The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 34 of 116

34  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2016 THE CHEF & THE SOMM O ne of the not-so-hidden trea- sures of Santa Barbara's Santa Ynez Valley is Solvang, the nothing-if-not-cute Danish village that somehow miraculously wound up on California's Central Coast. Predictably, this crossroads of kitsch, complete with windmills and fluttering Danish flags, is a tourist magnet, but never mind the wooden clogs—now there's a serious restaurant in Solvang that's a foodie destination in and of itself: First & Oak. Located within the Mirabelle Inn, a 12-room boutique hotel acquired last year by the Rosenson family, who also own nearby Coquelicot Estate Vineyard, First & Oak is managed by Jonathan Rosenson, who also serves as Sommelier. In the kitchen, Chef Steven Snook conjures up a menu of seasonal, locally-sourced small plates that can be mixed and matched to create a personal tasting menu that's every inch fine dining. Since graduating from culinary school in his native England, Chef Snook has worked repeatedly in Michelin-starred restaurants. In 2006, he landed a post with outspoken British chef Gordon Ramsay at luxury London hotel Claridge's and was later trans- ferred to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay— the group's flagship location and the longest-standing Michelin three-star restaurant in London—where he served as Sous Chef. Arriving stateside in 2009, Snook worked at fast-paced Maze by Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel in New York City. Then, on the West Coast, following three years as Executive Chef at Kenwood Inn in Sonoma wine country, Chef Snook became Executive Chef at Seattle's Salish Lodge & Spa. At First & Oak, Snook continues to use the highest possible quality ingredients in his cuisine and prides himself on maintaining solid relationships with his food purveyors. Rosenson, for his part, got his start in wine due to his family's restaurant back- ground. Just as Jonathan had graduated from college with a degree in economics, the Rosensons purchased a wine-centric Santa Barbara restaurant, where meeting with famous sommeliers and winemak- ers contributed to his interest in wine. In 2005, the family purchased an estate vineyard that they renamed Coquelicot (poppy), a tribute to Jonathan's father Bernard's love of France. The manageable two-page wine list at First & Oak is "half Santa Barbara, half international," says Rosenson (with a "sprinkle" of Napa, he admits). Coquelicot provides the wines by the glass, although a Coravin allows Rosenson to offer guests glasses of heavy-hitting Barolos and Bordeaux on occasion. Rosenson is highly com- plimentary of Chef Snook's abilities: "We're trying to put Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley on the map when it comes to cuisine. We've got world-class wines; the food needs to match." Chef Steven Snook and Sommelier Jonathan Rosenson discuss food and wine in the kitchen at First & Oak in Solvang, CA. CHEF'S CHOICE WINE: Coquelicot Estate 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese, Santa Ynez Valley DISH: Santa Barbara spot prawn, marinated cucumber, shrimp toast, sesame vinaigrette "The combination of the sweetness of the spot prawn and salinity of the dish balances nicely with the fresh flavor. The rosé drinks more like a white wine, cutting through the richness of the brioche-wrapped prawn." —Chef Steven Snook SOMM'S CHOICE DISH: English pea risotto, brown butter snails, smoked bacon, wild mushrooms WINE: Forest-Marié NV Brut Trigny, Champagne "This is hands-down the best risotto, and I love it with the Forest-Marié. The bountiful layers of acidity interact with the creaminess of the risotto producing an awakening effect, fusing a burst of savory and sweet flavor on your palate. You will crave a second bite." —Sommelier Jonathan Rosenson Santa Barbara Bounty THE PAIR'S PICKS We asked the Chef to pick a favorite wine from the list and give us an appropriate dish to match with it. The Somm was asked to pick a favorite dish from the menu and pair it with a suitable wine. AT FIRST & OAK IN SOLVANG, CA, EXECUTIVE CHEF STEVEN SNOOK AND MANAGER/SOMMELIER JONATHAN ROSENSON FIND WINE COUNTRY RAPPORT by David Gadd PHOTO: TENLEY FOHL PHOTOGRAPHY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - September 2016