STORY and PHOTOS by BRETT LEIGH DICKS
(this is a reprint from May 29, 2014)
SANTA MONICA SEAFOOD
Although Santa Monica Seafood just dropped anchor in these parts, the company has a long legacy in California. Founded in 1939 when brothers Jack and Frank Deluca opened a seafood shop at the end of the Santa Monica Pier, the company sold fresh fish from the market to local residents and restaurants for 30 years while cooking up the catch of the day for eat-in diners.
After the business relocated to downtown Santa Monica, members of the Cigliano family bought out their two uncles and opened a second outlet in Costa Mesa. Not only do the two locations offer the freshest seafood possible, they feature cafes where customers can pull up a stool to enjoy fresh oysters, clams and other oceanic favorites.
It was a concept the company was keen to share with Santa Barbara.
“We brought a scaled-down version of what we offer in Santa Monica and Costa Mesa to Santa Barbara,” said Aaron Lucchino, manager of the local seafood market and cafe. “We have a little bit of everything we sell at the other locations, but we’re also asking Santa Barbara (customers) what they want to see here. We want to give the community what they want and that’s what we will put in the case.”
The case is, in fact, the first thing that grabs your attention at the new location in the Santa Barbara Public Market. Packed on ice is a variety of fresh seafood. At one end are whole fish, including European sea bass, $10.99 per pound; New Zealand tai snapper, $10.99; and sea bream, $9.99. The filleted fish include troll king salmon from Morro Bay, $28.99 per pound; albacore tuna, $16.99; Pacific rockfish, $9.99; and Scottish salmon steaks, $14.99.
There is also a selection of in-the-shell mollusks, including Manila clams, littleneck clams and PEI mussels, priced at $5.99 to $7.99 per pound. The oyster selection includes Kumamoto, Fanny Bay, Crystal Point and Kusshi, $3.25 to $3.50.
For anyone wanting a little more preparatory convenience, try the rolled and breaded Dungeness crab cakes, $5.99 each.
Then there is the cafe menu. With bench seating that overlooks the oyster bar and kitchen, the eatery serves up a diverse selection of items.
“The basis of the menu came from our other two stores,” Mr. Lucchino said. “We have tweaked a few things, though. The bread is sourced locally and comes from Crazy Good Bread Co. (nearby in the market) and the specials we have are influenced by what we have in the case. We have king salmon on the menu at the moment. The California king salmon season opened up a week or two ago, so we have sourced some from Morro Bay and have it up on the board with the specials.”
Starters, priced at $10 and up, include Ahi Tuna Tartare, Steamed Littleneck Clams and Pacific Coast Ceviche. There are two soups — New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder — and they come in three sizes: small, $5; medium, $9; and large, $13.
Entrees, starting at $15, include Grilled Troll King Salmon, Cioppino, and Alaskan Cod Fish and Chips. There are also plenty of sandwich options, starting at about $13, including the Spicy Salmon Burger, Fresh Albacore Tuna Melt and Grilled Swordfish Sandwich, as well as several salads, of which the Crab Louie, $19, and Oak Smoked Roasted Salmon Salad, $17, come highly recommended.
“Our sandwiches have really taken off,” Mr. Lucchino said. “We just sold a ton of Lobster Rolls this weekend, which was another one of our specials, and the Fresh Albacore Tuna Melt and Spicy Salmon Burger are both really popular. The burger is our top seller.
“The cioppino is real popular, too. It’s a fish stew made from an old family recipe with lots of clams, mussels, fish, shrimp and calamari — a little bit of everything, really. It has a nice tomato base and a little kick to it and goes really well with a nice pinot noir.”
Santa Monica Seafood: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 845-0745 orwww.santamonicaseafood.com
Foragers Pantry’s mission to offer a diverse array of quality ingredients aligns itself perfectly with the ethos of the location in which it is housed. Situated at the main entrance of the Santa Barbara Public Market, the grocer is the brainchild of local businesswoman and market founder and developer Marge Cafarelli, who intended the Public Market to be a one-stop shopping experience where customers could walk out with everything they need to prepare a fresh, healthy meal.
“We wanted to have somewhere that if you came and bought meat from Belcampo or fish from Santa Monica Seafood, you could go and also get produce,” Ms. Cafarelli, 55, told the News-Press.
“The idea is that with one stop, you could put your whole meal together and even get the wine to go with it. The inspiration for that are European markets like Borough Market in London and the Madrid public market.
“Foragers Pantry is an important part of achieving that.”
Indeed, there is plenty on hand at Foragers Pantry to inspire any home cook. Customers are greeted by a bounty of fresh produce. One display table boasts seasonal fruits, and there’s another for staples like avocados, tomatoes, squash, onions and potatoes. A seemingly never-ending cooler is lined with greens, carrots, eggplant, asparagus and cabbage.
