LUNA bars: For back to school season and more

Lemon vanilla LUNA protein bar

Lemon vanilla LUNA protein bar

Since back to school season is here, folks are probably scrambling to search out after-school snacks for their kids. Of course, it never hurts to find snacks that can be eaten by both kids AND their parents (or, for that matter, by adults who don’t have any kids…).

LUNA bars meet these requirements, as long as the kids are about nine or older. The bars are formulated with adults in mind, and the web site points out that around ages 9-13 a person’s nutritional needs more closely match those of an adult. Parents can explore the CLIF Kid snack line for younger kids—which include a variety of snack bars and fruit snacks. Clif Bar & Company are the ones behind LUNA; they launched the bars in 1999.

LUNA bars were actually created with women in mind, but some men have ended up enjoying them, too. Most of the bars in general have about 10-11g of sugar, but due to the portion size and balance of carbohydrate, fat, protein, fiber, all the LUNA bars are considered low glycemic.

The two newest flavors in the LUNA protein bar line are Lemon Vanilla and Chocolate Coconut Almond, released at the beginning of 2014. They are both delicious. Lemon Vanilla is the first LUNA protein bar without a chocolate coating. All the protein bars gluten-free and contain 12 grams of protein.

Other flavors include White Chocolate Macadamia, Chocolate Dipped Coconut, and Peanut Honey Pretzel. These are in the core line, not the protein line.

Read more about LUNA bars at the web site, The FAQs section, which includes information about ingredients and which flavors are vegan, can be found here

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Back to School Bash at New Leaf Community Markets

New Leaf offers healthy ideas for school lunches

New Leaf offers healthy ideas for school lunches

It’s back to school season—which also means thinking about back to school lunches, snacks, etc. Living on the Central Coast we have lots of fresh food available, but providing lunches and/or snacks for your kids definitely takes planning. Luckily, New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz and Capitola are hosting events to help.

Community members are invited to visit the Westside store Saturday, Aug. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. for the back to school bash, which will provide ideas for getting ready for the school year ahead. Attendees can sample hot products, enjoy an educational store tour and healthy lunch cooking demos, and participate in fun games and raffles. There will be live music too.

The store tour occurs at 2-3 p.m. It’s called “Lunch Box Heroes” and New Leaf staff will teach which foods are best for your kids (nutrient dense, etc.) to help keep them energized and focused all day long. Tastes of a few of the shop’s favorites will be offered; participants are urged to “bring the kids along to taste as we go!”

Samples from vendors will include

  • Earl’s Organics Fresh Fruit
  • Sambazon Acai Bowls
  • Betsy’s Bar Non
  • Creative Cultures Probiotic Drinks
  • Justin’s Peanut Butter
  • Honest Chips
  • Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies
  • SeaSnax

Cookbook Author Elizabeth Borelli will be in the classroom cooking up some healthy lunch options like Vegetable Nori Wraps and Sprouted Wheat Cookies.

From noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, there will be a similar Back to School Bash at the Capitola New Leaf. In addition to product samples and lunch demos, highlights include free kids’ haircuts and a fire truck.

For general information, see the New Leaf web site at

For Westside events, visit
For Capitola events, visit (note that as of press time, no events after July 2014 are listed on this page).

New Leaf Westside location: 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-1306
New Leaf Capitola location: 1210 41st Ave., Capitola, 831-479-7987

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Limited tickets remain for California Beer Festival; learn about beer week events

A previous California Beer Festival

A previous California Beer Festival

The California Beer Festival, held in Aptos August 9-10, is nearly sold out. The 4th annual festival has expanded to two days— Saturday’s theme is “craft beer heaven” and Sunday it’s the “hamburger and hops music festival.” Also, it’s currently Santa Cruz Beer Week; see end of article for more details.

