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Dec 19th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

A Carnival of Delights

A Carnival of Delights

Surprising flavors and budding beer culture on display at The Twisted Tasting

After several exciting but exhausting years of participating in San Francisco Beer Week, Emily Thomas, owner and brewer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, was struck by inspiration: “Instead of hosting and attending multiple events for San Francisco Beer Week, why not have one gala event showcasing the local breweries and food artisans in a unique way?”

The result is The Twisted Tasting, an exhibition of unique and unusual flavors that hit the Top of the Ritt in Downtown Santa Cruz for the third year on Saturday, Feb. 15.

“I wanted to inspire brewers and food artisans to stretch their imagination, play with flavors and styles and, in return, I would provide a setting to rival and showcase their creativity,” says Thomas.

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Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Grüner Veltliner 2012

Made from the most widely planted grape in Austria, this dry white wine is like a burst of spring with its gorgeous flavors of lime and grapefruit. Aged for six months in stainless steel barrels, 70 cases were produced—and I imagine it’s going fast. La Playita Vineyard, where the grapes are grown, is the only CCOF-certified organic Grüner Veltliner vineyard in California—making this a pretty exceptional wine.

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Wine Reviews

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Five of the six guests I had over to dinner recently are vegetarian, so I made vegetable moussaka from my Greek recipe book. This traditional Greek dish usually calls for ground lamb, but I used onions, tomatoes, potatoes and sliced eggplant instead of meat—layering it all and then adding a topping of béchamel sauce. It was pretty tasty.

After a few appetizers, enjoyed with wine our friends brought, we opened up a bottle of Silver Mountain Syrah 2008 to go with the “meaty” moussaka. Aromas of ripe plum, cocoa, white pepper and pancetta were quite exotic—and delicious dark fruit, black olive and white pepper rounded out the silky flavor. Winemaker Jerold O’Brien says this is a very sexy Syrah, and it most certainly is.

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Dining Reviews

Voracious Valentines

Voracious Valentines

Ashby Confections gives locals a taste of love

Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like chocolate. Whether you’re head over heels in love or single and ready to mingle, few can resist sneaking a sweet treat—or five—particularly at this time of year.

Luckily for locals, Ashby Confections has recently opened up shop in Scotts Valley, and is armed and ready to satisfy every sweet tooth.

At the helm of the operation, which specializes in artisan confections that are just as delectable as they are pieces of art, is Jennifer Ashby.

A lifelong baker, Ashby discovered her passion for chocolate while attending the Culinary Institute of America after graduating from UC Santa Cruz.

“It was new and very challenging, and that appealed to me,” Ashby recalls of her first introduction to making chocolate. “I love how versatile chocolate is. You can mold it, shape it, and even add a pattern to it. It can be savory or sweet. Little chocolates and confections are like jewels. For me, it was part artistry, part science, and part magic.”

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Dining Reviews

The Making of Maharaja

The Making of Maharaja

New Indian dining portal shows promise | By Josie Cowden

India is a fascinating country. It’s an overload of sights, sounds and smells that pervade the senses. I am very glad I experienced it, and that includes the pleasure of eating incredible dishes packed with exotic spices of all kinds. In England, where I grew up, Indian food is now so popular that chicken tikka masala has taken over from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as the Brits’ most favorite dish.

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Wine Reviews

Poetic Cellars Merlot 2008

Poetic Cellars Merlot 2008

Poetic Cellars is a wonderful winery to visit over Valentine’s weekend. With its romantic overtones and interesting wines, not the least of which is the Merlot 2008, a bottle of Poetic Cellars wine would make a great gift—or to open up over a special dinner with your Valentine.

The 2008 Merlot is very aromatic with lots of plum, blackberry and currant flavors. Flavors of cherry, strawberry, plum and a hint of chocolate make this an all-round voluptuous experience on the palate. It’s available at the winery or at Vinocruz for about $30.

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Dining Reviews

Downtown Turnaround

Downtown Turnaround

Assembly hits Santa Cruz with a promising menu and a delicious event tie-in to boot

A much-anticipated restaurant on the Santa Cruz dining scene is soon to appear on Pacific Avenue in the space that was formerly Aqua Bleu. Named Assembly by co-owners Kendra Baker and Zach Davis, who rose to fame after opening The Penny Ice Creamery and then The Picnic Basket in Santa Cruz, it promises to be the new go-to hot-spot.

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Wine Reviews

Figge Cellars Syrah 2007

Figge Cellars Syrah 2007

My husband and I spent a weekend in Carmel recently at the Bavarian-style boutique hotel, the Hofsas House. We particularly love this place because of their warm hospitality and its close proximity to Carmel village center. Our room, complete with ocean view and fireplace, was cozy and warm on a chill winter’s night—and a continental breakfast of fresh pastries, fruit and hot coffee is served in the lobby area or can be taken back to the room.

Owned and operated by the Theis family, the Hofsas House is within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including shops, the beach and wine-tasting venues.

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Dining Reviews

Surprises in Scotts Valley

Surprises in Scotts Valley

Stonehouse Bar & Grill’s new chef adds creative flair to the menu

As a busy hotel serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley Hilton caters to business people, travelers, tourists, wedding groups, private parties—you name it. But for locals, too, of course, the hotel’s casual dining room and bar are regular stops.

The Stonehouse Bar & Grill’s informal restaurant has Formica-topped tables and an inviting cozy fireplace that’s welcoming to all, and the friendly full bar is an informal gathering spot to enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine or two.  When my husband and I stopped by the Stonehouse recently for dinner, we were impressed by the quality of service we received, especially from our server Michael Beck.

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Wine Reviews

Hunter Hill

Hunter Hill

Hunter’s Blend 2012

A private wine-tasting trip to Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery with about 20 people turned out to be a great deal of fun.  Christine Slatter, owner of Hunter Hill with her winemaker husband Vann Slatter, provided copious amounts of cheese, crackers, fruit and other munchies for guests to enjoy, and everybody had a good time tasting flights of Hunter Hill’s wonderful wines.

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Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
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Tramonti Pizza

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Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire