Holiday Cooking Help: Chef at Santa Barbara's The Lark to Offer First Culinary Class

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos by Macduff Everton
story published in the Santa Barbara News Press on 12/9/18

Chef Jason Paluska thinks a few expert tips can make holiday meal making a lot less intimidating.

The culinary whiz behind the huge success of Santa Barbara’s popular restaurant, The Lark, is leading his very first cooking class. The intimate, 90-minute gathering of budding cooks will take place Wednesday, December 19th at The Lark’s sister spot next door, the Santa Barbara Wine Collective. Tickets are $100.

The Lark's signature Brussels Sprouts w/Medjool Dates are on the cooking class menu on Dec. 19
“I’m going to try hard to make sure they don’t feel any distance between us,” says Chef Paluska of his pupils-to-be. Recalling his own start in the restaurant business, when pro chefs intimidated him, Mr. Paluska admits that “there’s a weird hierarchy between people who dine and people in the kitchen. When someone finally just shows you how it’s done, you’re more confident and comfortable.”

So the goal of his class is to make holiday cooking “more simple and more approachable.”

Much of the class’ appeal, though, is the chef’s own celebrity, thanks to the following The Lark has reaped in its five short years as a culinary cornerstone in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Mr. Paluska transitioned from a thriving career in the San Francisco food scene -- Town Hall, Salt House and RN74 are on the Texas native’s résumé – to help design and launch The Lark in August of 2013. The story of the restaurant’s success ever since, as well as the story behind its deliberate homage to Santa Barbara in the food it sources and purveyors it partners with, is chronicled in a 400-page cookbook published by the Lark late last year. In fact, Around The Table: Recipes and Stories from The Lark in Santa Barbara,” inspires all of the culinary components on the menu during Chef Paluska’s upcoming class.

“The book represents the Santa Barbara region and who I am and what I do every day in the kitchen really well,” says the chef.

Students will learn Lark classics like Crispy Brussels Sprouts, prepared with Medjool dates, garum, serrano chile, sesame and lime and Butternut Squash ad Candied Apples, made with fromage blanc, beets, black walnuts and pomegranate.  The lesson on Grilled Spanish Octopus will aim to “demystify the myth that it’s going to suck,” says Chef Paluska, “because everyone’s had crappy octopus.”  Mr. Paluska preps his with a vadouvan curry glaze, roasted pistachios, creamy cauliflower, missions figs and cilantro, then cooks it for 10 hours over a super low heat of 180 degrees.

The class, which will feature several hands-on demos, including a lesson on octopus butchery, includes food, wine-paired tastings and a copy of the cookbook signed by the chef.

Tickets can be purchased through or by calling The Lark to reserve at 805.284.0370.

Find out more at

Want more food, wine & travel news? Follow me on Twitter & Instagram!


'Tis the Season in Santa Barbara: Three Christmas Wine Happenings Not to Miss

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 12/6/18

I’m like you – considering how fleeting they are, I want to maximize my experience of the holidays! The Santa Barbara wine industry is here to help, hosting a bevy of events sure to get you in the Christmas mood. Here are three holiday get-togethers for you and the ones you love. 

·         5th Annual Pop Clink Fizz, Saturday, Dec. 8th, 7-10pm
o   The effervescence of the holiday season may well begin here, where bubbles will rule the night. Wine + Beer, the impressive imbibers’ shop at the Santa Barbara Public Market, will feature nine high-end Champagnes, from favorites you know and love to rare, tough-to-find bottles.  This is the perfect way to taste through hand-selected bubblies before you pick the perfect ones for your holiday partying. The popular food outlets at the Market will offer gourmet pairings at this intimate event – space is limited. $95 includes tax and tip, and parking is free. For tickets, call 805-770-7701. Wine + Beer, 38 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara.
·         7th Annual Grassini Gives Back Wien Charity Event, Sunday, Dec. 9th, 12-6pm
o   Grassini Family Vineyards both donates and matches 100% of all revenues generated at this downtown Santa Barbara event, with funds earmarked this year for the Storyteller Children’s Center. Admission is free, but the $20 you splurge on the special wine tasting flight becomes $40 for Storyteller, the nonprofit that helps homeless and at-risk children achieve kindergarten readiness. All proceeds from the silent auction, raffle ticket sales and donations go straight to Storyteller, too. The all-afternoon affair takes place at Grassini’s El Paseo location. This event has raised $142,000 since it premiered in 2012. Grassini Family Vineyards, 24 El Paseo, Santa Barbara.
·         Solvang Julefest Wine & Beer Walk “Skål Stroll,” Dec. 15th-16th, 11am-4pm
o   Strolling Solvang, with its festive décor and pervasive charm, is a holiday no-brainer, especially when you get to sip along the way. Follow the map to 18 tasting rooms and breweries – Lucas & Lewellen, Sanger Family of Wines and Lucky Dogg Winery, among them. Seven of these locales are also participating in the second annual Gløgg Contest, pouring their own version of the popular Scandinavian mulled wine that’s often flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Shop for holiday gifts along the way and, on Saturday, stick around for the two free performances of the Live Nativity Pageant at 5pm and 7pm. Tickets usually sell out, so buy them in advance at $45.
Merry Christmas!

Want more wine, food & travel news? Follow me on Twitter & Instagram


Brunch at The Ranch: Famous Montecito Property to Open for Holidays

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 11/27/18

“It’s been a long year,” admits Maxine Rutledge, resort manager at the San Ysidro Ranch. The doors at the famous resort hideaway have been shuttered ever since January 9th, when a deadly post-storm debris flow devoured large portions of Montecito. Damage at the 500-acre Ranch was relegated to creekside cottages, mainly, steering clear of the most of the property’s 41 rooms and suites and the two-story building that houses its Stonehouse and Plow & Angel restaurants.

But the community has been anxiously awaiting its reopening ever since.

The Christmas season will offer the public’s first opportunity to return to the San Ysidro Ranch, as the resort brings back its popular Champagne Brunch for a very limited run. The themed gourmet events were announced via social media this week, on the Ranch’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, and are scheduled for four days only: December 22, 23, 29 and 30, from 10:30am to 2pm. Reservations are a must, as “there is still some construction going on and we need to control the number of people who are coming and going,” says Ms. Rutledge, who was named resort manager just a few weeks before the mudflow. “But this way, we can open up so that the locals get a chance to see it first."

The holiday Champagne Brunches will offer a combination of both traditional and new dishes; the menu should be finalized this week by Chef Matt Johnson, who’s helmed the Ranch kitchen for 10 years. The three-course brunch costs $125 per person and comes with free-flowing bubbly. For reservations, call 805-565-1720.

The Stonehouse, considered one of the best restaurants in the country, and the Plow & Angel lounge should be back up and running by the second week in January, a full year after the Montecito mudslides. Upgrades to both eateries are subtle: refreshed wood finishes and new awnings and umbrellas, mainly. Cottages are expected to begin welcoming guests come March.

“Employees have slowly started moving back into our offices,” adds Ms. Rutledge, “and it feels so good."

Find out more at

Want more travel, wine & food news? Follow me on Twitter & Instagram!