If you’re interested in attending the Aug. 9-10 festival, see the event website at www.californiabeerfestival/santacruz for details and tickets. You can purchase tickets online, or at Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz and Capitola. Prices vary. There are tickets for $10 (Sunday general admission), $25 (Saturday designated driver, includes a meal), $45 (Saturday craft beer heaven) and $70 (VIP two-day pass).

Saturday hours: 12:30-5 p.m. Beer sampling: 1-4:30 p.m.
There will be more than 85 craft beers on tap, live music, food  from restaurants like Zameen, and bocce ball.  You must be 21 years of age or older to attend.

Sunday hours: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Families are encouraged to attend, and kids 12 and under are free. You’re invited to bring blankets and chairs. There is no beer “sampling” on this second day. Food and beer will be offered for sale. Dishes include hamburgers, and gourmet & fusion sliders. Several tribute bands are providing live music. These include “Petty Theft” (San Francisco-based tribute to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and “Foreverland” (14-Piece tribute to Michael Jackson).

Proceeds benefit the Gen Giammanco Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to student athletes to “assist in their pursuit of both scholastic and athletic success in Santa Cruz County.”

Location: Aptos Village Park
Parking: No parking at the park. Everyone parks at Cabrillo College (6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos) in garage lot “P” and takes a free shuttle to the festival.

Santa Cruz Beer Week is August 4-10. See for several events including:

August 6, 3-6 p.m.: POPUP beer garden featuring a special lineup of Discretion beers, beer bites from Assembly, and music from Nick Gallant and Coffee Zombie Collective from 3 to 6pm.

August 6, 7pm: Prix fixe family style “beer hall” dinner, for $90 with food and beer pairings from Discretion Brewing and others. It’s a Southern-themed dinner by Executive Chef Carlo Espinas. Tickets for dinner are available in advance and might sell out, any available seats day of will be on a first come first served basis. The meal includes an assortment of pickles, homemade crackers with pimento cheese, El Salchichero pork rinds and beef jerky & corn fritters, three bean salad with marinated peppers, cherry tomatoes and avocado ranch, and blackened halibut with homemade andouille sausage, roasted eggplant & crispy grit cakes.

August 7, 3p.m. to close: Santa Cruz Beer Week celebration at Parish Pub with Uncommon Brewers and Santa Cruz Ale Works.

Summer specials at Aptos restaurant Au Midi

Paella from Aptos restaurant Au Midi

Paella from Aptos restaurant Au Midi

Aptos restaurant Au Midi started two summer promotions last month, one for Wednesday and one for Thursday, and it just added a third which will occur every Tuesday. Each one is a special dish for $19.50.

  • Tuesday they serve “Viva le Midi” with bouillabaisse
  • Wednesday it’s “Viva Espana” with paella
  • Thursday it’s  “Vive Paris” with canard a l’orange (duck a l’orange)

The dishes are served the entire evening, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. These promotions will last all summer.

I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Au Midi in April, and I hope to go back soon for one of these specials — hard to decide which one. During my dinner, the service was gracious, the atmosphere comfortable and the food delicious. One standout was a beet and goat cheese mousse salad, and I notice it’s still on the current menu (I know some dishes rotate with the seasons). Also highly recommended: the French apple pie served with gingerbread ice cream.

Husband and wife Michel and Muriel Loubiere are a great team. He is fabulous with customers, and she is a talented chef.

Au Midi is also a participant in the “Date Night Santa Cruz” program.  If you’re unfamiliar with this offer, it works like this: customers buy a $50 package that includes dinner and a movie for two. The tickets can be redeemed any Monday through Thursday evening, except holidays and special events. When you purchase the  Date Night product, you select which restaurant you are buying a ticket for (they are mostly in Santa Cruz, plus a couple in Aptos including Au Midi). You can decide later which movie theater you’re going to of the three in the “Nick Family.” Each restaurant gives customers a certain value to spend on dinner. For more information, see the Nick’s Date Night web site
Au Midi is at 7960 Soquel Drive. Call 831-685-2600 or visit for reservations or details.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Westside Santa Cruz New Leaf: cooking classes & events for kids and teens

Kids enjoy cooking at New Leaf Community Markets

Kids enjoy cooking at New Leaf Community Markets

Organic, Santa Cruz-based New Leaf Community Markets offers lots of food, coffee, and cooking events, and there are a few cooking classes and events for kids and teens coming up soon at the Westside Santa Cruz New Leaf—including one for the whole family. The July 19 family workshop is taught by Elizabeth Borelli. I took a class with this Beanalicious Living author last fall; she’s a great teacher.

