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Santa Barbara Never Tasted So Good: Epicure.sb in October

Doug Margerum inviting guests to lunch
Doug Margerum inviting guests to lunch
Jessica Koslow

Two crates of Pinot Blanc grapes have arrived at Margerum Wine Company on Industrial Way in Buellton. Owner Doug Margerum and winemaker Jason Barrette are excited about the delivery; the lull between the white and red grape harvests has made it quieter than usual. A group of wine enthusiasts has traveled 40+ miles from Santa Barbara to be winemakers for a day. For the first three Fridays in October, Doug and Jason are inviting guests to hand sort and crush grapes, following the process all the way to blending and bottling their own wine; lunch with the staff is included. On Oct. 3, Wine Cask, a restaurant Doug co-owns, has arranged for its chef, Brandon Hughes, plus Nik Ramirez of Intermezzo and Bouchon's Greg Murphy to prepare small bites along with farmstead cheeses, which will be paired with Margerum wines, at Spanish Garden Inn.

These are only two of 100 events offered as part of epicure.sb, a month-long celebration of cuisine, libations and culture. Crista Fooks' Scarlet Begonia throws its napkin in the ring with Friday pop-up dinners. Opening just one year ago, UCSB graduate Fooks (Margerum is also a UCSB grad) debuted her first dinner service on Sept. 27. The pop-ups will be her segue into officially offering evening fare. Judging from her Brioche French Toast and Maple Bacon Biscuit (the eatery offers breakfast all day) and homemade ketchup and mayonnaise, Fooks and executive chef Joel Huff's dinner menu will deliver more "thoughtful food," as she likes to call it.

Scarlet Begonia's Brioche French Toast
Scarlet Begonia's Brioche French Toast
Jessica Koslow

While the term farm-to-table is familiar, Patrick Reynolds ventured into Farm-to-Bar Happy Hours at Wildcat Lounge and discovered an untapped niche. After a visit to the local farmers market on Tuesdays, the mixologist whips up drinks from 5 - 8 p.m., like the Smokey and the Bandit with peaches, hickory smoked pistachios, lemon, cider vinegar, thyme, and bourbon. He even dusts the glass with thyme for the smell of it.

A handful of prix fixe menus exist for the eating all month, but the belle of the ball, so to speak, is executive chef Alessandro Cartumini's five-course wine dinner at Bella Vista at Four Seasons Biltmore. "From A to V" (Abalone to Vino) starts with abalone ceviche and locally grown finger limes, and ends with pistachio cake, passion fruit sorbet and coffee; the beans are grown at nearby Good Land Organics farm in Goleta, the only coffee bean grower on the continental United States.

A big part of epicure.sb's push is about highlighting what's local. Cartumini chimes in with a menu boasting tomatoes from Tutti Frutti Farms in Lompoc, cheese from Cuyama and avocadoes from Rincon Farms in Carpinteria. The Biltmore offers special epicure.sb packages for those who can't make it out the door.

SB Shellfish Co.'s ceviche
SB Shellfish Co.'s ceviche
Jessica Koslow

For 31 days, Santa Barbara celebrates all things edible peppered with a bit of culture. Aqua adventurers can sign up for stand up paddleboard coupled with salsa-making lessons, and land lovers can trek through the Urban Wine Trail. Start at the Wine Triangle (Au Bon Climat, Grassinni and Margerum), stumble over to the Funk Zone (including Oreana and Kalyra), and then drift to the outskirts to sip on wines at Carr Winery and Jaffurs Wine Cellars. These last two have enough space to actually make wine inside their tasting rooms.

In the culture column, Focus on the Funk Zone is a four-hour neighborhood-wide event on Oct. 6, spotlighting its burgeoning arts and business spaces. As the graffiti reads in the upper right-hand corner of the blue, green and orange mural on Mason Street: Minds get blown @ the Funk Zone.

For a full list of events, visit epicure.sb.


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