Ted Mills
February 15, 2008 12:54 PM

Our mixology crew has many magical powers. We can tell Cointreau from Triple Sec and Whiskey from Bourbon. We have ways of making bartenders talk. But we didn’t know we had the power of serendipity until our mix-assistant suggested we take in the Ty Lounge at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, and we arrived to find ourselves on opening night of a brand new cocktail promotion. It was our lucky night, but apparently if you turn up between 5:30 and 8 p.m. on a Wednesday for the next three months, it can be yours, too.
The “Cocktail Flight Nights” offer three mini cocktails for $12, all highlighting a different spirit each week. Like what you taste? Order the full drink and get 50 percent off, plus free hors d’oeuvres. As we like a bargain (i.e. we’re cheap), that sounds like a deal. On this night, the special was Chopin Vodka. Despite our coming off a week of drinking gratis Chopin at Santa Barbara International Film Festival parties, we indulged. In a little wooden holder stood three fluted shot glasses: a Pomtini (Chopin, Grand Marnier, pomegranate juice), a Pear Drop (Chopin, Cointreau, fresh pear juice) and a White Grape Delight (Chopin, Chambord, white grape juice). Created by Bar Manager Sarah Latta, the Flight Nights intend to bring a wine-tasting sensibility to cocktails and to developing the palate, she says. Latta has been managing the Lounge since November — previously she was at Elements. Of the three we tried, our gang voted the Pear Drop the best. Latta’s weekly event may continue beyond its initial three month installment, but for now the menu is set.
But we also had history in mind, and this is the famous Biltmore after all, home to the rich and famous long before Fess Parker had even seen a raccoon hat. Bartender Pedro Rivera has served his share of celebs and stars and counts among his proudest moments the time he tended bar right across from Mikhail Gorbachev. Rivera’s been here since 1985, but knows cocktails are older than that. The Whale Watcher is a meditation on a MaiTai, with a mix of rums and Crème de Banana, and a Coral Casino favorite. When guests spotted a whale, they got this very large drink. If you didn’t see a whale ” you might do so after one of these. Plus, Rivera made us both versions — the original from back in the day, which is light on the grenadine and the newer, sweeter version. The result from our crew? Old wins, 2-to-1.
The Ty Lounge also makes its own infused tequila, with a heavy citrus blend. This then goes into every Santa Barbara Margarita, giving it a sharp spin that gets counterbalanced by the Cointreau.
Every month, a special cocktail is featured on the menu, so we made sure to try February’s concoction, which is pink and sweet. Rivera was happy to share the recipe with us and says, even in March, he’ll be glad to make it for you.

1-1/2 oz. Effen Raspberry Vodka
1-1/2 oz. Stoli Vanilla Vodka
Splash of Chambord
A touch of heavy whipping cream
Fresh raspberries

Combine vodka and Chambord in shaker over ice and agitate, stir in heavy whipping cream, then strain into martini glass. Top with fresh raspberries.

Ty Lounge, at Four Seasons Biltmore Resort
1260 Channel Dr., Montecito
969-2261, www.fourseasons.com/santabarbara/

