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Judy Foreman: Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend Comes Back for Seconds

Success of last year’s inaugural event leads Bacara Resort & Spa, Julia Child Foundation to expand to four-day weekend

Kurt Russell will be the star of the Second Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend’s Saturday Night Grand Dinner. You may know him as an award-winning actor, but he’s passionate about his GoGi Wines — as well as stepdaughter Kate Hudson’s Hudson Bellamy Wines. Click to view larger
Kurt Russell will be the star of the Second Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend’s Saturday Night Grand Dinner. You may know him as an award-winning actor, but he’s passionate about his GoGi Wines — as well as stepdaughter Kate Hudson’s Hudson Bellamy Wines. (Justin Melnick photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The community partnership between Bacara Resort & Spa and The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts is in full bloom as they gear up for the Second Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend, which gets under way April 16.

After the success of last year’s inaugural festival, foundation chairman Eric Spivey and his wife, Cynthia, who spearheaded the planning for the weekend, reflected on the results.

“We are excited to partner again with Bacara to present this educational weekend featuring both local and national culinary talent in Santa Barbara,” Spivey told Noozhawk. “The program is extraordinary, and we know that Julia would have loved to participate in such an outstanding event!”

Longtime Montecito resident Julia Child, a renowned and beloved chef, author and television personality, established the Santa Barbara-based foundation in 1995 so that, after her death, she could continue to support the causes she valued. She died in 2004 at age 91.

The foundation’s mission is to honor, further and protect Child’s legacy, which centers on the importance of understanding where food comes from, what makes for good food and wine, and the value of cooking.

“Although the foundation had some seed money, the foundation was basically dormant until Child’s death in Santa Barbara two days before her 92nd birthday, in 2004,” Spivey said.

Echoing the feeling for Child that close friends and even acquaintances had, he remarked, “It’s hard to forget Julia Child.”

On a recent weekday, Bacara general manager Kathleen Cochran sat down with me in the resort’s casual coffee café adjacent to the circular parking court.

“The resort approached the foundation with the concept of an annual Food & Wine Weekend several years ago, one that would focus on the splendors of Santa Barbara,” she explained.

“Reaching out to the community has been a big part of our mission, and the weekend will be educational, with a broad exploration of gastronomy, which seemed to fit all the criteria that Julia would have supported. We are so happy that this came to fruition!”

Cochran said this year’s lineup includes speakers from the Smithsonian Institution, which recently added to the Washington, D.C., museum the kitchen from Child’s Massachusetts home.

Relatives of Child’s also will be hosting “a chat,” she said.

Based on last year’s success, the festival was expanded to a four-day weekend, April 16-19. So far, Cochran says, Bacara has sold 60 all-accesses VIP passes (at $599 a pop). More than 200 rooms have been booked, up 100 from last year.

The weekend’s activities begin April 16 with an off-site dinner at The Lark, a mainstay restaurant in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, and continue April 17 with several off-site events at Firestone, Foley and Lincourt vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley and a tour of historic Rancho San Julian, a land-grant cattle ranch run by the Poett family.

The evening of April 17 is the official opening reception with hors d’oeuvres and tastings of more than 40 varietals by the region’s top winemakers preceded by a special video tribute to Child by award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan and Geoffrey Drummond, Child’s former TV producer and director.

The weekend offers films, panel discussions, wine and food demonstrations, and off-site visits to wineries and neighborhood marketplaces. While the focus is clearly on the valuable resources of the local community, national talent and those who have had firsthand relationships with Child will be present to discuss food writing through panels and film.

With a touch of Hollywood, one of the highlights this year will be the Saturday Night Grand Dinner with actor Kurt Russell, who will be showcasing his latest endeavor featuring his label, GoGi Wines, as well as Hudson Bellamy Wines — inspired by his stepdaughter, actress Kate Hudson — and Ampelos Cellars.

Russell will present the stories behind the wines, their inspiration, and the unique qualities behind how they grow and are blended in the renowned Santa Rita Hills that he discovered for himself in 2007 while on a drive. Drawn to Highway 246, he started wine tasting and picked up the regional taste of many pinots, a lot of which he had tasted on family trips to Italy with his life partner for the last 30 years, Goldie Hawn.

The evening includes a wine reception with live music followed by a four-course “ranch to table” dinner with Russell’s wine pairings.

The décor and ambience for many of the weekend events are being coordinated by Mary Anne Contreras of SWANK Santa Barbara, who also styled the inaugural 2014 weekend.

“The foundation is delighted to work with Bacara Resort & Spa again to foster Julia Child’s legacy and our connection to Santa Barbara,” said Todd Shulkin, executive director of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

“Last year’s inaugural event embodies everything we had hoped it could, capturing what Julia loved about enjoying and exploring the best and latest in food, wine and cooking, and what makes Santa Barbra such a special destination.”

Child and her husband, Paul, lived in Montecito, and Shulkin pointed out that they were regulars at local farmers markets and restaurants like the San Ysidro Ranch, D’Angelo’s Bread and the now-closed Mousse Odile​. He said they dined out often with their close friends, former Santa Barbara City College President Lorenzo “Dal”​ Dall’Armi​, who died last year, and his wife, Patti, along with the Dall’Armis’ daughter, Dani, and her husband, Dr. Bill Hahn.

More than a decade after Child’s death, those who knew her well — and those who only felt as though they did through her books and cooking shows, which I watched throughout my college years — can still hear her tinny voice in their heads. It was a voice coaxing them into the kitchen with a joie de vivre that made French cooking irresistibly approachable to Americans while her “Bon Appétit,” a timeless toast to food and the good life, still resonates today.

Click here for more information about the Second Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend, including a complete list of events.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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