Small Sprouts Workshop for Families: 2-5 p.m. Sat 7/19/14
Engaging kids in food growing and preparation is one of the best ways to start them on a path to healthy decisions.  Join award-winning author Elizabeth Borelli for an interactive workshop that will introduce kids to the fun of sprouting, the benefits of knowing how to prepare yummy food. With easy, step-by-step techniques for delicious recipes you can make at home, such as Ten Minute Spring Rolls to Sprouted Wheat Cookies. Preregistration required.
No age minimum, but it’s probably most appropriate for kids ages 5 and up. $20 adults/$10 kids.

Kids Summer Cooking Camp: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon 8/18-Thurs 8/21
The July 21-24 version of this camp sold out, so if you’re interested, I highly recommend you sign up soon! At this four-day summer camp with Chef Lauren, kids will learn how to make all three meals of the day, snacks, beverages and desserts that are all delicious and nutritious. They will also learn healthy alternatives to wheat, gluten, dairy and white sugar along the way. This mini-culinary experience will bring out the chef in each child and they will walk away with a wealth of cooking knowledge. Parents will watch their child excel in the kitchen and be able to take the night off from cooking while their son or daughter whips up a nutritious family meal. At the end of each camp day, the group will enjoy a well-balanced lunch and engage in conversation about food, cooking and healthy habits. (Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free).
Open to kids ages 8-12. $195.

There is also a four-day Teen Summer Cooking Camp from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon 8/4-Thurs 8/7. The description is same as the kids’ one above, except it’s open to teens ages 12-18.
The cost is $195 if you buy an early-bird ticket by July 25. After that, it’s $225.

Food-Flix Film Series for Kids and Teens
New Leaf began hosting a free summertime film series in late June. On selected Fridays at noon, New Leaf invites the community to watch “critically acclaimed documentaries about the state of our current food system while enjoying a healthy afternoon snack.” Ages 8 and up may attend with parents’ consent. On June 27 and July 11 the store aired Food Fight and Forks Over Knives, respectively. Remaining dates and films are below. RSVPs are encouraged but not required.

July 25th – Super Size Me
While examining the influence of the fast food industry, Morgan Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald’s food for one month.

August 8th – The Future of Food
Before compiling your next grocery list, you might want to watch filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia’s eye-opening documentary, which sheds light on a shadowy relationship between agriculture, big business and government. By examining the effects of biotechnology on the nation’s smallest farmers, the film reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: You could unknowingly be serving them for dinner.

August 22nd – Food Beware – The French Organic Revolution
Jean-Paul Jaud’s documentary visits a village in France where the mayor has mandated an all-organic menu for the lunch program in the local school. Farmers, parents, kids and health care advocates discuss the impact of the decision.

For more information, call 426-1306 or see the New Leaf web site at
For events, visit

New Leaf Westside location: 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

National Ice Cream Month — win ice cream for a year in Santa Cruz

mission hill july 2014

Ice cream and espresso at Mission Hill Creamery

To celebrate National Ice Cream Month, there is a delicious Downtown Santa Cruz-sponsored contest with a grand prize of free ice cream for a year!

One winner receives 50 gift certificates for free ice cream – so the idea is to use one per week. To be exact, the prize is “approximately” one year of free dessert.

How you play: visit one of the five participating venues and pick up an Ice Cream Month punch card. The venues are the Penny Ice Creamery, Pacific Cookie Company, Mission Hill Creamery, Marini’s Candies and Cold Stone Creamery. Through July 27, have your card punched every time you order a treat from one of these sweet places.

