A Bear’s Gift of Food

By Montecito Journal   |   December 27, 2022

Carlos, The Bear, was snug and cozy, reclining in his lazy bear chair perusing the internet, when a memory bubbled up under his holiday cap. He remembered as a very young cub, his mother would take him to Romero creek near their den, in Rancho San Carlos, in hopes of catching some steelhead trout, that were returning to spawn as full-grown salmon.

She told Carlos of a time when there were so many bears, Grizzly and Black Bears, that they would be nearly shoulder to shoulder, on the banks of Montecito’s creeks, scooping up the plentiful salmon with their paws and feasting to get fat for Winter. But now there are no Grizzly Bears, only Black Bears like us, she said. And the fish are not swimming up the creeks like they used to, but still they might get lucky, she added.

A pop-up came upon Carlos’ laptop screen snapping him back to the present, it said “Wild Salmon Delivered to Your Door.” How did the computer know I was thinking that? he thought as he grabbed his wallet and took out his credit card. The sight offered three varieties of wild salmon, not farmed, ocean caught at river mouths. Close enough for me, he thought, as he selected wild sockeye salmon in lemon pepper soak and entered his den address.

As he clicked pay, an idea came to him. Why not send salmon to all his furry friends this holiday season? If the fish would not swim the creeks, they could be shipped from Alaska! A healthy gift that won’t collect dust.

And so, this came to be the year of a bear’s gift of food.


Michael Edwards

SBMA Heads to Egypt

It seemed timely to travel to Egypt and walk through Tutankhamun’s tomb on this 100th year anniversary of the discovery of this spectacular tomb. And it reminded us of the exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum back in 1978. Many of the artifacts taken from the tomb were on display at the museum at that time and the exhibit was considered one of the best in Los Angeles. And King Tut and his treasures became famous at that time. Songs were written such as “Old King Tut,” cigarettes, games, and even lemons were named for this young King. Most of the treasures will now be shown at the highly anticipated opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Cairo. 

It’s a great story. Howard Carter was appointed Chief Inspector of antiquities for the Egyptian Antiquities Service. His area was principally the Valley of the Kings, a well-known burial area near Luxor. In 1914, he convinced Lord Carnarvon to finance his search. After five unsuccessful years of search, Carter had to convince his backer to stay with him for one more year. On November 4, 1922, a member of Carter’s workmen discovered a series of steps which led to Tutankhamun’s tomb. And Carter and Lord Carnarvon couldn’t believe their find after breaking a hole in one of the tomb’s walls. The tomb included four chambers and contained over 5,400 objects. “Everywhere the glint of gold” as Carter described his first viewing.

Over the many years, most of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings had been burglarized so that was one reason this was a unique find. As we learned from our many visits to Pyramids and tombs, Kings and important persons would spend enormous amount of wealth and effort building their final resting place. They would also furnish them with treasures and important objects which would accompany them into the afterlife. 

And now it was our time, led by our very knowledgeable leader, Fatma, to descend into the tomb. All the objects are now out of the tomb. But a mummy of Tutankhamun was there together with extensive hieroglyphics on the walls of the tomb. We would move on to other tombs of Ramesses III and VI and more important kings than Tutankhamun, but those tombs had been extensively burglarized.

Our trip would move south, aboard the Nile Adventurer to the ancient city of Abydos, which once was an important hub of many ancient temples, including the famous temple of Seti I. Exploring the double temple at Kom Ombo would complete our day.

Our final stop was Aswan. This area had great strategic importance starting with ancient times and culminating with the construction of the Aswan Dam. The Nile River is an integral part of Egypt with 92% of the population living in close proximity. And the Aswan Dam has had a very important part of controlling that river.

We had a nice congenial group during our tour. About 75% were from Santa Barbara and it was fun socializing and getting to know new friends. The sunsets while cruising on the Nile made the trip exceptional. And we will be back to see the spectacular Grand Egyptian Museum expected to open in Cairo in early 2023. The museum is huge, comprising one million square feet, and will contain 5,300 objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Frank McGinity

The Sweet Spirit of Christmas in the Bite of a French Dessert

It all started with an explosion of flavors in my mouth from a sweet little patisserie in Montecito. The first sensation came with the crispy vanilla taste followed by bits of hazelnuts and a hint of Nutella mousse (for a soft touch). Last for the blast, comes the pleasure of the caramel to coat your tongue with smoothness. It is an immersion between sweetness and excess of generosity put together that puts together “The Bomb”! This dessert does not allow you to forget about feeling happy, or even guilty about indulging in the senses during the holidays.

