At the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, a small group of bloggers enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Bridlewood Estate Winery in the Santa Ynez AVA. The entrance to the winery is impressive, with its Spanish Mission style of architecture. Our Apple Basket lunch of local sandwiches and salads was served overlooking Bridlewood Lake and was complemented by delicious Bridlewood wines.
Following the lunch, we had a very informative seminar in the Bridlewood cellar. Rather than the usual panel of winery owners and winemakers, this panel included:
- Richard Martin (Moderator), editorial director of Food Republic
- Mark Williams, Winemaker for Bridlewood Estate Winery
- Jeff Olsson, chef and proprietor of New West Catering and Industrial Eats Restaurant
- Jake O’Francis, Pig farmer
- Christopher and Johanna Finley, farmers for Finley Organic Farms
- Stephanie Mutz, Santa Barbara Fisherwoman
Most interesting to me was the inclusion of Stephanie, a sea urchin fisherwoman. As Stephanie’s website states, she’s been fishing in the Santa Barbara area for 7 years and strives to make fresh, sustainable seafood available to the local population.
Stephanie got her undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara and then went on to Graduate School in Australia. Her goal at the time was to become a Community College professor in her field of Marine Biology. While she was writing her Graduate School dissertation, she worked on urchin boats. After a part-time teaching job ended, she decided to concentrate on fishing full time.
Being that most of the people Stephanie fishes with are male, she feels fortunate that they are accepting of her and very helpful when necessary. She usually goes out on her boat alone, unless the weather is bad or she needs extra help getting what she needs for the market. In some cases, she joins other fishermen on their boats for fishing or diving. Stephanie fishes for sea urchins and snails and regularly delivers her catch to local chefs when the weather and the catch are good. There seems to be a fad for sea urchin delicacies in Southern California and that demand is keeping Stephanie very busy these days. She also works closely with Jeff Olsson and his Industrial Eats Restaurant. Stephanie does not always know what her daily catch will be and often she will bring Jeff in something different than he asked for. She praises Jeff for being adaptable and creative in making the best of Stephanie’s haul.
After a day at sea, Stephanie unwinds by sitting in her meadow at home with a glass of wine to recap the day with her boyfriend, also a fisherman. They discuss ways to become more efficient and productive at doing what they love to do. She does her best to promote what the industry is all about to the entire community. She thinks its important to encourage people to have a balanced lifestyle, which includes eating local foods.
For recipes and information on how to find Stephanie’s catch, consult her website: seastephaniefish.com