more work to be done in the fight for civil rights and equality for all Americans. We acknowledge our responsibility to be part of the solution. Know Your Rights Camp elevates a new generation of Black and Brown change leaders through education, self-empowerment and mobilization.” Details about the individual restaurants’ involvement follow.

Helena Avenue Bakery
Chef Isaac Hernandez’s Carpinteria Avocado on Sourdough Toast layers fresh local avocado, Persian cucumber, sunflower seeds, French feta, and sprouts on a toasted slice of Helena Avenue Bakery’s fresh sourdough bread; diners can further elevate the dish with a poached egg. Bakery manager Wyatt Davidson hopes the popular take on avocado toast will be a great selection to boost their donation.

The Lark
Executive chef Jason Paluska’s Hand-Cut Tagliatelle Pasta, made with grilled sweet corn, sungold cherry tomatoes, garlic, serrano chile, shaved bottarga, preserved lemon, and Old Bay–seasoned breadcrumbs, is a hearty fall favorite at The Lark. The popularity of this locally sourced, handmade pasta plate makes it a promising candidate for the charity challenge.

For this year’s challenge, Loquita picked executive chef Nikolas Ramirez’s signature Mariscos Paella, featuring locally sourced fish, scallops, octopus, sobrasada (cured
pork sausage), manila clams, squid ink sofrito (a Spanish sauce made from onion, green pepper, and garlic), yuzu, and salmon roe. It was manager Stephanie Perkins who
brought Know Your Rights Camp to Acme’s attention. “I believe it is crucial for the younger generation to know their rights, to truly understand who they are, and to learn they have
the power to change future generations for the better,” she says.

Lucky Penny
Chef Dante Bogan chose the Margherita Pizza for this year’s challenge, knowing its popularity among patrons getting takeout and eating on Lucky Penny’s new extended patio. A classic that appeals to many diners, including vegetarians, the wood-fired pizza is topped with San Marzano marinara, burrata, cherry tomatoes, and opal basil.

At Bell’s, where the menu is “Franch-inspired” (borrowing from both French and ranch-style cuisines), chef Daisy Ryan’s Egg Salad Sandwich is an iconic selection. “We feel something as simple and satisfying as an egg salad sandwich really speaks to our collaboration with No Kid Hungry (, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty,” says Ryan, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Gregory Ryan.

Belmond El Encanto
“While our doors were closed to the public due to the global pandemic, we partnered
with Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade ( to make and provide masks for those in need, and we were able to provide hundreds of handmade masks,” says Belmond Encanto spokeswoman Julia Solomon. “We look forward to supporting them in their future endeavors.” To that end, the restaurant chose sous chef Carlos Ramirez’s Seared Wild King Salmon, caught fresh and prepared with herbs, spices, summer squash, shallot confit, and tomato jus, as its featured menu item to benefit the community crisis–response organization.

Bibi Ji
“As a Latino business owner, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to La Casa de la Raza
(, an organization that helps educate Latino youth about their culture and build community,” says Bibi Ji co-owner Alejandro Medina. “I am hopeful that one day any of these kids may own a local business themselves and be able to do the same.” The restaurant’s designated dish is Chicken Tikka, which Medina’s business partner Rajat Parr grew up eating at his home in Kolkata, India.

Cello Ristorante & Bar
Chef de cuisine Ben Drahos opted for Cello’s Certified Black Angus Filet. The oak pit–grilled steak is served in a red wine demi-glace with horseradish mascarpone and seasonal vegetables. The dish will benefit the nonprofit Bailliage de Central Coast Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs ( Currently overseen by Allegretto Vineyard Resort food and beverage manager Thomas Humphrey, the organization supports the development of young chefs and recently raised money for the culinary program at San Luis Obispo’s Cuesta College.

Chulo’s Cafe & Cantina
“The Huevos Rancheros is our signature dish,” says Chulo’s executive chef Luis Ruiz. It “speaks to our Mexican heritage, and we love sharing our delicious culture with our patrons.” The menu item will support the anti-racism organization R.A.C.E. Matters SLO ( “We are so grateful to have a local charity on the ground here in SLO doing the work and fighting the fight for equality and justice for people of all colors, religions, histories, and sexual orientations,” he says. “We love to support them in any way we can.”

