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.”
Here are three highlights off the current menu, which will change a bit next season:
Summer Wild Kale Salad: The greens are accompanied by market beets, beet purée, quinoa, shaved parmesan, toasted hazelnuts, and a hazelnut vinaigrette. “I want to represent what’s around us, so it’s a very American Riviera approach,” said Rosner, who frequents the farmers’ markets. “You let the vegetables speak for themselves.
Duo of Beef: Served with carrots, turnips, and a pomme purée, the roasted ribeye and braised short rib are hormone-free, “clean, clean beef,” according to Rosner, who sources domestically rather than going abroad for wagyu meat. “I don’t need to fly something into the county that I feel we do here better than everyone else,” he explained.
Roasted Rack of Lamb: Served as a disassembled rack with fried artichokes and crushed potatoes, this entrée highlight is also a duo of sorts, coming with braised lamb belly. “Think lamb bacon,” Rosner tells the staff, to which one replied, “This is the game-changer. That’s so good.”
Wine Cask is located at 813 Anacapa Street. Call 966-9463 or see winecask.com.