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

IN CONCERT : Sweet Charity – St. Vincent, aka Annie Clarks, rocks Velvet Jones

February 15, 2008 12:31 PM
Taking a break from two of the largest-sounding bands at the moment — Sufjan Stevens’ touring group, and the 23-member Polyphonic Spree — one might think St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, would reveal herself as a stripped-to-the-basics singer-songwriter. But not so.
“Marry Me,” her 2007 solo debut, shows Clark can do the epic thing too. A savvy mix of pop and experimental, of confessional voice and dramatic scope, St. Vincent’s album made many print and blog Top 10 lists in December. The multi-instrumentalist brings her four-piece band to Velvet Jones on Saturday. So what feelings does Ms. Clark have for the patron saint of charity?
“It’s actually a family name,” she says of her alias. “I was going through some old family albums, and ” it’s my great-grandmother’s middle name.”
Clark hails from Dallas and spent her early teens learning guitar, first with lessons, then “organically.” For a while, Clark did the singer-songwriter thing. “I went to some very terrible open mic nights,” she says.
Then the Polyphonic Spree happened. The symphonic-rock group also hails from Dallas, and was out to leave on tour in support of their second album.
“My friend Toby, who played theremin in the band, told me, ‘you should try out,’ ” she says. “Really, I think he wanted someone to hang out with on tour.” Clark auditioned as guitarist on a Tuesday — by the weekend she was flying off for the first leg of the summer 2005 tour.
When she returned home, months later, a song appeared, called “Marry Me.”
“It came out in one sitting at the piano,” she says of the song which expresses, if not love, a sort of “road-weariness.” The tour had been “demoralizing and fun,” she says, with the band sometimes playing to near-empty rooms.
“But it builds character,” she jokes. “It was good to shake off the cobwebs and play music for myself.”
“I was really inspired by that song,” she says. “I was at a songwriting level that I could keep at ” I decided at that point it would be the linchpin to build an album around that song.”
The album that resulted from that initial session in winter and stretched into the fall of 2006 is a “homage to various heroes from a lifetime of listening.” Not that Clark wears her references on her sleeve — this is no pastiche or retro sound.
Playing a majority of the instruments on the album and applying strings and choirs that would make George Martin proud, Clark gladly discusses trying to replicate the drum sound of the first Plastic Ono Band album, or the “gutty” sound of The Breeders on her album’s opening track, “Now Now.”
If parts sound Bowie-esque, the answer is more obvious: Mike Garson, Bowie’s pianist on “Aladdin Sane,” adds his signature sound to several songs. The two met in Minneapolis at a Polyphonic Spree session.
“We kept in touch,” she says. “I sent him some sketches of songs and he wrote back.”
The pianist then sent tracks recorded in California, which Clark added to the studio mixes.
“It was a very 2006 way of recording,” she says.
Although Clark has been promoting “Marry Me” with solo guitar appearances, this tour brings out a full band, all handling several instruments each. Clark supplements her own guitar with triggered samples and racks of effects, including her favorite, the Moogerfooger.
“We’re able to create a bigger sound than just four people,” she says. It’s inspired a sort of slogan for the band. “We’re four, but exponentially, we’re 16.”
ST. VINCENT, with Foreign Born, The Coral Sea, and Watercolor Paintings
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Velvet Jones, 423 State St.
Cost: $10
Information: 390-0937, www.clubmercy.com
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Mel’s Slippery (Expletive) Nasty

Ted Mills
February 8, 2008 12:21 PM

There are occasional occupational hazards in this job, and meeting a bartender called Nomo at Mel’s might constitute one. Nomo has a mission — and I paraphrase — to send you out into the night sideways. Not literally, of course, but mentally. Mel’s has earned its reputation — along with a select few — of some of the strongest drinks in town. There’s a reason the bar has weathered all sorts of development since its 1963 inception, and when we walked in there, we were ready to drink that reason.
Nomo — he wouldn’t give his last name — has been working at Mel’s for over a year, after learning how to mix drinks — and how to drink, period — down the street at The Study Hall. Those gents may like to know their charge has gone above and beyond their lessons.
First up: Nomo serves us a straightforward Jack and Coke. It’s strong, and while many will ride the J&C rail until closing time, it becomes apparent that Nomo has other plans for us. To him, the J&C is a ciabatta-and-butter drink for the main course.
This turns out to be a shot drink in a pint glass.
The FranBomb, named after 18-year Mel’s bartending vet, Frannie, is designed to blow-up in the brain by way of the stomach. An entire can of Rockstar energy drink is poured into a beer glass, into which a shot glass of Jagermeister is submerged. A healthy cap of Bacardi 151 completes the cocktail, which, like all “bomb” drinks, is meant to be downed in one. (Did I do so? Only the inhabitants of Mel’s will tell you ? and their memory of that night probably isn’t the best.)
Nomo seemed pleased and finished (us) off with a drink charmingly named Slippery (Expletive) Nasty.
“This is our signature shot,” Nomo said as he started mixing one up.
Fortunately, “nasty” doesn’t describe the taste. Its mix of butterscotch and Bailey’s makes the drink tasty and easy to down in one.
But make sure to read the ingredients before taking this medicine. The drink’s nickname of “a blackout in a glass” wasn’t given lightly.
This story has a happy ending — we made it out of Mel’s still upright and satisfied that it had earned its reputation. For those brave enough to continue, we present the recipe for one of the rudest drinks we’ve had.

3 parts Absolut 100
2 parts Bailey’s Irish Crème
2 parts Bacardi 151
1/2 parts Butterscotch Schnapps

Combine over ice in shaker, agitate, then strain into a large shot glass.

