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Winery Feast

May 15, 1986|BARBARA HANSEN | Times Staff Writer

The day after the annual Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival is as much a draw as the festival itself. This year the 1,000 tickets allotted for the festival, which was held on a recent Saturday at Los Olivos, sold out in 12 days, disappointing scores of avid tasters. But anyone could attend the Sunday open houses hosted by the wineries.

Attractions ranged from folk dancing at Ballard Canyon Winery to an art show at the Gainey Vineyard, both near Solvang. The Santa Ynez Valley Winery, also near Solvang, held barrel tastings, and Vega Vineyards near Buellton presented four newly released wines with specially matched foods. In the northern part of the county, Byron Vineyard and Winery staged a clambake, and Rancho Sisquoc offered hayrides. As two hulking gray Percherons pulled a wagon laden with bales of hay and winery visitors around the rancho, there was talk of still another event miles away outside the town of Los Alamos.

"Real gourmet," said one woman. What she was talking about was the buffet that wine maker Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat had spent weeks planning and then worked half the night to prepare. Each year Clendenen selects a theme and improvises an impressive parade of dishes. In 1983, when the festival was inaugurated, he presented California- nouvelle cuisine. In 1984 he staged a Brazilian buffet. Last year there were peppery Southwestern dishes. This time, he developed a menu around the zesty cooking of Southwestern France and northern Spain.

By 11 a.m., when the first guests were expected, bowls and pans heaped with food were lined up on cloth-covered barrels in the small winery building that was once a dairy barn. Visitors could eat their fill for a nominal $3, which they tossed into a basket on the honor system. Along with the meal, they sampled the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in which Au Bon Climat specializes.

"Half a case of Pinot Noir sacrificed its life for the buffet," Clendenen commented, referring to the wine that he had put into the food. Wine-laced dishes included Catalan Chicken, a robust stew that was also flavored with tomatoes, sweet red peppers, olives, garlic and Mexican cinnamon sticks. For Spicy Sausage Garbure, hot Italian sausages were first smoked on a grill that was stoked occasionally with long branches of fresh rosemary. They then went into a pot with white beans, potatoes, cabbage and a stock that had been made with wild ducks, ham hocks, Pinot Noir, garlic and other seasonings.

Adam Tolmach, Clendenen's partner, had obtained the ducklings from his family dentist. The sausages, which were also grilled and served apart from the garbure, were prepared at a meat market in Santa Barbara where the chicken and other meats were purchased.

Clendenen did the main cooking. Tolmach contributed a salad made with greens from his garden, including leaf lettuces, arugula and endive tossed with chopped walnuts and a dressing of balsamic and rice vinegars, lime juice and walnut oil.

Clendenen added Chardonnay vinegar to a White Bean-Mushroom Salad coated with liberal amounts of Italian parsley and cilantro. He also used it in a slawlike mixture of cabbage, celery root and white radish.

Rosemary branches decorated the barrel buffet, and more rosemary was piled outside by the barbecues to add herbal flavor as skewers of pork and mushrooms were grilled and basted with olive tapenade. Bread was brushed with olive oil and garlic, grilled, and then spread with the tapenade or a minced eggplant mixture or simply with fresh herbs or tomato.

The grilling, fueled by mesquite and red oak bark, went on continuously thanks to a guest chef, Bob Lindquist, who had sacrificed his day off to help. Lindquist is owner-wine maker of Qupe Wine Cellars, which is also a member of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Assn.

Instead of dessert, one barrel in the buffet held cheeses, including great chunks of 2-year-old Wisconsin Cheddar, half a wheel of Gorgonzola and two kinds of Brie.

Last year, the supply of food ran short, so this time Clendenen cooked in larger quantities aided by his fiance, Sarah Chamberlin. Tolmach's wife, Helen, baked lemon cookies that were held for latecomers.

The wine makers plan another buffet next spring in conjunction with the vintners' festival. Clendenen and Chamberlin were married a week after this year's event, and Tolmach conjectured that the 1987 theme might come from their honeymoon destination, Thailand.

Here are some of the recipes from this year's buffet. Since the wild ducks used in the garbure would be hard for most cooks to obtain, Clendenen suggested substituting domestic duck. Pre-roasting the duck will remove the fat. The recipe for Catalan Chicken specifies oil-cured black olives. These wrinkly, flavorful olives are now available in jars in supermarkets. For the two salads, any commercial white wine vinegar may be substituted for the Chardonnay vinegar that Clendenen and Tolmach make for their own use with remnants of their wines.

CATALAN CHICKEN

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