Then, on July 27, visit Mission Hill Creamery at 3 p.m. for a special event. Vice Mayor Don Lane (the “Vice Cream Mayor,” he even has an ice cream tattoo!) will present a special Vice Mayoral Proclamation. Anyone who has a completed Ice Cream Month punch card (ten punches) will be entered in a raffle for free ice cream. You must be present to win. If you have eaten enough ice cream by July 27 that you have more than one punch card filled out, each one of these counts as a separate raffle entry.

Follow the Downtown Santa Cruz Facebook page to learn about featured ice cream flavors every day. You don’t have to eat that particular flavor to get a punch; it’s just another highlight of ice cream month in Santa Cruz. Not to whet your appetite or anything, but Sunday’s featured flavor was Macapuno (baby coconut) at Pacific Cookie, Saturday’s was Oreo Overload at Coldstone, Friday’s was Ricotta Fig at Mission Hill, and the 4th of July highlighted the flavor The Great Morgani at Marini’s.

Today’s featured flavor? Blackberry Sweet Corn at The Penny Ice Creamery. Mmmm, I can taste it already…

Remember — since National Ice Cream Month is July, we are halfway through already. You better get eating!
Mission Hill Creamery, 1101B Pacific Ave.
The Penny Ice Creamery, several locations including original downtown branch, 913 Cedar St.
Pacific Cookie Company, two locations including downtown, 1203 Pacific Ave.
Marini’s Candies, two locations including downtown, 1308 Pacific Ave.
Cold Stone Creamery, 1129 Pacific Ave.
On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Manresa fire, & Love Apple Farms repercussions such as produce available to public

Produce at Love Apple Farms

Produce at Love Apple Farms

There was a serious fire at the Michelin-star-winning Los Gatos restaurant Manresa on Monday, and it will be closed for a few months. The restaurant’s closure strongly affects Love Apple Farms, as Cynthia Sandberg and her biodynamic farm have served as Manresa’s exclusive kitchen garden for the last few years. Sandberg wishes Manresa a speedy recovery. “We look forward to working with them through this difficult period and beyond,” she commented.

With the restaurant and and chef/owner David Kinch unable to use Love Apple’s extraordinary produce for the time being, Sandberg is offering the local community a couple rare opportunities.

For years, fans of Love Apple have been asking Sandberg to offer a CSA (also known as Community Supported Agriculture, or in layman’s terms, a weekly farm-fresh produce box). Now, due to unexpected circumstances, some actually have that chance. If you’re reading this and you haven’t ordered one yet, it’s too late—the original four-week CSA offer was posted on Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday and sold out within hours. Two more sets of dates were added, and sold out just as fast. But you can still partake of Love Apple produce another way during Manresa’s closure: the farm has opened an on-site produce stand. Although Love Apple became famous for its dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, the farm actually grows many vegetables and fruits, plus herbs and edible flowers.

The stand is now open Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays & Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  There will be rotating items like flower bouquets, herb and veggie starts, tomatoes when they come ripe, sorrel, chard, mustards, beans, eggplant, melons, radishes, carrots, turnips, squash, basil, micro-greens, peppers, tomatillos, and cape gooseberries. Plus farm-made jams and pickles, and gardening items like soils, fertilizers, and supplies.

Another way you can support the farm—and simultaneously learn and have fun—is to participate in this Sunday’s HOW-Days Garden Skills event, which costs $89.  On July 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the farm will have 3 classrooms going, with rotating classes all day long. Sandberg encourages people to pre-register, but individuals can also show up and register on Sunday morning.

Participants can choose to attend up to seven workshops. Each is 45 minutes long, to give folks the chance to try out “mini-classes” and see if they want to take a longer version of certain ones in the future (they’re all part of the farm’s standard curriculum).

