News From Over the Hill

What’s Going on in North County This Spring


Take flight over wine country with Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Courtesy photo.

Craft Beer Month

It takes a lot of beer to make good wine, which is probably why the craft beer movement has exploded in Santa Ynez Valley. Our local wine country celebrates the virtues of beer for the entire month of May, when suds lovers can enjoy an impressive array of out-of-the-ordinary tastings, classes, dinners, demos and more. One of the highlights is the Buellton BrewFest. Featuring more than 50 breweries (and some wineries), life-sized beer pong, food trucks and three live bands, this fun festival is sure to sell out, so buy your tickets early. | Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Month, May 1–31, various locations, Buellton BrewFest, Riverview Park, 151 Sycamore Dr., Buellton, May 9, VIP 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; general admission, 12:30–4 p.m.,


Cowboy entertainer Dave Stamey appears in Tales from the Tavern at the Maverick Saloon, courtesy of Dave Stamey.

Tales From the Tavern

Come hunker down at Maverick Saloon, Santa Barbara County’s quintessential cowboy bar, for the tavern’s annual concert series. Dave Stamey, who True West Magazine named the “Best Living Western Solo Musician,” takes the stage on March 11. This cowboy, mule packer, dude wrangler has delighted audiences in 14 states and says that he prefers this to being stomped by angry horses. Jamaican-born reggae singer-songwriter Owen Plant and Brother Sun play on March 25; then musician, rancher, storyteller and Canadian icon Ian Tyson tells his tales in a special Thursday night performance on April 16. Wrapping up the spring season on April 29 is American musical legend Janis Ian, who began her professional life at 12 years old and is probably best known for hits like “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen” and “Between the Lines.” Fun fact: Ian was the very first musical guest on the debut broadcast of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. | Maverick Saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez, 805/688-0383,


One of the best ways to enjoy the valley is to go up, up and away in a hot air balloon with Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Flights capture beautiful views over the wine country surrounded by transverse mountain ranges, the Channel Islands, Lake Cachuma and the historic towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, Buellton, Santa Maria and Paso Robles. A variety of packages are available, including one that includes wine tasting at vineyards such as Bedford, Alma Rosa, Rusack, Brander, Carhartt, Bridlewood, Dierberg and Blair Fox. | Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures, Santa Ynez Valley Airport, 900 Airport Rd., Santa Ynez, 760/602-0295,


Craft Beer Month in May is an excellent time to taste small batch beers, courtesy Firestone Walker Brewing.

The Penelopiad

Margaret Atwood’s new stage adaptation of her wry, witty and wise novella The Penelopiad is a reimagining of the ancient story of the Trojan War, Helen of Troy and Odysseus, told from the point of view of Penelope (perhaps the first desperate housewife to appear in art). She fends off the attentions of greedy suitors, as traveling minstrels regale her with the news of Odysseus’s epic adventures around the Mediterranean, only to have him repay her devotion with heart-wrenching ruthlessness. This PCPA (Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts) production runs March 5–22. | Severson Theatre, Allan Hancock College Campus, 1100 S. Bradley, Santa Maria, 805/922-8313,


Taste the best of Solvang this March, photo by Liz Dodder.

Taste of Solvang

There’s always something delicious going on in Solvang, but they really bring out all the stops at this annual event. Now in its 23rd year, Taste of Solvang offers a menu—from farm-to-table rustic Italian cuisine to new American and modern Danish fare, plus desserts in all forms, award-winning beers and world-class wines—that’s sure to please every palate. This year’s highlights include Farmers Market Chef Walks led by Chef Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn & Restaurant, Chef David Cecchini of Cecco Ristorante and Chef James Owens of The Bistro at Hadsten House; Bubbles and Brunch at Wildling Museum; a Winemaker Dinner with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery and Bacon & Brine’s Chef Pink; plus sips and sweets, the Solvang Wine and Beer Walk, the Grand Tasting with treats from more than 30 businesses and much, much more! | March 18–22, various locations throughout Solvang. 805/688-6144,

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Spring 2015.

Cocktail Corner: Bacon & Barrels

Seeing the World Through Bacon-Flavored Glasses, photo by Tyler Moselle

Seeing the World Through Bacon-Flavored Glasses, photo by Tyler Moselle

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

My bacon-phile colleagues and I were living high on the hog last weekend at the first annual Bacon & Barrels Festival at Saarloos + Sons‘ wine field in Los Olivos.

To label this sold-out event decadent would be an understatement. The festivities included creative bacon (and pork) dishes from top Central Coast chefs, bacon-based and bacon-inspired cocktails, wines and beers concocted by mixologists, brewers and wineries, live music and even a pig petting zoo.

Let me just say, they had me at “bacon” (which pop poet Katy Perry so brilliantly called “the meat candy of the world”) but everything at Bacon & Barrels was pretty fabulous. Our very first bite was an amazing crunchy melted cheese and pork sandwich from Ranch & Reata Roadhouse in Santa Ynez. It was exceptional, and that was before my first tipple.

Ranch & Reata's Yummy Pork Sandwich, photo by Tyler Moselle

Ranch & Reata’s Yummy Pork Sandwich, photo by Tyler Moselle

As to the barrel side of things—wine, spirits, beer—there was a lot of good stuff to choose from, including wine from Tercero, Liquid Farm, Casa Dumetz, Tessa Marie, Sunstone, Press Gang Cellars, Buttonwood, Point Concepcion, Alta Maria Vineyards, Refugio Ranch, Consilience, Tre Anelli, Riverbench (which just opened up a new tasting room in the Funk Zone at 137 Anacapa St.), Cold Heaven and of course, our hosts, Saarloos + Sons.

So much bacon goodness to choose from, as Jim Gaffigan says, “Do you want to know how good bacon is? In order to improve other food, they wrap it in bacon.” Indeed! The Ballard Inn & Restaurant, The Willows, Fresco, Georgia’s Smokehouse and Full of Life Flatbread were a just a taste of the yummy bites that were on hand.

But given the heat on Saturday, beer paired especially with all of that porky goodness. The Jefe Del Porko award went to Sides Hardware and Shoes—A Brothers Restaurant, for their bacon burger and peach and bacon panzanella, which was mouth-watering indeed, especially with the pale ale from Figueroa Mountain. The Bruery, Stone Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, Ninkasi Brewing, Central Coast Brewing, The Brewery at Abigaile, Almanac Beer Company, Mendocino Brewing Company and New Belgian Brewing Co. (with a fun “Lips of Faith” series of collaborative beers) were all on hand to wet our whistles.

Hard not to Enjoy Cupcakes when they're covered with bacon! Courtesy photo

Hard not to Enjoy Cupcakes when they’re covered with bacon! Courtesy photo

Try as I did to limit my libations to beer that day, I was unable to resist Root 246‘s amazing bacon-infused Manhattan, garnished with a drunken cherry and served in an ice cube shot glass. Try that with the Stuffed Salted Bacon Maple Cobbler Cupcake from Enjoy Cupcakes (coming soon to the Santa Barbara Public Market) and I guarantee you’ll be in hog heaven. My calendar is already marked for the next festival, July 18-20, 2014.


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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.”