The $120 Montecito Margarita

DB Bistro Moderne in New York City made foodie (and economic) headlines when it placed its $120 DB Burger Royale (the double version, with truffles) on its menu. Not to be outdone, San Ysidro Ranch has come up with a liquid version of the DB Burger Royale: the $120 Montecito Margarita.

At first glance, most diners think the price is a typo. Wait staff is instructed to make sure guests knows the price of the drink in case they believe it is a mistake. The Montecito Margarita’s large price tag is due to the two products used for the base of this drink: Don Julio Real tequila and Grand Marnier 150th Anniversary Orange Liqueur.

“The Don Julio Real is usually ninety-five dollars per shot (1.5oz) and the Grand Marnier is forty-eight dollar per shot,” explains San Ysidro Ranch food and beverage director Thomas Johnson. “We use two ounces of the Don Julio Real,” he continues, “and one ounce of the Grand Marnier, along with some fresh lime juice and pure agave nectar. A really simple recipe, but using these high-end ingredients creates an amazing cocktail,” he says. The Ranch sells “about five to ten” Montecito Margaritas a month. Does a guest ever order more than one in the same evening? “Yes, on several occasions,” said Thomas.

Although some jaws may drop at the price, the Ranch does not hold the title for most expensive cocktail. The Paris Ritz Side Car, which costs about $515 (380 euros), is the drink with that distinction, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The $515 Side Car is made with an 1830 Ritz Reserve cognac, served in the 1920s by César Ritz himself, Cointreau, “and a drop of freshly squeezed lemon juice, shaken and served in a martini glass,” according to Forbes Traveler magazine.

San Ysidro Ranch (565-1700) is located at 900 San Ysidro Lane

New Lunch Menu at MUS

The writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld once said, “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” At Montecito Union School, concern about what children eat and how it affects their health and how they learn has prompted a major change in the hot lunch menu this year. Several parents at Montecito Union have brought the Healthy Hot Lunch Initiative to MUS in hope that students will make intelligent food choices.

Ginger Salazar, Joe Cole, Lynn Rollins, Jo Saxon, Merryl Brown, and Brett Matthews, who together make up the Wellness Committee, pushed for the new menu earlier this year and assisted in getting it passed. “We really had a great team of parents working on this and everyone on our subcommittee was a leader at one time or another. It was also great to see the MUS community come together on this. The PTA, the Montecito Education Foundation, the administration, the school board, the teachers, and the parents all expressed support of the program. It has been a true collective effort,” said Ginger Salazar.

Food products that have hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, BHA, or BHT may not be used, according to the new rules. Village Modern Foods, a catering company based in Santa Barbara headed up by Kristine and Rey Castillo, will be responsible for preparing the menu, which includes meals like chicken stir fry, spaghetti and meatballs, and “build your own pizza,” with locally produced food sources, most of it organic. On Wednesday, August 22, some of the items from the new menu were available at MUS for both parents and children to sample. Most of the reviews from the kids were favorable, and parents seemed pleased about being able to offer their kids healthy school lunches. “My kids have never had a hot lunch at school for the five years we have been at MUS. I believe in this program and will support it,” said Donna Buchanan, mother of two MUS students. Another mother agreed. “My kids know healthy and organic and will eat most of the food,” said Kara Rhodes, mother of three MUS students.

Ginger Salazar credits Merryl Brown with starting the Initiative two years ago. Merryl was inspired by Chez Panisse restaurant owner Alice Waters’ Berkeley School Lunch Program that was begun in 2004. “Merryl thought the lunch menu could be greatly improved and took steps to make it a reality by doing the research and getting others involved,” Ginger says. “Only a small portion, about a quarter of the student body,” she notes, “was eating the lunch menu last year provided by the school district. The Wellness Committee did a survey and found that ninety-six percent of parents were in favor of a healthier hot lunch program. Response to the Initiative has been tremendous.”

Although some students may miss the occasional corn dog at lunch, Ginger believes in the long run the new lunch program is a statement about parenting principles. "This is the right thing to do. Why wouldn't we want to give our kids delicious food that is, by the way, good for them?” she asks.

Sandcastles, Mermaids, and Pink Martini in Downtown Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara will be the venue for art, music, and a sandcastle building demonstration, on September 6 as part of the First Thursday event held from 5 to 8 pm. First Thursday offers free access to art openings, live music, artists’ receptions, lectures, wine tasting, and hands-on activities. Twenty-nine locations around State Street, from near the beach to the Arlington Theater, will be participating. This month, the beach will be brought outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art with a sandcastle demonstration featuring some experienced artists from last year’s Santa Barbara Sandcastle Festival. Live music highlights include Brazilian music Beleza Pura, a group that mixes hip-hop, reggae, funk, samba, and rock, and flamenco jazz artists Anthony Ybarra y Sonido Moreno. For the classically inclined, one location will host a pianist playing on a 1905 Louis XVI Bechstein grand, one of the world’s great pianos. Art highlights include Annette Matrisciano’s Mermaid Raptures, a collection of oil, acrylics, and gicleé paintings. One lucky person will win concert tickets to see music ensemble Pink Martini in celebration of UCSB Arts and Lectures, kicking off its 2007-2008 season. Pink Martini, a group of twelve musicians that travels internationally, will be at the Arlington on September 20. Introduction of the modern design Airstream Travel Trailer by architect/designer Chris Deam will be part of the evening as well. Childcare for the First Thursday event is provided by Arts Alive! at 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 100 from 5-9 pm, for a small fee. Reservations for childcare are recommended. There will be three more First Thursday events this year on October 4, November 1, and December 6.

Go to www.santabarbaradowntown.com/go for more info