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Tapas and a new International Wine List

Nathan Heil, formerly of Sevilla Restaurant on Chapala, is the new head chef at The Bistro. He is well known for his tasty tapas at the Spanish influenced restaurant, and how he is translating that skill and theme on the Bistro’s menu.

Tapas will now be served from 3-5pm daily.

Tapas menu

Sauteed marinated warm Olives and Baguette
Curried Zucchini Cakes with Garlic Yogurt Sauce
Prosciutto Toasts with Tomato Parmesan
Crab, Wild Mushroom and Brie Quesadilla
Sauteed Garlic Shrimp “Camarones Gambas”
Pequillo Peppers stuffed with Spinach and Raisins
Lamb Meatballs with homemade Harissa*
Grilled Calamari stuffed with Crescenza cheese**, Garlic and Chile

Harissa is a hot red pepper paste made from chili peppers, garlic, and olive oil. Crescenza cheese is made from uncooked cow’s milk and is very soft and spreadable at room temperature. It can be described as rich, creamy, and fresh.

Another exciting change at the restaurant is the new international wine list. The Santa Barbara focus will remain on Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond Winery wines, but the list will now include a selection of Napa, Sonoma, Washington, Spanish, French, and Italian wines. Zach Blair, who works in the Santa Barbara Winery tasting room part time, has taken charge in putting together a fantastic list that he is beaming about.

“For every varietal that we produce at the winery I am trying to get that same varietal from a different part of the world on the list,” says Zach. For example, he plans to have an Alto Adigian Lagrein as well as a Lagrein Rose. Santa Barbara Winery is one of the few producers who produce a California Lagrein.

Joanie Hudson, Assistant Manager, Santa Barbara Winery

Rose Shopping for Seeds

When I began seed shopping, I thought of what sorts of veggies would be fun to cook with. I have had stuffed round summer squash before and thought I’d plant that. Round Zucchini have been popular in Europe for years.

The Italians have their dark green Tondo di Piacenza, the French have the light green speckled Ronde de Nice, the Dutch have the “Roly Poly” (a loose translation from Burpee’s marketers) and the British have their single serve striped marrow, Tender and True. There is even Chinese produced seed of an almost white round zucchini.

The common thread is that these zucchini are actually rather nice; solid, nutty, sweet with a low water content so they keep the round shape when cooked. They are extremely early producers and are prolific if you keep harvesting the fruit. I grow a blend of round and near round types that were marketed to chefs and hand collected by a group of seed savers on the East Coast.

The colors range from yellow and silver to dark green and bicolors, all meant to be used in the baby (2-3″) stage. They are so cute! The main ingredient in stuffed zucchini is the insides scooped out and mixed with ricotta cheese and herbs. Some people use meat. I prefer my veggies to be all veggie.

I found a vegan recipe online: Vegan Rice Stuffed Zucchini.

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 large zucchini OR two to three small round zucchinis
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 shredded vegan mozzarella

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add basmatic rice and let cook for about 45 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Do not cut zucchini in half. Core out the center of the zucchini, leaving a nice cylindrical shell. Take zucchini center that you cored out and chop up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet saute garlic and onion for about 4-5 minutes. Add basil and saute another minute or two. Add tomato, zucchini, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Cook until zucchini becomes soft. Mix cooked rice and cheese with zucchini mixture and spoon into zucchini cylinder.

Place in a glass baking dish and put into the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Rose Moadian for the Bistro & Wine Bar

The Bistros Vegetable Garden

Rose Moradian’s garden is looking fabulous. The combination of flowers and vegetables is a wonderful combination. Driving into the winery’s property the 10 foot high Sunflowers are impressive, standing as guards at the entrance. Several years ago we wondered what would be a good use for this small plot — too small really for grapes — and I think we came up with the right solution.

Delicious Cob of Corn

After much deliberation and excitement, I picked the first ears of corn today! I plucked an ear off, tenderly tore the husk and silk off and bit right into a DELICIOUS cob of corn! I could feel the magic of the earth carouse through my body, an exciting rush of natural sugars triggering my fantasy of rolling around the corn field devouring every ear in sight.

It made me giddy! I had to wait a few hours to drive I felt so high from eating it right there on the spot it was grown! I am surprised, because corn can be a tricky crop to grow and bugs love it. Organic methods of corn bug control are few. Because of the pollination requirements the wind is the only force that can pollinate corn, unlike open flowered crops like squash in which bees’ bumble around drinking nectar from flower to flower inadvertently pollinating the crop.

Since I don’t have even an acre to plant on, I was worried that I may not have planted enough close together. I grew peas in with the corn to provide a natural nitrogen boost to the soil and corn is a natural trellis that supports vines. I went ahead and planted sunflowers there, too, just for artistic effect. The choices of corn varieties are many so I decided to plant just one kind at that time to ensure proper pollination. The following 4 successions of corn plantings I had 50% success unfortunately.

Then the time came where I had to decide what to do with the two side shoots that occur on each stalk as the plant begins to gain in height. UC Davis and many other agricultural website I consulted advised to leave them on but with no explanation as why. Many of my Latino friends advised to get rid of them immediately, it was bad for the plant. So, I left some on a few and got rid of a few.

