Monday, August 10, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 23

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on June 26th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 14

FOOD & DRINK 2019: Ice cream, butchers, coffee shops, and picnics


From catering to brick-and-mortar, Creme De La Ice Cream brings fresh ideas to change the ice cream game


The couple behind Creme De La Ice Cream created cold goodies for canines, which are made of dog treats, yogurt, and either fruit or bacon.

Whenever summer decides to grace us with its presence, certain treats are a must at picnics, Fourth of July parties, and community gatherings. Among fresh watermelon, pies, and lemonade, the vital ingredient to a well-rounded gathering is ice cream. 

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, ice cream’s origins are known to reach as far back as the second century B.C. The first official account of the dessert in the United States came in the form of an advertisement in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777. At the time, ice cream was an exotic treat enjoyed mostly by the elite. In the 19th century, the confection was more available to the public—until the dessert was rationed during World War II. As prepackaged ice cream sold at supermarkets gained popularity in the 1940s through the 1970s, traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains started to disappear. 

One Santa Maria couple is ready to bring the local ice cream shop vibe back to their community. Victor and Natalie Bryson have loved ice cream since they were kids. 

When Victor and Natalie Bryson say they want everyone to enjoy their confections, they even mean pups.

“I absolutely love it. When I was going to school I would go to the ice cream shops around here, and I just had a lot of ideas about flavors as well as other things that just weren’t being done,” Victor said.

It didn’t really occur to Victor that he could bring his ideas to fruition with his own business until about 10 years ago. After testing out different recipes and flavors, Victor and Natalie found something that stuck—an ice cream catering business called Creme De La Ice Cream.

“We wanted to start a company to do different things where people can come to our ice cream shop, have fun, and enjoy flavors they want, wouldn’t expect, or could possibly even create themselves,” he said.

The pair began taking orders last year and really has tried to customize their flavors to their customers’ desires or the specific event. For this past Cinco De Mayo celebration, the couple was asked to cater an event where they made horchata and tres leche cake batter flavors scooped into homemade waffle cones that were dyed red and green.

Chocolate lovers can indulge in Coco Loco without worrying about an upset stomach as Creme De La Ice Cream uses lactose-free milk in all of its pints.

They also have more traditional flavors like strawberry, mint and chip, peach cobbler, and vanilla bean. The difference between Creme De La Ice Cream and some of its competitors is that all the ingredients are fresh, from the Santa Maria-grown strawberries to the freshly scraped vanilla beans. They even have ice cream push pops and sorbet flavors. 

Their most popular flavor is s’mores. It’s covered by a layer of chocolate that, when broken, exposes a rich and creamy vanilla ice cream packed with roasted marshmallows and pieces of graham cracker. While it sounds like a lot in one pint of ice cream, every ingredient is perfectly balanced.

Victor uses lactose-free milk in all of his ice creams. Natalie said it’s easier on the stomach to use this milk for all ages to enjoy. 

The couple also has creamy treats for four-legged customers. They sell dog treats covered in frozen yogurt that’s mixed with fruit, peanut butter, or bacon.

Santa Maria-based Creme De La Ice Cream strives to bring fresh, homemade ice cream back to the community.

It takes Victor about an hour to make three gallons of ice cream at a time, so depending on the number of people they’re catering for, he said he usually takes an order a few days or a week in advance. He likes to make the ice cream a day before it’s ready to be served, keeping it as fresh as possible. 

Victor and Natalie have plans to open up a brick-and-mortar shop in Santa Maria this year. While customers will still have the option of a cup, cone, or waffle cone, Victor said they’re introducing a cookie cup, chocolate spoon, and chocolate or chocolate-covered straws.

“That’s part of the creativity that we’re hoping to bring to ice cream, to really kind of enhance that experience,” he said.

New Times Staff Writer Karen Garcia is eating her fifth spoonful of ice cream at

Foodbank’s summer Picnic in the Park program adds locations, needs volunteers


Sunshine, laughter, and free food—that’s what kids can expect each day if they attend the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Picnic in the Park program this summer.