6 E. De la Guerra Plaza

Show’s over . . . for now : Film festival closes in subdued style

Arlington employee Rosanna Ortiz changes out the name of the closing night film of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, marking the end of festivities on Sunday.

February 4, 2008 7:24 AM

Rain and thunder ushered in the 23rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival and some 11 days later, rain saw the event out, with only a few days in between letting the sun shine in.
At the fest’s closing night ceremony and film on Sunday night, Executive Director Roger Durling thanked the city of Santa Barbara and everybody else from out of town who attended, and called to the Arlington Theatre stage the entire staff of the festival, including the purple T-shirt-wearing volunteers.
The festival closed with the screening of Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Unknown Woman.”
Earlier in the evening, the festival honored 11 films in a subdued awards ceremony hosted by KTYD 99.9 FM’s Julie Ramos.
Audiences selected Michael Parfit’s “Saving Luna,” about the fight to save a lone baby killer whale, as their favorite feature.

SBIFF’s executive director, Roger Durling, brought all the staff and volunteers of the film festival on stage at the Arlington for a big thank-you for all the help they gave during the festival.

A jury of filmmakers and actors, chaired by film editor Dave Stein, decided other films.
The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema went to “Amal,” about an auto rickshaw driver who inherits an estate. Director Richie Mehta received a camera package worth about $60,000.
Tao Ruspoli, who directed the buzz-heavy “Fix” — featured in Saturday’s News-Press — won the Heineken Red Star Award, which honors “the most progressive and gifted independent film director.”
Mr. Ruspoli, one of the few filmmakers available to receive the award in person, gave his thanks in a brief few sentences.
Although director Martin Theo Krieger was not present at the event to accept the Best Foreign Film Award for his feature “Beautiful Bitch,” a representative read what ended up being the longest thank-you speech of the night.
Mr. Krieger wrote of the “big and warm” response he received from the city on his first-ever visit, and how his preconceived notions of “sunny weather and little attention” were both unfounded.
The Nueva Vision Award for best Spanish-language film went to the Cuban film “Le edad de la peseta” (”The Silly Age”), directed by Pavel Giroud.
A film about the painter the Rev. Albert Wagner, “One Bad Cat,” took home The Iconix Video Award for Best Documentary, picked up on stage by Thomas G. Miller.
Two Bruce Corwin Awards for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Animation went to Rob Meyer’s “Aquarium” and Joe Tucker’s “For the Love of God.”
The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award went to Anne Slick and Danielle Bernstein’s film about mining in Ecuador, “When Clouds Clear” (”Despues de la Neblina”).
Finally, the 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking Competition, sponsored by Sotheby’s International Realty, screened their two winners before the main feature. Both were dramas: Tony Johnson’s “The Apple and the Tree” and Daniel Lahr’s “Metal Detector Man.”
Unlike last year, no red carpet unfurled before the event. Despite this, more than half of the Arlington’s 2,000-plus seats were taken by the time of the final feature.
Mr. Durling appeared unfazed. After five years at the head of the fest he said, “I feel as enthusiastic as the first year.”

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Her mighty heart – Angelina Jolie brings out the crowds for SBIFF award

Angelina Jolie, recipient of the SBIFF’s Performance of the Year Award, and Brad Pitt laugh on the red carpet of the Arlington on Saturday night.

February 3, 2008 7:26 AM

If the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been slightly subdued this year despite the lineup of award winners and nominees appearing nearly every night, the appearance of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt out in front of the Arlington more than made up for it.
More than Cate Blanchett’s appearance last week, Saturday’s tribute to Ms. Jolie brought out fans in crowds that turned the 1300 block of State into something like Cannes.
And for the fans it was worth it. For over 10 minutes, the two stars stayed away from the red carpet and the paparazzi and worked the crowd, signing autographs and chatting with appreciative teens and adults.

Fans lined up early at the Arlington to see Angelina Jolie on Saturday night.

Giving back to fans is the point, said Ms. Jolie later in her interview with Variety’s Peter Hammond. “That’s why we make films,” she said. It’s “for the people that appreciate them.”
The idea of giving back has also led to her work with the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, using the media that follow her and Mr. Pitt around to focus attention on crises in Sierra Leone and beyond.
The Festival honored Ms. Jolie with the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award for her portrayal as Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom’s “A Mighty Heart.” The role has won her a Golden Globe nomination. Ms. Jolie has previously won Golden Globes for “George Wallace” (1997), “Gia” (1998) and “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), ” the latter of which also earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Brad Pitt watches on as Angelina Jolie talks to the press on the red carpet at the Arlington on Saturday.

