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Dec 28th
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How Great Thou Artisans

food featA whirlwind tour of the latest from Santa Cruz’s culinary crafters 

Artisanal update! Once I finally turned my attention away from the pumpkin tea cake and almond biscotti, I discovered the baguette sandwiches ($6) at Companion Bakeshop. Long slender baguettes perfect enough to make a Francophile weep are topped with various temptations all week long. There’s a sensuous veggie version, and another for us carnivores, such as last week’s model packed with Brie and el Salchichero’s divinely authentic salami.

Brisk field work revealed that the salami is properly called “summer sausage,” and so I zoomed down to the gleaming butcher shop at the edge of the Ingalls/Swift empire and had a look for myself. Yes, the summer sausage was indeed, visually at least, a doppelgänger for salami. But my attention was immediately snagged by two gorgeous slabs of paté—one a classic campagnola, country-style creation of rough-cut pastured pork, and the other a paler pink-brown made of rabbit. What could I do? You guessed it—I bought one of each, took them home and found out why paté will never ever leave our hearts and minds. From the $10 block of rabbit paté the size of a swollen baseball, I sliced a sample (to be washed down with a handy Malbec) and here was the deal: subtle, delicate, yet bold, the paté offered up its internal alchemy of locally sourced rabbit heightened by saffron, chamomile, crème fraîche and some pork to add richness. The next bite was of the pork-intensive campagnola—from an equal size block for $6.50. Rich, but not overwhelming, this was country paté made by a master artisan, perfumed by apple brandy, onion, cloves, nutmeg, garlic and the expert hand of charcuterist Chris LaVeque. El Salchichero uses pasture-raised animals from Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Marin Sun Farms, and other ranches where animals are treated with respect. These patés were a revelation. I’m thinking memorable picnic item, paired with bubbly and cornichons.

Greener Pastures

Come visit former chef and current sheep rancher/cheesemonger Rebecca King, at her atmospheric Monkeyflower Ranch, Saturday, May 3 from noon to 4 p.m. The first time I visited Rebecca— when she’d just begun raising her flocks—we sat at a picnic table on her property sampling some of the European-style sheep cheeses she had made that were aging and perfecting. From where we sat, I could watch the ewes pampering their little babies, and the young sheep literally bouncing around the pastures. I must admit, it was charming beyond belief. The handmade cheeses are superb and the ranch is an ideal place to come and savor a quieter, gentler way of life. Kids will go nuts over the sheep, and baby piglets, too.  Almost nothing is cuter than a baby pig (apologies to cat fanatics everywhere). Monkeyflower Ranch lives at 1481 San Miguel Canyon Road, in Royal Oaks—bring a picnic, or purchase foodstuffs made from farm-raised ingredients during the May 3 Open House. Beer from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and wine from Odonata Wines will also be available. Total relaxing, ranch-style fun. Parking fee of $10 per vehicle. Please let Rebecca know you’re coming by clicking on the Open House Evite.

Product of the Week: Part 2

Those Kevita people are knocking me out! Just when I thought the Lemon Cayenne version of this exciting—and I’m not kidding—sparkling probiotic drink was the ne plus ultra, I just tried some of the Living Greens flavor. Pull up a chair—let’s review. Cool pale green and loaded with probiotic cultures, green tea, apple cider vinegar (think alkalinity), chlorella, lots of green aqua cultures, fig concentrate—all of it organic. The entire 15.2 fluid ounce glass bottle contains a mere 60 calories. So here is a tart and hence utterly refreshing drink that tastes like a blend of green tea, spirulina and a hint of fruit. You could sip this all day long.

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