Food Feast: Bacara's Julia Child-Inspired 3-Day Culinary Party Begins Today

By Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 5/29/14)

Starting today, the focus is food, as Bacara launches an annual feast celebrating Santa Barbara’s top culinary talent.

The Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend comes to the AAA 4-Diamond seaside resort  June 6th-8th, and aims to turn it into foodie heaven.  It pays homage to Julia Child, the kitchen icon who spent her last years living in Santa Barbara.  And those who knew her say she would be pleased.

Julia Child (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)
“The goal was to create the kind of event that Julia would have been interested in and would have been proud to attend,” says Todd Schulkin, Executive Director of the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, the affair’s beneficiary.  The Santa Barbara-based non-profit group was launched by Ms. Child in 1995 to fund culinary research and to provide culinary scholarships throughout the country.

“This weekend is not about Julia, but inspired by her,” adds Mr. Schulkin.

Indeed, if Julia Child is synonymous with culinary inspiration, then this three-day extravaganza is a fitting tribute.  It impresses with the totality it presents – a diverse array of tastemakers who are influencing the culinary world at large through endeavors that are very much locally based.  And the winner is the consumer, who, in one-stop fashion, will get to a chance to savor it all.

The experience begins on Friday, June 6th, when Santa Barbara Vintners, the consortium that represents most of the county’s wineries, hosts an opening reception fueled by wines from more than a dozen labels, including Larner, Kaena, Buttonwood, Pali and Ken Brown.  Bacara Executive Chef David Reardon and his team will dole out gourmet samples crafted specifically to match.

Bacara Resort
A video tribute to Julia Child will follow, featuring her former TV director and producer, Geoffrey Drummond.  The audience will hear behind-the-scenes stories and watch retrospective show clips and celebrity interviews paying tribute to television’s original reality food show star.  The screening will take place inside Bacara’s posh 211-seat screening room, which features digital screen technology and a surround-sound audio system. 

Few tickets to this opening night event – priced at $75 – remain.

On Saturday, Bacara becomes a gastronomic playground, with a day-long offering of events – ranging in price from zero to $250 – aimed at creating intimate experiences with local chefs, bakers, caterers, writers and winemakers.  Highlights include:
  • 10am, Panel of Experts (Free): this discussion looks at where the food scene in Santa Barbara has been, where it is now, and where it’s headed.  Moderated by Tracy Ryder, co-founder of the 80-magazine network of food-driven publications dubbed Edible Communities, it’ll feature experts like Krista Harris, who publishes Edible Santa Barbara, and Arthur von Weisenberger, co-publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press who’s also a radio show host, water expert and author.  Due to limited space, reservations are suggested.
  • 11am, Olive Oil and Vinegar for Life ($30): local olive oil producer, author and restaurateur Theo Stephan leads a one-hour discussion and tasting.  The founder of the Global Gardens line of gourmet foods and the popular Caliterranean Café in Los Alamos was the first to plant olive trees for olive oil production in the county, back in 1998.  As part of her classroom-style demonstration, she’ll cook meat by replacing olive oil with balsamic vinegar, and attendees will receive their own virtual tasting kits.  “Julia Child is someone I’ve always looked up to and I loved every one of her shows,” Ms. Stephan says.  She adds, with a laugh, “Not to mention those Saturday Night Live skits!"
  • Noon, Santa Maria-Style BBQ ($70): Local culinary star Frank Ostini will teach how Santa Maria-style barbecue is done right (spoiler alert – the secret’s in the burning oak) while preparing the type of lunch that makes his Buellton- based Hitching Post II one of the county’s top dinner draws.
  • 2pm, Artisan Bread Baking ($25): baker Bob Oswaks, well-known for his Bob’s Well Bread, shows how to make old-world style leavened bread at home.
  • 3pm, Cooking with California Gold ($25): Stephanie Mutz, our area's only female urchin diver, shares the secrets of her trade as Bacara Chef Chris Turano presents an up-close-and-personal sea urchin cooking demo.  (Expect showmanship from Chef Turano, who won Food Network’s “Chef Wanted” before launching Bacara’s ocean view The Bistro last year.)
  • 6pm, Grand Dinner ($250): Santa Barbara’s only Master Sommelier, Brian McClintic of Les Marchands fame, will host a lavish four-course dinner inside the luxe 12,000-bottle Wine Cellar at Bacara’s Miro Restaurant.  Each course will be paired with a comparative coupling of Santa Barbara and Old World wines (think Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir versus Burgundy).  Food will be presented by Miro Executive Chef Johan Denizot.

Saturday will feature a bevy of other events, too, including a pinot noir-and-chocolate pairing session; a screening of the new film, Le Chef (including a tasting of Jessica Foster chocolates); and the weekend’s only offsite experience – a morning coffee tasting and tour at Good Land Organics in Goleta, the only grower of coffee as a commercial crop in the continental U.S.

Foley Wine Tasting Room, home to Sunday's wine and cheese tasting class
On Sunday, Bacara will become a culinary microcosm of Santa Barbara County.  The Neighborhood Tasting will showcase the flavors of six distinct local communities.  Casa Dumetz Wines and Full of Life Flatbread will represent Los Alamos, for example, while Figueroa Mountain Brewing and The Lark showcase the food scene in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone and La Tolteca and Mesa Salsa Company offer a taste of Milpas Street.  More than 30 purveyors in all.  This family-friendly outdoor event, complete with live music and a mini farmers’ market, runs 11am-2pm and costs $50 for adults and $20 for kids 15 and under.

All-access VIP passes, which include entry to all events and a private VIP opening night reception, are available for $499.  Bacara is also offering discounted room rates and packages.

“Julia Child’s mission was always to move food forward and to learn and to have fun and to entertain,” says Bacara General Manager Kathleen Cochran, who’s been spearheading this event for more than a year.  “We can’t think of a better way to honor her memory.”

For tickets and information, go to


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