“We really focus on the local region,” said store manager Christopher Combs. “About 70 percent of our produce is locally sourced and it’s 100 percent organic; what may not be certified is absolutely pesticide-free.
“Harvest Santa Barbara supplies most of the produce, which means it’s as fresh as it can be,” he said, referring to the local wholesale distributor of sustainable produce. “There was one morning when they brought in only half of our order and said they would be back with the rest in the afternoon because it was still being picked.
“You can’t get any fresher than that.”
The surrounding shelves are stocked with a variety of items, ranging from pantry essentials — including hard-to-find goods like arrowroot powder and brown rice pasta — to household necessities, at competitive prices. There are also many indulgences thrown in for good measure.
There’s also a selection of locally produced products. The Goodland Chai Co., for example, works out of The Goodland Kitchen in Goleta to produce a signature chai tea blend that combines organically sourced tea with spices. It can be enjoyed with or without milk, hot or iced; a 4-ounce bag is $8.99. In the mood for some hot sauce? Why not grab a bottle of A Chilli Pepper Co.’s artisan hot sauce? The all-natural, raw sauce comes in original, garlic and ginger options, with a 4-ounce jar selling for $8.99.
Santa Barbara specialty salsa company Mesa Salsa Co. produces two varieties — mild and hot — with a 10-ounce container selling for $5.99. The specialty of Dare 2 Dream Farms is eggs. The chickens at the family-run farm just outside Lompoc roam the fields pecking rye grass, flax, buckwheat, clover and sunflowers. The laying flock is made up of dozens of different breeds. The eggs range in size and color; a dozen sells for $6.99.
While not local, a recent addition to Foragers’ shelves that excites Mr. Combs is Avohaus Avocado Oil.
“They came and did a demo here yesterday and we sold over 20 bottles in a couple of hours,” he said. “It is made with certified organic avocados from New Zealand. They have lime, garlic and original flavors. People are really excited by it.”
An 8 1/2-ounce bottle retails for $12.99.
The store carries just about any item you could find in a supermarket. And what it lacks in selection it makes up for in quality.
“Instead of carrying and offering everything, we try to specialize,” Mr. Combs explained. “We have everything in every category, just not all the brands. We have a few that we really believe in. And we keep bringing in more. Since we opened, we have brought in almost 1,000 new items. The customers play a role in that, too. We listen to their requests and where we can, bring in what they want.”
Foragers Pantry: 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily; 770-2102 orwww.foragerspantrysb.com
Tucked away at the rear of the Santa Barbara Public Market is The Kitchen. The fully equipped commercial kitchen not only provides a location for market vendors to hold cooking demonstrations and tastings, but for outside entities to come in and make use of the space.
“We built this intentionally for the merchants to use if they wanted to hold an event,” explained Santa Barbara Public Market Founder Ms. Cafarelli. “People can reserve it for private parties and can bring (in) their own caterer or chef if they wish. They can also reserve it for meetings. It comes with presentation capabilities and has two large flat-screen monitors connected to Mac minis . It’s the perfect place for having a meeting over lunch.”
The market will maintain a calendar on its website and there will also be a board in the market itself so people can see what events are scheduled.
The inaugural event takes place June 26 and comes courtesy of Ms. Cafarelli’s Wine+Beer. The stylish wine and beer bar inside the market will be staging the first of what will be a regular offering of winemaker dinners.
“We’re going to be doing an Italian winemaker dinner featuring old-school, small, artisanal hand-crafted imported Italian wine and wines from Palmina,” said Betty Dunbar, Wine+Beer manager. “It will be a five-course meal by David Cecchini from Cecco in the Santa Ynez Valley where every dish will have a pairing of wine. There will be 10 wines in all, five from Palmina and we will have five Italian wines.”
The dinner will be $95 per person; for more information, contact Wine+Beer at 770-7701.
The Kitchen features seating for 40 in a glass-walled eating area that houses four long communal tables. The kitchen — as in the food prep and storage area — features a wealth of refrigerator and freezer space along with extensive preparation areas. It also includes a six-burner stove, griddle, fryers, two combi-ovens and a convection oven. Deep sinks and two dishwashers help make cleaning up just as easy as the preparation.
There is a selection of pots and pans, plates, flatware and wine glasses. All a chef will need to bring is a good set of knives.
The kitchen rounds out the whole Public Market experience.
“There is a good market at the center of every community,” said Ms. Cafarelli. “I think this market really captures the essence of Santa Barbara.”
The Kitchen: 770-7702 or www.sbpublicmarket.com