Finney’s Crafthouse
“My family has supported this amazing charity Support for the Kids ( for many years,” says Finney’s owner Greg Finefrock. Dedicated to providing educational enrichment and comprehensive services to underprivileged and foster children and their families in Ventura County, the organization provides essentials like food, clothing, and school supplies. For this year’s challenge, Finefrock has selected a new menu item: executive chef Eric Bosrau’s Bison Burger, made with bison sourced from Flocchini Family Ranch in Wyoming.

Goat Tree at Hotel Californian
“In the wake of the current pandemic, it has become more important than ever to feature whole-animal butchery,” says Goat Tree executive chef Travis Watson. “The Braised Oxtail Tagliatelle features an often-overlooked cut of beef in a dish that nurtures the soul as we welcome the cooler seasons.” The pasta entrée is earmarked to support the Dream Foundation (, which helps realize the dreams of terminally ill adults
and provides emotional support to them and their families.

Lido Restaurant & Lounge
Lido’s picked Crab Cakes, a favorite starter among locals. “Being nestled along the Central Coast and having the privilege to sit and watch the sunset while dining on these tasty morsels is the perfect recipe for a truly breathtaking experience,” says spokeswoman Christina Stieb. “That wouldn’t be possible without our beautiful Pacific Ocean. That’s why we chose the Ocean Conservancy ( as our charity, to protect and conserve the very thing that gives us the main ingredients of the dish and many others.”

Little Calf Creamery
“We are creating unique spins on a frozen dessert classic just in time for the holidays,” says Little Calf Creamery owner Scott Levin, whose two new treats will support Special Olympics Ventura (, an organization that enriches the lives of nearly 600 athletes who have intellectual disabilities. For the November Mud Pie, a graham cracker crust is filled with Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream topped with an oatmeal crumble. For the December Mud Pie, an Oreo cookie crust is loaded with peppermint-stick ice cream
sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy.

Los Agaves Restaurant
Los Agaves Restaurant’s Land & Sea Molcajete, a hearty stew with steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, and grilled nopal, is the ultimate Mexican comfort food and a cult favorite, especially during the cold season. “We serve you so we can be of service to others,” says owner Carlos Luna. “For every dish sold, Los Agaves will donate $2 to the Santa Barbara Zoo ( to support and sustain a beloved community treasure that educates so many children, families, and visitors in the region.”

Milk & Honey Tapas
“Burrata is always in season at Milk & Honey, so this is our nod to the cheese we love so much and the earthy flavors of fall,” says chef-owner Alvaro Rojas of the Falling For Burrata plate he designated to support the Organic Soup Kitchen (, which produces and delivers soup meals to the elderly and
low-income cancer patients. “ ‘Take your food as your medicine or your medicine will
be your food,’ is a quote that resonates with me, given that my father, grandmother,
and uncle all died of cancer,” says Rojas, who admires the nonprofit’s nutritional
approach to treatment.

Oku Restaurant
Oku executive chef Koji Nomura happily created a new dish for this year’s 805 Living
challenge to support the work of CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse;, which provides addiction prevention, education, and treatment services to teens and adults in Santa Barbara County. The 805CADA Roll is as delicious as it is beautiful, says co-owner Tina Takaya. Featuring fresh wild-caught salmon, crispy shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber, and a sauce made from fresh shiso leaf, miso, and yuzo, the roll is finished with flying fish roe and served with a side of sriracha aioli. “We enjoyed creating a special sushi roll for an amazing cause,” Takaya says.

Olio Pizzeria
“Our Umbra pizza is a signature favorite,” says Alberto Morello, executive chef and co- owner of Olio Pizzeria. “You may need to order an entire pizza just for yourself, it’s so addictive.” Morello selected the dish, which showcases Umbrian black truffles, to support
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (, an organization that provides financial, educational, and emotional support to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San
Luis Obispo county families with a child who has cancer.