Sitting inside at a table in this wonderful patisserie, and after being shocked by the sensation of this dessert, I came back to my senses and felt an inexplicable surge of loveliness and pleasantness from my childhood. How something so delicate, and so fine could remind me of such a forgotten emotion. With my heart filled with delight I had to know what drives the pastry chef, Renaud, to create such delicious desserts that pleases so many. Throughout the patisserie, I manage to understand that this tall gentleman in the back is the person to talk to. And just like that… with the touch of friendliness… a conversation began with Renaud Gonthier (co-founder and co-owner of the patisserie), around the art of culinary desserts during an afternoon of the Christmas holiday season.

Apart from the fact that he’s been a French pastry chef for many years and has become successful nowadays, things did not start out so well right away. Only strong willing efforts and a little bit of luck helped Renaud start his career with only a few employees to numerous, and in multiple locations as well. But let’s not forget that behind any business there are people. Individuals who make a difference and will do everything they can to give the customer the best experience they can encounter. “Only with a strong cohesion and well-being can you ensure success like this. This is important to me,” said Renaud. And in the light of the holiday spirit, when we are occupied in our head about families, friends, presents, vacations, prepping dinner, etc., we should not forget the ones who cannot receive much. When I heard that Renaud’s Patisserie donates pastries to the unlucky, my heart was moved by his generosity. “It is a duty and a moral and ethical decision to help the community,” and in addition to that, “Santa Barbara County is like a small town that needs some assistance and can be helped, so donating food to Unity Shoppe and the Mission Shelter is the right thing to do. And especially during and after the holidays when our inventories are exceeding a lot and have much to offer.” 

So, Christmas is a particular time of the year as a spiritual, religious, and gift-giving holiday, but also, and most importantly, as a holiday for the people. Family and friends meeting together to give and receive love in so many different ways is truly the magic of the Christmas spirit. The community of this town is as strong and confident as a child that believes in Santa Claus – and that is making the difference here in Santa Barbara County. Without the love and determination of the people, a town cannot function correctly and here we can see that the foundations are durable in the sense that the people still make a difference. In this town for example, Renaud’s Patisserie won the “Best Bakery and runner-up for the Best French Restaurant” voted by the people. The voters here still have a voice to decide and be heard. For Renaud, this means: “Not only being proud of the company and what it encompasses but also having the opportunity to be heard by the community and their ideas. They are motivating us and improving and challenging us every year to better ourselves.” And one of those challenges can be to stay local with culinary supplies, so they are utilizing the local products in the community and the state of California. “Our locality and our state of California in general are great places for not only beauty, but for fresh produce, and we are lucky in that way. I don’t see the purpose of using butter from France simply because we are baking French pastries. For example, to try and justify this as a need for our French pastries and dessert is not only unnecessary, but it’s not ethical, as I’d rather help and support the local farmers as a sustainable alternative.” 

This being said, Christmas is around the corner and with that the pleasure of sharing and eating delicious desserts. From the German Stollen, the American Gingerbread cookies, and the French Yule Log, there is a lot to choose from and they will not let anyone go unsatisfied. “It is hard to choose one favorite in particular for the Christmas holidays, but the Stollen dessert is one of my preferences,” said Renaud. In this endeavor in making wonderful desserts for the holidays, Renaud still has a principle to offer us: choices with quality. “We are creating flavors that are simple but elegant, fresh, and per season. There are no more than three flavors in our culinary desserts.” He added, “Even if Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year, especially with the pumpkin pie, I do appreciate Christmas for the opportunity that it gives to create new recipes for everyone to appreciate… like the colorful and freshness of the Bisous Yule Log.” He continued, “I always get inspired by the things I love to do like traveling, life experiences, and by my surroundings; it helps me create. The first time I traveled to St. Thomas in the Caribbean and tasted real passion fruit, since that moment, I enjoy using it in my creation of the Exotic dessert.” Memories are what make us feel, and this gives us the right attitude towards life. From this experience, Renaud created a delicacy that could remind him of the echo of time. 

And with that being said, this is what Christmas is all about: the memories shared with our loved ones and the spark of joy and love that makes everyone cheerful during this special holiday. The warmth of the Christmas spirit is just around the corner in a bite of a sweet treat and new souvenirs.

While finishing my last bite of the French dessert, Renaud mentioned, smiling, “My all-time favorite dessert here is also… The Bomb!”

After our brief discussion, I now not only have a better understanding between the people working behind the scenes that are helping our community, but I also understand that behind a reserved gentleman can hide a great person whose compassion passes through his culinary art of patisserie for everyone to enjoy, to delight in some sweetness in this world during the spirit of the Christmas holidays, and at all times.  

Amélie Dieux, a happy customer of Renaud’s


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