Pinot Paradise 2015 includes Santa Cruz wineries and restaurant fare

1913198_872377346159447_3910170126589229884_oSanta Cruz Pinot Noir lovers are in for a treat this weekend, as it’s the 11th annual Pinot Paradise (Saturday-Sunday March 21-22, 2015).

Brought to you by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, the main Saturday event is a “Pathway to Pinot Paradise” self-guided tour of wineries that produce Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir. These tickets are $25 and enable individuals to taste barrel samples of Pinot Noir at over 25 wineries, plus limited library wines at selected locations. Online ticket sales have ended, but you can buy Pathway tickets at any of the participating wineries on Saturday (see list below, followed by information on events for Sunday, March 22). See scmwa.com for more information and a map.

Many wineries will have special amenities and/or entertainment on Saturday. For example, Alfaro Family Vineyards will open at noon and have live flamenco/fusion guitar by Paul Renslow from 1-4pm. The Corralitos winery is dog- and child-friendly and will be pouring eight Pinots on March 21. Location: 420 Hames Road, (831) 728-5172.

Participating Pathway wineries:

  • Alfaro Family Vineyards
  • Bargetto Winery
  • Beauregard Vineyards
  • Big Basin Vineyards
  • Burrell School Vineyards & Winery
  • Cinnabar Winery
  • Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards
  • Dancing Creek Winery
  • House Family Winery
  • Hunter Hill Vineyards & Winery
  • Left Bend Winery
  • MJA Vineyards
  • Nicholson Vineyards
  • Odonata Wines
  • Roudon-Smith Winery
  • Russian Ridge Winery
  • Savannah Chanelle Vineyards & Winery
  • Silver Mountain Vineyards
  • Silvertip Vineyards
  • Stockwell Cellars
  • Storrs Winery & Vineyards
  • Thomas Fogarty Winery
  • Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery
  • Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery

There are two Pinot-related events on Sunday, March 22, both held at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga:

The annual Pinot Paradise Technical Session featuring wine education takes place from 9am-noon. The session will discuss “Signature Elements: Defining Characteristics and Discerning Quality in Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir.” Speakers are Luke Sykora, senior editor and critic at magazine Wine & Spirits; and Dr. Gary Griggs, Professor of Earth Sciences at UCSC. Griggs’ research is focused on the coastal zone and ranges from coastal evolution and development. Tickets are $45.

The Grand Cruz Tasting is from 1:30-4:30pm and features Pinot Noir from 40 wineries paired with food from local restaurants and food vendors such as Bruno’s BBQ, Cin Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant, Paradise Beach Grille, Sid’s Smokehouse, and True Olive Connection.  Tickets are $85 for general admission or $100 for VIP entry (arrive one hour early, at 12:30 p.m.).

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

More Santa Cruz restaurant news highlights – March 2015

A couple weeks ago, I shared a few bits of restaurant news about venues in Santa Cruz and Aptos. There were a couple items that I meant to include, and then another item that I just learned, so I thought I’d do another post.

Meanwhile, if you missed the Feb 26 article, it’s here, and if you missed the recent news about ManresaBread (new Los Gatos location plus products available at Verve Coffee!), you can read that here.

Openings

La Gioconda opened on February 18. This is the former site of Main Street Garden & Café. In an email regarding the new business, the restaurant said that the new name reflects new Italian ownership, as “la Gioconda” means Mona Lisa. The owners also run pizzeria Tramonti in Santa Cruz’s Seabright neighborhood, and at La Gioconda they promise ‘Northern Italian contemporary cuisine, using 100% fresh and organic ingredients selected carefully from outstanding farmers, wineries, and food distributors.’ Dishes by Chef Luca Viara include zucchini soufflé, artichoke ravioli, and braised short rib ravioli. Learn more and see full menu at giocondarestaurant.com.

Location: 3101 N. Main St., Soquel, 831-477-9265

 

Thai Noodle House has closed, and At Thai Recipe took its place. The new restaurant opened February 13, and the chef has more than 20 years of experience. Dishes include seafood red curry with artichokes, spicy basil duck, pineapple fried rice, cashew chicken, grilled beef salad, and many vegetarian and vegan options. Flavored milk teas include taro, strawberry, almond/honey, and red bean, with or without boba. Their current web site is facebook.com/pages/At-Thai-Recipe/320456501485273.

