Surviving Pandemic on Steady Diet of Food Porn

Santa Barbara’s Social Media Foodies Entertain the Hunkered-Down Masses

Ginger Luckey (@GingeEats_SB) enjoyed making sushi at home with seafood from the Santa Barbara Fish Market. | Credit: Ginger Luckey (@GingeEats_SB)

Stuck at home, many of us are more glued than ever to our iPhones, swiping through endless reams of social media to take our minds off of this uncertain time while staying connected to family and friends, even those who live just around the corner. 

Long a popular theme on Instagram, food porn — those pretty pics and descriptions of dishes that make you drool with both hunger and envy — is taking on more meaning than ever during the pandemic. I confess to both posting and peering at food porn on a daily basis — check @mattkettmann as evidence — but it’s not just a show-off strategy anymore. These posts are advertising restaurants that are still open, highlighting food-delivery services, and providing inspiration for home cooks who finally now have time to emulate what’s on their screens.    


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I asked a few of Santa Barbara’s top food-porn posters to tell me about their most memorable quarantine meals so far. 

Sarah Chhum @SBGoodEats

Memorable meal?  Empty Bowl’s Northern Thailand Curry Noodle aka “Khoa Soi,” which is flat egg noodles, stewed Shelton Farm chicken in a curry base broth with a little coconut milk and fish sauce. Garnished with pickled mustard greens, green onions, cilantro, their house-made chili oil, and crispy egg noodles. Paired it with an order of Thai Vegetable Egg Rolls and Mango Sticky Rice for dessert. 

Photo: Sarah Chhum Sarah Chhum (@sbgooderats) loved Empty Bowl’s Northern Thailand Curry Noodle aka “Khoa Soi.”

Why?  My family is Cambodian, and this time of year is actually Cambodian New Year. We usually all get together at someone’s house and have a giant potluck. Obviously, this year we weren’t able to do that. While Thai food and Cambodian food aren’t the same, our cultures share many similar dishes. So, being able to order and have Empty Bowl is really comforting in a way, especially since there aren’t really any Cambodian-inspired restaurants in Santa Barbara.

What’s next?  I’ve been craving sushi lately, and will most likely order takeout from Oku soon, especially since I haven’t had a chance to go since they’ve opened!

Geneva Ives @Hi_Geneva

Memorable meal?  The Egg Salad Survival Kit from Bell’s in Los Alamos. 

Why?  I was so excited to close my laptop, put away my “office,” and reclaim the dining table for its true purpose. We also ordered their saucisson, sheep’s milk cheese, and olive/almond starter. And we opened a Story of Soil gruner veltliner and Whitcraft pinot noir. I set the table, and it felt like a real night out for a hot minute!

Cocktails too?  I am totally digging takeout cocktails for what it’s worth. In that case, Harry’s is killing it. We’ve also dusted our Negroni Kit from Bettina and Sunshine Spritz Kit from Satellite.

What do you miss?  When we get out of this thing, I can’t wait to make casual dining decisions again. Just being able to decide 10 minutes before a meal to grab a sammie at Metropulos or enchiladas at Lito’s or a “light meal” at the Dutch Gardens will feel like such a luxury.

Ginger Luckey @GingeEats_SB

Memorable meal?  Homemade nigiri platter with fish from Santa Barbara Fish Market, with sweet shrimp, salmon, and sea scallops over sushi rice.

Why?  Fresh seafood is always a treat during COVID, especially when it’s sashimi grade and only needs a simple soy or ponzu sauce. 

When this is over?  I can’t wait to get back to the Acme family of restaurants: Loquita, Lark, and Pearl Social in particular. They will be my first night out back on the town. I’ll probably order the whole menu.

Eva E. von Thury @posh4penniesbae

Memorable meal?  An evening BBQ on the patio with my favorite ingredients delivered to my doorstep from Shalhoob, Municipal Winemakers, Riviera Bread, and Farm Cart Organics. On the menu: Shalbhoob’s ground sirloin hamburger wrapped in lettuce from Farm Cart’s “The Essential” box, between sourdough from Riviera Bread; grilled artichoke from Farm Cart; all paired with a glass of Muni Wine’s Bright White.

Photo: Eva E. von Thury (@Posh4PenniesBAE) Eva E. von Thury (@Posh4PenniesBAE) finally felt comfortable grilling Shalhoob burgers and Farm Cart artichokes with Muni Wine’s Bright White.

Why?  This was the first meal since the stay-at-home order that I really felt relaxed and was able to just enjoy the food on my table on a beautiful spring night! My dog, Beaux, was able to join in on this locavore feast with me by enjoying some Farm Cart lettuce for his dessert!  

Next up? Parsley and carrot green pesto with the leftover greens from last week’s Farm Cart box. I’ll freeze it into cubes to add to pastas and more in the future.

Denisse Salinas @lepetitchefsb

Memorable meal?  Easter takeout meal from Opal Restaurant & Bar: phyllo-wrapped prawns, basil fettuccine with shrimp, chipotle chicken penne.

Photo: Denisse Salinas @lepetitchefsbDennise Salinas (@lepetitchefsb) recalled her days at Opal with this Easter dinner.

Why?  I worked as a server at Opal during my post-college years and learned so much from owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates about how to operate a food business with integrity and heart. After a successful but truly exhausting Easter Sunday at Hook & Press Donuts (which I co-founded with my husband, John), it felt amazing to unwind with a meal that instantly brought me back to those simpler days. What’s next?  Recipes I’m developing and shooting for clients: shiitake mushroom dumplings, roasted cauliflower steaks with walnut gremolata, sweet potato noodle pad thai, and caramelized endive with navel oranges. Stay tuned to my blog LePetitEats.com for the recipes!

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