The snug's the thing, at least according to Rooney's owners Tim and Jane. A good Irish pub contains plenty of snugs—cozy little nooks, typically tucked near the fireplace—where "conversations flow and revolutions ferment" around a table topped with pints. Most importantly, snugs grant an atmosphere of intimacy even when the place is packed, much like the honeymoon suite found inside most clown cars.
Rooney's snugs hold to the traditions of Eire's famed watering holes, but Tim and Jane have crossbred those traditions with central California culture, most notably in Chef Anthony Endy's hearty gastropub cuisine. This melding of old and new has snagged the attention of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, which in 2012 named Rooney's Irish Pub the best Orcutt restaurant. The menu's most popular dish, "The Lost" shepherd's pie, exemplifies the blend by replacing ground beef with Guinness-braised Angus short ribs. Similarly, old sod standbys such as Guinness and Harp pour out of taps next to Rooney's own microbrews, such as the Bonny Blond Ale and the Irish Ambush IPA.
Rooney's has established some of its own traditions as well. The trivia-night league convenes on Wednesdays for no-holds-barred fact downs. Each Friday, Chef Anthony stacks california red oak into a 10-foot smoker to slow cook brisket, ribs, and whole hogs—some of which are locally raised on grains recycled from the microbrewery. The staff dishes out the meat to pub patrons on Smokin' Saturday, and also uses it for catering events or parties of up to 100 guests in the banquet room. Smokin' Saturday devotees can nurse their heads the morning after with "Bloody Sunday" brunch, where they get to doctor up their own cures at an award-winning bloody mary bar.
In 1973, when Ramona Clayton was 19, she moved to Germany where she earned a PhD in molecular biology and worked with sterile medicines. But she also began making pottery—a hobby that would become her profession when she moved back to the United States in 2004. Rather than going through the licensing hassle necessary to work as a microbiologist in the States, she opened terramonary stoneware & porcelain, where, in addition to making stoneware and porcelain pieces to sell, she teaches others her craft. The studio's name—and Ramona's reason for returning to California—comes from her husband, Terry. Starting out as high-school sweethearts, they lost touch not long after graduation. After 22 years apart, Terry found her on the Internet, called her, and asked if she remembered him. She did. "He signed his love letters with 'Terramonary,' which is just an anagram of 'Terry' and 'Ramona'," she recalls. To Terry's delight, she thought it would be a catchy name for the business and even used her science know-how to break down the parts of the word into Latin and alchemic roots that symbolize the four elements. Ramona fires her long-lasting pieces in the kiln outside her studio, which sits on a concrete porch where she and her students also glaze their pieces. Inside, the wheels and workstations are in a separate area from her showroom, which brims with decorative pieces as well as plates, cups, and serving pieces that are safe for ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, and time machines. "My goal in life is to make pretty things useful—or useful things pretty," she says. "If it's too delicate or it's just decorative, people are afraid of it."
For all its contributions to the wine industry, it's hard to believe that Core Wine Company is just a two-person operation. One half of that family owned operation is David Corey, whose first position in the industry was as a pest-control advisor. He eventually moved from protecting the grapes to producing them himself, and in 2001, he founded Core alongside his wife, wine-pairing expert Becky.
Together, the Coreys have concocted several different labels, including Core, Kuyam, and Turchi. Each of those labels features a different background story, and each bears Becky's original artwork and loving fingerprints on its labels. The Coreys share their creations at their Old Town Orcutt shop, where they frequently host events, such as educational tastings of an extraordinarily wide range of wines on the second Wednesday of every month.
Led by local artists, classes at Wine and Design Orcutt promote a strong sense of community and accessibility. The artwork for each class is chosen from a collection of more than 2,500 original paintings, all created by Wine and Design studio artists. After receiving a warm welcome and a paint brush, visitors sit in front of a blank canvas and follow step-by-step instructions from the session's artist, who paints along with them. At the end of the class, visitors marvel at their finished composition, which can add a bright, cheerful tone to walls in living rooms, bedrooms, and meat lockers. Sessions are available for both children and adults.