The evening with the actress included clips from a career that started when she was in her teens.
Though known as the daughter of actor Jon Voight, a question about her parents and the acting bug led to tales about her actress mother Marcheline Bertrand.
“I was raised by her,” Ms. Jolie said of her mother, who passed away just over a year ago. Ms. Jolie credited her mother with helping her prepare for even the tiniest film. “She’d take me out to thrift stores to buy costumes . . . she’d write me letters addressed to my character.”
Mr. Hammond revealed that Ms. Jolie had nearly chosen another career in her early teens — funeral director. Ms. Jolie admitted that it was true.
“I went to a funeral and thought it was not enough of a celebration of a life of a person.” Ms. Jolie earned her mail order degree at 14 years old.
Fortunately, acting was something that followed on from modeling. Her first films were low-budget and sometimes forgettable. (” ‘Cyborg 1’ was Jean-Claude Van Damme,” she said, “and I was ‘Cyborg 2’ at 17.”) Yet on the red carpet, when asked about people who helped her get her start, she singled out another less-known film, 1995’s “Without Evidence,” as a film that really helped her career get a boost.
In an interview, Ms. Jolie was appreciative and slightly shy. “I feel like I’m in therapy,” she joked when asked about her early life.
As an actress, she admitted it was hard to feel confident at first.
“I didn’t think I had very much to give,” she said. “I thought maybe I had one story to tell. . . . I didn’t know myself.”
Instead, Ms. Jolie has gone on to a series of sexy and smart roles, including “Beyond Borders,” “The Good Shepherd” and her upcoming lead role in Clint Eastwood’s “The Changeling.”
Mr. Eastwood was on hand to present the award to Ms. Jolie and spoke briefly on the red carpet about the film, based on a true story set in 1920s Los Angeles.
“The film is a lot different from anything that I’ve done, and it’s a lot different from anything that she’s done.”
As demonstrated Saturday, Ms. Jolie’s fans are not going anywhere and will gladly wait and see.

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Tao Ruspoli’s L.A. road trip film ‘Fix’ wins over crowd at film festival

February 2, 2008 7:29 AM
A shaggy-dog travelogue that uncovers a rich Los Angeles landscape, “Fix” has generated enough buzz at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival to be given two more screenings, today and Sunday.
Its writer-director and co-star Tao Ruspoli plans to return to Santa Barbara for a second weekend. “Fix” marks the director’s stepping up a level after making shorts. “I turned 30 and decided it was time to make a feature film,” he said.
“Fix” follows what should be a simple path. Filmmakers Milo and Bella (real-life couple Mr. Ruspoli and Olivia Wilde) detour from a trip north to help pick up Milo’s brother Leo (Shawn Andrews) from jail. A heroin addict, Leo has until 8 that night to be dropped off in rehab. Even considering the heavy traffic from Calabasas to the heart of Los Angeles, Leo’s plan sounds easy and Milo wants to help his charming but unpredictable brother.
Nothing, of course, goes as planned, and Leo leads the two through a series of misadventures, always with that clock ticking toward 8.
The events are “inspired but not based on” a similar journey Mr. Ruspoli took with his real-life brother, who also suffered from addiction. “Shawn is not imitating my brother,” he said. “We fictionalized quite a bit. . . . The film is its own story.”
Mr. Ruspoli’s journey to this point, like the journey by the Chevy Impala in the film, comes by way of the open road. Once a philosophy major at Berkeley, his mind turned to film, and then, through connections and luck, he got a job in the business. He worked in art departments and assisted the likes of Dino De Laurentiis and Vittorio Storaro. But these were big-budget filmmaking jobs, and Mr. Ruspoli wanted something more homegrown.
“I wanted to pick up a camera like a writer picks up a pencil.”
Around 2000, he picked up a digi-camera and then gutted an old school bus, modding it out into a rolling production studio on wheels. He lived in it. When Ms. Wilde and he married, the ceremony was held in the bus. And the “bus” was producing short films and docs, as an extension of Mr. Ruspoli’s Los Angeles Filmmakers Co-op (LAFCO).
The hand-held, documentary aesthetic carries over into “Fix,” which bends rules of fiction and nonfiction to tell its story. Mr. Ruspoli and editor Paul Forte intercut the narrative with abstract montages of the city, or with time-lapse shots.
Shawn Andrews’ role as Leo holds the film together. Although Mr. Ruspoli and his co-writer Jeremy Fels created the female characters for Ms. Wilde and their close friend Megalyn Echikunwoke, the character of Leo was a linchpin that needed serious consideration. “Leo is a role that I knew the film would live or die on, depending on who was cast,” said Mr. Ruspoli.
“(Leo) was a sought-after role, a real break-out role,” said Mr. Andrews, who started out his film career in 1993 with Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.” Mr. Andrews read the script and went to audition. Not just a cold read of the script, Mr. Ruspoli took the actor for a spin — and they improvised scenes out of the film.
It was a long drive.
“He put me through the wringer,” Mr. Andrews says of the process to land the role. Unlike the usual “brooding, emaciated” addict audiences typically see, according to Mr. Andrews, Leo is charming and persuasive.
“There’s definitely that kind of person out there,” he said. “I’ve known addicts that are larger than life. . . . You only mean to spend 10 minutes with them and then a whole day has passed.”
Once Mr. Ruspoli assembled his cast, the shoot turned out to be as relaxed as hanging out with friends.
“Megalyn and I are so comfortable with each other,” said Ms. Wilde of her co-star, who plays Leo’s estranged girlfriend, “that we could just ‘play.’ We can improv for hours.”
And although many of Mr. Ruspoli’s friends turn up in roles, “Fix” has an equal number of fascinating non-actors who were at the locations. All the domino players sitting around a garden table in the Watts section of the movie were there when the crew turned up. Unlike usual “extras,” Mr. Ruspoli gives them a voice in the film.
More than 25 percent of the film is improvised, said the director.
“A lot of magic happened on set.”
“Fix” opened at Slamdance, and the cast and director have been riding the buzz straight through to Santa Barbara, with more fests in March. Mr. Ruspoli plans to be in the back of the theater for each screening.
“I love how each audience takes something new out of each scene,” he said. “It’s almost like going to the theater.”
Fix: Official Site
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

