Vets Sue the U.S.: A Santa Barbara-based group is suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), alleging “shameful failures” to help Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Santa Barbaran Bob Handy, who heads the national organization, Veterans United for Truth, told me that the VA is failing to help tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco in July and also filed by Veterans for Common Sense, seeks to be a nationwide class action on behalf of an estimated 320,000 to 800,000 post-9/11 vets suffering from PTSD.

The Veterans United for Truth board includes former Congressman Pete McCloskey, a retired Marine colonel; former and one-time presidential candidate Maine Governor Michael Dukakis; and Santa Barbara County resident Art Hicks, retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Obama Freebie: Barack Obama may collect an estimated $3 million from Saturday afternoon’s soiree at Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito mansion. Although he won’t make a dime from his free appearance at City College at noon the same day, he’ll score points with those shut out of Oprah’s high-priced bash. This was a smart PR move.

Naughty Noise: Dr. Dan Litten, a Santa Barbara City Council candidate, told the Daily Sound that he spotted city workers using forbidden gas-powered blowers a few blocks from his home. Gas dirt-blowers, of course, are illegal in Santa Barbara under a voter-approved ordinance. The city, Litten said, should be setting a better example. Sadly, the law is widely ignored. City officials need to sic police on scofflaws, he said.

Wine Cask Upgrade: The Wine Cask, under new ownership of Bernard Rosenson, who bought the clubby restaurant from Doug Margerum, will welcome patrons to its new look (about which there have been complaints as to changes in the patio) next Wednesday. Dinner guests will be able to swill a free glass of champagne. The Intermezzo wine bar next door – one of my favorites after a show at the Lobero – also got a makeover. Lots of artwork on the walls of both rooms.

The busy Mr. Rosenson bought the long-closed former Big Yellow House in Summerland last year and plans to renovate it and rename it the Yellow Rose. Sound like a far cry from the days when we took the kids there and were charged by their weight.

New Man at Fess’ Place: Dean Feldmeier is the new GM at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, bringing more than 20 years’ experience with the Hilton chain. Hilton owns the Doubletree chain. Fess is half-owner of the Santa Barbara hotel. Speaking of Fess, he has taken over the Wine Cask’s former Los Olivos eatery in Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn, as I have reported, and hired chef Shannon Cummings, formerly of Bacara Resort and Spa. Fess renamed it Restaurant Marcella, after his wife.

More Restaurant News: The L.A. Times came to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley, prowling for news. Wine picnics at wineries, natch, along with S. Irene Virbila’s critique of The Hungry Cat, a big hit these days at 1134 Chapala St. But, as Virbila reports, expect a long wait unless you’re lucky.

Remi Lauvand, a star at Bacara when he arrived as executive chef at Miro back in 2000, is now stoking the ovens at Santa Barbara’s Sevilla – formerly Casa de Sevilla – then a holy hangout of the rich and famous. Remi won stars from the New York Times at Montrachet, the L.A. Times reports. At Sevilla, French-born Remi is offering five- and seven-course tasting menus.

The Cold Spring Tavern, wrapped in a fire-retardant cocoon to prevent Zaca fire damage, has reopened.

Betty Hallock wrote a dandy piece about Jason Tuley, a 33-year-old native who’s chef and co-owner of Square One, on Cota Street. Jason grew up eating abalone, which has pretty much disappeared from local menus. But he’s serving it from Cultured Abalone.

Eat, Then Listen: What’s this? A recently discovered version of Verdi’s Requiem? Internationally acclaimed pianist Francesco Attesti and organist Matteo Galli will perform it Sept. 29 at the First United Church of Santa Barbara. Attesti will also perform Argentinean tangos and other genres. Tickets $30. A patron ticket for $60 gets you priority seating and a pre-reception catered by Via Maestra 42 at Villa Santa Barbara. Info at (805) 895-5394.

Where’s John? If you’ve wondered what happened to travel writing veteran John Wilcock’s column in the Montecito Journal, well, John says he was “kicked out” after 11 years. You can find him at John left the New York Times travel desk to write the first guide to Mexico on $5 a day in 1961. And I used it. He also wrote Greece on $5 a day and ditto books about Japan and India, plus writing and editing Insight Guides in the 80s and 90s. Can you imagine going anywhere for $5 a day without backpacking it? Back then, $5 took you a long way if you avoided five-star hotels.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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