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: Calivore Spirits

Aaron Bergh, the "President & Commander-in-Mischief" of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Aaron Bergh, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

I had the opportunity to sample some spirits with Aaron Bergh this week, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, a new California born and bred business specializing in regionally made liquor.

Bergh started his venture just a few years ago as a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who basically made hooch in his dorm room. Studying agriculture, he started fermenting the fallen fruit from Cal Poly’s orchards and initially made fruit brandy, followed by rum, whiskey and assorted liqueurs. He quickly realized he might have a legitimate business in the making, and got help from a campus group for budding entrepreneurs. He soon won a “Shark Tank” style business plan competition and started working with a craft distillery to produce spirits from his recipes, teaming up with two friends (Raleigh Nejame and Luke Beaton) to help send the resulting Calivore Spirits brand out into the world this year.

So far they’ve got three products—Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin—I sampled all three and this is not just a great young entrepreneurial story, they’re quite tasty.

Intermezzo's "Cali Mai Tai," made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Intermezzo’s “Cali Mai Tai,” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Calivore Blonde Rum is fermented from US-grown raw sugar cane and rested in chardonnay barrels. The Calivore Spiced Rum is a delicious autumnal mix of orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, ginger and molasses, also mellowed in wine barrels. The Calivore Big Sur Gin is unusual in that it’s grape-based (a very California influence) with 12 different herbs including juniper, sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel, and elderberry—the idea is to bring you the experience of a Big Sur hike in a bottle.

Wine Cask and Intermezzo Bar & Cafe Beverage Director Matt Pickett whipped us up a wonderfully refreshing “Cali Mai Tai” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. It’s on the specialty cocktail menu and well worth a try, especially with these hot autumn days we’ve been having.  Calivore Spirits are also on the menu at The Bobcat RoomChase Bar & GrillLa Arcada BistroThe Nugget Bar & Grill, Sama Sama KitchenScarlett Begonia and Viva Santa Barbara, with more outlets soon to follow. 

Calivore Spirits are also carried in Whole Foods, with additional distributors coming soon. For more information, go to calivorespirits.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 Magazine on September 30, 2016.

Wine Cask Hosts Fundraising Dinner for SBCC Culinary Arts Students

A Santa Barbara City College Culinary Student Chopping in Kitchen, courtesy photo.

A Santa Barbara City College Culinary Student Chopping in Kitchen, courtesy photo.

Here’s a great way to support future chefs while enjoying a delicious meal, Wine Cask hosts a fundraising dinner on Monday, April 11 at 6 p.m. to benefit Santa Barbara City College Culinary Arts students. Proceeds from the evening will provide an opportunity for students to travel to Madrid, Spain this summer with the SBCC Study Abroad program.

While in Spain, students will explore the cuisine and culture of Spain and Portugal, going to neighborhood markets, tasting artisanal chocolate confections, observing butchers, bakers, and sausage makers, and visiting wineries, olive oil mills, and farms.

“Being creative in the kitchen is more than being technically talented,” says School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Department Chair Randy Bublitz. “The experience of visiting other countries and delving into their cuisines is invaluable for laying the groundwork in developing a chef’s creativity.”

“Study abroad is not only an incredible experience that opens eyes and doors but a bona fide learning experience,” says Wine Cask Co-Owner Mitchell Sjerven. “This is especially true in the field of culinary arts, as chefs are constantly challenged to understand regional cuisines, keep up on global food trends, and learn new techniques. Going to Spain and Portugal will provide an incredible opportunity for students to expand their knowledge base while undoubtedly gaining much appreciated creative inspiration during their time on the Iberian Peninsula.”

With many students facing educational expenses such as tuition and materials, financing a study abroad trip may be beyond reach. Guests attending the fundraising dinner will provide great assistance to much deserving SBCC students who otherwise would not be able to afford this once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Santa Barbara restaurants in particular enjoy the immediate rewards of SBCC culinary arts graduates,” says Sjerven. “But, really, the entire community benefits from this successful program provided by one of the top community colleges in the nation.”

Support future chefs, and enjoy a multi-course dinner in the Gold Room of Wine Cask (813 Anacapa St.). The meal will be prepared by SBCC faculty chefs, SBCC culinary students, and Wine Cask Chef David Rosner.