Opal Restaurant & Bar
Since they opened Opal Restaurant & Bar 20 years ago, owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates have been deeply committed to supporting the Arthritis Foundation ( by
participating in and often chairing its Taste of the Town fundraiser, Santa Barbara’s oldest wine and food event. That event could not be held this year, but Takaya and Yates offer their continuing support to the organization that provides assistance to people living with the disabling disorder by taking part in the 805 Living challenge with a riff on a local Opal favorite, the Chicken & Wild Mushroom Chipotle Pasta Charity Special.

Pico Restaurant
Earmarking Pico’s donation to the Save the Waves Coalition (, a nonprofit founded by the restaurant’s co-owner Will Henry to protect surf ecosystems across the globe, executive chef John Wayne Formica designates his Crispy Viet Brussels, made with garden herbs, carrot, red onion, chilis, fried shallot, and coconut-chili-lime agrodolce (sweet-and-sour sauce). The starter manifests the chef’s desire to share his experiences while traveling.

Santo Mezcal
Santo Mezcal executive chef Ricardo Garcia picked Enchiladas Verde—two chicken or beef enchiladas topped with special house-made verde sauce and served with rice and pinto beans—to support the Santa Barbara Zoo ( A cause that’s close to
owner Carlos Luna’s heart, the zoo relies on donations to provide the best possible care for its resident animals and to impart conservation education.

Vina Robles Vineyard & Winery
“Our communities rely now more than ever on the support of food banks for access to wholesome nutrition,” says spokeswoman Catherine Jaeger. “Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery supports the SLO Food Bank ( to raise awareness as it works to meet the increased demand in our communities.” Served at the winery’s alfresco bistro, the Vina Robles Burger—made with grass-fed beef and topped with roasted portabella
mushrooms, garlic aioli, arugula, and red onions sautéed in a rosemary-infused reduction of Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and balsamic vinaigrette—is the dish designated for the challenge.

Water’s Edge Restaurant & Bar
“It’s an ode to our local strawberries,” says Water’s Edge executive chef Alex Montoya of his Straw-Brie Crostini, which he says has “bright and light flavors, each with a different texture for you to enjoy in every bite.” The starter will support Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties (, because he says, “being able to make a child’s wish come true or to even be a part of that process has always been a dream of mine.”

Wood Ranch
The rich, decadent WR Butter Cake is a proven favorite at Wood Ranch. Served with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh raspberries, and raspberry sauce, “it’s popular beyond all our expectations,” says director of culinary development Alejandro Benes. The dessert will benefit Happy Trails Children’s Foundation (, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the prevention and treatment of child abuse and provide fun activities and support for foster children.

To see more 805 Living Dishing It Out For Charity challenge chefs and dishes, visit

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Flight Paths

Flight Paths, originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Flight Paths, originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

November is a great month to venture outside and get to know some of the local feathered flock. “You don’t need to be an expert birdwatcher to join our walks,” says Conejo Valley Audubon Society ( vice president Richard Armerding, who leads monthly Beginner Bird Walks at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. Join him on November 11 to see many of the oak-woodland birds that are common in the Conejo Valley area. You may see a white-crowned sparrow—they migrate from Canada and Alaska this time of year—as well as Western meadowlarks,” Armerding says.

Also on the Audubon calendar is an Arroyo Simi Field Trip on November 14. This area of Simi Valley is home to an assortment of shorebirds, ducks, herons, and gulls. At all events, “We are happy to help people get started and give them tips and pointers,” says Armerding. Because of physical distancing, he notes, his groups are currently limited to 15 people, so reservations are required. “We’re a very welcoming group. We are always excited to see people who are getting newly into the hobby of birding,” he says.

Visit for information on how to contact field trip leaders to sign up for these and other activities.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

A Drive For Vital Training

Rusnak/Westlake Porsche outfits a 2020 911 in a vinyl-wrap tribute to fallen
hero Sgt. Ron Helus to garner attention for a joint fundraising effort with the
Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation toward the new Helus Training Facility.

