Posted by lemonjelly on:
Remember 1129 State Street, with the lovely courtyard? Remember restaurant Nu? For that matter, remember rain.org, that early-adopter of UNIX-based internet access whose offices were also overlooking the 1129 courtyard?
Opening up the grand courtyard and former restaurant space brought back good memories of those blissful lunches out in the patio, with a bubbling fountain and mediterranean feel that only made me want a siesta after returning to a dark office. Following the Saturday night red carpet affair the whole town had with Nicole Kidman, people streamed over to 1129 in force, ready for some action.
The event was on par with the SBIFF opening night party, a glitzy affair, decorated with soft red and blue lighting, multiple bars, and numerous food stations stocked with treats from Santa Barbara businesses. It was a deja vu moment for anyone who goes to Museum Nights or Rooftop Canary parties. Same people, different night! But while Chef Brenda Simon holds the monopoly on Nights nosh, she got a break from working the 1129 party and I spotted her in the crowd having a well-deserved good time. The party-goers, unsurprisingly, were ravenous and excited to sample everything that was available. It was hard to find a quiet moment to chat with all the restaurant owners who served up the goodies. But I tried!
Oh, Jungle George Grill, why do you have such a silly name? Because the sandwiches you cater for the company I spend my day hours at are so delicious and insanely reasonably priced. I was sure to mention this to the folks working this buffet table, and named dropped their most popular sandwich at our work lunches: the grilled ahi with the sun-dried tomato wrap. It wasn't available tonight (office types, here? Pshaw, it was all the glamour pusses out tonight), but they did have a selection of gorgeous smelling pastas, including vegetarian options. The popular item, coincidentally the one I didn't get an acceptable photo of, was the pasta with alfredo sauce.
Seagrass may have been around for a little bit, but its latest owners are relative newcomers to settle down in the Santa Babara dining scene. It's now run by Chef Robert Perez as owner, who's also brought his family to run the business. Best of luck to you, Chef Robert! If Seagrass continues along the same lines as the swordfish fillets and beef shortrib you served up at the party, we're in for some good times.
Holdren's, a longtime popular steakhouse on lower State Street, offered bites of the item they do best: steak! Are you listening, Ruth's Chris? They're a steakhouse, and they make steak. Ahem! Gorgeous tender steak bites with a creamy sauce, served alongside raw ahi on baguette reminiscent of Japanese sushi with some crunch of cucumber and subtly spiced with wasabi. The men holding down the fort at Holdren's were assembling plates to order, and worked in a flurry to get food into the party's hungry hands.
The trio of bites pictured above are, sadly, mystery items, as the party had gotten so busy I was not able to get the official names of the nibbles, or even the name of the catering company who provided them! I'm sorry. But they were the most beautifully plated, and grabbing this photo was the most difficult to take, due to fending off eager hands of attendees who kept grabbing for them. MINES!
The man and woman team working this station were slicing and plating like mad. Large chunks of juicy steak came peeling off the knife and set quickly on pieces of baguette (center). Salmon, cucumber and radish came together for one mouthful of fresh California flavor. Thankfully, the little rollups of cured meat seemed pre-assembled, so these appeased the crowds while they waited for more nibble. If someone have the name of this catering company, please tell me! Thanks.
The ladies at Studio Nihon had put together a delicious selection of vegetarian sushi. Studio Nihon is more than a catering company. They offer classes on sushi making and Japanese traditions. I first tried their vegetarian sushi last autumn, when their little bento lunches were offered at the Presidio State Park's celebration of Nihonmachi - Santa Barbara's original Japan Town. Their flavors are super fresh, slightly sweet (try the stuffed bean curd), and full of juicy flavor. I don't know how authentic their flavor is, having never been to Japan, but I do know the mayonnaise-based sauces we have at popular sushi restaurants in town are very Americanized. Kudos to Studio Nihon for only providing a healthy snack at the SBIFF, but one that's informative for those adventurous enough to go beyond California rolls and salmon nigiri.
Last but not least: dessert! Yogurtland had a table set with tempting fruit and granola and chocolate toppings. If I could, I would have left right then and there with that big jar of fat blueberries. I loves me some natural anti-oxidants. Instead, I took a photo of it. The gals working at the Yogurtland table helped assemble cups of yogurt for people, and also roamed the party with platters of pre-made desserts. People were much appreciative. (Side note to Yogurtland, if you're listening: your website's all in flash. Really?)
One thing that really stood out at events like the opening night and this 1129 night was the SBIFF's effort to be more green about its serviceware. At both events, the disposables for the food were all recyclable or compostable. Throughout the space were located the appropriate bins for people to separate their trash, and most everyone seemed to make that effort to put their leftovers in the proper bin. The bins were provided (with contents later sorted and processed) by Green Project Consultants. I got to meet with the CEO of the company last weekend at another conference taking place in Santa Barbara at the same time as the SBIFF and learned they offer a Zero Waste Party Kit that provides all the compostible serviceware, the bin and compostable bag, and they'll drop it off before the party and pick it up afterwards. The setup at the 1129 wasn't an exact replica of the Party Kit (Chopin's cocktails were in the usual plastic cups), but it was close.
And we can't forget our liquid friend, Chopin vodka. Did I mention the evening reminded me of Museum Nights? I've totally seen this bartender whipping up specialty cocktails at Nights. I'm telling you, deja vu.