Most importantly, parents don’t need to fill out any paperwork or bring anything to enroll their children in the program. That’s Patsy Aguirre’s favorite part, anyway, because while Picnic in the Park is geared toward feeding low-income kids who typically rely on school meals for food, all children under the age of 18 are welcome to attend. 

Kids enjoy their free lunches in Grogan Park at a Picnic in the Park event last summer.

There’s no stuffy sign-in or qualification process. Kids just show up, eat, play games, and enjoy the beautiful summer weather, Aguirre said. 

“It’s a picnic,” she said. “It’s fun.” 

Aguirre, a Santa Maria resident, has volunteered for the program for the past two summers and will continue her work this year as well. She originally signed up because her own children—three boys ages 13, 15, and 17—were all allowed to volunteer, too. 

“Picnic in the Park allowed us to all go together,” she said, “which I really loved.”

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County will host its Picnic in the Park program at 17 locations countywide this summer—20 percent more than last year—including 11 in North County and six in South County.

The Foodbank launched Picnic in the Park in 2011 as a way to provide low-income kids across the county with at least one nutritious meal a day throughout the summer. 

Santa Barbara County has the highest rate of childhood poverty in California, according to Judith Smith-Meyer, marketing and communications manager of the Foodbank, and hundreds of local kids rely entirely on school meals for food. 

Roughly 1 in 5 children in Santa Barbara County face hunger, Smith-Meyer said, and 89 percent of children enrolled in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District are eligible for free and reduced-cost meals. 

“We know these are kids whose families count on that support to get well nourished,” Smith-Meyer said, “and without school, that’s just absent.” 

The Santa Barbara Unified School District will be providing meals for Picnic in the Park this year, an effort that the Foodbank said will make the free lunches better and healthier than ever.

Picnic in the Park starts on June 10 this year and runs every weekday until Aug. 16 at 17 locations countywide. Start times vary at each location, and lunches run for an hour each day. Attendees are served a free meal on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The meals will be provided by the Santa Barbara Unified School District for the first time this year, and Smith-Meyer said the Foodbank also added several serving locations—mostly parks, community centers, and public libraries—to make the program even more accessible this time around. 

Countywide, the program typically serves about 1,000 children a day, and Smith-Meyer said hundreds of volunteers are still needed to help out with this summer’s operation. Volunteers are needed everywhere, but especially in Lompoc, Goleta, and Carpinteria. 

The work is fairly simple, as is the brief training process, according to Smith-Meyer. And most importantly, volunteers are helping kids. 

“It’s just a huge need,” she said. 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at

New Cuyama Buckhorn owners open coffee shop emphasizing local products


Together Jeff Vance and Ferial Sadeghian run the Los Angeles architecture firm iDGroup, and as of March 2018, they’re also the new owners of Cuyama Buckhorn on Highway 166. 

Vance, who used to live about one hour away from the hotel in Frazier Park, has visited the Cuyama Valley countless times over the last 20 years and is always enchanted by the beauty of the area, he said.

The Buck Stop serves drinks made with coffee roasted by Verve Coffee Roasters.

“When I’m out here, everything seems to slow down and I feel so connected to the surrounding landscape, so when we found out Cuyama Buckhorn was for sale, we decided to take advantage of this unique opportunity,” Vance said.

When Vance and Sadeghian purchased Cuyama Buckhorn, they did so with the intention of renovating the hotel, while highlighting the history of the property, which first opened in 1952. On June 5, the partners realized the first step of this process with the opening of The Buck Stop, a coffee shop located inside the hotel.

Without many other options on long stretches of Highway 166, Cuyama Buckhorn’s marketing and operations manager Savannah Fox said the coffee shop is a place for drivers to stop by and grab a coffee, cappuccino, or pastry.

Baristas at the shop prepare drinks using coffee roasted by the Santa Cruz-based company Verve Coffee Roasters, which sources its beans from Honduras, Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Papua New Guinea. 