To honor the memory of Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in the line of duty during the 2018 Thousand Oaks shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill that claimed 12 lives, Rusnak/Westlake Porsche (, has joined the Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation on a mission to fund and build a new tactical, live-fire training facility named for the fallen hero.

“Community support for the new facility has been overwhelming,” says Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation board member Christina Conley. In less than a year, she says, the Foundation has raised half of the $800,000 needed to fully fund the construction of the state-of-the art facility, which will better prepare law enforcement officers for modern-day threats, such as maneuvering, coordinating, and securing locations under live-fire conditions.

To help raise awareness for the project, Keith Goldberg, general manager of Rusnak/ Westlake Porsche had a vinyl wrap made for a 2020 Porsche 911 that was inspired by Helus/hero badge designs that appear on local sheriff’s vehicles. “It really meant a lot to me to do something for the victims,” says Goldberg. “It was a great honor not only to bring awareness to what happened but also to do something in Sgt. Helus’s memory to fundraise for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation.”

The Hero911 Porsche is now displayed at community events to draw awareness to the fundraising effort to build the Helus Training Facility. For more information or to donate, visit

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

A Fashion Line for a Lifeline

Morgan Lexi Mitchell (top, right) donates half of the profits from her Only Kid fashions and accessories to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Looking to combine her artistic expression with suicide awareness and prevention, 17-year-old Westlake High School junior Morgan Lexi Mitchell designed the Only Kid ( fashion line. “I wanted to find a way to support National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” says the Assisteens of Conejo Valley volunteer, who donates 50 percent of the profits from the sales of her colorful stickers, iPhone cases, hoodies, and beanies.

“I had been playing around with the idea of Only Kid for some time,” Mitchell says. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I had a lot of time on my hands, and that idea became a reality. Quarantine gave me the time I needed to develop designs and products.

“I wanted to make a difference in a way that personally relates to me,” she explains. “I have struggled with depression, and I wanted to showcase my art in a way that would raise awareness for suicide prevention, which is often a silent struggle.”

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Gym Handy

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

There’s no need to miss a workout since DreamQuest Fitness ( launched its mobile gym experience.

The brainchild of fitness trainers Jose and Tiffany Fernandez, the fold-out trailer housing all the necessary equipment in a hygienic workout space comes to exercisers’ homes and offices in the Conejo Valley, Moorpark, Simi Valley, and Calabasas.

“It wasn’t until the pandemic struck that we both realized the necessity for a mobile gym,” says Tiffany. “We believe there are a vast number of people, like us, who are fitness-minded and feel uncomfortable with our new normal.”

Book a fitness assessment, a one-one-one or group personal training package, or open workout sessions (from $12 per hour) for up to 12 participants (face coverings required) via the website.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

A Cup of Appreciation

Vega Coffee works with rural farmers in Central and South America to produce the coffee it delivers to everyday heros here at home.

Vega Coffee works with rural farmers in Central and South America
to produce the coffee it delivers to everyday heros here at home.

Santa Barbara-based Vega Coffee ( is all about connecting people. Working with craft roasteries in Nicaragua and Colombia, cofounders Rob Terenzi, Noushin Ketabi, and Will DeLuca developed a network of seed-to-cup coffee professionals
for their import business, which focused primarily on home deliveries and college customers until the pandemic hit.

When colleges closed due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, the three partners developed the Coffee for Community Heroes Program to offer customers the option to send specially
priced coffee care packages to first responders, healthcare workers, grocery store teams,
mail carriers, and others to whom they wish to express gratitude. “Orders are going to hospitals, fire departments, nursing homes, to all of the everyday heroes who are keeping our communities safe and strong,” says Terenzi.

Employers are even getting in on the act by fueling their work-from-home teams with
special coffee deliveries. 805 Living readers who’d like to try a cup of community for themselves can use the code 805LIVING to receive 20 percent off all Vega Coffee
website purchases.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Pedaling Sourdough

Bread Bike co-owners Mariah Grady and Sam DeNicola
deliver their freshly baked sourdough loaves via bicycle.