HOW stands for Homestead Options Workshop; visit this url for more information:

Classes include:
• Intro to Organic Gardening
• Tomato Masters
• Drip Irrigation
• Container Vegetable Gardening
• Propagating Perennials
• Compost
• Growing Berries
• Fruit Trees
• Gopher Trapping
• Bee Keeping
• Chicken Keeping
• Urban Rabbit Keeping
• Vegetable Garden Design
• Winter Vegetable Gardening
• Micro-Greens

August 24 is the second of this year’s HOW-Days. The August workshop also costs $89 and centers on kitchen skills.

Topics include:
• Canning
• Pickling
• Cheese Making
• Bread Making
• Pasta Making
• Home Brewing
• Sprouting
• Ice Cream Making
• Jam Making
• Sauerkraut
• Gluten-Free Cooking
• Kimchi
• Kombucha

Click here for all upcoming classes that Love Apple offers.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me @santacruzfoodie.

A few 4th of July restaurant & food events: San Francisco, Oakland, & Monterey

A past Picnic at the Presidio with Off the Grid in SF

A past Picnic at the Presidio with Off the Grid in SF

Crazy how time flies; we are two days from Independence Day 2014 — here are a few highlights for menus or events in San Francisco, Oakland, and Monterey.


For those headed to Chrissy Field to watch the fireworks, start the night at A16 in the Marina for Chef Rocky Maselli’s delicious dinner service. Guests can enjoy summer favorites like Lucky Dog Ranch Beef Shortribs with red wine, red onions, arugula and black pepper; Tomales Bay Clams with tomato, white wine, chiles, and grilled bread; or Wood Fired Dry Creek Peach Crostata with buttermilk sorbet.

Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio
Wind down the holiday weekend picnic style with Off the Grid. The weekly gathering on the Main Post Lawn in the Presidio is offering two festive 4th of July packages for groups to enjoy. Adults can toast with patriotic drink kits while kids enjoy some bubbly fun. Each $100 package includes a specialty alcoholic punch kit, beer basket, Off the Grid blanket and a bubble activity kit.

To book:
Bocanova is taking the age-old tradition of a 4th of July B-B-Q and doing it Argentine style for this month’s Rick’s Supper Club. Join Chef Rick and kick-off the holiday weekend with a menu featuring delicious summer vegetables, juicy meats and an array of complementary wines. The five-course, pre-fixe dinner is $72 per person, including wines and excluding tax or gratuity. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 510-444-1233.
A16 Rockridge

Chef Rocky Maselli has crafted a 4th of July menu as fun as it is festive to celebrate the holiday in the East Bay. Standout dishes from the special menu include a 4505 Bacon Hotdog Pizza with mozzarella, basil, and corn, House Made Fennel Sausage Corndog with Cherry Mostarda and Spicy Tomato Sauce, and Spicy Chicken Wings Agrodolce with cucumber and yogurt. The restaurant will be open from 2 pm to 8 pm.


Cannery Row Brewing Company
Cannery Row Brewing Company (CRBC) is located in downtown Monterey right off the historic Cannery Row offering over 70 beers on tap paired with casual dining in a family-friendly environment. On Friday, July 4, CRBC will host a “sausagefest” on the outdoor patio with a live band. Chef Daniel Furey will be grilling up several varieties of sausages including Spicy Andouille, Pat Lafreida Sweet Italian, and Hebrew National Dogs, alongside a complete lineup of toppings such as grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, raw onions, relish, pepperoncini, ketchup, mustard, and Sriracha. Sweet treats will feature red white and blue Funfetti Cupcakes and guests can also enjoy bottled or canned domestic beers at a reduced rate.

