On the afternoon of August 13, the Wine Cask’s servers gathered around the back bar to experience the new menu created by Chef David Rosner. He arrived from his native New York City about three weeks earlier to take the helm of the classically focused yet carefully innovative Santa Barbara kitchen. As Rosner described the ingredients of harissa, how he first poaches some meats to render fat, and the specifics of his “free-range, air-chilled chicken,” the crew sampled the dishes for the first time, occasionally inquiring about gluten and other popular allergies and quizzing him on the details of each plate.
Though he hadn’t been in a Santa Barbara kitchen since his time at Café Luck on Cota Street from 2008 to 2011, Rosner — who replaced longtime Chef Brandon Hughes, now at Montecito’s Birnam Wood Golf Club — answered the questions well, giving sincere nods to the town’s mantras of seasonality and sustainability. For co-owner Mitchell Sjerven, even more important was Rosner’s appreciation of Santa Barbara’s unique fine-dining needs — in short, those who regularly eat on white tablecloths here tend to prefer well-done standards to adventurous experiments. “We wanted to find someone who understood our program,” said Sjerven, admitting the search was tough. “We didn’t want someone who was going to put Sriracha on everything.”
There was no Sriracha at the sampling, and Rosner is quite happy to be back. “As a chef, this is one of the most fortunate places to be in the country,” he explained, as the staff went off to offer the inaugural dishes. There’s the bounty of fresh produce, of course, but Rosner enjoys cooking for both the formal Wine Cask and the “blue jeans and T-shirt” setting of the adjacent Intermezzo. “Elegant and casual,” said Rosner, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York and also tallied more than 11 years combined at Manhattan’s iconic restaurants Balthazar and Daniel. “To have both on the same property is a dream.”
By Courtesy Photo