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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 6:25 am | Fair 42º


Braille Institute of Santa Barbara Celebrates New Kitchen Facility With Festival of Flavors

The nonprofit serves blind and visually impaired individuals and its new facility will be used for Low Vision Wellness cooking programs

A cooking demonstration showed off the new facility at the Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara Festival of Flavors.
A cooking demonstration showed off the new facility at the Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara Festival of Flavors.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo )

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The Braille Institute of Santa Barbara recently welcomed guests to a “Festival of Flavor,” at its newly remodeled and state-of-the-art kitchen with local restaurants on hand, including a cooking demonstration by Pascale Beale.

Event chair Sandy De Rousse and the Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara with president Mary Romo opened the doors to the facility at 2031 De La Vina St. to raise awareness and satisfy the palettes of guests and patrons.

Dedicated community members formed the Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara in 1981, to offer fundraising and volunteer talents to support the effort of blind and visually impaired individuals to live full and independent lives. All programs at Braille Institute are provided free of charge for all ages.

“The Braille Institute is so unusual in the fact that we receive very little government support, only about 5 percent, and 95 percent of our budget is strictly dependent on philanthropy and the generosity of good friends and donors,” vice president of philanthropy for Braille Institute of America David Burkhardt told Noozhawk.

The Braille Institute primarily services the ten Southern California counties, and also has programs and services that span the United States and Canada.

Music by Montecito Jazz Project created a festive environment for the local event with a cocktail hour and a signature drink from mixologist Patrick Sheppard-Reynolds supplementing tastings from eight establishments.

Food stations from Barbareno serving eggamuffins, Benchmark with pasta bolognese, Carlitos Café y Cantina with halibut ceviche, C’est Cheese with a cheese platter, Farm to Bar with Thai food, Montecito Wine Bistro with ahi sushi bites, The Palace Grill with creole crawfish crabcakes, Pascucci with tortellini carbonara and Via Maestra with gnocchi di ricotta all offered delicious tastings and treats paired with wine from Zaca Mesa and Santa Barbara Winery.

Special VIP seating was offered in the kitchen with Chef Pascale Beale before the cooking demonstration began. Beale dazzled the group from a menu of tomato gazpacho, citrus salmon with forbidden jeweled rice, roasted lemon kale and spinach salad topped off by orange and Grand Marnier pots de crème with pistachio shortbread squares.

Beale, who is the owner of Pascale’s Kitchen, learned to cook from her French mother and grandmother, has written numerous books, including the series, A Menu for All Seasons, incorporating Spring, Summer and Winter, and her recent publication of Salade: Recipes from the Market Table, in 2014. She is also a regular contributor to the James Beard award winning publication, Edible Santa Barbara.

The Braille Institutes specially designed programs provide guidance and inspiration to men, women and children and their families who are coping with sight loss. Services include cooking, access technology on computers, independent living skills and recreational activities provided to over 5,000 people in the tri-county area.

Among Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara event attendees are event co-chair Sandy DeRousse, Marsha Marcoe, director of philanthropy, Michael Lazarovits, Executive Director Santa Barbara Braille, and Mary Romo, event co-chair and Auxiliary President. Click to view larger
Among Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara event attendees are event co-chair Sandy DeRousse, Marsha Marcoe, director of philanthropy, Michael Lazarovits, Executive Director Santa Barbara Braille, and Mary Romo, event co-chair and Auxiliary President. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo )

“I would say technology is probably our greatest need,” Berkhardt said.

“That’s probably our greatest inroads at Braille Institute since the invention of Braille back in the early 1850s.”

Adaptive computer equipment creates new opportunities in the workplace, at school and at home. The Institute’s computer classes provide instruction in the use of large print software and voice-synthesized software.

Mobile apps like Big Browser provide magnification options within the browser itself, and the free Telephone Reader Program allows qualified blind and visually impaired access to national and local news, advertising, magazines, old time radio shows and more, in both English and Spanish language.

Low Vision Wellness programs include Kitchen Confidence with tips for clients to navigate their kitchen and easier, safer ways to cut, pour and cook. Also part of the Wellness program is Looking Good for personal appearance, the Business of Living for managing finances, Getting Around Town, Discover the World for travel tips, Fun and Fitness for outdoors and leisure and Express Yourself for creative outlets.

“Reduced vision doesn’t have to bring one’s life to a halt. Once some changes have been made life with limited vision can be as fruitful as ever,” said executive director Michael Lazarovits.

Library services offer books, magazines, descriptive videos, music and the equipment necessary to utilize them all.

Braille Institute Santa Barbara is a private, nonprofit organization that is funded primarily by individual gifts, foundation grants and bequests.

“Here at Braille Institute, ‘The Low Vision Solutions Place,’ we see the twinkle in a person’s eye is rekindled,” Lazarovits said. “After a short time they are back in the kitchen, surfing the Internet, enjoying a game of bowling, and yes, back on the golf course.”

Visionary opportunities were available for guests to donate towards programs, including youth, to provide a student with an opportunity to climb Joshua Tree, or go horseback riding and camping.

Since 1919, Braille Institute has given thousands of people with low to no vision the tools needed to live satisfying and fulfilling lives.

Burkhardt stressed the importance of the evening to create awareness for the programs and services offered by the organization.

“The most pressing need for our organization is annual operating support, we have a $25 million budget which is supported almost wholly through donations. But in addition to that we have a library with a $3 million budget that serves nearly 30,000 library patrons, including the Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo County areas, and throughout all of Southern California.”

Click here for more information about the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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