Six of the eight, plus one caddie, of the Bandon Dunes expedition | Credit: Matt Kettmann

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on June 23, 2023. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at

Last week, rather than writing this newsletter, I spent a few days on the southern Oregon coast, golfing at Bandon Dunes for my brother’s 40th birthday. (He actually turned 43 this week, so the eight of us were playing a bit of COVID catch-up.)

Half of us knocked out 90 holes over three days — some did less; some actually did 18 more — tackling the resort’s five jaw-dropping courses, all quite different despite occupying the same basic landscape south of Coos Bay. Though only created two decades ago, the experience — which must be walked, though most people, like us, employ caddies — already sits atop golfers’ collective bucket list, right next to Pebble Beach and St. Andrew’s.

Pacific Dunes is one of the many courses at Bandon Dunes, which hugs the southern Oregon coast. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

As someone who’s found it hard to hit the links even once a month since I had kids more than a dozen years ago, that much golf on such challenging courses is way over my skill set and, frankly, a bit beyond my interest level. But when intermixed with the beautiful resort’s solid slate of restaurants, the flow of good drinks (including the 18 wines I shipped in advance), and, most importantly, the great company of my brother, his close friends, and cousins that are like brothers, the whole trip was quickly filed into the “All-Time” folder of my life.

It was, as you may guess, very expensive (no press hookups this time!), which is to say very exclusive, which is to say, for the most part, very Upper-Class White Male in the demographic department. It was also, of course, a massive and still-expanding golf resort, which is to say, a sprawling development of once-pristine seaside that’s been ripped up, recontoured, replanted, and intensively managed for the nonessential whims of high-paying humans.

If you can’t hear my hands wringing by now, let me put it this way: My relationship to golf is a touch fraught. And unless you’re totally immune to caring about equity or environmental issues, I bet yours might be as well. (Rest assured, fellow eco-minded outdoor enthusiasts who golf, I’ve stood up for the sport’s ability to connect us to nature before in this piece on the death of Ocean Meadows.)

Thankfully, at least for my conscience, golf is progressing on those fronts. Sustainable development and management consultants are very much in demand by the industry right now, and there are genuine efforts underway at all levels to make the sport more inclusive to all backgrounds. Just watch the commercials during any tournament to confirm that at least the marketing budgets are being allocated in that direction.

Bridging the economic divide will remain the most difficult challenge. For one, it’s expensive to build and run golf courses, so if the cost of entry is tied to the actual cost of operations, we can only expect prices to rise. But, like many “luxury” pursuits, the top tier of golf is exclusive by design, and I don’t really ever see that changing. Hopefully there will always be municipal and entry-level courses, and there’s a continual rise of nonprofit organizations introducing the game to underprivileged communities.

I know a good amount about the latter, because when my dad died a decade ago, we started an annual golf tournament at Santa Cruz’s DeLaveaga Golf Course (his weekly haunt) in his honor. After some research, we selected First Tee Silicon Valley as the recipient of our fundraising, and have since raised tens of thousands of dollars for the organization, far more than we ever anticipated.

Matt and his dad, Denny, at Cypress Point, an exclusive golf club they got to play in the late 1990s due to a twisting series of lucky cancellations.

The Big D Memorial sells out quickly, mostly to my dad’s large network of friends and family, and the previous year’s First Tee scholarship recipients speak about how they’re using the money to empower their academic ambitions. (Here are some of their stories.) For anyone who scoffs at the life lessons that golf can teach, or questions why, with all its social and environmental hangups, the sport should even exist, one of these speeches will reset your mindset.

I never really chose to golf myself. I didn’t grow up with a country club membership, but I’ve had clubs in my hands as long as I can remember. It was always intertwined in our vacations, holidays, and anytime we hung out with our massive Catholic family.

My dad actually owned a golf store for a few years when I was a young teenager, and I even broke out my ragged “Golf U.S.A.” red shirt during our last breakfast at Bandon. Now my son is fired up about it too, taking lessons — including some from First Tee Central Coast — and has golfed more days than not so far this summer.

Matt almost birded this iconic hole at Cypress Point on his way to shooting a 113. Or was it 118?

So while my relationship to golf may be fraught, it will also be forever. I just hope the sport continues to move in a progressive direction, managing courses with the surrounding environment in mind, bringing more people from more backgrounds into the fold, and continuing to teach perseverance, problem-solving, and positive thinking. Without any of those traits, you won’t get past the first green.

Good thing my brother already booked Bandon for 2025. See you on the tee box.

(As an aside, if you’re choosing to send your golf clubs to Bandon or anywhere, I’d highly advise LugLess over the heavily promoted Ship Sticks. The process was super easy, the cost was way less than Ship Sticks, and my clubs arrived early. Meanwhile, my bro’s buddy sent his bag via Ship Sticks and it was almost immediately lost — but the company automatically sent him a lost-item form, which made us think that happens quite a bit….)

The town of Bandon offers great sunset views if you can escape the golf resort. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

Seared @ the New Vic

Ronald Auguste and Andrew Elvis Miller star in the Ensemble Theatre Company production of Seared by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Jonathan Fox. | Credit: Zach Mendez
Secret Bao’s special scallops were fire last weekend. Just don’t ask the chef from Seared to cook them. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

Chef worship — and chef self-worship — is everywhere these days, from the pages of this paper to podcasts to screens big and little. It’s now on stage in Santa Barbara too, with Ensemble Theater Company’s Seared showing at the New Vic until June 25. Though billed as a comedy, it’s much more of a drama centered around the kitchen of a buzzing Brooklyn restaurant, where the four expertly cast characters involved must overcome egos to meet expectations of a critical crowd.

We took our kids, aged 13 and almost 11, to the play last Sunday, and everyone approved. (If you’re wondering whether it’s kid-appropriate, be aware that there are a number of f-bombs, but my kids are perfectly attuned to such colorful banter.) The actors, who all delivered tip-top performances, are actively cutting vegetables, eating, and drinking on stage, which added a bit of texture to the fiery arguments, as did the very realistic depictions of modern restaurant life. Food writers get zinged a few times, which was great.

If you have worked in restaurants, or like eating in restaurants, or follow food culture at all, I’d suggest going. You’ll get a kick out of seeing a staged version of today’s culinary zeitgeist.

We turned the play into real life by snagging the last unreserved seats at Secret Bao on Father’s Day at the 5 p.m. opening time, and plowed through plate after plate of their visionary pan-Asian-with-international-twists cuisine. We all need to be eating there once a week.

Listen to Me

Tired of reading all this drudgery? Listen to me blab on instead as a guest of The Jeremiah Show.

Restauranteur-turned-radio-host Jeremiah Higgins chatted to me at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and the podcast was ready to rock less than two hours later. That’s quick work!

We talk Full Belly Files, how I got into this career, and much more. Here’s the iTunes link.

From Our Table

San Ysidro Ranch’s Secret Cellar | Credit: Ivana Milenkovic

Here’s a bunch of stories you may have missed over the past two weeks:


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