The SBCC Foundation will be taking reservations for the event. To purchase tickets ($150 per person), please call 805/730-4401 or click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on March 30, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Smile Sideways to Win, Friendship Center Wine Down, Bien Nacido Winemakers’ Dinner & More

Courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

Courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

The Sideways celebrations continue on this week with a special 10th Anniversary Sign Promotion September 5th – 14th in 100 different locations throughout Santa Barbara County. To celebrate the Oscar-winning film and its impact on the local wine scene, 100 six-foot tall signs featuring Miles and Jack are being placed at locations used in the film and other high-traffic areas around Santa Barbara County.

Fans can pose with the signs and then enter their photos to win the ultimate Santa Barbara Wine Country vacation (or staycation for those who are local). Photos must be tagged with #Sideways10 on Twitter or Instagram, or uploaded manually to Sideways10.com/Enter. Each daily winner takes home a copy of the movie on Blu-rayTM + Digital HD, while one lucky Grand Prize winner receives the ultimate vacation in Santa Barbara Wine Country, including four hotel night stays, wine tasting adventures, delectable dining, and ocean and land excursions.

Pose with these Sideways celebration signs and you could win big! Photo courtesy Visit Santa Barbara.

Pose with these Sideways celebration signs and you could win big! Photo courtesy Visit Santa Barbara.

Sign locations in Santa Barbara include: Au Bon Climat, AVA Santa Barbara, Conway Deep Sea Tasting Room, Grassini Family Vineyards, Kalyra by the Sea Tasting Room, Kunin Wines, La Cumbre PlazaMargerum Wine CompanyPali Wine Co., Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara Public Market, Silver Wines and Wine Cask.

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Solvang is calling all wine aficionados to participate in the Merlot Taste-Off event on September 13 as a tribute to the movie Sideways.

The event pays homage to the wine variety made famous in the Oscar-winning film, when Miles famously says, “If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Tracy Farhad, executive director of the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, has a rebuttal. “No more denigrating merlot! Come taste these marvelous wines for yourself.”  Participating wineries include Baehner FournierButtonwoodCarivintasCoreDascombHappy Canyon VineyardJ. LudlowLions PeakLucas & LewellenPoint ConcepcionSagebrush AnniesSevtap and Sunstone.

The event is a benefit for the nonprofit Solvang Festival Theatre (420 Second St., Solvang), which is also, conveniently, where it takes place. For information and tickets call 805/688-6144 or visit SolvangUSA.com.

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Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café (2879 Grand Ave., Los Olivos) hosts its first-ever “Rock Steady” Bien Nacido Winemakers’ Dinner on September 18  at 6 p.m. Three of Santa Barbara County’s winemaking elite—Jim Clendenen of Au Bon ClimatBob Lindquist of Qupe and Trey Fletcher of Bien Nacido Estate—will be pouring their specially paired Bien Nacido vineyard-designate wines with a six-course meal created by Café Chef Chris Joslyn.

For reservations call 805/688-7265 ext. 203 or click here.

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Friendship Center, the south coast’s only nonprofit, fully licensed adult day services program, will have its 5th Annual Wine Down, Friday, September 19 from 4-7 p.m. This casual yet festive event features local vintners pouring their wines for tasting, delicious Asian-inspired hors d’oeuvres by Spices N Rice and live music by Montecito Jazz Project Held al fresco in the courtyard of the lovely center in Montecito, this Friday after-work gathering will give guests a chance to enjoy a lovely late-summer evening and “wine down“ from the cares of the week. A small silent auction will offer carefully selected gift baskets featuring high-quality wine and wine-related items.

Participating wineries include: Andrew Murray VineyardsButtonwood Farm Winery & VineyardConsilience & Tre AnelliCottonwood Canyon WineryDemetriaFess Parker Winery & VineyardPali Wine Co.PalminaSanta Barbara WineryTower 15 Winery, and Vinemark Cellars. Beer from Surf Brewery will also be featured.

The Friendship Center is located at 89 Eucalyptus Lane in Montecito. To purchase tickets click here.

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Solvang’s Wandering Dog Wine Bar (1539-C Mission Dr.) has the first “Friday Night Wines” class of the season on Friday, September 5 at 6 p.m. In the September class, guests will learn about the history of Santa Barbara as a wine country, and will sample wines from the five distinct AVAs in the County. Reservations may be made directly through Wandering Dog Wine Bar, by calling 805/686-9126 or emailing jody@wanderingdogwinebar.com.

Hope to see you out and about! 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 September 5, 2014.

