Less than a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles is beautiful Santa Barbara, the American Riviera. Marinas, farmland, beaches, trendy restaurants, vineyards, shopping … this town has it all.
Throughout the month of October, epicure.sb will highlight local restaurants, shops, services, and wineries by offering special deals and events. I was lucky enough to be invited on a press trip previewing a few epicure.sb experiences.
Lunch next to the harbor at On the Alley was our first stop. The restaurant offers quick take-out food of the same quality as the famous Brophy Bros. (it is under the same ownership) with little to no wait. My choice: the baked clams and fried avocado taco.
After a short trip on the local 50-cent shuttle (as part of Santa Barbara’s car free initiative), we ended up at Kunin Wines, a wine-tasting establishment.
Owner and winemaker Seth Kunin led us through a tasting of wines from his own label. On October 18, during epicure.sb, Seth is offering “Winemaker for a Day,” where participants can join him for a component tasting and blending seminar. After tasting varietals, each participant will have the opportunity to create his or her own unique version of a Rhône blend featuring Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsaut, and Counoise. Post-wine tasting, we were transported to the State Street farmers market via pedicab. During epicure.sb, you can explore the Urban Wine Trail via pedicab on a two-hour tour for a special rate of $60 for two people.
While farm-to-table dining is becoming more and more popular, farm-to-happy-hour was a first for me. Led through the farmers market by Patrick Reynolds, libations aficionado and owner of the swanky Wildcat Lounge, we were educated about what fruits and vegetables Patrick likes to use in his concoctions.
At Wildcat, Reynolds created incredibly unique cocktail blends for us to sample using fresh-squeezed organic fruits, vegetables, and garnishes. On October 3, the bar will feature Cannonball Adderley, Turner Classic Movies, and a cocktail list geared toward the best sensory memories of Santa Barbara. With drinks such as “The Goodland” and “Tangerine Falls,” it will be farm-to-bar at its best.
After wine tasting AND cocktail tasting, we were eager to put something in our stomachs—and probably were all swaying a bit.
Sama Sama Test Kitchen is an Indonesian-influenced restaurant with a backyard-courtyard dining area; it was incredible. The tasting dinner had our entire group of epicurean explorers saying, “Wow!” From the unique food parings and overall presentation to the taste, each dish had a distinct look and flavoring. I tried dishes I never would have ordered on my own, such as pork butt porridge, which I shockingly loved. I strongly recommend dining here, and I especially suggest looking into the tastings they have planned during epicure.sb.
Saying wow didn’t stop at dinner. Strolling down State Street, we approached what appeared to be a normal storefront. However, once down a flight of stairs we entered a breathtaking, magical setting. Salt offers rooms for salt-infused body treatments and two caves used to host private events. Our group was invited to kick back and watch a film while sipping champagne and indulging in truffles in this candlelit hideaway. Be sure to check out the spa specials and date night events going on at the caves during epicure.sb.
After a great night sleep at the beachfront Hotel Oceana, we took off on a kayak tour with Channel Islands Outfitters. Our tour guide, Garrett Kababik, led us through an informative and exhilarating excursion. During epicure.sb, Channel Island Outfitters is offering a Lobster and Seafood Explore Tour. Available all month long, this unique package offers an hour-long kayak tour accompanied by a seafood and lobster lunch or dinner at Endless Summer Bar Café. There is a minimum of 4 persons required per reservation, and the price includes the kayak tour and gift certificates toward any lobster or seafood meal available at the restaurant.
Our epicure.sb preview continued with a farm trip and cooking demo/dinner at The Lark. While visiting a farm in nearby Goleta, we learned about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming from Jack Motter of Ellwood Canyon Farms, a supplier for Harvest Distributors. The goal of CSA farming is to build a farm people can connect with and give the community the opportunity to know their farmers and know where and how their food is grown.
Back at the ever-so-trendy Lark restaurant, chef Jason Paluska demonstrated some techniques when preparing a Lark featured salad. (Who knew the beets should be placed under the lettuce in a beet salad?) The Lark’s epicure.sb offering is “Become Chef for a Day” on October 8 and 22. The Lark will offer two exclusive farm-to-table-style cooking classes led by chef Paluska. This is a full immersion class working directly with the Lark’s culinary team to experience what it’s like to be a chef for a day. From handpicking ingredients at the local farm to preparing and enjoying a fabulous meal paired with wine, participants will learn insider techniques and take home their own apron and recipe booklet.
We couldn’t pass up dining at the Lark after witnessing first-hand what goes on in the kitchen. There is such an interesting menu with items such as caramelized cauliflower gratin with gruyere, preserved lemon, chili flakes, and bacon breadcrumbs; grilled peach-glazed pork belly sliders with whole grain aioli, pickled red onion, arugula, and brioche; and half-roasted chicken with brown butter polenta, spinach, charred figs, and shallots. Every dish we sampled was more incredible than the last—including the herbed popcorn they serve in lieu of bread for the table.
Our very full day had to end with a nightcap at the beautiful Les Marchands Wine Bar.
Based on my preview of epicure.sb, a trip to Santa Barbara this October should be on your must-do list. Bravo to Visit Santa Barbara for creating epicure.sb and giving locals and visitors a chance to sample so many different elements of Santa Barbara with unique experiences and special pricing.