Half a year ago, Barbareño was to exist in Summerland, a tiny town just outside of Santa Barbara. Quaint, carefree, and quintessentially Californian, we thought Summerland would be the perfect area for our concept–just far enough out of the way to seem like a destination, but still close enough to attract the Santa Barbara crowd. Due to various factors, the location we were looking at fell through (fortunately for us, looking back now). However, we hung on to a few food ideas that popped up when we were developing the menu for the particular spot. One idea that made its way to our current opening menu was our Sunflower dish.
Summerland was founded by H.L. Williams, in 1883. Williams was a spiritualist, who dreamed of creating a kind of City upon a Hill for his fellow spiritualists to live. Spiritualism is sort of a religion, sort of a philosophy. Basically, Spiritualists believe in a “sixth sense” that allows them to connect to spirits beyond the physical reality. They often rely on mediums to connect with spirits and hold séances where they communally gather to reach the otherworldly souls. Spiritualists seek quiet spaces and tranquility, as it gives them space to concentrate and tap into the sixth sense. Williams thought the little area nestled between the hills and the ocean outside of Santa Barbara would make for a perfect location for his community, free from the many distractions of the approaching twentieth century.
Spiritualists adopted the sunflower as their official symbol. “As the sunflower turns its face to the light of the sun,” their motto says, “so Spiritualism turns the face of humanity to the light of Truth.” Anyway, when we thought our restaurant would be located in Summerland, we knew it was important to give a nod to the town’s spirtualist history by incorporating the sunflower into our cuisine. The dish that eventually emerged is our Sunflower dish–we plate the plant’s roots (the sunchoke or jerusalem artichoke) and slow roast them to bring out their natural sweetness. We top the sunchokes with a gremolata made with sunflower seeds, add sunflower sprouts which we’re growing outside the restaurant, and finish the dish with petals from the sunflower. Everything on the plate comes from the same plant (or at least the same species), in a focused way. Not sure if any spiritualists will ever eat the dish, but hey, it tastes pretty darn tasty.