Wine Country Agenda: Brix Refresh, Sushi | Bar Opens, Garden Tours and More


Sushi | Bar Opens in Santa Barbara

Blazing ahead in Santa Barbara with his innovative dining concepts, Scratch Restaurants Phillip Frankland Lee opens the 10-seat Sushi | Bar on the heels of opening the ambitious The Silver Bough and The Monarch, all in the historic Montecito Inn. Already a successful concept in his LA original, the Montecito omakase restaurant will feature full-throttle fresh Santa Barbara seafood such as sea urchin, spot prawns and local halibut, supplemented by seasonal fish from Tsukiji Fish Market flown in twice weekly. Lee’s exciting approach to omakase is mouthwatering, like premium Hamachi yellowtail topped with sweet corn pudding, sourdough bread crumbs, fresh wasabi with house-made soy, and Roasted Bone Marrow from Watkins Ranch over sushi rice and fresh wasabi.

Bee’s Japanese: Yuzu, Smoked Honey, Ki No Bi Gin. Photo Jakob N. Layman

The design was inspired by ca. 1930s Japanese sushi bars, clean, oak-paneled and intimate, with the day’s offerings displayed on a menu board. Classic beverages will accompany such as Japanese sake, beers and whiskeys selected by Beverage Director Gavin Humes, but start with their creative cocktails like the Japanese Old Fashioned. Led by head chef Lennon Lee, guests have a choice of a 17-course omakase for $110 pp or a 9-course for $65 pp. Open Wednesday-Sunday for dinner, check website for seating times and to book. 1295 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara

Brix Restaurant 2.0

Photo by Bob McClenahan

A classic Napa Valley destination for over two decades, the Kelleher Family re-opens Brix Restaurant after a major renovation that creates a more balanced flow while opening up the space to beautiful views of the mountains and 16 acres of vegetable beds, orchards and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. Napa’s Shopworks Design Studio designed the spaces in agricultural chic style with cushioned banquettes, warm wood floors, stone accents and a neutral color palette that creates a relaxed ambiance. At the heart is a horseshoe-shaped bar – complete with charging stations – that welcomes locals and guests to gather at this popular happy hour spot.

Photo by Bob McClenahan

The menu has been re-invented too by Executive Chef Cary Delbridge, think vegetarian Cajun Red Beans with Farro verde and smoked tofu or Liberty Farms Duck Breast with sweet potatoes, turnips, savoy cabbage and huckleberry hoisin sauce. Brix Restaurant offers plenty of outdoor dining where guests might want to order the Punch Bowl with savory eclairs, while their dogs are welcome to relax in a shady grove called the “Barking Lot.” Open Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday, brunch 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner 5-9 p.m. 7377 St. Helena Highway, Yountville

Gardens in the Vineyards

Now that the sun is finally shining and the flowers blooming, immerse in beautifully designed, inspiring Napa Valley gardens during Gardens in the Vineyards on Friday May 17th starting at 4 pm at Robert Mondavi Winery. A luxury coach will take guests on a tour of four varied landscapes in private homes hosted by the owner or landscaper, including traditional English-style, succulent oasis and floral haven. After the escorted, sparkling wine sprinkled tour, guests return to Robert Mondavi for a reception and silent auction followed by a gourmet dinner prepared by winery chef Jeff Mosher. Tickets are $275 pp and spots are limited.

The proceeds support Music in the Vineyards, celebrating its 25th anniversary season July 31-August 25 with a series of chamber music performances throughout Napa Valley, including the 25th anniversary gala Bravissimo on August 10 at Charles Krug Winery, an evening of dining, music, dancing and live auction. Check the website for details, ala carte or package prices.

37th Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Food & Wine Festival

Presqu’ile Winery, photo Bob Holmes, Santa Barbara County

On Saturday May 4, head to Santa Maria Valley for the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival where over 70 wineries will pour amidst 30 food purveyors, live music, culinary demos and local artists. For those interested in winemaking, there will be live barrel-making and bottling taking place on the grounds too. Doors open at Noon for early entry ($100 pp) or 1 pm ($75 pp general or $60 for Santa Barbara County residents), and lasts until 4 pm. DDs and under-21, $25. Rancho Sisquoc Winery, 6600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria

Explore more of wine country by visiting 40+ wineries with open houses May 2-6, with the purchase of a passport visa for $50 pp. For more details and to book, check the website.

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