Location: 2106A Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-457-0238

 

Changes

In January, Cutesy Cupcakes expanded to a larger location in Scotts Valley and added frozen yogurt to its menu. The family-run business offers products including traditional, vegan, and gluten-free cupcakes. The original, smaller SV location had opened in December 2012. ALSO: the Cutesy Cupcakes shop in Capitola Mall, which opened in Spring 2014, has shuttered its doors. The family decided not to renew the lease, which ended Feb. 28. The website is cutesycupcakes.com but as of press time, the site hadn’t been updated to reflect that the Capitola Mall location has closed. An interesting bit of trivia: in 2013, Cutesy Cupcakes appeared on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

Location: 245 Mount Herman Road, Scotts Valley, 831-430-9500

 

Special Promotion

Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant in Aptos is celebrating 50 years of business. The actual anniversary is March 15, 2015; to honor the memory of restaurant founders Manuel and Alice Santana, owners Leonardo and Patricia Santana are giving 50% of proceeds during the week of March 9–15 to local groups dedicated to causes that were close to the founders’ hearts. “We are very excited about achieving this milestone,” said Manuel and Alice’s son Leonardo. “Starting from when I was a young child, I saw how much it meant to my parents to give back to the community that supported them.” Read more at manuelsrestaurant.com. Here are the organizations receiving donations:

  • Monday, March 9: Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz
  • Tuesday, March 10: Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Wednesday, March 11: Teen Kitchen Project
  • Thursday, March 12: Cabrillo College Visual, Applied and Performing Arts
  • Friday, March 13: Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres
  • Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15:  Proceeds will be divided equally among the 5 groups

Location: 261 Center Ave., Aptos, 831-688-4848

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Manresa inspires Los Gatos bread venue: products also available at Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz

Handcrafted, small batch products from ManresaBread  Photo credit: Joyce Oudkerk Pool

Handcrafted, small batch products from ManresaBread
Photo credit: Joyce Oudkerk Pool

ManresaBread opened its first retail storefront a couple weeks ago; inspired by the bread program at the two-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, ManresaBread in Los Gatos offers hand-crafted, small batch breads and pastries by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka.

The hours are currently Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (or earlier if they sell out). The venue will eventually be open daily.

On March 1, Santa Cruz-based Verve Coffee Roasters began providing customers with the opportunity to purchase ManresaBread pastries and breads at their three retail Santa Cruz/Capitola locations. As you may recall, ManresaBread was available in Santa Cruz via POPUP last fall.  ManresaBread continues to be available at the Campbell and Palo Alto farmers markets on Sundays.

Co-founded by Ruzicka, partner and Manresa chef/owner David Kinch and partner Andrew Burnham, the company will look to expand to other retail locations in the South Bay and eventually online sales. “Avery took the bread program at Manresa to the next level and being able to share that outside of the restaurant happened naturally for us,” says Partner David Kinch. “We grew from one to two farmers’ markets to the Santa Cruz popup and a brick and mortar was the next step. We’re excited to start out with a smaller scale retail space in Los Gatos and see where we go from there.”

ManresaBread focuses on hands-on techniques and high-quality ingredients. The retail shop stocks a rotating selection of breads and sweet and savory pastries including Manresa Levain, Sour Baguette, Pumpernickel Rye, Fruit and Nut Loaf, Polenta Whole Wheat, Red Fife Whole Wheat, Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake, Caramelized Apple Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Chocolate Brioche, Kale and Parmesan Scones, and more.

Ruzicka has a degree from the French Culinary Institute and experience working with Master Baker Ben Hershberger of Per Se Restaurant and Bouchon Bakery. “I love the whole process  of working with bread – cultivating the starter, tweaking a recipe, working with the dough, and using all of my senses to gauge if it’s time to bake,” he says.

