Santa Barbara's International Film Festival (SBIFF) echoes Cannes' famed film festival -- both are held in lovely seaside towns betwixt mountains and the ocean, stars come out in force and there is ample fresh local seafood. But unlike the French Riviera version, SBIFF prix fixe menus are deals: For the second year, area restaurants are offering specially priced Film Feast dining menus intended to complement the 29th annual film festival, which runs Thursday, January 26 through Sunday, February 5.
Most of the festival films screen in downtown Santa Barbara in theaters on or just off State Street. Festival award presentations at the Arlington Theatre to those who are in the run for an Academy Award, make this festival particularly crowd pleasing. (Martin Scorsese gets the American Riviera award on Monday night Jan. 30.)
So where to dig in before checking out opening night's Darling Companion from director Lawrence Kasdan, or revival screenings of A Clockwork Orange or one of the documentaries in the festival's Screen Cuisine section? Film Feast presents a program of wine flights to tasting menus.
Although the Film Feast menus aren't tied to this year's festival films per se, there's a salute to Italian films at Olio e Limone Ristorante, one of the festival's culinary partners. Two-, three- and four-course menus are named for Italian classics La Strada, La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) and Cinema Paradiso. Choices include risotto with lemon and shrimp, lightly breaded swordfish topped with caponata and panna cotta with fresh local berries.
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Among the other Film Feast participants are local favorites such as Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro (Located a block from the festival's Metro 4 on State Street; also has a daily happy hour from 4:30-6:30), the Wine Cask and several wineries, like Kunin, on the Urban Wine Trail. In Northern Santa Barbara County at the Cambria Winery tasting room, try seven of the winery's small production single-clone wines for $10.
Cocktails get a cineaste theme too. At the Ty Lounge at the Four Seasons Resort, along with the rich atmosphere, choose from four specialty cocktails like The Franco -an eclectic blend of Hirsch small batch bourbon, Aperol and yellow chartreuse. At Bacara, the bar has a three martini flight -- when one just isn't enough.
Not all the food is on the plate: The SBIFF's Screen Cuisine program explores topical food subjects. Cafeteria Man, chronicles one man's efforts to reform Baltimore public schools' lunch program; Nothing Like Chocolate, follows the opening of an organic chocolate company in Grenada; Taste the Waste from Germany, delves into the issues surrounding food waste in today's consumer society; and of interest to oenophiles, French filmmaker Guillaume Bodin explores biodynamic wine production practices in Wine: The Green Revolution. Special overnight rates at participating Santa Barbara hotels are also available via Film Sleeps.
For more deliciousness, follow Kathy A. McDonald on Twitter: @writerkathymcd.