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Apr 26th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

Pie Guys

Pie Guys

The nation's best pumpkin pie is made right here in Santa Cruz

Now 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.

Beckmann's, celebrating 25 years, sells its pies only at farmers markets, an operation run by Tony Stumbaugh and his boss Scott Adams. Stumbaugh was investigating ideas to increase sales and found the American Pie Council, an industry organization that aims to preserve America's pie heritage. Joining the organization, they headed to Florida and the National Pie Championships.

Transporting 20 frozen pies was the first challenge. "Everyone at the airport was looking at us funny," Stumbaugh said. "We had this giant thing packed super well with so much dry ice we were worried we were going to get arrested by Homeland Security."
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Dining Reviews

Nuts and Honey

Nuts and Honey

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.

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Wine Reviews

Foxglove

Foxglove

Chardonnay 2009

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.

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Dining Reviews

Due West of Japan

Due West of JapanImura Japanese Restaurant serves sushi, shioyaki and some Korean specialties too

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.

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Dining Reviews

Step Back

Step Back

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.

 

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Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi

Vino Tabi

Pinot Gris

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.

 

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Dining Reviews

Peak of Convenience

Peak of Convenience

Summit Kitchen has commuters covered with ready-to-heat meals, flowers, and smoked hot dogs
I traded a commute down industrial Highway 101 for the idyllic redwoods of Highway 17. The slow trek up the mountain was ideal for dreaming and planning, but once I hit the summit, the sweeping view of Monterey Bay and drop in temperature shook me into reality.  "What's for dinner?" I would distressfully inquire.

 

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Dining Reviews

Mealz on Wheelz

Mealz on Wheelz

Good Times readers voted Drunk Monkeys the Best New Restaurant in 2009. Since then, owners Dameon and Laura DeWorken have shuttered their Seabright restaurant and gone mobile, serving Asian Street Food from a ferociously painted catering truck.

This self-proclaimed Westside Lurker is often found on Mission Street at CVS Pharmacy or U-Save Liquors, and is also is known to haunt the corner of Encinal and Sylvania by Costco. In this new business model, roach coach meets high tech, as DeWorken occasionally updates the Drunk Monkeys facebook page with his location. Fans, currently numbering 678, or anybody else can also text him for a real-time update.

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Wine Reviews

Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery

Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery

Syrah Rosé 2008

On a recent wine-tasting visit to Hunter Hill, I sample a very unusual Rosé. Darker than most Rosés, this one has a moody hue, almost verging on red. “You have to try this,” says Christine Slatter, owner of Hunter Hill with her winemaker husband, Vann Slatter. “It’s our first Syrah Rosé, says Christine. “And we’re very happy with it.”

I ask Christine why this wine has such a deep ruby color. “Well, in the process [of winemaking] the color is determined by how long you leave it on the skins, and since the crush was late in the evening, we just got tired and left it,” she chuckles. They then realize that they had made a darker-than-usual Rosé, but it turned out really well. “The darker color gives more flavor and intensity to it,” she says. “It’s been a great summer wine.” Although supplies of the Syrah Rosé are running low – Christine tells me that they have only three cases left – Michael’s on Main restaurant in Soquel still has a good supply and you can buy it there by the glass or by the bottle.

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Dining Reviews

Fresh and Fired-up

Fresh and Fired-up

Watsonville’s Cafe Ella celebrates the bounty of local produce with homemade recipes
his week thousands of us will travel on East Lake Avenue towards the Santa Cruz County Fair. Huge hogs raised by 4-H kids, rides, carnie games, and exhibits of local artisans are sure to draw crowds. Nevertheless, what if you’re just not a fan of fair food?

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We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
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Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise