Sour/Sweet: The Lemons of Goleta

Call this party a tart opener to Santa Barbara's month-long foodie feast.

CITRUSY CELEBRATION: Ask any longtime maker of guacamole whether they go with a spritz of lime or lemon as a grand finishing touch, and you'll a) get a look that says the chef has no intention of spilling culinary secrets or b) learn that the guacamole-iest instead uses a hint of grapefruit juice, forgoing the more traditional green and yellow citruses. But lemons and avocados have a way of showing up together, time and again, in dishes from guacamole to chicken bakes to smoothies to hearty kale salads. They also show up together, or nearly, at the opening of epicure s.b., Santa Barbara's all-October food, chef, restaurant, wine, and everything edible festivities. The Goleta Lemon Festival is first -- that's happening on Saturday, Sept. 28 and Sunday, Sept. 29 -- while the California Avocado Festival rolls into Carpinteria the next weekend, from Friday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 6. Nope, there's now cilantro, red onion, tomato, and jalapeno festival somewhere nearby, as of yet, but we'll dream of the perfect guacamole gathering between the two. Maybe somewhere along State Street in Santa Barbara?

AT THE LEMON FESTIVAL... it is indeed all about the tart ruler of our drinks, salads, desserts, and healthier entrees. Call it a classic, family-sweet carnival, complete with kid-ready rides and attractions, in the city's Girsh Park. A Lemon Run is on the schedule, as is, yep, of course, a pie-eating contest. (Question: Do you like your lemon pie creamy or full of meringue? Everybody is right on this one, of course, because fact: Lemon pies rule the diner case.)

MORE YEARLY LEMON LOVE: If you can't make Goleta, but count the sunny orb as a kitchen staple, mark Upland in the spring for your next visit: They, too, throw lemons their own specific bash. Likewise, Fallbrook hosts an avocado shindig each year in the springtime, too. Clearly the cities of Southern and Central California know that guacamole is such the star food that every single ingredient within deserves its own special festival weekend, or nearly. Now we await a full-on, guac-centered festival. Culinary organizers, please get on this. Thank you.

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