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Canceled holiday travel plans got you down? Local food and drink attractions can bring you back up this winter season 

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Although holiday feasting may look different this year, the foodies of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties are bringing creative cheer this season to keep everyone jolly and, most importantly, well fed.

A side of history

The History Center of San Luis Obispo County is taking a page out of Santa Maria's historical cookbook with a drive-through holiday tri-tip dinner on Dec. 6.

The History Center is hosting the event at Villa Automotive on South Street in SLO, and Sid's Redneck BBQ will be whipping up meals big enough for four hungry eaters. A $50 ticket will get you a full tri-tip, loaf of French bread, salad, and beans.

The ticket also includes access to a self-guided walking tour of the historic Eto Park and Brook Street neighborhood.

click to enlarge HOLIDAY HISTORY The History Center of San Luis Obispo County is holding a drive-through holiday barbecue on Dec. 6 and encouraging people to take advantage of a free walking tour of SLO's historic Eto Park and Brook Street area. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HISTORY CENTER OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
  • Photo Courtesy Of The History Center Of San Luis Obispo County
  • HOLIDAY HISTORY The History Center of San Luis Obispo County is holding a drive-through holiday barbecue on Dec. 6 and encouraging people to take advantage of a free walking tour of SLO's historic Eto Park and Brook Street area.

"For a long time, it was Japantown, a place where especially people of Japanese ancestry lived in the first half of the 20th century," History Center Executive Director Thomas Kessler said.

But following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 came the U.S. internment policies, where Japanese-American citizens were forcibly taken from their homes and incarcerated in camps, Kessler said. The city opened Eto Park to memorialize the Japanese heritage of the area that was destroyed by this discriminatory policy.

The event pays further homage to this history by hosting the barbecue on Dec. 6: the day before the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

"It's really an ominous date, knowing what would eventually be done to the American citizens of Japanese descent who lived in this neighborhood," Kessler said. "We thought it was appropriate to recognize that."

Fair treats year round

Funnel cakes and kettle corn might not scream "holiday season," but the Santa Maria Fairpark says it doesn't have to be summertime to enjoy these treats. The Fairpark's Festival of Lights drive-through light show held from Dec. 4 to 6 will also feature a holiday market and food vendors.

"We wanted to have a Fairpark food drive-through because we weren't able to have the fair," Donna Moore, the Fairpark's manager of admissions and tickets, told New Times.

Grab a bag of G. Brothers' kettle corn for something sweet, or opt for one of Fanny's Fabulous Funnel Cakes' fried fair classics. If you're looking for an entree—after dessert, of course—local food truck favorites like The Shift and Lidos will be there.

Presale admission is $25 for a car of up to nine passengers, and $35 for more than nine. But if you're just in a food mood, entrance to the vendor area is free of charge.

Nothing to wine about

Holidays are typically a boozy time of year, but those who indulge might want a little something special at the end of 2020 to wash down the pandemic blues.

"I know for me personally, I'm going to drink a lot more sparkling wine this year, because I'm going to celebrate even if I'm just at home with my fiancé," Riverbench Vineyard CEO Laura Booras said with a laugh. "We have to celebrate the little things at this point."

Booras said Riverbench's blanc de noir sparkling wine pairs particularly well with "all the sides" at a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner table.

"I'm Southern, so there have been years where we fried our turkey, and it's pretty darn good with a fried turkey too," Booras added.

The most traditional holiday pairing, Booras continued, is "of course, pinot noirs." And if you want to experience a little international taste in lieu of traveling, Booras' family always drinks Beaujolais around the holidays, a wine named for an area of France that uses gamay grapes for its viticulture.

Riverbench's website has dozens of food pairings and recipes to try. With pinot, the winery recommends a wine country turkey brine or spicy pork chops. With sparkling, try a croissant bread pudding or a caramelized onion quiche.

Ever wondered why pinot noir pairs well with turkey, or sparkling wines with delicate desserts? Alfredo Koch, program coordinator for Allan Hancock College's Viticulture and Enology Department, said it's a combination of food chemistry and personal preference.

"Light meals usually go with lighter wines, because if you put something really strong with something really weak, the strong side overpowers and takes everything," Koch explained. "There's not much interaction."

Koch recommended Hancock's Sensory Evaluation of Wines courses, which he said will be offered in the spring, for those interested in learning more about pairings—the perfect holiday gift for the wine lover on your list. Or, just buy them a bottle from Hancock's on-campus winery, available online.

Sun Staff Writer Malea Martin is feeling festive. Send holiday cheer to mmartin@santamariasun.com.

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