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Feb 12th
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In-and-Out

dining_BackstageBackstage Lounge quickly dishes up lusciously flavored organic Asian-fusion specialties

Culinary integrity in the midtown-Seabright neighborhood just keeps getting better. And newcomer Backstage Lounge continues the trend, serving Asian-inspired dinners nightly by the Rio Theatre.

Many inexperienced restaurateurs have come and gone at this location since the charming Bea and her Koffee Kup retired. Although the Lounge may be new to the neighborhood, the proprietor, David Jackman, is no neophyte. He has owned Chocolate at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a decade, and before that, So Say We.

Tablecloths with shiny copper-colored brocades of Asian motifs shimmered in the small room where lights with faceted glass shades hung from the ceiling. Bright blue walls added excitement, and an array of jazzy music like you might hear in a 1940s supper club supported the classy ambiance.

A stainless steel carafe of chilled water appeared on our table.

From the small wine list we chose a bottle of Line Shack Syrah ($26), a full-bodied, hearty red, chosen to pair with Backstage's spices. Even the local beers offered are strongly flavored to complement the food.

The appetizer special, Duck and Mango Steamed Buns ($6), arrived in a matter of minutes. Two billowing balls of white were stuffed with the sweet gingered mixture. A trio of condiments lent a contrasting flavor to each bite. The tan Hoisin sauce was soy sauce salty, house-made chili oil held crisp and smoky seared pepper flakes, and the Chinese mustard was kicked up a notch with the addition of wasabi. A fourth flavor, brought from the kitchen, was a sweeter Hoisin with the essence of five-spice.

The main courses arrived soon after. Tender meat fell off the bones of the Papaya Roast Pork Ribs ($14). Chunks of papaya, the color of roasted sweet potato, joined the ribs in a dark, savory sauce.

I was offered a choice between 'spicy' and 'regular' with the Hot and Spicy Hunan Chicken ($12). Not afraid of fire, my dish came with an extra helping of whole, dried, blackened red chilies, which I cut and carefully meted amongst my bites. Featuring a generous amount of Rocky free-range dark meat, it was brightened by organic bok choy, and strips of carrots and bamboo shoots. A large serving of organic, long grain Jasmine rice radiated a sweet floral aroma.

For dessert, a unique Coconut Chocolate Truffle ($3) was shaped like the Matterhorn. The dark, bittersweet chocolate exterior was dappled with shreds of coconut, the coconut mousse inside was incredibly creamy and light, like whipped cream. (Apparently, the mousse is frozen before taking its chocolate bath.)

Although Backstage is known for its rapid service, we felt quite welcome to linger over our last glass of wine, savoring the perfect balance of yin and yang, spicy and mild, sweet and savory. Photo Credit: Karen Peterson


Backstage Lounge, 1209 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 469-9900. Beer and wine. Serving dinner nightly 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit sosaywe.com.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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