Wine Cask and bouchon Award SBCC Students with Scholarships + Internships

(Wine Cask)

(Wine Cask)

Alejandro Guillen, Alexander Italia and Alejandro Martinez have each been awarded a $2,500 scholarship on behalf of Mitchell Sjerven, owner of bouchon and co-owner of Wine Cask.  The American Riviera Scholarship is a grant program Sjerven created on behalf of his Santa Barbara restaurants, bouchon and Wine Cask, awarded to several deserving students enrolled in Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts.

Created in 2012, the annual American Riviera Scholarship is awarded to highly motivated students who demonstrate commitment and motivation to complete the major, as well as the potential for success as a chef.  Sjerven has taught the “Restaurant Ownership” course at Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts for the past several years.  The scholarship aims to draw from the excellent pool of culinary potential at Santa Barbara City College and helps develop Santa Barbara’s reputation as a popular food and wine destination in California.  Originally awarded to two students, this year, an additional student was offered a scholarship after enough funds were raised at Wine Cask’s 30th Anniversary Dinner, celebrated in September.
bouchon logo“Santa Barbara is a high cost-of-living town and being a student at City College— no matter how affordable the education itself— is even more challenging,” Sjerven says. “My long-term vision is to see enough financial aid available so that each and every student in the Culinary Arts program can receive tuition assistance to some degree.  To that end I challenge every Santa Barbara restaurant that has ever had a student or graduate of the program in their kitchen to create a scholarship.  Our community provides unlimited possibilities to give but here is a meaningful way to give back directly to the institution that provides so many staff for so many of our local restaurants.”

In addition to the cash awards, recipients have the opportunity for a paid internship at Wine Cask and bouchon, where they can gain valuable hands-on training working for two of Santa Barbara’s critically acclaimed establishments. Sjerven says, “We are fortunate to be able to draw from this growing and valuable pool of prospective culinary professionals who show real promise in a challenging field.”

Wine Cask is located at 813 Anacapa St. Bouchon is located at 9 W. Victoria St.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 16, 2014.

 

Cocktail Corner: The Pickle Room

The Pickle Room's Moscow Mule (Mo McFadden photo)

The Pickle Room’s Moscow Mule (Mo McFadden photo)

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

“Santa Barbara needs a lounge where people can hang out and be off State Street and kick their feet up and be comfortable,” says Clay Lovejoy, who recently opened the Pickle Room, 126 E. Canon Perdido St. (805/965-3445), with the aim of providing that very thing. The spot is a reincarnation of sorts of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a favorite local watering hole owned and operated by the Chung family in that spot from 1947 until 2006.

Lovejoy’s Pickle Room is also a family place, brought back to life by Clay and his father Bob Lovejoy, a longtime Jimmy’s regular. And it’s right next door to their Three Pickles Deli + Sub, which the pair have had great success with (along with their other Three Pickles Deli + Sub location at 420 S. Fairview Ave. in Goleta).

The Pickle Room's Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

The Pickle Room’s Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

“This place was founded on the Mai Tai,” says Clay. “It was Tommy’s, the original owner’s, recipe, in fact probably his father’s recipe before that, because he was pretty young …  our Mai Tai is our most popular drink by far.”

Luckily, he’s got an able hand behind the bar to mix that potent concoction of Myer’s Platinum Rum with an exotic blend of fruit juices splashed with dark rum and Bacardi 151 Rum. Bartender Willy Gilbert, a close friend of the Lovejoys who ran the place for 25 years, is back behind the bar to mix those yummy rummy Mai Tai’s, along with Singapore Slings, Moscow Mules, Hornito’s Margaritas and more.

“We hired him as a manager to come in here and help us out because we wanted it to run seamlessly,” says Clay. “He’s a huge part of making this a success. We’ve been actually very busy for the last month and have had great crowds.  So with his help we’re learning along the way.”

The Pickle Room's Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The Pickle Room’s Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The menu, which Clay describes as “Chinese Deli,” was created by executive chef Westen Richards (formerly of Restaurant Julienne and Wine Cask and currently earning kudos for his creative Spare Parts pop up restaurant). “The Reuben Egg Roll is our #1 seller and people just absolutely love it,” Clay says. “We were trying to think of something fun … we use our pastrami, our sauerkraut and Swiss cheese and we roll it in a egg roll and serve it with our Russian dressing,  same as the other side. So that’s been quite a hit.”