Months later the side shoots I left on formed ears that are short, stumpy and flat that popped out of their husk before any thing else was ready. The bugs loved those. Incredibly, the regular ears developed normally with NO insects! Nature made a little catch crop! The corn makes those homely little pretend ears of corn to protect the good stuff. Smart plants! Good information to know for the home gardener!

My co-worker, Mirella, at Lafond Vineyards, told me that she makes a creamy corn and pasilla soup with queso fresco cheese. The way she described it made my mouth water. I personally cannot get the corn home to cook it, I end up eating it raw the moment I touch it. I promise to restrain myself enough to bring to the Bistro and Market Deli for you to enjoy!

Weekly Sundowner Specials at Pierre Lafond Bistro

The Pierre Lafond Bistro (516 State St.) has introduced “Weekly Sundowner Specials” to their menu, which are offered from 5-7pm Sunday-Wednesday. It is now one of the few places in town offering a happy hour that extends throughout most of the week as opposed to just one day.

The Sundowner Special includes:

House Salad or Small Caesar Salad

Chicken, Salmon, Steak, or Pasta (from the menu, listed below)

Ice Cream, Sorbet, or Glass of House Wine


Shelton Farms Chicken Scallopini with spinach, wild mushrooms, roast garlic, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, white wine, and capers (regular menu, 18.00)

Grilled Organic Salmon with artichoke, corn native tomatoes, summer greens, and dijon glaze (21.00 regular menu)

Grilled Marinated Bistro Steak with roasted baby potatoes, sun dried tomatoes, arugula and tuscan salsa verde (21.00 regular menu)

Fusilli Pasta with smoked chicken, sun dried tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, basil pesto, fresh parmesean, and drizzled with local olive oil (17.00 regular menu)

Wild Mushroom Sacchetti Pasta with exotic mushrooms, sweet garlic, tomatoes, spinach, pea shoots, and Santa Barbara Chardonnay sauce (18.00 regular menu)

With plenty of options available for such a great price you can make everybody happy, especially the person paying the bill!

Joanie Hudson, Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Santa Barbara Winery

An Abundance of Beans by Rose Moradian

I’ve been growing peas and beans right next to each other a our Bistro Garden. I installed two 80′ trellises, and grow beans on side peas on the other. Its easy to see and reach to pick that way. We had great peas earlier and I will plant them again in the Autumn, but now its BEAN TIME! I have a mixture of pole beans, bush beans and french filet beans all together. There are several types of beans I’m growing; POLE BEANS – In general, pole beans are later than bush beans but have larger pods.

They should be given poles, string, or a fence to climb on and usually will climb about 8 feet.”Northeaster” gives a very heavy yield of very long flat green beans and is early for a pole bean. “Goldmarie” is a wonderful wax bean similar to Northeaster. It has long flat yellow pods, is a heavy yielder, and is perhaps slightly earlier than Northeaster “Romano” is large and slightly flat with a wonder flavor. FILET BEANS – These are French green beans that are generally early producers.

They are usually picked when the pods are very slim. Older varieties develop strings fairly rapidly but newer varieties tend to be stringless. “Fin de Bagnols” is a traditional long podded variety. The pods of “Deuile fin Precoce” are long and large and heavily streaked with purple. The large seeds are buff speckled with purple. “Blue Lake” is a heavy yielder with beans that remain tender and stringless for a long time. BUSH BEANS-short and early, I’m growing “Purple Podded” “Rattlesnake” striped beans as well. RUNNER BEANS – Runner beans have large showy flowers, usually red or white, and will cross with each other but not with other beans.

The plants have runners from 4′ or 5′ long to twice that length. They like a lot of water and should be given something to climb on. The pods are long and plump, and rough textured. The oval seeds are very large and plump. Eat as a snap bean, or a fresh or dry shell bean. I will be growing Fava and Lima beans as well as Cowpeas in the near future. My favorite way of eating beans is straight off the bush, but I’m funny that way. Aside from that practice, if the beans is Romano type, that is, long, I will cut them up and sauté with butter and garlic.

The best way I like to eat beans at a restaurant is Niçoise Salad, so satisfying! When I went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Bellagio, I ordered this in for my lunch and dinner! All of these ingredients, except for the fish, can be acquired a few steps away from each other at the Lafond Vineyard. So fresh, so healthy, so delicious! If we are what we eat, then I’m in health heaven. Look for Lafond Produce to be featured at Pierre Lafond Deli Montecito soon, as well as the Bistro.
Bean Appetit!

Bistro Vegetable Garden Slideshow

[ Image can be enlarged by clicking. ]

Photos taken this week of the Bistro Vegetable Garden at the Lafond Vineyards. The garden was created and is managed by Rose Moradian. Rose will shortly, as well as supplying the Bistro, be displaying her work at the Pierre Lafond Deli in Montecito.

This is the first year of the garden and we will be experimenting with different items seeing what grows best in this environment. Using the French concept of ’terroir’, as we do with grapes, to produce the finest product we can.

