Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 29th
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Just Plum Delicious

dn watersStone fruit sorbet and wild Monterey Bay salmon are both in season

David Kumec, guru of Mission Hill Creamery's outrageous hand-crafted ice creams and sorbets, alerted me about his latest sexy seasonal flavor. Now available at the Pacific Avenue shop is last year's big fruit-flavored hit—Plum Zinfandel Sorbet. From the Creamery's organic plum harvest comes this densely flavored, tart and beautifully crimson-colored sorbet. And what it is, is fabulous.

"The organic plums are sourced from our very own trees," Kumec told us, "and the Zinfandel is organic and dry-farmed from Condor's Hope." You can find Condor's Hope wines (the brainchild of UC Santa Cruz’s Agroecology program founder Steve Gliessman) at the Westside and Downtown Farmers Markets. After you've eaten your fill of Mission Hill Creamery's Plum Zinfandel Sorbet, check out the summer harvests at the markets. Last week's Westside Farmers Market was bursting with nectarines, apricots, fava beans, young red onions, sublime new potatoes (Everett Family Farms), pencil asparagus (steam for only one minute), strawberries, and plums. Also a reminder—the UCSC Farm & Garden cart is now showcasing early summer strawberries, lettuces, herbs and yes, plums! Look for the apprentice farmers on Tuesday and Friday from noon to 6 p.m. at the foot of campus intersection of Bay and High streets.

We get ours at Shopper’s Corner, but wherever you get yours, don't forget: we're lucky as blazes to still have this magnificent creature in our waters. Sweet, delicately earthy, it is heaven simply roasted or grilled. Roast at 425 degrees for exactly 13 1/2 minutes. If you have enough for the next day, top off a salad of arugula, asparagus and fava beans with a piece of salmon, splash on a dijon vinaigrette and give thanks that you live on the Central Coast.

Artisan restaurant in Paso Robles has moved into a more diner-friendly space on the charming zócalo in this atmospheric cow-town-turned- winetasting-mecca. Armed with a sensational Bodegas Paso Robles Tempranillo 2009, made by vintner Dorothy Schuler, we considered dining options. The wine opened into an opulent organism of spicy plum and smoky almond tones.

We began with small plates. One showcased succulent pork belly with grilled peaches, blue cheese cream and thin shiitake mushrooms. Ribbons of small red pepper added a sweet kick, and diagonal slices of extraordinarily crisp, delicious celery tasted like a whole new vegetable. Another starter offered small islands of spiced salmon tartare atop al dente rafts of asparagus, dusted with fat fava beans and pine nuts.

As our small plates arrived, we soaked up the appealing qualities of the new dining room. The floor of cork, walls of repurposed barn woods, upholstered banquettes and booths, and tables custom-made from local walnut trees that had fallen to the elements—all made for a dining space filled with buoyant sound rather than loud, harsh noise. We split the house charcuterie plate which included a brilliant rabbit paté topped with a thin float of duck lard. With it arrived long slices of prosciutto and a nest of fiery salami. The paté—spread atop bits of wood- fired housemade sourdough—was so good in its earthy sweetness we could barely believe it.

Congratulations to the outstanding staff and chef Chris Kobayashi—we now have a new favorite dining destination in this rugged California frontier town.

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