Sometimes it’s easy for a foodie to think it’s an edible world, and we’re all just lucky to chow down in it. That’s because Edible Communities—with more than 60 now in North America—helped to lead us into a more local, sustainable, delicious life. Here in town we’ve got Edible Santa Barbara, ably edited by Krista Harris and gorgeously designed by Steve Brown. But that’s not all: For January 29 and 30, we also will be the home to the second annual Edible Institute, a weekend jam-packed with panels, esteemed guests, writerly wisdom, hands-on workshops, and, of course, a food-and-drink gala.
“Last year in Santa Fe, we had the first Edible Institute, but it was only a half-day long—a keynote and a panel discussion, and that was it,” Harris explains. “It was an amazing success. Everyone wanted more, and people even braved a snowstorm to get there. I walked out so inspired. So this year they said, ‘Let’s go all out and have a Saturday night event and socialize and drink wine and eat food. That’s what we do best.’”
That food-and-wine gala portion of the program is sandwiched between two days of panels with topics like “Will Urban Ag Change the Way We Eat?” and workshops on subjects like building your own brand as a food writer and how to market yourself. The speakers/workshop leaders come from throughout the country, too: Los Angeles Times food editor Russ Parsons will be on hand, as will Dan Imhoff, cofounder of Watershed Media, and the keynote speaker is the esteemed Joan Gussow, from Columbia University, who, as Harris, put it, “has been growing her own food and eating local way before it was a concept.”
And then there’s the close-to-home focus, from UCSB professor David Cleveland to a panel called “Mighty Wines: Small Family Producers Using Traditional Winemaking Methods” that focuses on Santa Barbara County and will feature Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa, Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine Company, Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards, and Bob Wesley of The Winehound.
The event itself came to Santa Barbara for several reasons, not the least of which is that the original Edible Ojai and Edible Communities founders Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian are leasing in town and considering moving here full-time, according to Harris, who further explained, “We like the proximity between Los Angeles and San Francisco—that’s a big draw.”
After all, this is a national event that just happens to occur here—with guests like Jane Black, former Washington Post writer, and Molly O’Neill, author of one of the cookbooks of 2010 (One Big Table), we’re not talking about a gathering of small-time bloggers. “I would have loved to have had more locals on the panels,” Harris insisted, “but there was not enough room. That’s why we have to do this again next year.”
The locals will represent at Saturday evening’s food-and-wine gala at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. “The idea behind it is we have everyone together talking about local food and wine, so we have to try it,” Harris said. “Plus, a lot of the people presenting are not from here so we want to show off.” Purveyors will include not only the wineries already mentioned but also purveyors such as New West Catering, Montecito Country Kitchen, C’est Cheese, Global Gardens, Telegraph Brewing; Here’s the Scoop, confirmed Harris, is “even working on a special flavor of gelato with wine in it for the event.”
After Sunday’s panels and workshop sessions, Harris imagines that attendees “will leave with a sense of inspiration that then can really do something with what they’ve learned. This combination of food activists and food journalists will really make a difference in the community and nationally.”
The Edible Institute’s panels, workshops, and tastings are on Saturday, January 29, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, January 30, 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m. at the Hotel Mar Monte. The food and drink gala is on Saturday, January 29, from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 pm. at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Registration for Saturday is $99; for Sunday, $50. Tickets and more information available at ediblecommunities.com/content/edible-institute/edible-institute-2011.htm. Advance purchase is highly recommended.