If Chaucer and T.S. Eliot can be believed, April might be the cruelest month. But in Santa Barbara, October certainly is the foodiest month. We already have the tasty fortune to enjoy-and pardon me if I miss a Thai Basil Festival or a Canning of the Tomatoes Ritual on your block-the Avocado Festival (Oct. 2-4), the Harbor & Seafood Festival (Oct. 10), the Celebration of Harvest (Oct. 10), the Lemon Festival (Oct. 17-18), and the Beer Festival (Oct. 17). But now the people who dream up reasons for people to come visit our terrific town have epicure.sb in store and, beyond the typeface, there’s nothing lowercase about this celebration of Santa Barbara bounty, a month-long food and drink extravaganza that might leave Bacchus a bit blissed out and burpy.
But, you might ask, isn’t Santa Barbara always epicure.sb? “Santa Barbara is delicious year ’round,” said Shannon Turner Brooks, director of communications for the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau & Film Commission. “But October is so special because of the abundance of popular food and wine events that already take place, and now with epicure, there is even more for foodies, locavores, and aspiring bon vivants to dig into. We all know Santa Barbarans love a festival, but this is unique in its month-long duration, the volume and diversity of participants, and the nature of the offerings-and it’s accessible to many people with a range of paid and free events and events catering to many different interests.”
Separating epicure.sb from the rest of the promotional pack, Brooks elaborated, “Culinary tourism is a big draw for the Santa Barbara region, and we wanted to create a signature event that would stand out from the restaurant weeks and other culinary promotions that many other cities offer-something that would go beyond prix fixe menus and truly showcase the bounty of Santa Barbara. Not many other communities have the entire package we do: a thriving seafood industry, a rich agriculture industry yielding superb produce all year, 150-plus wineries, gourmet purveyors, fantastic restaurants. When you look at what we have per capita, it’s quite impressive-microbreweries, a Farmers Market every day of the week, a strong Slow Food movement : the list goes on!”
In fact, the epicure.sb list is so strong and long, with more than 100 events, that it’s best to peruse on your own and decide what fits your taste and budget. But here are a handful of fine for-instances to throw out:
• Tuesdays in October: Santa Barbara Chefs Wine Dinner Series will start at the aerie Canary Hotel’s Perch Bar with appetizers and wine, and then move to a four-course, wine-paired meal at bouchon (Oct. 6), Coast (Oct. 13), Seagrass (Oct. 20), and Julienne (Oct. 27).
• The Book Den presents Santa Barbara Writes About Food with area food authors Krista Harris (Oct. 3), Michele Carbone (Oct. 10), Miriam Kasin Hospodar (Oct. 17), and Pascale Beale-Groom (Oct. 24).
• The Wildcat Lounge lives up to its name with a Mai Tai Throw Down on October 22.
• The Contemporary Arts Forum will give a truly artistic touch to Halloween with Scorpio Rising: Pumpkin Carving Contest and Fall Wine Tasting featuring Kunin Wines, brilliant jack-o’-lanterns, and Kenneth Anger’s infamous short, Scorpio Rising.
Brooks is also quick to point to the event In Conversation with Cat Cora on October 12, moderated by Mitchell Sjerven, owner of bouchon and Seagrass. “She’s a local resident, and I think people will really enjoy getting to know her, whether they are familiar with Iron Chef or not. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for a video project, and she couldn’t be a nicer, more genuine person,” Brooks said. “She loves Santa Barbara, and we as a community are lucky to have her as a local cheerleader. Mitchell is the consummate host and a true ambassador for Santa Barbara’s food and wine world, so the conversation between the two of them is guaranteed to be interesting and entertaining.”
Meanwhile, for those who might find the term “epicure” too snooty, there’re plenty of discounted or free opportunities to be had. “For people who are budget conscious-as all of us are these days-there are many opportunities to save,” Brooks explained, “like no corkage at Louie’s, two-for-one tastings and prix fixe menus at numerous locations, in addition to all of the free events.” Some of those best two-for-one tastings might occur during October’s latest fte, the Urban Wine Trail Weekend on October 24-25. “If locals haven’t already, it’s time to discover the wineries on the Urban Wine Trail,” Brooks enthused. “Two-for-one tastings at eight wineries downtown : during two days, so they don’t need to go to all eight in one day. That’s not encouraged, in fact!” You need to have a good time but get out alive. This is going to become an annual event, after all.
Dive into the celebration of Santa Barbara’s culinary bounty this October at more than 75 businesses and 100 events by checking the schedule at epicuresb.com or calling the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau & Film Commission at 966-9222.