THE QUIET MAN : American Riviera Award presented to Tommy Lee Jones at SBIFF

Actor Tommy Lee Jones poses for photographers on the red carpet outside the Arlington Theatre on Friday. Mr. Jones was there to receive the American Riviera Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.


February 2, 2008 7:18 AM

Tommy Lee Jones is not one to buy into the myth-making of Hollywood. Yes, he shared his Harvard dorm room with Al Gore, but no, he said, he was not the inspiration for Ryan O’Neill’s character in “Love Story,” Mr. Jones’ first film, as is often reported. Yes, he plays characters that often stand in for America. No, he’s not like any of those characters. Oscars and other awards are “good for business.” It’s just, as he’s said before, a job. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored the actor for being so good at that job on Friday night, with the American Riviera Award. The career-spanning retrospective and interview at the Arlington Theatre drew nearly a full house.
This year, Mr. Jones has been nominated for two Oscars — one as Best Actor for Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah,” and one for Best Supporting Actor in the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” The former nomination is his first in that category.

Andy Davis, who directed Mr. Jones in “The Fugitive,” presented the award.

Variety’s Pete Hammond took on the task of interviewing Mr. Jones. An opening montage sped back and forth over the actors’ history: young and tough in “Love Story,” commanding in “The Fugitive,” “U.S. Marshalls” and “The Hunted,” and willing to look silly (but still dangerous) in pop blockbusters like “Men in Black” and “Batman Forever.” It’s his presence in such films however, that have earned him a new generation of fans that have followed him into more complex films.
Introducing the actor, Mr. Hammond described Mr. Jones’ performance in “In the Valley of Elah” as “so subtle, you never catch him acting.” He’s one of the great American actors, Mr. Hammond said, comparing him to classic movie stars such as Cary Grant, James Stewart and Gary Cooper. Yet Mr. Jones is also a great character actor, he said.

Tommy Lee Jones answers questions from Jared Winslow, 11, at the Arlington Theatre on Friday.