Cucumbers from the Bistro Vegetable Garden

Rose Moradian on Cucumbers

Cucumbers are known for their green skin, but did you know that they come in different colors? White cucumbers are probably better known in Europe and Asia where they are used in cooking and pickling. Because of their high water content, cucumbers are very cool; their internal temperature can read much lower than the surrounding air temperature.

I decided to grow unusual cucumbers, both heirloom and newer hybrids this year. So I turned to the Asian seed catalogues and a small seed collective in Long Island for some unusual cucumber hybrids. As you can see, we have success. We have “Boothbys Blonde” which is an heirloom variety which turns orange when over ripe but still tastes very good; “Pearl”, which is an Asian cucumber and “Cucino” which is a green cucumber.

Generally there are three types of cucumbers; slicing which are long, smooth and slender;or pickling kind that are large, spiny and chunky, or the beloved “Lemon cucumber” that is round and yellow. Then there’s gherkins or corniches; tiny little cucumbers that taste a little more lemony than regular cukes. Cucumbers are technically a fruit, containing their seeds, but are perceived as a vegetable because of their flavor being bitter sweet site.

Cantaloupes and cucumbers are kissing cousins and in some countries cantaloupes are pickled when they’re young and fuzzy and eaten like pickles. Cucumbers are vines that you can support on a trellis as I do, or let them snake around on the ground. They prefer heat. They are susceptible to fungus on the leaves so its important to keep the leaves dry when watering.

Fertilize regularly with fish emulsion. Pick them carefully with sharp scissors, as twisting them off can disturb the rest of the vine. I love my cucumbers raw but there are many recipes that include them. In India, cucumbers are staple, so you’ll find them in many Indian dishes. “Raita” is basically dill and cucumber soup that is a dip in India. See CookThink and Recipe.

When I’m in the field harvesting, having a juicy cucumber is the best treat; its as satisfying as any sweet treat and helps to rehydrate.


Reds Whites & Blues Festival

These are portions of an article in the From the Wine Imbiber. The festival was well attended with, by some counts, 2,000 people. The day was glorious and the festival was held on the beach. Our Wine Cakes, which have been a long time favorite, were just right for the day. These can be purchased at the Bistro in downtown Santa Barbara, or at the Deli in Montecito.

This past Saturday, we ventured north for the Santa Barbara installment of the [1] Reds, Whites & Blues California Wine Festival. In true Santa Barbara style, the seasonably warm weather alternated between overcast and sunny, with a refreshing ocean breeze—perfect for wine and food tasting…

A final favorite was found at [9] Pierre Lafond Bistro. Their Wine Cake samples had people coming back two and three times for more. The simplicity of the cake is what appealed most to us. It’s very similar in texture to a pound cake and not overly sweet. Whereas the previously mentioned Wine Nuts don’t actually contain wine, Wine Cake actually has wine in it (Riesling, to be precise). This cake is at the other end of the spectrum from Bacara Resort’s artful dessert offerings, but we (and many others) seemed to like it more for its unpretentious flavor and homemade appeal…

To read article:

Squash Blossoms

Rose Moradian on Squash Blossoms
Squash blossoms are an old fashioned delicacy. Because they are delicate and perish quickly,you won’t find them in many grocery stores. Farmers will bring some to the market for their elderly customers who remember back in the day. In America, such delicate blooms would be ruined in transit. Luckily for us, we grow squash and I will be bring Squash Blossoms to the Bistro.

Any kind of squash, summer or winter, sets blossoms before they fruit. Bees love this! I counted 8 bees in one blossom the other day having some kind of pollen party. Squash blossoms are thick and sweet like no other sweet. Many people stuff them with Ricotta cheese and herbs fresh from the garden, eaten uncooked as an appetizer. This is a beautiful display. Squash Blossom Omelets are pretty common in Spain. They are great in quesadillas. Some people stir fry them.

Some people float them on top of cream of squash soup. Many people get creative. Picking squash blossoms help curb the abundance of summer squash. Pick only the male blossoms, which are on a longer stem and are a smaller bloom. Female squash will actually have a tiny lump of a fruit at the end of the blossom. By picking off some of the males, you ensure less reproduction of the plant by the bees pollinating them. Which is good if you’ve planted too many plants.

Cross pollination happens in the field and often you will find strangely beautiful zucchini like yellow with dark green stripes. If you like what you see, let the squash grow big and save the seeds for next year! Here is a recipe for Squash Blossom Quesadillas I found on the web.
In fact this web blog has some very exciting recipes and beautiful images:
For 1 quesadilla (but I know you’ll want to make more than 1), you’ll need:

1 large flour tortilla
3 or so squash blossoms
1 tblsp cottage cheese, or queso fresco, or any soft white cheese
A few sprinkles of cheddar cheese
1 tblsp salsa

In a saute pan on medium heat, brown tortilla and then flip. On one half of the tortilla, add squash blossoms (I like to leave the petals facing outside.), a spoonful of cottage cheese, or queso fresco, or any white cheese, and a scoop of salsa. Fold the other half of the tortilla over to seal in the heat.