Friday, November 16 , 2018, 2:38 pm | Fair 69º


Family a Key Ingredient Behind Newly Opened Scarlett Begonia in Victoria Court

Restaurant owner Crista Fooks says she won't serve her customers anything she wouldn't prepare in her own home

Crista Fooks was driving home with her husband listening to the Grateful Dead station on satellite radio when one of the band’s most recognized songs turned into her restaurant’s name.

“Scarlet Begonia came up, (my husband) said, ‘That’s the name of your new restaurant.’ I loved it,” Fooks said. “It’s exactly what I wanted; it can mean something to anybody. I want this restaurant to be a special experience for people, and it doesn’t have to be the same.”

The former Food & Home Magazine editor and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore caterer recently opened her breakfast and lunch eatery Scarlett Begonia in Santa Barbara’s Victoria Court. Her restaurant’s name had to have her daughter’s name in it, which is fitting because Fooks said the ingredients she uses must be ones she would serve to her own family.

Rather than buying apple juice with high-fructose corn syrup, Fooks elected to make her own juice.

“We don’t take the easy way out; I follow the rules I have in the home,” she said. “If I need to grab milk or juice, I want to be able to give it to my kids with a clear conscience. If it’s not something that’s up to par for my family, I won’t serve it. I serve everyone as if they are family.”

Fooks’ dishes are inspired by her travels throughout the world. Her mascarpone polenta dish that’s made with two poached eggs, fried artichoke, cipollini onions and prosciutto originated from a restaurant in New York. One of her most memorable eating experiences was in Rome, when she enjoyed a handmade fettuccine with a simple sauce and sliced zucchini.

Locally sourced fresh ingredients, food made from scratch and simplicity are the keys, according to Fooks, who buys her dairy at Trader Joe’s to ensure it’s organic.

“I like to surprise people with an experience that wasn’t expected, so I have these little touches to my dishes,” said Fooks, who hired Chef Henry Ramos, who cooked at Downey’s, Bouchon, Square One and the Montecito Country Club. “I want people to come share my passion with food.”

Wendy Figueiredo of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce was enticed by the roasted beet salad made with beet greens, hazelnuts, goat cheese, truffle oil and red wine vinaigrette.

“This is an amazing place with the ambiance, and fresh and local organic food,” she said. “They have items on the menu that you don’t see anywhere else.”

Lucila came for lunch with her friend, Claudia, because her friends told her it was unique.

“It’s unique because of the rush of flavor, what’s on the menu and the beautiful location,” she said.

While the menu will change season to season, the quality won’t, Fooks said.

“It’s a small, simple menu that changes with the seasons,” she said. “It’s nothing fancy, and everything is approachable.

“It’s locally sourced organic food reinvented.”

Scarlett Begonia is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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