His fans agree. Phoenix native Paul Kinsinger managed to snag tickets to the show while passing through on vacation and calls Mr. Jones “the quintessential American actor. He has a quiet, male strength.” A fan since 1977’s “Rolling Thunder,” Mr. Kinsinger said the actor “says more with what he doesn’t say. . . . He lets his face talk for him.”
“I’m not that introspective,” Mr. Jones admitted to a question on the red carpet about his past. However, he does like to talk about things other than acting, including his interest in playing polo (he first came to Santa Barbara in 1978 to play at the club here and bought a condo near the first field), his ranch outside San Antonio, Texas, 100 miles or so south of his birthplace, San Saba. Early on in the interview, he revealed that he was part of the Harvard football team and on the field for the infamous 1968 Harvard-Yale game that resulted in a 29-29 tie in the last 42 seconds. But, the towering Mr. Jones said, he was too short and small to continue in a football career. “I was the smallest in the Ivy League,” he said.
Asked if there were any directors he’d love to work with, Mr. Jones said there are many and smiled. “I’m always looking for a job.”

Members of the media speak with actor Tommy Lee Jones on the red carpet of the Arlington Theatre on Friday.

Santa Barbara resident, director and friend Andrew Davis presented the award and was a bit more elucidating on Mr. Jones’ qualities, having directed him in three films since 1987’s “The Package.”
“He’s incredibly capable,” Mr. Davis said. “He’s going to find a way to make it work . . . and to bring his own talents to the service of the film.”

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Film Festival: It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

Feeling film festival fatigue, or still can’t get enough? Or a little of both? With three days left in another successful (and 23rd annual) installment of the Santa Barbara Film Festival, it’s time to dive back in and enjoy what’s left. Check with the Film Festival hub at Hotel Santa Barbara for an updated schedule — films that get a buzz often receive third and fourth screenings on this weekend. The free family film section, APPLEBOX, returns for a second round of weekend mornings for the kids. There’s still plenty of star power lighting up the evenings: tonight the Fest honors Tommy Lee Jones and tomorrow Angelina Jolie comes to town, so expect red carpet mayhem. Sunday night’s closing ceremonies will present awards to all the films you may have been lucky enough to see in the week previous. But if you missed them, fear not, because the SBIFF’s Third Weekend (February 8-10) at the Riviera shows a majority of the winners at a series of absolutely free screenings. All the films with none of the out-of-towners! But then again, that mix of locals and cinema touristas is what makes the Festival such fun.
—Ted Mills


Ted Mills
February 1, 2008 10:41 AM

We like someone who rises to a challenge when our mixology tour pulls up at a freshly wiped down bar. And we love someone who goes above and beyond our expectations. So it was with Esther Rogers, who tends bar at Roy four nights a week. When we threw down our kindly gauntlet, Rogers took to it like a contestant on Iron Chef ? but with booze.
Rogers hails from Portland, but she’s been all over the American map presumably picking up mixology knowledge. Her most recent stint was in New Orleans, where she studied how to make a proper Sazerac among other beloved Big Easy cocktails. She knows her Rye Whiskey and when to use it. She’s picky about her bitters.
Like a good chef, she’s eyeing the fresh ingredients of the day, wondering if she can incorporate them. Our first example was her Clementine mojito, which took advantage of the fresh Clementines that had come in. Adding orange flower water to the usual mojito ingredients and turning to a citrus-based rum (Bacardi Limon), as well as garnishing the tall glass with speared Clementine segments, turned a regular mojito into something fresher. Some mojito-makers go heavy on the sugar, but not here.
Rogers no doubt wears the influence of her boss, Roy Gandy, who designs the menu, occasionally takes his turn in the kitchen and keeps an eye on local produce and meat for special dishes. The restaurant has been serving since 1994.
When we gave this the seal of approval, Rogers disappeared to work on the second cocktail with a foodie bend, and returned with a surprising Sugar Beet & Basil Martini. Blood red and garnished with ribbed slices of beet and basil, the drink looked like it would tend towards a Bloody Mary style flavor. Only it didn’t — light and sweet, but tempered with fresh lemon juice, the vodka-based martini didn’t overwhelm with a heavy vegetable flavor, nor did it shy away from it.
Near the end of our evening, Rogers was seen busy in the kitchen, which looks out over the bar, prepping something. We felt a bit guilty having a look, so we turned our backs and waited to be surprised.
The Chocolate Raspberry Mousse-tini would wrap up any meal. It’s a fine dessert drink, with a mix of Bailey’s, vodka, Aqua Perfecta, all in a martini glass, drizzled with a berry reduction sauce. The cute bonus was the garnish, several spoons of fresh whipped cream in an orange-leaf tube. Most excellent, we thought, as the creamy Bailey’s complemented the strength of the vodka.

