2022 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best of issue cover, October 20, 2022

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again in 2022. It’s always a fun project and it’s always a huge amount of work — but  a little every time I do it.  People are always so excited to hear they won, so that part is definitely fun. You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the images below.





Out and About

Sporting Life

Looking Good

Living Well


Little CreaturesHousing



Bowlfuls on the Way

Health-conscious eating meets socially conscious business at Balfour’s Kitchen (balfourskitchen.com), a new plant-based-meal delivery service launching in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties later this year. Taking its name from organic food pioneer Lady Eve Balfour (1898–1990), the new venture will offer a selection of meals in a bowl—such as Cauliflower Shakshuka, Green Pea & Asparagus Soup, and French Ratatouille With Quinoa—which will arrive ready to heat and eat. They’re designed to be mixed and matched to provide what founder Danny Burgner says aims to be,

“the perfect balance of PFF—protein, fat, and fiber—and of course carbs.”
The company kicked off the test- marketing phase of its charitable model late in 2020 and early this year by donating more than 1,000 meals to Sarah House, a Santa Barbara nonprofit that provides residential housing for low- income individuals receiving hospice care, and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, which provides meals, shelter, and recovery programs to homeless and addicted individuals. And when Balfour’s Kitchen opens its doors: “For every bowl purchased,” says Burgner, “we’ll give one to a person in need or make the equivalent donation to a food-centered nonprofit.”

Originally published in the September 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Cover photo by Gary Moss. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

Active Aging in 2021: How to Live Well into Your Later Years

Santa Barbara is a great place to live no matter your age, but it takes many people a number of years — and perhaps a successful career or two — to start calling our shoreline home. That means there are plenty of people living their best later lives here, which is why we started our Active Aging Guide in 2018 to help navigate the endless options for staying healthy, striving for wellness, and living even longer.

This is the fourth annual edition of this promotional section, in which sponsors suggested trends, techniques, and talented experts from their organizations to our editorial team. Then Leslie Dinaberg took those nascent ideas, put on her reporter’s cap, and turned
them into engaging articles that cover a wide range of topics, from bone, brain, and sexual health to volunteering, nutrition, and even drum circles.

Read on, and age well.

The (Drum Circle) Beat Goes On at Vista Del Monte

Westmont Living’s Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

Step Up to Help Seniors at the Family Service Agency

Borrowing Medical Basics from VNA’s Health Loan Closet

Connect, Discuss, and Explore at Vistas Lifelong Learning

Stimulating Senses to Stimulate Wellness at Villa Alamar and Alexander Gardens

OsteoStrong Builds the Bones of Skeletal Health

Turner Medical Arts Offers Treatments for Inside and Out

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Westmont Living’s Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

Diet and exercise is the key to good health at any age, but particularly as you grow older. Current research says a brain-healthy diet encourages good blood flow to the brain, is low in fat and cholesterol, and includes vibrant foods rich in antioxidants. Like the heart, the brain needs the right balance of nutrients to function well. To be most effective, a brain healthy diet should be combined with physical and mental activity and social

Peter Do, senior director of Culinary Services at Westmont Living (westmontliving.com), which owns Mariposa at Ellwood Shores in Goleta, says there are a variety of foods that help to maintain brain health. He recommends:

· Eat in moderation; increase intake of protective foods that may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and protect brain cells.

· Avoid artery-clogging saturated fats and cholesterol that can put you at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. “Remember to stay away from trans-fats, and stick with mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil or avocado oil that are very good for you,” said Do. “The preferred preparation is to bake or grill and not to fry. But if you want to fry something, then use canola oil, which is cholesterol-free. Also, when eating something like chicken, it is okay to grill it with the skin on to keep the meat moist, but remove the skin before serving and eating it.”

· Eat dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, which have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidants. These include kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn, and eggplant. “Celery is also a great
source of antioxidants,” said Do. “Garlic also plays an important role in healthy eating. Chinese dishes have a lot of ginger and garlic, both of which makes them more healthy.”

· Choose vibrant, antioxidant-rich fruits such as plums, prunes, raisins,blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, red grapes, and cherries.

· Cold-water fish containing beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are the best. Some
examples are halibut, mackerel, salmon, lake trout, and sardines.

· Eat nuts, such as almonds, pecans, and walnuts, which are a good source of vitamin
E, an antioxidant. “Nuts can be a good substitute for people who need omega-3
but do not like the taste of seafood,” said Do.