The Pickle Room's Panko Crusted Kosher Dill Pickle With Chorizo Aioli (courtesy photo)

The Pickle Room’s Panko Crusted Kosher Dill Pickle With Chorizo Aioli (courtesy photo)

And of course, with a name like the Pickle Room, there have to be pickles.

Clay laughs. “You know what’s been a really hot thing is—we have to of course tell people about it because they’re not used to it—but if you do a shot of whiskey and  you do a pickle back shot … You take a little shot of pickle juice it and it knocks it out of your palate so fast and after people try it they just start lining them up … it’s been very popular.”

New to the menu this week is the Pickletini , “A little bit of pickle juice with gin or vodka and then a nice little pickle spear.” Clay smiles, perhaps at the skeptical expression on my face. “Everybody I tell about it, they’re like ‘that sounds terrible,’ but everybody that tries it is like ‘oh that is awesome I don’t even like pickles but I like that!'”

Cheers! Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 1, 2013.

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.”

Chef’s Counter at the Wine Cask a Culinary Treat

I had my first encounter with the Chef’s Counter at the Wine Cask this week and my tastebuds are still dancing with delight.

For those of you who haven’t heard, every Monday through Thursday night Chef Brandon Hughes is now offering a special Farmer’s Market fresh tasting menu paired with local wines, for an all inclusive price of $65 per person.

Courtesy Wine Cask

Courtesy Wine Cask

While it is typically a three-course menu, this week’s menu (still available tonight) included four courses. Sous Chef Nik Ramirez says he and Chef Hughes typically shop the market on Saturday morning and “duke it out over the week’s menu.” Their draw resulted in a victory for us, as we got an extra course on Monday, since “things looked so good we couldn’t decide on just three.”

First up, Rancho San Julian Sweetbreads with Green Farm Artichoke Saint Germain and truffle hollandaise, paired with Firestone Walker Brewery “Honey Blonde Ale.” Let me preface this by saying that, as much as I love Rancho San Julian (owner Elizabeth Poett was Seasons’ first Farmer’s Market profile when I took over as Editor in Winter 2010/11), I would never order sweetbreads if given the choice. However, one timid bite quickly convinced me they were AMAZING! Seriously, this dish deserves a permanent place on the menu. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.

Next was Mud Creek Ranch Kumquat Glazed Kurauta Pork Loin with “The Garden Of …” braised Chinese cabbage, sous vide shallots and the ’10 Margerum “Wine Cask” Sauvignon Blanc, which paired perfectly with the pork.

Our third course was Pan Seared Wagyu Strip Steak with Green Farm asparagus gnocchi, Northern California “Orchard” morel mushrooms and Earthtrine Farms Persian mulberry demi-glace, paired with an ‘09 Brander Cabernet Sauvignon. So tasty. Those Persian mulberries are out of this world. They’re definitely going on my Farmer’s Market shopping list.

Finally, for dessert Pastry Chef Rosie Gerard served an Almond Macaroon with chocolate marshmallow, almond nougatine and macerated strawberries, along with a ’10 Margerum “Alamo Creek” Grenache, which was the icing on top of a truly fabulous meal. Talk about spoiled; we also got to try a very special Margerum M3 Mourvèdre available only from the Wine Cask’s green tap system. This is the latest green trend in winemaking—no corks, no bottle waste, reusable kegs—definitely a great idea whose time has come.

The Chef’s Counter is definitely a fun place for a night out with that special someone, but the counter’s close proximity to the kitchen and one-on-one interaction with the chef also makes it a nice option for dining alone, if you want to treat yourself, and it’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to sample a taste of the Wine Cask.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on May 12, 2011.

New Babies Old Bonds

Photo by Vera Kratochvil, publicdomainpictures.com.

Photo by Vera Kratochvil, publicdomainpictures.com.

You go in to the hospital a person and come out a parent. What does that really mean to the rest of your life.

The world really is created anew every time a child comes into it. Along with the boundless love, endless diapers and sleepless nights, parents should be prepared for changes in their relationships with their friends, their coworkers and the world at large.

Adjusting to having a baby in the house is just a small part of the equation. Sometimes the most difficult transitions can be in integrating that baby into the rest of your life.

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” -John Wilmot

A common complaint from new parents and their friends, particularly those without children, is the distance that grows between them when a new baby comes along.

As one of the first in her group of friends to have children – and twins at that–Rachael Steidl said she felt uncomfortable at first.

“People would offer to either help or invite you over, or say just call us if you need help, but I never felt like I could take people up on it. It just felt like it was asking so much,” Steidl said.

“In hindsight now, when I’m in that position to do that for somebody else, I realize how sincere I am.”

Both new parents and friends should recognize that true friendships are mutual and the baby is part of the package from now on.

Now the mother of a 6-month-old son, Tracy Martin was in the opposite position from Steidl, as one of the last in her group to become a mom.

“(With my friends who have kids) I relate to that aspect of their life more. My biggest surprise after the baby came was how it didn’t matter to me that I was putting myself second. I can relate to that with my friends that have kids,” Martin said.

And as far as her friends without kids, Martin said, “people are pretty understanding. … I work to maintain my friendships, too. You can’t just bail on your life.”

“See the mothers driving down the street, see their makeup melting in the heat, straight from work, the pantyhose are tight, It’s take-out tonight.” -From the Frump song “We’re Really Beat”

Returning to work after you’ve been promoted to parent also requires some changes. Luckily employers are catching on.

“More bosses are realizing that when they help their employees manage the juggling act between work and family, they get happier, more productive workers in return,” said Sharon O’Malley, editor of Work/Life Today.

It’s amazing how productive you can be when you have to be, observed Katie Donald, a mother of two, who works a 32-hour week.

As new parents come to realize, “the less time you spend on unproductive work, the more time you can spend with your family,” O’Malley said.

Of course, prioritizing family time can sometimes mean giving up some of the more enjoyable parts of the workday, like dissecting the finer points of “Desperate Housewives.”

While coworkers–and the parents themselves–must adjust to a little less on-the-clock socializing, employers also need to realize new parents are not always available for last-minute projects.

“It’s really important to set your boundaries with your boss right away,” said Donald. “As long as your work doesn’t suffer, I think bosses are generally pretty understanding when your circumstances change. Especially if you’re willing to go the extra mile and take work home when necessary.”

“I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.” -Robert Orben

Where it is and is not appropriate to bring a young child is a big issue for many people.

“When my baby was really little, we took him pretty much anywhere. He went places a lot,” said Martin. Now that her son is 6 months old, she said she wouldn’t take him to “adult places” at this stage.

“He’s getting to the point where I don’t think it’s any fun for him – and we get a lot of stares from people. Like ‘oh, no, please don’t put me next to them,'” she said.

As Steidl learned, sometimes people do more than stare.

“We took our kids to movies as newborns … this one woman looked at me and said, ‘Well, I guess people just don’t care about exposing their kids to germs anymore,'” she recalled. “Luckily there was another parent …(who) made a nice little comeback to her.”

She continued, “Any time you’re going to take your kids to an adult situation like that, that as long as you’re willing to leave if it’s not working and not put other people into an uncomfortable position, that’s fine. But we had people just make the rudest comments.”

As for restaurants, all of the parents we spoke to recommended taking little ones “that make noise” only to family-friendly restaurants. There are plenty of good ones in Santa Barbara, said Steidl, who has a whole list of family-friendly places on her Web site, www.sbparent.com.

“I personally don’t think you show up at the Wine Cask, or Sage & Onion with little ones, when for so many people that’s a special night out for them and save up for those kinds of things.”

“Never have children, only grandchildren” – Gore Vidal

What could be better than finally being a grandparent? Not only do you have an adorable new baby to welcome and spoil, but if you play your cards right, your own children will finally start to appreciate you.

Want to be the best grandma or pop-pop on the block? Here are a few tips for making your house kid-ready. We’ll leave the spoiling to you.

= Stock the right size diapers and wipes. A change of baby clothes can’t hurt either.

= Until your grandchild is mobile, you don’t have to childproof your whole house, but do have a baby area ready.

= Portable activity mats are great diversions for little ones and compact cribs are the easy answer to “where is the baby going to sleep?”

= When you want to hold the baby all day, but your sciatic nerve says otherwise, bouncer seats are a great way to keep your grandchild healthy. Plus, it’s fun to watch them discover their toes.

= Volunteer to put the dog/cat/next door neighbor outside if they’re making the baby or her parents uncomfortable.

Finally, the best way to make your house child-friendly is to make it parent friendly, which means:

= Offer your son/daughter the chance to have some time alone with their spouse (or to take a nap!), but don’t be offended if they don’t take it.

= If you’re tempted to give unsolicited parenting advice, hold your tongue and count to 50. Still tempted? Bite your tongue and try counting again.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 3, 2005.