1 part Absolut Razz
1 part Three Olives Chocolate Vodka
1 part Bailey’s Irish Crème
1/2 part Aqua Perfecta framboise
A dash of Kahlua
Strawberry reduction sauce
Whipped cream (unsweetened)
Orange leaves, washed and patted down

Prep garnish by rolling up leaves into a funnel and spearing one end shut with a toothpick. Whip the cream and fill the tube nearly to the top.
Prep martini glass by drizzling some strawberry reduction sauce around the inside of the glass. Use a squeeze bottle. Do not overdo.
Combine vodkas, Bailey’s, Aqua Perfecta, and Kahlua into a shaker, add ice, agitate, then strain very slowly into glass. Garnish with the leaf tube, sprinkle some cocoa powder on top of cream.

Restaurant Roy
7 W. Carrillo St.
966-5636, www.restaurantroy.com

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Interview: Brad Bird

February 1, 2008 10:48 AM
Brad Bird’s tenacity as a young man has paid off.
Born in Montana, he visited the Walt Disney Animation Studios when he was 11 years old and told animators there he would be one of them one day. Three years later, he turned up with a short film.
Not that he joined the payroll immediately — he attended CalArts before taking a job he couldn’t refuse at Disney (despite dropping out of CalArts, Bird says they love to have him back to speak to students).
Now, his films — “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille” — offer some of the greatest pleasures of the last ten years in terms of universal appeal, design, and storytelling. “Ratatouille” was denied a Best Picture Oscar nomination despite garnering rave reviews (he received Rottentomatoes.com’s Golden Tomato award for the best-reviewed film of the year), but the film still managed five nominations from the Academy.

Brad Bird stands at far left with Patton Oswalt, middle, who voiced Rata’s adorable lead character, Remy, seen here, and with one of the film’s producers, Brad Lewis. Below, Bird stands with Peter O’Toole, who voiced the character of cranky food critic Anton Ego.

On Saturday, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival invites Bird for a “Conversations With” event, preceded by a screening of the documentary “The Pixar Story.”
He first worked on 1981’s “The Fox and Hound.” It was there where he was mentored by some of the best classical animators of the era, but his real break came when Steven Spielberg asked him to script a live action episode of “Amazing Stories” in 1985. That led to a second episode, this time fully animated. “Family Dog” became his calling card: Bird could animate and tell a good story.
This episode led to executive consultant jobs on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and then finally the chance to write and direct an animated feature, “The Iron Giant,” based on the Ted Hughes book. Pixar took notice and offered Bird the step over into computer animation. In the 12 years since Pixar’s “Toy Story,” Bird says both technology and perceptions have changed.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “Look at the human characters in those (Toy Story and Ratatouille). It’s very different. There’s such control now, and so many controls the animator has at their disposal. (Computer Generation) is a tool like any other, but I think it’s a really flexible, wonderful one.
“We are moving past an unfortunate period where studios thought that CG was the only way to be successful,” he says. “It’s not what you use to make the film, it’s how you tell the story. It’s the characters, and it’s the graphic style. Now we have successful films that are not just CG, but traditional 2D animation, or stop-motion. All kinds of films can and should be made.”
Bird now juggles the mantles of writer, director, and animator. But what of the young boy who wanted to draw cartoons?
“I can draw, I can storyboard, I can even design some characters if you hold a gun to my head,” he says. “There are sections in all my films that I know specifically how it should look. I draw the scenes as I write them, I don’t do it later.
“The writers’ strike is seen by some as a symposium on us directors. But as a writer-director, it’s its own continual process. I’m even writing in the editing room, when I’m reshaping the narrative in the final cut. I don’t know, would you call that directing? Or writing?”
Although known for films that appeal to all ages, Bird says that having kids of his own hasn’t changed the way he writes. He certainly wouldn’t write for kids.
“No good things can come from that,” he says. “You have to write for yourself. But it has helped me as a director in that it’s taught me patience.” As he is accustomed to doing, Bird lets out a hearty chuckle. “Adults, like children, seldom ask directly for what they want. Adults are just like kids, but with an ability to disguise what they think behind sympathetic patter.”
CONVERSATION WITH BRAD BIRD, preceded by screening of ‘The Pixar Story’
When: Screening begins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, discussion at 6 p.m.
Where: Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.
Cost: $13
Information: 963-0761 or www.sbiff.org
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press