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.

Visions of the Gaviota Coast

Beach Shack by Kevin Gleason. Image courtesy SCAPE.

Beach Shack by Kevin Gleason. Image courtesy SCAPE.

Enjoy beautiful art and support a good cause at “Visions of the Gaviota Coast,” the Sixth Annual SCAPE Art Benefit for Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition. Held at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort and Spa (8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta), the art sale goes from Friday, March 30 at 2 p.m. through Saturday, March 31 at 5 p.m. The two-day exhibit features a reception on Friday (5-8 p.m.) with live music, silent auction, appetizers and wine with donation.

More than 150 Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment (SCAPE) artists and fine art photographer Reeve Woolpert will participate in this benefit art exhibition showcasing the stunning Gaviota Coast. Painter and exhibit juror Richard Schloss has many years of collaboration with the renowned Oak Group artists. The funds raised will assist Gaviota Coast Conservancy and the Naples Coalition in continuing their successful efforts to protect this majestic 72 miles of open coastline, providing a pristine habitat for over 1,400 species, including the endangered snowy plover. Forty percent of all art sales will benefit the two nonprofit organizations.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition have recently achieved big victories towards the protection and preservation of the Gaviota Coast. Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort and Spa is hosting the event, and donating an overnight stay and spa treatment for the raffle (no need to be present to win). “We consider it an honor to call the Gaviota Coast our home,” says Shashi Poudyal, general manager. “Bacara will continue to partner with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy to be a great steward of this land.”

Free parking is provided (follow the signs), or you can valet park.

To donate directly to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy: http://gaviotacoastconservancy.org/donate

To donate to Naples Coalition: http://www.savenaples.org/donate

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 28, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Adult Easter Fun With Seasonal Jello Shots

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

When it comes to Easter celebrations, why should the kids have all the fun? Our friends at Seagram’s Escapes have provided some alcohol-infused jello recipes that will sure to enliven the egg hunt on Sunday.

Jamaican Me Happy Watermelon Slice Jello Shooters, courtesy Seagrams.

Jamaican Me Happy Watermelon Slice Jello Shooters, courtesy Seagrams.

 

Jamaican Me Happy Watermelon Slice Shooters: Impress guests and make memories with these adorable and delicious adult treats that look just like fresh watermelon wedges! 

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes + 6 hours chilling time

Makes: 40 pieces 

2 bottles (11.2 fl. oz. each)  Seagram’s Escapes Jamaican Me Happy

10  limes

2 pkg (3 oz each)  watermelon gelatin dessert crystals 

1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional) 

1. Scrub limes and cut in half crosswise. Use a paring knife to loosen flesh from skin. Scoop out flesh, scraping with a spoon to reveal clean white pith. Place each hollowed-out lime half in cup of a muffin tin.

2. Place gelatin dessert crystals in medium heatproof bowl. Pour 2/3 cup boiling water over crystals; stir for 2 minutes or until dissolved. Stir in Seagram’s Escapes Jamaican Me Happy. Divide mixture evenly among lime halves. Chill for 6 hours or until set.

3. Use a sharp knife to cut each lime in half. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, if using. (Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store covered in refrigerator.)

Tip: If you like, juice the halved limes before scraping out membranes. Use lime juice in meat marinades, salad dressings, lime curd or ice pops.

Strawberry Daiquiri Jello Shooters, courtesy Seagrams.

Strawberry Daiquiri Jello Shooters, courtesy Seagrams.

Strawberry Daiquiri Jelly Shooters: Be the life of the party and pass around these fun adult shooters served in hollowed-out fresh strawberries. 

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes 

Total time: 25 minutes + 4 hours refrigeration

Makes: 50 pieces 

1 bottle (11.2 fl. oz.) Seagram’s Escapes Strawberry Daiquiri

50 large strawberries, hulled (about 3 lb)

1 pkg (3 oz) strawberry gelatin dessert crystals 

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

2 limes, thinly sliced

1. Cut small slice off the tip of each strawberry so it sits flat. Use melon baller to hollow out each strawberry from hull end. Set aside. 

2. Place gelatin dessert crystals in medium heatproof bowl. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over crystals; stir for 2 minutes or until dissolved. Stir in Seagram’s Escapes Strawberry Daiquiri and lime juice. Divide mixture evenly among strawberries. Chill for 4 hours or until set. (Can be made to this point up to 1 day in advance. Store covered in refrigerator.) 

3. Just before serving, place sugar in small shallow dish. Roll the top of each strawberry in the sugar to resemble a rimmed glass. Cut lime slices into wedges. Garnish each strawberry with a lime wedge.

