The Last Bite — Spring’s Don’t-Miss-Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
What is Santa Barbara’s food story? From recent history’s beginnings of the Chumash people living off the land to becoming a farmer/foodie/winemaker destination today, Santa Barbara County’s culinary story is wide and varied. Of course, it includes authentic street tacos, fresh Pacific seafood, beach burgers, and too many celebrity chefs to count. Even the late, great Julia Child made her final home here! (Learn more about SB’s latest event in her honor: Taste of Santa Barbara in May).
Barbareño opened in 2014 Santa Barbara with a mission to tell this story. Among the many wonderful restaurants with menus based on local, seasonal ingredients, Barbareño goes one step further by creating a menu based on culinary history, traditions and modern food stories of Santa Barbara County.
The oldest story in our county shows in the pasta dish, which is based on Chumash traditions around oak trees: Acorn Tagliatelle. The pasta flour is made from acorns and the broth is based on mushrooms from under the oaks and even charred oak wood itself. Cattle ranching culture paved the way for the Santa Maria-style tri-tip with traditional Pinquinto beans on the menu (as well as steak and a California-style burger). Modern food stories on the menu include the Eggamuffin, an elevation of favorite fast food in the area, and a pork plate focusing on local heritage piggeries that have sprung up in recent years.
But one of the most important Santa Barbara stories is a modern dessert that also looks to the future, Ojai Hive and Honey (with coconut panna cotta). This dish features the many parts of a honeybee’s life: bee pollen they have gathered, honeycomb, the honey itself, and the literal fruits of the bees’ labor. Chef Preston Knox was inspired by the number of local farms that also keep bees, and their appreciation for the work bees do for us. He feels extremely lucky that he can source unfiltered, raw honey straight from these farms, where the product comes directly from plants growing all around us. He supports farms that support bees.
Chef Knox has created a perfect little circle of life on a plate, showing his respect for these pollinators that are key to the health of humanity, and the entire world.
Ojai Hive & Honey at Barbareño Recipe
Note: To make this dish, you’ll need local honey, bee pollen, local mead, and honeycomb, which can be purchased at local farmers markets, specialty food shops, and natural/organic grocers.
Start the panna cotta by simmering coconut milk and honey in a saucepan. In another bowl, hydrate some gelatin. Take the pan off the heat and add in the gelatin. Stir, and let sit for 10 minutes. Once cooled, pour into serving bowl or ramekin. Cool in fridge until set, several hours or overnight.
Make the granita by putting mead (honey fermented beer), some fresh fruit juice and pulp in a saucepan with a mix of herbs, and honey. (You can substitute some water for the mead). Boil this for 45 mins, then cool. Place in the freezer for several hours, raking it with a fork every hour to keep it from fully freezing. Toast pistachios, then chop.
Place the panna cotta on a plate, add some granita, honeycomb and freshly sliced seasonal fruit— Barbareño adds whatever is in season! For spring, that’s pineapple guava, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, dragon fruit, grapes, and spring stone fruit or citrus. Dust the plate with bee pollen, pistachios, and micro greens—Barbareño adds baby corn shoots, mint, micro basil, and edible flowers.
Visit Barbareño online.