Location: 276 N. Santa Cruz Ave., downtown Los Gatos, 408-402-5372

To follow ManresaBread on Twitter, see twitter.com/ManresaBread.
To follow me, see twitter.com/santacruzfoodie.

Evergreen San Jose New Leaf Community Market becoming New Seasons Market

Wendie Collie, New Seasons Market CEO, at a Portland store

Wendie Collie, New Seasons Market CEO, at a Portland store

In 2013, Portland-based New Seasons Market purchased New Leaf Community Markets—and now the first New Seasons in Northern California is becoming a reality. New Leaf’s “Evergreen” location in San Jose will become New Seasons Market Evergreen on March 14, 2015.

Beginning March 14, customers who visit the Evergreen store at 5667 Silver Creek Valley Rd. in San Jose will have access to all of New Leaf’s traditional natural and organic products, plus an additional 2,500 items.

For an entire week, there will be grand opening celebratory activities including free samples. This starts Saturday, March 14, with the main event: the Joseph George Middle School drum line will perform before and after a Bread Breaking Ceremony at 10 am. A Tasting Fair featuring many New Seasons vendors will take place from 10:30 am – 5 pm. Kids and families are invited to paint a tile for the store during the Community Mural Project from 10:30 am – 5 pm. There will be a drawing for a one free year of groceries and goodie bags for the first 100 customers following the ceremony. See end of article for the remainder of the week’s schedule.

New Seasons, which launched in 2000, is an independently owned grocer operating 15 stores in the Portland-Vancouver area. New Seasons was the first grocer in the world, and New Leaf the second, to become certified B Corporations, which recognize businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.

“We are thrilled to bring the neighborhood grocery experience to the Evergreen community,” said Wendy Collie, President/CEO of New Seasons Market. “By that we mean offering our customers a wider variety of product choices, expanding the number of local food producers we work with, providing the friendliest service, and collaborating with community partners to increase their positive impact.“ The Evergreen store will partner with, and provide financial support to, the Evergreen School District and Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Ten percent of profits each year will be donated to local non-profits.

Customers can attend weekly wellness lectures and cooking classes in the new Evergreen community classroom. Every day, the Solutions Center offers meal ideas and free samples of treats and “Local Finds”—products made by small local food artisans, crafters and growers. Wine or craft beer tastings and food pairings will be offered every Friday from 5–7 pm. And veterans and seniors will receive 10 percent off most items on Veterans Tuesdays and Senior Wednesdays. Store hours are 8 am – 9 pm daily.

To learn more about New Seasons, visit newseasonsmarket.com.
For more information on New Leaf, see newleaf.com.

Location: 5667 Silver Creek Valley Rd, San Jose, 408-513-8200

March 15-22 Event Schedule at New Seasons Evergreen

  • Sunday, March 15: Tasting Fair from 10:30am-5pm with many New Seasons vendors, free
  • Monday, March 16: Gluten Free Store Tour highlighting customer favorites from 2 pm – 3 pm, free (RSVP to Lana.Sumati@newseasonsmarket.com)
  • Tuesday, March 17: For St. Patrick’s Day, a pop-up green smoothie bar will be blending healthy green drink samples from 11am-3 pm, and traditional Irish fare such as corned beef and cabbage will be served at the Hot Bar.
  • Wednesday, March 18: New Seasons Market Store Tour: who we are and what we’re about. Free samples and goodie bags included, 11 am – 12 pm, free (RSVP to Lana.Sumati@newseasonsmarket.com)
  • Thursday, March 19: Kid’s Craft Corner in the Community Classroom: drop your kids off for a fun activity while you shop from 2:30-4:30 pm, free
  • Friday, March 20: Wine Tasting and Food Pairing from 5-7 pm, complimentary
  • Saturday and Sunday, March 21 & 22: Wellness sale features free samples, Q&A with nutrition experts and 20 percent off all vitamins, supplements and body care products.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

San Francisco restaurant A16: female guest chefs & wine experts for International Women’s Day

A16 in San Francisco

A16 in San Francisco

A16 is hosting its 10th annual Festa della Donna celebration on Sunday, March 8, 2015. The dinner will feature southern Italian fare from prestigious Italian chefs Laura Brunelli and Rosetta and Maria Costantino. Make reservations at 415-771-2216 or a16sf.com. Note that walk-ins are also welcome.

Location: A16, 2355 Chestnut Street (at Scott), San Francisco

Women winemakers from California and Italy including La Colombera’s Elisa Semino and POE Wines’ Samantha Sheehan will be pouring throughout the evening.

Each year, A16 serves a special dinner honoring women in food and wine and donates a portion of the proceeds to La Cocina, an organization that helps low-income entrepreneurs formalize and grow their businesses. Learn more at lacocinasf.org.

Festa della Donna, or International Women’s Day, commemorates the women who were killed in the 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire in New York and recognizes the achievements of women past and present.

“International Women’s Day is widely celebrated in Italy and many other countries around the world as a ‘Girl’s Night Out’ where we honor women and support our community,” says A16 co-owner/ wine director Shelley Lindgren. “We have some very talented and amazing women sharing their gifts with us this year.”

Attendees will enjoy a special selection of dishes such as Rosetta and Maria Costantino’s Polpette di Ricotta and Laura Brunelli’s Tortelli di Bieta. The restaurant’s normal a la carte menu will also be available. Lindgren will be present on Sunday to showcase a selection of California and Italian wines by the evening’s featured winemakers.

Details on the women involved with March 8 event:
Laura Brunelli
Owner of the world-famous in Sienna restaurant Osteria Le Logge and Tuscany’s Gianni Brunelli winery, Brunelli creates wine with organic farming methods. She has generously shared her recipes for A16 to prepare at Festa della Donna.

Rosetta and Maria Costantino
Mother and daughter Rosetta and Maria Costantino are this year’s celebrated chefs. They will serve some of their springtime specialties highlighting their Calabrian heritage. The Constantinos grow their own produce, make their own ricotta, and cure their own salsiccia calabrese and have created two Southern Italian cookbooks.

Elisa Semino
A16 will be pouring two of the Timorasso wines that La Colombera Winery’s Elisa Semino has been making with her father in Piemonte, Italy. With a passion for farming and viticulture, the father and daughter duo are presenting two wines from Timorasso: Derthona and Il Montino.

Samantha Sheehan
A16 will be pouring from POE Wines, a winery founded by Samantha Sheehan. There will be Ferrington Chardonnay, Rose of Pinot Noir/Meunier, Pinot Nouveau, Pinot Noir, and Hudson Vineyard.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz area restaurant news highlights through February 2015

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it's usually served with fries)

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it’s usually served with fries)

Some of this is more recent restaurant news for the Santa Cruz area, and some is much older. I recently discovered that quite a few people I know weren’t aware of certain closings, so I am distributing information that might seem out of date to those who keep on top of local restaurant news.

Openings
The Hideout opened in Aptos in January. I haven’t made it there yet, but I’ve been hearing positive comments. It’s open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9p.m. except Tuesdays, when it doesn’t open until 5 p.m. Sandwich/burger selections include Reuben, roasted vegetables with goat cheese, grilled chicken club, and a signature burger with a ground beef/bacon patty and crumbled bleu cheese (see photo above). Dinner entrees served after 5 include Merlot-braised short ribs, pistachio-crusted chicken, New York strip, and Petrale sole piccata. Several pasta dishes, soup, salads, sides, and starters round out the menu.
Location: 9051 Soquel Drive, Aptos (most recently the site of restaurant Ma Maison)
Contact Info: 688-5566, thehideoutaptos.com

Opening Soon
Mutari Chocolate House
is opening in early March; co-owner Adam Armstrong says they’re aiming for March 5th. He and his brother Matt will be the first tenants to officially open in the Food Lounge, the new venue from Andrea Mollenauer of Lifestyle Culinary Arts. They create their product Mutari Hot Chocolate on site. This chocolate is “Stone Ground Bean to Bottle” made from cacao that is “always certified organic and ethically traded (and mostly Rainforest Alliance Certified).”  You can enjoy hot chocolate at the Chocolate House or buy your own bottled mix to take home — it’s also sold at retailers like Artisans Gallery so you may have noticed it in the last few months. Learn more at mutarichocolate.com and facebook.com/mutarichocolate. I got to experience a hot chocolate tasting at Mutari last fall when they had their factory at Front St. Kitchen and I really liked the varieties I sampled. The new Chocolate House will serve coffee, hot chocolate, sipping chocolate, mini cupcakes (from Buttercup), and more.