When asked about nutritional supplements, Do explained, “Not all food experts mention supplements because they are focused on a healthy eating program. However, we know that there are supplements which are especially supportive of brain health such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together, vitamin B12, and folate. All may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A brain-healthy diet will help your body use these vitamins effectively. Remember, for the best absorption, always take vitamins with food. You should check with your medical provider about which vitamins and how much are
safe for you.”

Westmont Living communities such as Mariposa at Ellwood Shores customize their dining program and take advantage of seasonal produce. “Santa Barbara has great
local produce, and we work with many local companies,” said Do, who frequently offers
salmon and fresh fish from nearby waters. “Our residents enjoy the trout and halibut
and love tuna. There are also more vegetarian options such as tofu and eggplant dishes.”
The facility’s Dine Your Way program connects culinary directors with residents
on a monthly basis. “So there are no one-size fits-all menus,” said Do.

See westmontliving.com.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.


Professionally made s’mores are hot! The marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers
in Jessica Foster Confections’ version, for example, are made from scratch for take-home kits and catered events. Photo by Gary Moss, originally published in the summer 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

The nostalgia of the standard s’more—melty chocolate and gooey roasted marshmallows
sandwiched between graham crackers—gets a major upgrade with these creative takes on the summer campfire classic.

Glamping-style: For its ultra-luxe s’mores, Santa Barbara-based Jessica Foster
Confections (jessicafosterconfections.com) offers house-made, small-batch versions
of each of the treat’s traditional components: the marshmallows, the chocolate, and
the graham crackers. “Honestly the most exciting part of the whole thing is the graham
crackers,” says confectioner Jessica Foster. “They are so buttery and crumbly that I have
to get rid of them when I make them or else I’m going to eat all of them.”
In addition to producing the elevated s’mores kit, Foster caters customized s’mores
stations for events. At a celebration on National S’mores Day last year she served
house-made cinnamon s’mores (cinnamon graham crackers, cinnamon marshmallows, and dark chocolate bars with sea salt), lemon blackberry s’mores (graham crackers, vanilla
bean marshmallows, Meyer lemon truffles, and sliced blackberries), key lime s’mores (coconut graham crackers, vanilla bean marshmallows, key lime curd, and optional
chocolate), and mint chocolate s’mores (chocolate graham crackers, vanilla bean
marshmallows, and mint-infused truffle sticks). For the ultimate touch, Foster even helped guests roast their own marshmallows to the perfect degree of gooey goodness with a portable blowtorch.

Camping-style: “Everybody wants s’mores,” says Samantha Bearman, of SB Baking Besties (samanthabearman.com/sb-baking-besties), “and we bake our s’mores with love in every bite.” Bearman cofounded the Santa Barbara-based sweets company with her best friend, Nikki Russo, last spring, and this summer they’re offering a S’mores With Love kit, which includes homemade chocolate hearts and homemade heart-shaped marshmallows, as well as a deluxe version that features extra-large homemade marshmallows atop homemade campfire cookies instead of standard graham crackers.
“They’re great for when you want a really sweet treat that’s messy,” says Berman, “and so
perfect for backyard camping because they’re gooey and ooey and oh, so great.

Originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Cover photo by Gary Moss. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

Home and Garden: Special Issue


Architects, Antiquers, Nursery Pros, Chefs, and More Celebrate Indoors & Out in 2021

From private homes with public impact to public gardens offering private inspiration, our annual Home & Garden special issue for2021 celebrates the many design and decorating options for residential life in Santa Barbara. We hope you find something that works in your living situation, whether that’s a small tree to plant on your patio or a complete remodel of your mansion.

Here is the whole package of stories:

Sheltifying Santa Barbara

Tips From a Veteran Vintage Shopper

Exploring the Ambriz Kingdom of Plants

Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas

Public Gardens for Private Inspiration

Seasons Star in Lush Life Cookbook

Bringing Brass Ring to Home Decor

Indian Pink Pillow Power

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Seasons Star in Lush Life Cookbook


Seasons Star in Lush Life Cookbook, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

Valerie Rice brings a seasonal symphony of gardening, cooking, and entertaining to Lush Life, a glossy new cookbook from the author of eatdrinkgarden.com. “We’re so lucky that you can grow year-round gardens here,” said Rice, who populated her first book with 150 seasonal recipes, including cocktails, entertaining tips, wine pairing advice from renowned expert Rajat Parr, and gorgeous photography by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls.

“It’s kind of a handbook for life here in Santa Barbara,” said Rice, who believes the key to deliciousness all starts in the garden. “When you grow in season, it not only tastes better and works better but also is great for palate fatigue.” She suggests starting “with a sunny spot in your garden and make sure you have great soil” and then mixing compost and organic potting soil together and calendaring at least two days a week to work in the dirt. Keep the garden where you can see it from the kitchen. “Grow something that you really
love to eat so you’re excited to go out there and harvest it,” she said. “And grow what is
appropriate for the season.”

With this in mind, each section of Lush Life starts with tips on what to eat for that season and what to plant for the next season. “What grows together goes together,” advised Rice, “so whether you’re pulling it from your garden or walking around the Tuesday Farmers’ Market, a lot of the stuff that’s offered is just delicious together.”

Golden Beets & Blood Oranges with Citrus Vinaigrette, from Lush Life by Valerie Rice. Photo by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls.

Golden Beets & Blood Oranges with Citrus Vinaigrette, from Lush Life by Valerie Rice. Photo by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls.

Here is a streamlined version of her spring recipe for Golden Beets & Blood Oranges
with Citrus Vinaigrette.

CITRUS VINAIGRETTE: In a mason jar, shake ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
white balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh blood orange juice, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

SALAD: Boil 6 to 8 medium golden beets and cool. Slice 6 blood oranges into ½-inch-thick slices, and place in a bowl with any reserved juices from the cutting board. Toss the beets with 2 cups of lightly packed watercress or mâche, arrange in a shallow bowl or platter, and tuck in the orange slices. Taste for seasoning and add more dressing, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with mint.

See eatdrinkgarden.com.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

What’s Cooking at the Ranch

What's Cooking at the Ranch was originally published in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.Elizabeth Poett, proprietor of Rancho San Julian’s grass-fed beef operation in Lompoc, has a lifestyle cooking show on the new Magnolia Network. Ranch to Table (theranchtable.com), which launched in February, has been in the works for about
a year. Upcoming episodes, Poett says, will provide “a glimpse into what life is like on a cattle ranch and tons of delicious meals that focus on all that the Central Coast has to offer.”

Originally part of a Mexican land grant, the 14,000-acre ranch was established in 1837 and is featured prominently on the show along with its resident cows and chickens, gardens and orchards, Poett and her husband, Austin Campbell, and their two young sons.

Poett laughs when asked if Campbell, who also comes from a long line of local ranchers and farmers, was game to be on TV from the get-go. “I think Austin and I both knew that when we married each other we were going to need to be game for a lot,” says the seventh-generation rancher. “We were excited for the opportunity to share the importance of—as well as the beauty of—agriculture.”

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Striving for Mōr

Mor Doughnuts, originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, March 2021.When Santa Barbara resident Tommy Chang was laid off from his job as a marketing project manager due to the pandemic, he began
experimenting with the traditional Korean rice cakes and mochi
that he had enjoyed as a child. He tweaked the recipes to develop
his own creations, Chang says, and his mom really liked his mochi
doughnuts. That was when he knew he was ready to go public.

“She’s a pretty picky eater,” Chang says, “so when she said,
‘Hey why don’t you sell these?’—well, for an Asian mom to say to
her oldest son, ‘you should make doughnuts’ is a big confidence

Chang launched Mōr Doughnuts (mordoughnuts.com) last fall and now offers rotating weekly flavors like Matcha Berry Cheesecake, Black Sesame, and mango Tajín.
Chang hopes to open a storefront eventually, but for now, he sells his four-flavor boxed set for $12 online Friday through Saturday. Preorders can be placed starting each Thursday at noon for pickup at Jang’s Karate Center, his father’s business in downtown Santa Barbara.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

An Uncommonly Common Kitchen

An Uncommonly Common Kitchen originally was published in 805 Living Magazine in March 2021.The restaurant industry has become one of the latest to adopt the shared workspace concept, and a prime example is set to open in Santa Barbara later this year. Kitchen 530 (kitchen530.com), a communal food-production facility, public market, and culinary incubator in the works at 530 State Street, is what Chris Chiarappa,
one of the project developers, describes as “a bit of a Swiss Army
knife for the food world.”

The brainchild of Chiarappa, a partner in Mesa Burger restaurants, and Diana H. Pereira, founder of Kiva Cowork shared workspace in downtown Santa Barbara, Kitchen 530 will have 10 hot-preparation facilities, 10 cold-preparation facilities, two baking stations, a show kitchen and event space, a retail market, and a public restaurant.
Diners will be able to enjoy food from multiple tenants but order in one place. A full bar and coffee shop are also planned along with special event space for tenant use.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.