With the hustle and bustle of midday Milpas Street traffic providing an unexpected backdrop, 14 tons of syrah grapes arrived on Santa Barbara’s Eastside last week, their sweet, intoxicating aroma detectable from several blocks away. Grown in the sun-kissed climate of the Santa Ynez Valley and plucked fat from the vine just hours before, crate after crate of the deeply hued purple delights were being forklifted off a flat-bed truck parked on Montecito Street just outside Jaffurs Wine Cellars, which received the delivery into its state-of-the-art production facility for the next step in the fruit’s seasonal journey.
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With a new cooking reality show popping up virtually every week on television, a Whole Foods coming soon to upper State Street, and interest in cooking and greenmarkets at an all-time high, we decided to take a look inside the workings of two of the most happening restaurants in town-Downey’s, a Santa Barbara institution, and the Hungry Cat, a new restaurant started by a celebrity-chef couple from Los Angeles and run by some young potential rising stars in the Santa Barbara culinary firmament. George Yatchisin sat down with John and Liz Downey to discuss their legendary restaurant’s 25th anniversary, while Charles Donelan chased the crew from the Hungry Cat through the Farmers Market and then ate the consequences.
Things haven’t been the same since good old Thomas Edison figured out how to light up the night. The rhythms of life have been forever changed by that electrifying discovery, with ever-increasing hordes of party people choosing to get down after sundown. Though I am pretty sure it wasn’t his intention, Edison’s big turn-on was a stroke of genius that has since illuminated countless dance floor dreams and libation-soaked evenings.
When Dan Randall first started coffee roasting 15 years ago, it was with one intention-to create the kind of gourmet, organic coffee he loved. His girlfriend at the time was unimpressed. “She didn’t like my stuff,” Randall said recently. “Her idea of a good cup of coffee was Farmer Brothers. If it didn’t taste like a brown paper bag brewed through a gym sock, she didn’t like it.”
Got a rack full of Santa Barbara County wines? Walk over to it, yank out a bottle, and inspect the label. Odds are that in your hands is a wine whose grapes came from Bien Nacido Vineyards, the 800-plus acre spread along the northeastern flank of the Santa Maria Valley. Nope? Well, then double-or-nothing that your bottle passed through the Central Coast Wine Services (CCWS) somewhere along the line from the vineyard to your cellar. Don’t believe me?