Tip: To fill hollowed-out strawberries without making a mess, transfer liquid strawberry mixture to a squeeze bottle or use a clean turkey baster.

Calypso Cream Jello Cubes, courtesy Seagram's.

Calypso Cream Jello Cubes, courtesy Seagram’s.

Layered Calypso Colada Cream Jelly Cubes: Feel like you’re in the islands anytime with these jelly shots made with a cool and creamy coconut base, topped with a clear blue layer of Seagram’s Escapes Calypso Colada, as breathtaking as the ocean. 

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes + 10 hours chilling time

Makes: 24 squares 

2 bottles (11.2 fl. oz. each) Seagram’s Escapes Calypso Colada

2 tbsp sugar

1 envelope (7 g) unflavored gelatin

1 can (14 oz) coconut milk

3 pkg (3 oz each) berry blue gelatin dessert crystals 

2 tbsp coarse sugar

2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

24 fresh blackberries 

1. Combine sugar and gelatin in small heatproof bowl. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over mixture; stir constantly until granules are completely dissolved. Stir in coconut milk until well combined. Pour into 8 inch square cake pan. Chill for 4 hours or until set. 

2. Place gelatin dessert crystals in medium heatproof bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over crystals; stir for 2 minutes or until dissolved. Stir in Seagram’s Escapes Calypso Colada. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Slowly pour blue mixture over set coconut mixture. Chill for 4 to 6 hours or until firm. Run a thin knife around the inside of cake pan to separate jelly from sides. Carefully invert onto parchment paper; tap pan gently to release jelly. Use a large sharp knife to cut into 24 cubes. Invert cubes onto serving platter. (Can be made to this point up to 1 day in advance. Store covered in refrigerator.)

4. Just before serving, stir together coarse sugar and coconut; sprinkle over cubes and top each with a blackberry.

Strawberry Guava Jello Shots, courtesy Seagram's.

Strawberry Guava Jello Shots, courtesy Seagram’s.

Strawberry Guava Jelly Shots: Add an element of class and sophistication with these decorative jellies that are bursting with vibrant tropical flavors, and look as beautiful as they are delicious. 

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes + 6 hours refrigeration

Makes: 18 pieces 

2 bottles (11.2 fl. oz. each) Seagram’s Escapes Jamaican Me Happy

3 envelopes (7 g each) unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup guava juice

12 strawberries 

1. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into medium heatproof bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup boiling water; stir until dissolved. 

2. Stir in Seagram’s Escapes Jamaican Me Happy and guava juice. Place bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Let stand for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture begins to set.

3. Dice strawberries. Place in 18 decorative 1 oz molds. Divide jelly evenly among molds. Chill for at least 6 hours or until set. (Can be made up to 1 day in advance.)

4. Dip molds into warm water for 5 seconds. Invert jelly shots onto serving platter, gently shaking to release. 

Tips: Decorative molds can be purchased from specialty baking and cooking equipment shops and online retailers. Substitute Seagram’s Escapes Peach Fuzzy Navel for a delicious twist. 

Cheers to an enjoyable holiday! 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 27, 2018.

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.

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt, courtesy photo.

Bonnie Raitt, courtesy photo.

Legendary singer-songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt brings her unique style to the Chumash Casino Resort’s Samala Showroom at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 23.

A 10-time Grammy Award winner, Raitt is no stranger to a number prestigious lists, including Rolling Stone’s lists of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Some of her greatest, chart-topping hits include “Something to Talk About,” “A Thing Called Love” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Joining her for the evening will be the New Orleans-based funk and R&B musician Jon Cleary. He is an accomplished pianist as well as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter.

Tickets for all events are available at the Chumash Casino Resort’s Club Indulge or online at www.chumashcasino.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 20, 2018.

Poetry Benefit for La Casa de Maria

To benefit restoration efforts at La Casa de Maria following the Thomas Mudslide, Poets Enid Osborn, Paul WillisDavid StarkeyChryss Yost, Sojourner Kincaid RollePerie LongoLaure-Anne Bosselaar, Gudrun BortmanLois Brown KleinJohn Ridland, Christopher Buckley and Nancy Lee will read.

Bob Sedivy will play Japanese flute.

The event takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 18, at Unitarian Society, 1535 Santa Barbara St. 

Leslie Dinaberg 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 15, 2018.

Delineations at MichaelKate Interiors & Art Gallery

Charlie Patton, “The Woman and The Veil,” oil on canvas.

Charlie Patton, “The Woman and The Veil,” oil on canvas.

Opening March 16, DELINEATIONS at MichaelKate Interiors & Art Gallery (132 Santa Barbara St.) features four Santa Barbara based artists: Jo Merit, Douglas Dafoe, Katarzyna Kociomyk and Charlie Patton and is curated by Jan Ziegler. 