One of Sam DeNicola’s goals as the founder of Bread Bike (,
a community-supported bread bakery and delivery service based in San Luis
Obispo, is to feed and get to know as many people in the community as possible.
“I really like getting to see the people who are going to eat it,” DeNicola says of his
company’s fresh wares. “Just yesterday when I knocked on a door, two little girls
squealed, ‘Yay, it’s the bread guy!’ ”

Co-owners DeNicola and Mariah Grady bake about 300 loaves a week of 100
percent organic, naturally leavened sourdough bread in various flavors, which
are delivered by bicycle to subscribers’ homes and pick-up locations, including
Whalebird Kombucha and SLO Food Co-op in San Luis Obispo and Etto Pastificio
in Paso Robles. In areas from Santa Barbara to Los Osos, loaves are delivered via
the Blossom Urban Garden community-supported agriculture program.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Streaming Culture

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Necessity is certainly the mother of invention these days, and performing arts organizations are pivoting in creative ways to bring entertainment directly to home audiences.

“Music is the common denominator that brings humans together, no matter the time or the place in history,” says New West Symphony (
21-virtual-season) CEO Natalia Staneva.

With that in mind, Staneva and the symphony’s artistic and music director, Michael Christie, have developed Global Sounds, eight mini music concerts and festivals inspired by cultures from around the world and presented virtually through June 2021.

“We discovered that our community contains a variety of cultures with vibrant musical traditions that have inspired and influenced classical music composers for generations,” says Christie. “And thus was born the concept of turning each concert experience into a mini cultural festival.”

Along with the orchestra performing symphonic works, each concert week will feature in-depth interviews with cultural experts and solo and ensemble performances of orchestra members and guest artists. Visit the website for tickets and more details.

UCSB Arts & Lectures ( brings cultural events home with House Calls, an interactive, online series of concerts, conversations, and question-and-answer sessions with musicians like Danish String Quartet and Rhiannon Giddens and authors such as Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed.

“House Calls is one way that Arts & Lectures is serving our community during a time when people are craving connection,” says Celesta M. Billeci, UCSB Arts & Lectures Miller McCune executive director, “to each other as well as to the major issues our nation and our world is facing right now.” For more information about individual events or to purchase tickets, visit the website or call 805-893-3535.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Flavor of the Month: Caramel



Celebrate National Caramel Month with these luscious, autumn-inspired interpretations of one of fall’s favorite flavors.

What: Handmade from her Great Grandma Edith’s 1930s era recipes, Anne Marquart’s made-to-order caramels, including the buttery, apple cider and cinnamon–spiked bites, available only for a limited time

Where: Online from Paso Robles’ Sugar + Spoon ( and at retail locations in the Paso Robles area

When: Through October

What: Caramel-flavored beers, such as Paso Robles’ Firestone Walker Brewing Company Unfiltered DBA with notes of toffee, caramel, and toasted oak; Carpinteria’s IIsland Brewing Company Avocado Honey Ale with hints of caramel and honey; and Westlake Village’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Finney’s Irish Red Ale with layers of rich caramel malt flavor

Where: Finney’s Crafthouse ( locations in Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo

When: Year-round

What: Jessica Foster’s dark chocolate bonbons filled with tangerine caramel or sea salt caramel and pepitas

Where: Online from Jessica Foster Confections ( and at multiple retail locations on the Central Coast

When: Through Thanksgiving

What: The Sea salt Zookie, caramel-pretzel ice cream, Nutella, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and cookie crumbles atop a fresh-baked, fish-shaped pastry

Where: Coastal Cone ( in Ventura Harbor Village

When: Year-round

What: Caramel Apple Popcorn, a colorful combo of caramel popcorn and green-apple-candy flavored popcorn

Where: Popped Fresh ( in Agoura Hills

When: Year-round

What: Hot Caramel Sticky Buns, fresh-baked fluffy cinnamon rolls, topped with a rich caramel glaze

Where: Sticky Fingers Baking Company (, Ventura

When: Every other Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. until they run out; year-round

805 Living Cover, October 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, October 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.