The Buckhorn’s coffee shop showcases locally made wine, honey, nuts, and other products.

As a nod to the era the hotel was founded, The Buck Stop uses Verve’s The 1950 Blend for its drip coffee, which according to Verve contains notes of allspice and Earl Grey. Espresso drinks are prepared with Sermon, which is a velvety coffee with notes of blueberries and chocolate, according to Verve.

Fox said that Cuyama Buckhorn decided to partner with Verve because, unlike other coffee roasters, Verve works closely with the farmers it sources its beans from. This connection between farmer and retailer is similar to the connection the Buckhorn hopes to establish with nearby ranchers, she said.

For example, in addition to the coffee, The Buck Stop sells pastries, including handmade fruit pies, some of which are made with fruit from local farms, Fox said. 

Just as important as the coffee and pastries sold at The Buck Stop is the retail side of the shop, which sells local items reflecting the Cuyama Valley. This includes wine from Condors Hope Winery and Sagebrush Annie’s Winery, nuts from the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company, and honey from Rock Front Ranch, among other items. 

“We are committed to connecting our business to the local farms, ranches, and wineries that surround us, which was a major driver for us to build The Buck Stop Coffee Shop,” Sadeghian said.

Aside from the coffee shop, the new owners have a lot of other changes in the works. They just hired a new executive chef for the restaurant, and they plan to roll out a new menu at the end of the summer while keeping the classic burgers and tri-tip sandwiches on the menu. Additionally, the hotel’s bar will undergo some minor renovations to reflect the mid-century farmhouse aesthetic the owners are trying to achieve throughout the property.

Fox said all of the hotel rooms are closed for renovation, but the property will open its 22 rooms for booking later this year. Vance and Sadeghian are also working on adding an event space, pool, and other features to the hotel. 

Staff Writer Zac Ezzone has a lot of 1950s verve. He can be reached at 

Three local butcher shops carry on the olds ways


You could say butchery is in our bones. Archaeologists have unearthed mastodon tusks with cuts and grooves next to rudimentary knives. While we’ve evolved into a society where most of us never see the sentient creatures whose story ends on our dinner table, the tradition of butchery is still passed on from master to apprentice, parent to child, generation to generation. 

Tim “Woody” Woodbury runs a top-notch butcher shop, but all his Yelp reviews gush about his tri-tip sandwiches.

Even though the heyday of butcher shops may have been snuffed out by the invention of the supermarket, small town shop owners still skin, slice, and smoke day after day for their loyal, quality conscious customer base. Hidden among the sprawling agricultural beauty of the Central Coast are three such master butcher shops. 

The first weekend in June, I set out with my trusty sidekick of a husband to see what these gems had to offer up for my palate and my barbecue.

First, we headed north, where J&R Natural Meats is tucked into a bustling shopping center on Rossi Road in Templeton. A full-service butcher, J&R has a USDA-certified processing operation and a focus on local, naturally raised meats, from poultry to beef and everything in between. 

Butcher Colton Godfrey greeted us, and when I asked what amazing creation they had in the smoker to elicit such a tummy rumbling odor, he laughed and said, “Oh, nothing actually. We smoked tri-tip yesterday; that’s just the fans pumping everything out. But if you need something smoked, we can do that!” 

It’s clear that customer service is No. 1 at this company, as is a commitment to humanely sourced meats raised as locally as possible. J&R has an MHU—mobile harvesting unit—based out of its Paso Robles location. Bringing the processing to the ranches greatly reduces the stress on animals in their final moments. Pasture raised animals given fresh air and freedom, and humanely processed, ultimately translate to better meat on your table. 

Fellow butcher Jim “Griff” Griffin joined us as Godfrey took our order of a porterhouse steak (his recommendation) to the back. I asked about why customers would shop at a local butcher instead of the supermarket, and Griffin ticked off reason after reason. 

“We have superb quality meats and real meat cutters who know this stuff backwards and forwards. We can accommodate special requests, cuts, even help people with certain food allergies get what product will work for them,” Griffin said. 

