Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend Part 1

Photos by Coast Photography

Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend Highlights

Saturday Morning

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the inaugural Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend on June 6th–8th at the Bacara, don’t worry there will be more. Keep an eye out for the next one. In the meantime, I’ll give you some of the highlights from the panels, tastings, and demos I attended so you’ll know what it’s all about.

The event honored Julia Child and her passion for learning, eating and celebrating local access to unique and delicious foods. A portion of the proceeds went to the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Edible Santa Barbara was an event partner.

Instead of just tasting local foods and wines, we spent Saturday learning where good foods come from, what makes them good, and how to cook them.

Panel of Local Food Experts


To set the tone, the morning opened with a panel and audience discussion of the Santa Barbara food scene: What’s changed and what’s coming next?


Top left: Arthur von Wiesenberger. Top right: Tracey Ryder. Bottom from left: Mary Harris, Matt Kettmann, Krista Harris, Arthur von Wiesenberger.

The discussion was moderated by Tracey Ryder, co-founder of the Edible Communities. She was joined by our own Edible Santa Barbara publisher Krista Harris, Visit the Santa Ynez Valley Executive Director Mary Harris, Independent Sr. Editor Matt Kettmann and broadcaster, author and food consultant Arthur von Wiesenberger.

One of the changes identified was the development of food neighborhoods like the Funk Zone, the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc, the restaurant row in Los Alamos and wine tasting rooms in Los Olivos—all featuring local products.

The subject of food trucks came up in response to an audience question about ways to build local food movements. The growth of social networking has helped spread mobile food popularity. The trucks have been especially successful at festivals, public events, and private parties.

Both food trucks and the new Cottage Food Law are allowing aspiring chefs and bakers to bring their culinary creativity into the marketplace with lower start-up costs. Locally sourced and produced items are showing up on restaurant menus, on the shelves at local markets and at artisan fairs.

It was noted that as prices of food increase, locally-sourced foods are becoming more appealing and the center-of-the-plate focus has begun to move away from large portions of expensive meat protein to a more vegetable-dominant plate with meat-flavored garnishes.

Are we developing a Santa Barbara Cuisine? We are probably best-known for our Santa Maria BBQ, tri-tip, wines and our local seafood. Theo Stephan of Global Gardens has coined a new term: Caliterranean, which underscores the fact that our Mediterranean climate has given us an olive-rich heritage so ubiquitous that we forget how large a role it has played in our history and our current menus.

Olive Oil and Vinegar for Life!


Hmm, a perfect introduction to the tasting and demo I attended next.

Julia Child said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Theo Stephan, founder of Global Gardens and owner of the new Caliterranean Café in Los Alamos comes to mind when I read that.


Left: Tasting size bottles of olive oil and vinegar. Right: Theo Stephan.

Theo makes olive oils and vinegars from locally grown olives and fruit. In fact, Theo is so passionate about olive oil that she makes her own cold pressed extra virgin olive oil right from her own trees: guaranteed organic and extra virgin. Theo says if your olive oil smokes when you heat it and you don’t feel a tickle to the back of your throat when you taste it, it’s not extra virgin olive oil (over 60% of what is labeled extra virgin, isn’t).

Theo gave us each a set of 12 small bottles, a bread roll and a tasting palette to hold a small amount of each of our 7 oils and 5 vinegars. As we tasted our way from the buttery Arbequina to the Meyer lemon infused olive oil, Theo told us about her Aunt Lou.

As a child Theo noticed that her Aunt Lou’s food at family events always tasted the best so one day she asked her the secret. Aunt Lou sat down with her and handed her a bread bun. She poured Theo a bowl of extra virgin olive oil and told her to dip the bread and taste the depth of flavor. Today Theo uses olive oil in everything … chocolate brownies, baklava and even as a skin moisturizer.

Her vinegars are made with no added sugars, fructose or corn syrup. She demonstrated the use of vinegar rather than oil to sauté a skirt steak from Dey Dey’s ranch in Buellton. It was a strawberry balsamic. She also adds vinegar when she caramelizes onions. Her salad dressing is one part vinegar to three parts oil. For vinaigrette, she uses three parts oil to one part vinegar.

For flaky pie pastry, she freezes olive oil in an ice cube tray, one tablespoon per cube. Then she processes it into the flour mixture in place of butter. That’s an experiment I definitely want to try.

Santa Maria Style BBQ with Frank Ostini of the Hitching Post II


On the lawn next to the The Bistro restaurant, Frank Ostini, owner of the Hitching Post II in Buellton was BBQing aged sirloin over a California Wild Oak wood fire. He learned the art of BBQ from his father Frank Ostini, who purchased the original Hitching Post in Casmalia in 1952, owned today by Frank Jr.’s brother Bill.


Left: Frank Ostini, owner of The Hitching Post II. Right: perfectly barbequed beef.

While we ate the tender beef, grill-roasted onions, mushrooms, eggplant and mushrooms, asparagus, fresh salsa, pinquito beans and toasty garlic bread, along with Firestone beer on tap, Frank shared some of BBQing tips. To maintain a clean soot-free fire, he keeps his coals burning hot with lots of air. He calls it micromanaging. The Hitching Post fire never goes out. At night he buries the coals in ash, then adds wood in the morning to rekindle the fire.

Frank says, “Cook the meat slowly. Don’t overcook it and remember it will continue to cook if you don’t cut it after you take it off the fire.” He pays attention to the grain of the meat. A steak with grain running from top to bottom needs to be turned frequently to keep the juices from flowing out.

Frank has also been making wine since 1984, originally as a house wine for the restaurant. Today Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Winery produces about 15,000 cases a year, primarily Pinot Noirs. Yes, the movie Sideways had a huge impact on his pinot sales and on his restaurant business.

Next: Saturday Afternoon Highlights

Categories Category: Food