Restaurant 1833
Located in the historic Stokes Adobe House in downtown Monterey, Restaurant 1833 will celebrate Independence Day with a strolling buffet on Friday, July 4 from noon – 4:00 p.m. for $40 per person. Guests can enjoy summer dishes from Executive Chef Abby Burk including Charred Sweet Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter, Espelette and Sea Salt; Herb Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes with Peaches & Burrata; Smoked & Pulled Pork Shoulder; as well as signature items such as The Fried Chicken and Bacon and Cheddar Biscuits. In partnership with Young’s/Grey Goose, Restaurant 1833 will set up an outdoor bar on the patio featuring drink specials on select spirits and a live band on the deck.
Cibo Ristorante Italiano
Cibo has music plus cocktail specials during the Fourth of July weekend. At 10 p.m. Friday, July 4, celebrate Independence Day at Cibo Ristorante Italiano with the “Red, White & Rewind 4th of July Bash.” At 10 p.m. Saturday July 5, the Chicano All Stars Band is performing. Both events last until 1:30 a.m. and there is no cover charge. Cibo welcomes guests to come for a late dinner and then stay for the music. On Friday, it’s “Best of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s remixed with resident DJ Hanif.” Patriotic-themed drink specials will include the “4th of July Citrus Splash” with Svedka Vodka, Blue Curacao, Lemon Juice, served up, rimmed with Cherry Pop Rocks, and The “Firecracker”  with Fireball Whiskey, Splash San Pellegrino Limonata, Splash Grenadine, on the rocks, garnished with Hot Tamales Cinnamon Candies.

On Saturday, the Chicano All Stars Band performs; its musical styles include Latin rock and rhythm and blues. The band recently added a horn section. Other members include lead vocalist Sam Martinez and lead guitarist John Mallare, who also helps out on vocals. They have performed with musicians including Maria Muldaur, Sista Monica, The Turtles, and Tower of Power.

The restaurant hosts live music six nights per week. There is dinner jazz from 7 to 10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and there is late-night music with reggae, R&B, rock or salsa dance music on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. (with no cover charge). Cibo’s menu includes pasta, gourmet pizza (including gluten-free options), cocktails, and wine. The restaurant is at 301 Alvarado St. Call 649-8151.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Two weekend events: Assembly adds brunch service & Hop N’ Barley Fest expands

Bread pudding from Assembly’s new brunch menu

Assembly Serving Brunch

Popular downtown restaurant Assembly is launching weekend brunch service beginning Saturday, June 28. The restaurant will open at 9am and, according to co-owner Zach Davis, “feature a menu of seasonally inspired bunch favorites including house baked pastries and breads.” Choices include savory bread pudding with broccoli, Gruyère, hollandaise and a poached egg; see photo above. Can’t wait to try the newest creations from Chef Carlo Espinas!

And there’s more: To celebrate the new brunch menu, this weekend Assembly is featuring guest Verve Coffee Roasters baristas crafting complimentary Verve espresso drinks for diners.
1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,

Hop N’ Barley Fest

Also on June 28, it’s the 5th annual Hop N’ Barley beer and bbq festival. Most events are on Saturday at Sky Park in Scotts Valley, but this year the festival has expanded from one day to two. There are approximately 60 breweries participating, and there will be live music. Saturday is the main event with beer and barbecue, with gates opening at 10 a.m. and beer starting at noon. The gates close at 5 p.m.

On Sunday, there is a morning disc golf tournament at DeLaveaga and an afternoon craft and home brew competition. Tickets range from $25-80, but it’s free for non-beer-drinkers including kids – event organizers emphasize that “kids and dogs are welcome.” The Hop N’ Barley beer and bbq festival benefits non-profit Community Housing Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.

Skypark, 361 Kings Village Rd, Scotts Valley,

If you’re on Twitter, follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz’s Chaminade launches 2014 Farm to Table Wine Dinners

Ravioli from Chaminade’s June 6 Farm to Table Dinner. Photo credit: Fereshteh Fatemi

Ravioli from Chaminade’s June 6 Farm to Table Dinner. Photo credit: Fereshteh Fatemi

It’s officially summertime, and here in Santa Cruz we have one more reason to celebrate: Chaminade Resort’s annual Farm to Table Dinner series has begun! The always-enjoyable series showcases local farms and local wineries.