Arroyo Grande Meat Company resides in a building that’s continuously been a butcher shop since 1897, and it’s one of a few California locations that sell Sterling Silver beef.

Our porterhouse arrived at the counter wrapped along with Shamrock sausage and hickory peppered bacon that we couldn’t leave without.

We wound our way down the Cuesta Grade, passing longhorns on our left and praising the late season rain for green crests as we swooped down the hill. After a quick stop in SLO to drop off our haul at home and make room in our ice chest, we headed into the heart of the Arroyo Grande Village. 

The Arroyo Grande Meat Company has continuously run a butcher shop since 1897. First owned by Matt Swall, and changing hands at this point or that, the Gonzales family bought it in 1992. As the saloon doors swung open, Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western theme song welcomed us in. 

Butcher Geoff Montgomery stood behind the counter feeding beef into a grinder, catching the hamburgers-to-be in his hand like a practiced pro. The Meat Company offers Sterling Silver beef—prized for its marbling and incredible flavor. You won’t find this on the shelves of any supermarket. 

“What’s unique about Sterling is they don’t grade their meat like everyone else. Their standards are above and beyond the normal markers. Marbling, tenderness, and flavor all must be premium,” Montgomery said. 

The tight-knit team runs by one simple rule—if it’s not good enough for Mom, it’s not good enough for you. The tradition and quality that has lived in these walls over the past 122 years is evident in every product they offer, including in-house ham, bacon, and sausage—the latter of which comes in 40 varieties. Tubs, bags, and bottles in varying sizes of the shop’s Santa Maria-style seasoning line the walls. Montgomery recommended all of it. 

“Seriously, it’s simple and amazing on its own, or you can add to it. Toss in thyme and rosemary and you’ve got an amazing pork rub, or cumin and cayenne and it’s great taco seasoning,” Montgomery said.

We grabbed a tub along with a couple of tri-tips and headed out the swinging doors toward our last stop.

You might not be able to find a date at J&R Natural Meats in Templeton, but you’ll definitely find top quality, humanely sourced meat.

Lunchtime approached, and I knew exactly where to satiate ourselves; Woody’s Butcher Block in Santa Maria. Tim Woodbury, who goes by the title of head honcho, was in the food service industry for 28 years before switching gears into the premium meat market world after seeing a gap in his community. From beef jerky to filet mignon, if the product doesn’t meet his lofty standards, Woody’s simply won’t carry it. 

“All of our meats are fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet. Much of the ‘commodity’ meats sold in grocery chains and box stores are fed animal by-products as feed supplements. This is not natural and would never be available at Woody’s,” Woodbury said. 

He recommended that everyone try the relatively unknown hanger steak at least once. The taste is “luscious and surprising,” Woodbury said. “You will always remember your first hanger.” 

He’s not wrong. I’ll never forget you, first hanger! 

Wafts of smoke from the back barbecue filled my nostrils, and I was ready to chow down. Woody’s has a wonderful selection of sandwiches, but none are as popular as the Santa Maria-style tri-tip. Certified angus beef tri-tip is seasoned with Woody’s Grilling Salt—in-house Santa Maria-style seasoning—and slow-roasted over red oak. Served in a toasted French roll with seasoned butter, the tri-tip slices are dipped in a hot au-jus and paired with fresh homemade salsa. 

We stuffed our ice chest not once but twice with everything from beef jerky to bacon, hanger steaks and porterhouse, sausages, spices, and more. We hauled home a little more than 15 pounds of quality meat that we can feel good about eating. It may not be the cheapest way to procure your protein, but there’s no comparison in quality, customer service, and flavor when you buy from passionate people knowledgeable about their business. 

Best of all, it turns out butchers are pretty much the nicest people in the world! So grab your wallet, walk through their door, inhale deeply, and you’ll never look back. 

Sun contributor Anna Starkey is still hung up on that hanger steak. Send comments and questions through the editor at

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What do you think of the Lompoc prison facilities' ways of mitigating the spread of COVID-19?

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