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Music & Food for the soul

By Ella Heydenfeldt

Saturday morning has become the time of the week I look forward to most, for I know that vibrant energy coupled with flavorful food, surrounded by loving friends awaits me on this particular morning.

On any given Saturday you may find a tight knit group of friends making their ritualistic trek into the Spanish architecture of downtown Santa Barbara to a historic ballroom off of State Street. Zumba with Josette commences at 11:30 a.m. with people of all ages and backgrounds filling the large room, facing the stage at the front. 

Making her debut, Josette struts onto the stage, the latin beats pulsing around her, grinning out at the crowd that cheers back at her. From swinging hips to bouncing feet, the room comes alive with a symphony of laughter and camaraderie.

No one feels out of place or unskilled. It is a loving environment, fostering confidence through the cheering and inspiring words from Josette. We follow her lead, mimicking her moves while finding our own rhythms. 

Zumba not only invigorates the body but also nourishes the soul, fostering connections and community spirit. As the session draws to a close, Josette's wise and loving words remind us of the healing power of movement.

Faces damp with sweat and endorphins running high, my friends and I all look at each other with mischievous faces, for we know what comes next: Ethiopian food. 

With our spirits soaring and appetites whetted, we embark on a leisurely stroll through downtown Santa Barbara, making our way to Petit Valentien—a hidden gem nestled in La Arcada. Here, we snag an outdoor table in the front courtyard and prepare to indulge in a culinary fusion.

Owned by a husband-wife duo—a French husband and Ethiopian wife—Petit Valentien offers French food during the week, with a special Ethiopian brunch served on the weekends. Circular plates adorned with moist, airy injera bread serve as the canvas for an array of vibrant dishes.

Injera, the sour fermented flatbread traditionally made of teff flour, provides the perfect base for the sweet and savory toppings. For the famished Zumba enthusiasts, the combination plates are perfect for the table, allowing for a customizable feast of vegetables and meats. From spicy lentils and collard greens to sautéed beef and tangy fish, our large circular plate features everything on the menu in small heaps. Each mouthful is unique and delicious as we tear the injera and use it to pick up little bites from each dish. 

As we linger over our meal, savoring each bite and relishing the moments of shared laughter and conversation, it becomes clear that this Saturday routine is about more than just exercise and dining—it's about connection, community, and the vibrant tapestry of experiences that make Santa Barbara truly special.

So, the next time Saturday rolls around, consider joining us in our beloved ritual—a journey of movement, flavors, and friendship that embodies the essence of Santa Barbara's vibrant spirit.


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