“The delineated characteristics of Jo Merit’s paintings and the fine craftmanship of Douglas Dafoe’s geometric wood wall sculptures drive the title of the show,” writes Ziegler. “Complementing their precise line work, we have Katarzyna Kociomyk’s lush boats at rest on the water and Charlie Patton’s large and small expressive paintings.”

Join the artists for the reception on Friday, March 16, from 5-8 p.m. The artists will speak about their work at 6 p.m.

The show remains on view through May 13. 

—Leslie Dinaberg

Charlie Patton, “Misty Copeland Two Slippers,” oil on canvas.

Charlie Patton, “Misty Copeland Two Slippers,” oil on canvas.

Jo Merit, “At The Dark End Of The Street,” acrylic on canvas.

Jo Merit, “At The Dark End Of The Street,” acrylic on canvas.

Katarzyna Kociomyk, “Cast In Bronze,” oil on canvas.

Katarzyna Kociomyk, “Cast In Bronze,” oil on canvas.

Douglas Dafoe, “untitled,” wood with copper paint.

Douglas Dafoe, “untitled,” wood with copper paint.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 16, 2018.

Marian Crostic: Sea Change

Tidal Impressions #2 by Marian Crostic.

Tidal Impressions #2 by Marian Crostic.

Come to The Waterline in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone (120 Santa Barbara St.) on Friday night to check out Sea Change by Marian Crostic, a special event hosted by wall space creative for the Funk Zone Art Walk.

“We are a world in flux. In this consistent state of change, finding a path to calm is almost impossible. It takes effort to keeping ourselves upright and moving forward, while this drift and unknowingness takes all our energy. We all feel now as if in constant motion both physically and emotionally. For Marian Crostic, finding that peace comes at the waters edge,” states event organizer Crista Dix.

Tidal Impressions #1 by Marian Crostic.

Tidal Impressions #1 by Marian Crostic.

Crostic’s series is an abstract vision of the waters edge, the organic connection between liquid and solid. This high contrast work belies its softness, with striking emphasis on the graphic and non-linear patterns in nature.

Marian Crostic made the career change from the fashion world to photography over a decade ago. Turning her creativity from fabrics towards imagery, this group of photographs fundamentally started taking shape and vision on her morning walks along Venice Beach. Meditative in nature the series is about importance of seeing ones own environment with a present, reflective and introspective eye.

Come from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday March 16 for an informal talk with Crostic about this beautiful work.

For more information about Sea Change, wall space creative and Marian Crostic or to see a portfolio of works please contact wall space gallery at 805/232-5428 or gallery@wallspacecreative.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 14, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Spyglass Bistro & Bar

Courtesy Spyglass Bistro & Bar.

Courtesy Spyglass Bistro & Bar.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

It’s always fun to find great cocktail spots in unexpected places and Spyglass Bistro & Bar definitely fits the bill.  This modern rooftop bistro bar offers lunch, craft cocktails and small bites, with a breathtaking panoramic view of Goleta, Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Surprisingly, this unexpectedly hip gem sits atop the new Hilton Garden Inn, right in the heart of Costco, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Spyglass Martini at Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Featuring creative shared plates from Executive Chef Michael Blackwell (formerly of the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch and Montecito Country Club) to be enjoyed in cozy fireplace groupings under the stars, this is a lovely spot to enjoy right now and even lovelier once it gets a little warmer.

The cocktail menu includes the Spyglass Martini, made with absolut elyx—a premium, copper crafted vodka—and goat cheese stuffed castelvetrano olives (yum!), and it comes it a very cool copper martini glass, something I’ve never seen before. Like a Moscow Mule, the cool cup is part of the fun of this drink, and it doesn’t disappoint!

Spyglass Bistro & Bar cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Pinas Y Pinas cocktail at Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Local favorite Cutler’s Vodka is featured on the cocktail menu and in the High Solstice, made with Cutler’s Vodka  and pedro ximenez sherry, briottet peche de vigne, lemon and angostura bitters. I also liked the Jalisco Sunshine, made with olmeca altos tequila plata, grapefruit, line, agave and cilantro; the Whiskey Blues, made with Redemption rye, lemon, blueberry, honey and laphroaig spritz; and something called the Passion Flower, with cyrano armagnac, st. germain, lime, passionfruit, agave and pico sea salt.

Spyglass has a daily happy hour from 4-6 p.m. which includes $2 off specialty cocktails and beers, as well as discount “samplers” which are $15 and include wine or a cocktail and your choice of sliders, fish tacos or pork wing confit (which is delicious).

