By Ann Shepphird of GardenstoTables.com
Fresh Picks and Catches is a regular column by Ann Shepphird. Ann keeps our readers posted on restaurants around the world that are at the forefront of bringing the best local, seasonal and environmentally sustainable agriculture, meat and seafood to the table.
To get a glimpse of the importance of farm-to-table in the city of Santa Barbara one need only visit the Tuesday afternoon farmers market on State Street: It’s chef central. They’re there to check out what’s in season and fresh -- and to catch up a bit with each other. Following are three restaurants with chefs you’ll not only see every week at the farmers market but who have also built partnerships with providers to keep their offerings as fresh, seasonal and local as possible.
Santa Barbara’s eco-friendliness goes beyond the market as well. The Santa Barbara Car Free program offers discounts on hotels, restaurants and activities such as Sustainable Vine Wine Tours of the nearby Santa Ynez Valley for those who promise to make at least part of their trip car-free -- which is easy as the city is pedestrian- and bike-friendly plus electric shuttles travel throughout the downtown and along the beach and harbor for just $.25/ride.
With Julienne, the mission is right there on the menu (which changes daily): “Constantly seeking to use local, seasonal and sustainable products to bring you fresh and creative meals.” Also on the menu are call-outs to farms, such as BD’s Farm Lettuce in a salad that also includes avocado, shallots and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. Owners Chef Justin West and his wife Emma are regulars at the Tuesday market, where other favorites include Roots, Shepherd Farms, Tutti Frutti, Hilltop Canyon Farms, Ojai Valley Sprouts and Lash Farms. West is also known for his house-made charcuterie, which changes daily and is served with “pickled stuff, mustards and toasty bread.”
A Santa Barbara institution for more than 30 years, the Wine Cask reopened in November 2009 following a change in ownership. New owners Doug Margerum and Mitchell Sjerven have reinvented the Wine Cask experience with a tasting room featuring local wines (including Margerum’s), a casual dining venue called Intermezzo and the Wine Cask restaurant itself. Chef Brandon Hughes oversees the kitchen and a Chef’s Counter featuring a three-course tasting menu that highlights finds such as locally-caught Corvina, Tom Shepherd’s wild arugula, Mama Farms’ peas, BD Farm’s spring onions and Ojai Valley wild flower honey. Chef Hughes also offers a “foodie stroll,” where guests can accompany him through the farmers market on a Tuesday afternoon and then return that evening for the tasting menu, which also includes local wine tapped from kegs that come straight from the wineries and runs $65/per person.
Coast Restaurant & Bar
Another regular at the farmers market, Chef Brian Parks of Coast Restaurant & Bar can also be found down at the docks looking for the freshest in seafood. He works with local crab fisherman Steve Escobar, who Parks says has been “fishing for crab for nearly 20 years and is known up and down the California coast for the product that he catches and his overall friendly smile.” He also works with Doug Bush of Cultured Abalone, a sustainable abalone and halibut farm. Parks features that local seafood in a three-course tasting menu every Friday called “Off the Hook,” which runs $30/person. He also teaches a cooking class called “Ready, Set, Cook!” using fare from the local farms, ranches and fishing boats. Fans of local music can enjoy the restaurant’s Sunday brunch, which features local jazz favorite, Ulysses -- and a happy hour that starts at 11 a.m.
Photo Credits: Ann Shepphird