I had the pleasure of attending 2014’s debut event on June 6, and it lived up to my high expectations. I’ll provide some details below; meanwhile, I would go check your calendars right now for the rest of the season and make reservations—which are required—for one of the dinners.
2014 Chaminade remaining dinner dates are:

  • July 11
  • August 15
  • September 12
  • October 10

The cost is $80 per person and that includes hors d’oeuvres (served at the 6 p.m. reception), family style dinner (starts at 6:30 p.m.), dessert, and wine (served at reception AND dinner). Tax and gratuity are excluded. Call (831) 475-5600 or visit web site for details, including specific wineries/farmers for particular nights. The specific menu is posted as each event draws near.

Back to the June 6 dinner, created by the talented Kirsten Ponza. Chef Kirsten, who was promoted to Executive Chef in September 2013, is a delightful person to talk to about food and cooking. She knows a lot, and is excited when you ask her questions or make specific comments about a dish. Many people, including myself, relished our conversations the other night. When I asked her about the event, she said, “I love the Farm to Table series for many reasons.  I get to talk to my guests attending and really get a feel for how they want their food…I also love the interaction with the local farms and wineries…The farmers can explain much better than I how much love and effort it takes to make something grow!” She also adds that it allows her to be very creative and “…hopefully change some minds out there on food people would like to eat.”

Throughout the evening, selections from Pelican Ranch Winery were poured including Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The wines were thoughtfully paired with various courses. Winery owner Phil and Peggy Crews were in attendance, and Phil shared a few facts about his Capitola winery and wines.

The produce featured in many dishes was from Santa Cruz’s Yellow Wall Farm, and owners Allen and Judy Rose Hasty were also at the event. Allen engaged the crowd with a couple anecdotes, and told attendees that although the farm mainly sells to restaurants and New Leaf Market, they do run a Saturday morning farm stand when the season really gets going later in the summer. Based on the freshness and flavors of the produce I tasted, I’ll be sure to seek that stand out. Chef Kirsten is a big fan: “Judy and Allen are true farmers in the sense that they care about everything that goes into the food they grow.  The earth, the plant, the product.  They are a great team that always has a smile and you can really tell that they love what they do!  We here at Chaminade have had a solid relationship with them for several years now and I always look forward to the time when they email to say what’s available.”

At the reception, there were four appetizers including strawberries stuffed with smoked blue cheese and pancetta. I’m going to try making this at home, knowing I won’t get a version quite like the one I tasted, but I was absolutely inspired by the blend of flavors and textures. And it’s perfect for right now when fresh organic strawberries abound in Santa Cruz. Chef Kirsten said it was actually Yellow Wall Farm’s current delectable crop of strawberries that helped inspire the stuffed strawberries, in addition to the gazpacho (which I’ll discuss soon). My other favorite appetizer at the reception was stuffed tempura squash blossoms. Absolutely perfect, these included goat cheese, basil, lemon zest and juice, and a light fritter batter.

At the sit-down dinner, our starter was a generous bowl of strawberry hazelnut gazpacho. It was incredible: creamy, and not too sweet. The Belle Farms olive oil and chive garnish complemented the soup beautifully, in terms of both taste and aesthetics. The first course of baby romaine with citrus avocado relish and third course of duck confit with Mediterranean cous cous were very pleasing, but I was even more taken with the second course. The baked ravioli (see photo at beginning of article) were served with a rich, wonderful medley of gourmet mushrooms – oyster, trumpet, shiitake, portabella, and cremini – and a savory tomato/herb Aurora Crème sauce. Dessert was the perfect finish, a honey mousse atop jasmine-scented cake, served with delicious raspberry dessert wine from Pelican Ranch.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.
The Details
Farm to Table Dinner Series
Monthly through October 2014: Selected Fridays at 6 p.m.

Courtyard Terrace at Chaminade Resort, One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz 95065
(831) 475-5600
$80 per person