In the Kitchen with Art Sevtap
As foodies return to dine-in service, one local eatery is commanding attention with its authentic and flavorful approach to Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine and robust wine selections.
Sevtap Winery is a new tasting room in the Presidio that lures food and wine lovers on its breezy umbrella-shaded patio or inside, a naturally lit and airy dining room. It comes courtesy of winemaker Art Sevtap, who serves freshly baked breads and tapas with his wines.
The recently relocated Santa Barbara resident enjoyed a colorful career as a deep-sea diver, line cook/baker, cab driver, and wine tour operator before trying his hand at wine making. He ran a popular wine tasting room in Solvang for more than a decade before quietly opening an outpost in the historic El Centro Building at 23 East Canon Perdido Street.
These days you’ll find Sevtap in the kitchen, slicing just-baked bread or busily adding white wine to a pot of steamed mussels. His workstation is filled with canisters of spices such as cumin, smoked paprika, and coriander. There are also bouquets of fresh herbs: mint, thyme, basil, rosemary, and sage.
Taking a leap from winemaker to chef wasn’t a stretch. Sevtap worked at Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, where he started out as a line cook before moving into the baking program. Sevtap uses the skills he learned there to manage his time in the kitchen.
“At Emeril’s I learned how to think like a chef and work efficiently,” he said. “I can still hear the printer churning out tickets. There were two rows of tickets lined up, and you were always six, seven, eight behind.”
Sevtap takes it all in stride, particularly his approach to rustic cooking. His breads are baked fresh every morning, with each golden loaf having its own wholesome and earthy flavor. The breads he bakes and serves here are also served at other local eateries.
The chef/winemaker offers three types of breads: pain de campagne ($9); Jewish rye with caraway seeds ($9.50); and kalamata olive with rosemary bread ($10). All can be paired with various cheeses and meats. The cheese platter ($21) features gruyere, made with whole cow’s milk and aged for six months, and Laura Chenel “Chef’s Chevre,” a light and tangy spreadable Brie de France cow’s milk cheese.
While the ambrosial cheeses melt in your mouth, consider the savory meats: El Cerro Jamon Serrano, produced in Spain’s Teruel mountain region, is cured for 18 months; Chorizo Iberico, is made with coarsely chopped pork and pork fat, seasoned with garlic, pimenton (smoked paprika) and salt; and Prosciutto di Parma, a razor-thin sliced Italian ham that has been crafted with painstaking care since Roman times. The meat platter ($29) is served with brie, gruyere, and Chef’s Chevre.
The menu is inspired not just by Spanish culinary tradition but is also influenced by Sevtap’s Turkish heritage. The Turkish-inspired clay pot shrimp with chorizo is cooked in an herb-tomato sauce and served with roasted goat cheese on top. The crab cakes — made with delicious blue crab — are New Orleans fare served with a remoulade sauce ($9).
For the crab cakes, Sevtap says he only uses a smidgen of Dijon and mayo to keep it light and not overpower the flavor of the fresh seafood. The remoulade is a mixture of Dijon, mayo, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Sevtap grills octopus and serves it on a bed of arugula, dressed in a Calabrian chili vinaigrette. The chilled gazpacho andaluz ($10) and the roasted beet salad with white truffle basil vinaigrette, chevre and mixed greens are perfect for a summer lunch on the patio.
The Calabrian chili — with its combination of spicy, salty, smokey, and even fruity taste — makes an unexpected appearance in another summer offering.
The fried turnip dish, with Calabrian chili sauce and chives ($12), is a menu standout. Sevtap said it came together accidentally when his parsnip delivery arrived with turnips.
“I shaved it and tasted it and didn’t know what to do with it at first. I added flour and egg and fried it.”
The result is a crispy turnip and chive ball served in a pool of green habanero and Calabrian chili sauce with lemon. Thinly sliced flour tortilla chips are served on the side.
Sevtap uses smoky chorizo for a Galician-style mussels and white wine summer appetizer ($14). The mussels and chorizo simmer in a savory broth made with Albariño, shallots, parsley, garlic compound butter, raw garlic and lemon zest. The aromatic butter and citrusy broth are so irresistible you will be compelled to push your bowl of empty shells aside and finish it with a spoon.
All his dishes pair perfectly with his wines, ranging from white Rhone blends and Rieslings to red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Sevtap hopes the future will present him the opportunity to buy his own vineyard. But for now, the skilled négociant partners with a handful of winemakers from Santa Ynez including Martian, Vogelzang, and La Presa vineyards to create his wine selections. Tastings include five wine selections. White wine tastings are $15 and red wine tastings are $20.
Sevtap Winery is located at 23 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara. Open from 11 am to 8 pm, Wednesday-Sunday; wine tastings from 11 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday-Tuesday. Visit sevtapwinery.com for more information.