Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Caliterranean Café is a natural fit for Los Alamos
BY WENDY THIES SELL
With the arrival of a new, progressive place in town, Los Alamos expanded its horizons last Saturday, during the Northern Santa Barbara County hamlet’s busiest weekend of the year, Los Alamos Old Days.
Global Gardens—the bright and cheery olive oil and vinegar tasting bar and shop that arrived on Los Alamos’ blossoming Bell Street over the summer—opened its Caliterranean Café on Sept. 27.
Home to Full of Life Flatbread, Bell Street Farm, Café Quackenbush, Casa Dumetz Wines, and more, Los Alamos has been attracting foodies and wine lovers from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and beyond as of late. Now vegetarians and locavores have a new place to nosh.
Owner Theodora “Theo” Stephan moved Global Gardens to Los Alamos in July after seven years in Los Olivos.
Stephan had good reason to relocate to Los Alamos: “The community spirit there, people just seem really interested in quality food, and the food and wine pairing experience,” she said.
Plus, her olive grove stands just a few miles down Highway 135 from her new location.
“We were the first in Santa Barbara County to plant olive trees for olive oil and to receive our organic certification, so we’re really excited to be back in Los Alamos!” she said.
The multi-talented Stephan owned a graphic design firm for two decades prior to starting Global Gardens, a company she said aims to inspire “worldly flavors.”
“While the name Global Gardens doesn’t reflect the community,” Stephan said, “what I’m endeavoring to do is create a community around food that’s inspired by my own travels, and perhaps travels of others, or desired travels of others.”
Stephan makes and sells more than 50 food products from family recipes, including award-winning extra-virgin olive oils, fruit vinegars, organic mustards, appetizer spreads, and organic snacks using fresh, natural ingredients.
A 10-minute tasting at Global Gardens is an education, opening customers’ eyes to the flavors that are possible while cooking at home with these gourmet products and seasonal produce.
Stephan authored the cookbook Olive Oil and Vinegar for Life, which introduces her idea of healthful “Caliterranean” lifestyle—the term is a blend of California and Mediterranean.
“The whole Caliterranean concept is a whole style of living. Whether you live in California or Ohio, it is eating hyper-locally as much as possible, [and] more of a plant-based diet, not strictly vegetarian,” Stephan said. “The Caliterranean philosophy includes meditation, aromatherapy, and time to be unplugged.”
She says that in general, most people don’t really know that they should be cooking with olive oil and they don’t know how to use it.
The café has sprung from Stephan’s desire to educate.
“It’s easy for me to talk about what I do. I love it! I’m inspired by feeling healthy and teaching other people to eat and cook,” Stephan said. “Really, you can put together a great meal, especially around here where we live, … [in] 20 minutes. It’s faster than fast food. It’s healthier and it tastes so much better. Sharing that with others is really my dream.”
Caliterranean Café’s simple, produce-driven menu features a handful of rotating vegetarian specials like the country-style phyllo pita, stuffed French toast, and hearty salads.
Treat yourself to a delicious olive oil-based dessert, such as pecan pie, chocolate brownies, smoked sea salt pistachio chocolate tart, and EVOO ice cream.
The café also offers a daily “dip” and a daily “pickle.” Thinly sliced, fresh vegetables are marinated in one of Global Gardens’ large variety of fruit balsamic vinegars, which come in more than a dozen flavors ranging from Green Apple Ginger Golden to Blood Orange Dark to Pear and Tamarind Champagne.
The café will have the occasional “beef week” and other themed weeks offering special appetizers or main dishes using products from local beef ranchers, seafood purveyors, and other nearby meat producers.
Customers can eat lunch or an early dinner inside at a communal table or outside on the café’s patio, over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. The café also packs up food to go.
“We’re integrating our menu with take-home recipes,” Stephan said, “so that people can understand the ease and really the value of making this at home.”
She calls it an “enhanced tasting experience.”
“Basically, I’m creating some simple, original tastes that people can take home and make. It’s really about putting fresh ingredients together that taste good,” Stephan shared. “It’s a matter of eating really, really fresh and being able to taste all the layers of the flavors that comprise the dish.”
Global Gardens offers discounts in the café and store to members of its quarterly gourmet food club and monthly olive oil club.
What’s more, the equally charming wine tasting room, Casa Dumetz, owned by Sonja Magdevski, shares the building with Global Gardens, allowing customers to mingle in between.
Both ladies are committed to creating a sense of community in Los Alamos with the popular Friday Night Speaker Series. Learn something from weekly lectures, hang out with friends, drink artisan wine, taste unique snacks, and use the free Wi-Fi.
Global Gardens’ Caliterranean Café is located at 380 Bell St., in Los Alamos. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Sun wine and food writer Wendy Thies Sell is also fresh and local. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.