The view of Spyglass Bar & Bistro, photo by Dan Levin.

The view from Spyglass Bar & Bistro, photo by Dan Levin.

The restaurant is located at 6878 Hollister Ave., on the rooftop of the Hilton Garden Inn in Goleta. Live music is often scheduled on weekends. Check their Facebook Page for updates. For example, coming up soon they have a fun St. Patrick’s Day party scheduled from 2-10 p.m. on March 17. 

Spyglass Bistro & Bar cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar Jaliscso Sunshine cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We’ll be back soon, and hope to see you there. 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.”

Courtesy Spyglass Bistro & Bar.

Courtesy Spyglass Bistro & Bar.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

 

Spyglass Bistro & Bar cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar Whiskey Blues cocktail. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

 

Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Spyglass Bistro & Bar. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 9, 2018.

Local Dish: Bibi Ji

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

By Leslie Dinaberg

An innovative take on Indian food paired with locally made wines and locally sourced seafood with Australian influences all adds up to what is easily one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit downtown Santa Barbara in a long, long time!  

Bibi Ji, the new restaurant from James Beard Award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr (who also makes his own wine labels—Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi—nearby in Lompoc) and acclaimed Chef Jessi Singh (who’s been lauded for his inventive “unauthentic” Indian cooking at the popular Babu Ji restaurants in San Francisco, Manhattan and Melbourne) opened this month at 734 State St., a beautiful location across from Paseo Nuevo with an outdoor courtyard overlooking De La Guerra Plaza.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

The name Bibi Ji—an Indian term of endearment for women in the family—pays tribute to the formative women in both Singh and Parr’s lives who cultivated their love for food and hospitality. 

Drawing from his Australian and Indian roots, Chef Singh (who now lives in Santa Barbara) has created a menu featuring his self-proclaimed “unauthentic take” on many traditional American seafood dishes, with a strong focus on using local Santa Barbara purveyors. With the Santa Barbara Farmers Market just steps away, Singh is excited to change his menu regularly depending on what’s available in the market that week.

Currently on the menu are SB UNI Biryani, made with local sea urchin and fried rice—a dish so beautiful plated it looks like a mythical sea creature; Local Oysters with green mango pickle butter (from famed Santa Barbara fish monger Stephanie Mutz); delicious Hope Ranch Black Mussels in a curry broth; and melt-in-your-mouth Aussie Lamb Chops with mint and dill raita and apricot chutney.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

We also enjoyed a zesty array of “unauthentic curries,” such as Beef Korma with beef short rib, curry leaves, cashew and hearty shiitake mushrooms; Unauthentic CTM, Chef Singh’s delicious riff on chicken tikka masala; Coconut Curry with turmeric and mustard seeds and pink shrimp, a dish I’m still dreaming about, even though I normally am not a coconut lover; Chana Masala, with chickpea, dry pomegranate and green mango powder; Punjabi Kadhi, with fenugreek and turmeric yogurt curry; and Bibi Ji Daal, with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.

Bibi Ji's SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji’s SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Favorite dishes from Singh’s Babu Ji restaurants in New York and San Francisco are also on the menu, like Mr. Tso’s Cauliflower, Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato & chili sauce, and Gol Gappa, delicious tangy crispy stuffed shells.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu—offering a variety of favorite appetizers, curries, naan, rice and dessert for $50 per person—is an excellent way to savor a variety of these exciting flavors without having to make a lot of decisions.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

In addition to a “serve yourself” assortment of beers which made my husband’s heart sing, Bibi Ji’s carefully curated wine offerings are designed to complement the playful menu. The wines focus on highlighting organic, biodynamic and natural wines from artisanal producers in Europe, Australia and Santa Barbara. At the moment, producers include Gonon, Jean Michel Stephane, Allemand, Metras, Laporte and Richard Leroy, with varietals ranging from Gamay and Syrah to Riesling and Chenin Blanc, which pair well with the spices in many of the dishes.

Nearly all of the wines at the restaurant will also be available at Bibi Ji’s bottle shop, which is located inside the restaurant and offers an esoteric collection of more than 100 bottles.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

The inviting interior, designed by Chef Singh, features a 40-seat dining room with exposed brick, high ceilings adorned with hanging golden chandeliers and a skylight that brings natural light into the space. A brown leather banquette spans along one side of the restaurant, and on the other side is the 15-seat bar. Pops of color come from red-cushioned dining chairs and bar stools, as well as from the vibrant Indian artwork that decorates the walls. Empty wine bottles, sourced from Parr’s personal collection, are showcased throughout the restaurant.

Bibi Ji is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit bibijisb.com or call 805/560-6845.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2018.