The nation's best pumpkin pie is made right here in Santa CruzNow that it's pumpkin month, at 45 bay area farmers markets you can find Beckmann's Bakery's pumpkin pies, which are the best in the country.
My first taste of baklava came in the kitchen of a friend's Russian grandmother. She spoke little English, but the message she sent through those infinite layers of sweet, sticky pastry was one of true love.
Numerous peoples claim title to the inception of baklava, but it is believed to be of Central Asian Turkic origin, and perfected by the chefs of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul. The dessert, popular throughout Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East is made by individually buttering micro-thin sheets of dough called phyllo, the Greek word for leaf, which are alternately layered with nuts and spices. After baking they are doused with honey.
My own attempts to prepare what has become my kids' favorite dessert have produced barely edible results. To the rescue comes Scotts Valley's Eva Marie Vaniotis-Tordoff who launched her line of baklava this past summer at select retail establishments. I found packages with two browned and shimmering squares of Eva's Baklava ($2.89) at Shopper's Corner on a baked goods rack back by the kitchen utensils.
The United States is such a geographically diverse country that I never cease to be amazed. Coming from the pint-sized country of England, when I travel the wide-open spaces of the U.S., it always takes my breath away. My husband and I recently did a road trip to Yellowstone—our second time there—taking in Badlands National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota also. Because we were staying in cabins in the national parks, we took our own wine – as well as an abundance of snack food.
If you'd like to improve your sushi-making technique, Chef Jim Song stars in an informational five-minute video on the website of Watsonville's Imura Japanese Restaurant. In it, he makes rolling a compact, symmetrical California Roll appear error-proof. At Imura you will find this perfectly made roll along with other traditional Japanese dishes and locally uncommon culinary gratifications.
In the evenings, the setting sun casts its rays on a vibrant, standing-room only crowd on the deck of Caffe Pergolesi. But on a fall morning I discovered a sea of tranquility.
The dozen or so patrons included retirees discussing football, an occasional studying student or businessperson channeling Cruzio's free wifi, and a constant stream of acquaintances choosing from the caffe's long list of caffeinated beverages.
One of the most fun areas to go wine tasting is in the Swift Street complex in Santa Cruz. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners, the place has been a hive of activity.
Vino Tabi, which belongs to the group, is an eclectic winery run by accomplished winemaker Katie Fox, who always offers a warm welcome and is happy to share her knowledge of wine.