More on the Food Lounge: Mollenauer and partners Cat Hernandez and Sally Kane are launching this unique space that has lots of options including: you can throw a party there, have an event for your business, or attend a pop-up. Other tenants at the Lounge include Fogline Farms, Ocean2table, and Mortal Dumpling. Officially the Food Lounge will be an “innovative community-minded event venue, commercial incubator kitchen, and full-service food hub aimed at fueling, educating, and inspiring Santa Cruz.” Visit scfoodlounge.com to sign up for the email list.
Location: 1001 Center Street, Santa Cruz

Verve Coffee is opening a new location at 1010 Fair in Westside Santa Cruz at some point in the future, in the former spot of Chimera Tattoo. This is the same plaza where Bantam Restaurant is located.

Closings
Two venues in downtown Santa Cruz on Pacific shuttered their doors:
Sushi restaurant Benten closed Jan. 31.
Noah’s Bagels closed on Feb. 24.

Santa Cruz restaurant The Greek closed at the end of November. A permit taped to one of the restaurant windows indicates a Korean eatery will be opening in the future. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mentioned that owner Vasili was retiring (yes, this is the same Vasili that formerly owned Vasili’s in Westside Santa Cruz).

Changes
Downtown Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly is now closed on both Mondays and Tuesdays. They used to be closed on Mondays, and beginning January 6 they are only open Wednesday through Sunday. This is continuing “at least through the winter months.”
Location: 1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 824-6100, assembleforfood.com

Soif is closing in late March for a few weeks, to do some remodeling.
Location: 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 423-2020, soifwine.com

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off Results including top-rated Pleasure Pizza

Big winner Derek Rupp & his Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery crew and family. Photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Facebook page

Big winner Derek Rupp & his Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery crew and family. Photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Facebook page

Interested to learn who made the best soup at the 2015 Santa Cruz Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off after reading my preview article? Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery, led by Derek Rupp, was a big winner – he was awarded 1st place / Best Professional by official judges in both Boston and Manhattan categories AND he won the People’s Choice award for Best Professional Manhattan.

See below for all results of the 34th annual event, which was held Feb. 21, 2015.

Top rated by judges:

Best Professional Boston

  • 1st – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery (Derek Rupp) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Local Harvest Eatery (Denna Myers) Santa Cruz
  • 3rd – Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle (Gigi Davis ) Monterey

Best Professional Manhattan

  • 1st – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery (Derek Rupp) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Seascape Resort (Matt Lamendola) Aptos
  • 3rd – Midgley’s Public House (Mike Midgely) Stockton

Best Individual Boston

  • 1st – Alerts (Kenny Simon) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Santa Cruz Kids Chowder (Tom Rumbaugh) Santa Cruz
  • 3rd – Onokine (John Ono) Watsonville

Best Individual Manhattan

  • 1st – Clam Halen (Brad Bishop) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Wine w/Swine (Mark Brown) San Jose
  • 3rd – Dragon Mama’s Portuguese Red (Michele Hartmangruber) Fremont

Most Original Teams

  • 1st – Clam Rock (Christopher Hirz) Gilroy
  • 2nd – Cucina Bambini (Shelly Ballard) San Jose
  • 3rd – Sir Clamalot (Barbara Defries) San Pablo

People’s Choice (Voted #1 by the Public)

  • Individual Boston – 4 Men & A Clam (Wayne Locke) Scotts Valley
  • Professional Boston – Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle (Gigi Davis) Monterey
  • Individual Manhattan – Grandma’s Clam Diggers, Janine Ponce, Aptos
  • Professional Manhattan – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery

Most Tasted Chowders

  • 1st – Rosie’s Clam & Get It (Kitty Dixon) Soquel
  • 2nd – 4 Men & A Clam
  • 3rd – Silence of the Clams (Brian Edwards) Campbell

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off

This Saturday is the 34th annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Feb. 21, 2015 chowder cook-off has free admission. If you want to eat chowder, tasting kits are $9 and include five samples plus a People’s Choice ballot. The cook-off is a fund-raiser for the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department. In 2014, the event raised more than $62,000.

Approximately 80 individuals and teams are participating, including teams from New Leaf Community Markets, Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery, Solaire Restaurant & Bar, Seascape Resort, Ideal Bar and Grill, Parish Publick House, and Kauboi Grill and Sushi.

The competition features two divisions:

• Best Individual (Amateur) – with subcategories for both Manhattan & Boston varieties
• Best Professional – with subcategories for both Manhattan & Boston varieties

Teams can choose to compete in one or both of the Manhattan & Boston categories. They are also in the running for prizes such as “Most Original.” Some participants dress in costumes such as mermaids and scuba divers.

The 2014 winners included:

  • Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery (awarded 3rd place professional by the judges in both Manhattan AND Boston categories)
  • UC Santa Cruz Dining (awarded 1st place professional by the judges AND by People’s Choice ballot in Manhattan category)
  • Ideal Bar & Grill (awarded 1st place professional by People’s Choice ballot in the Boston category, and received 2nd place in Most Tasted Overall)
  • Silence of the Clams (Brian Edwards, Campbell-awarded 1st place individual by the judges in the Boston category)

On Saturday, the Boardwalk rides will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cook-Off Schedule:

10:00 a.m. Cooking starts & tasting kits go on sale
1:00 p.m. Public tasting begins (there is also a judges’ tasting)
4:00 p.m. Winners announced

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Valentine’s Day & February events at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

There will be lots of seafood at Chaminade's Valentine's Night buffet

There will be lots of seafood at Chaminade’s Valentine’s Night buffet

Chaminade is a sweet spot to spend time with your sweetheart, with gorgeous views plus killer food and some of the most attentive and gracious staff around. And if you’ve only thought of the overnight accommodations for out of town visitors, think again—could make a great ‘staycation’ for locals!

Here are a few highlights of this month’s offerings.

Sweetheart Seafood Buffet
For Valentine’s Day dinner on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, the talented Executive Chef Kirsten Ponza and her culinary team have created a sophisticated all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that will be available from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Enjoy items like crab legs, smoked salmon, oysters on the half shell, sushi and sashimi, ceviche, and a flambé station. Dinner includes unlimited champagne, and the buffet price is $120 per person excluding tax/gratuity. After paying, each guest receives a $20 dining card valid for a future visit (not valid that evening). Reservations are required at 831-475-5600.

An Affair to Remember
During the month of February, Chaminade is offering this special package which includes overnight accommodations for two, a welcome amenity at check-in (chocolates, etc.), two glasses of wine and an appetizer at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, and wine tasting for two at MJA Vineyards. Package prices start at $229, not including tax or resort fee.  For reservations or information call 800-283-6569 or visit www.chaminadepackages.com.

Spa Package
The Spa at Chaminade has created a package featuring aphrodisiac ingredients. Available until Feb. 28, the Be My Valentine spa package includes an 80-minute side-by-side couples massage, a half bottle of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine, and four chocolate-covered strawberries.  The price is $392 (including gratuity) and that reflects a discount.  For reservations and information call The Spa at Chaminade at 831-465-3465.
Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Chaminade location: One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz

Web site: chaminade.com

Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley: First-class sweets for Valentine’s Day & beyond

Chocolates at Ashby Confections

Chocolates at Ashby Confections

Whether you have treats to buy for Valentine’s Day, or just want to treat yourself or someone else, Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley is a must-visit stop!

Valentine’s Day goodies include a five-piece set of heart-shaped chocolates that are each handmade and decorated.  It features a Honey Truffle, Liquid Toffee, 70% Dark Chocolate Truffle, Earl Grey Tea Truffle and a Mocha Truffle. Also, there are four-piece Valentine’s-themed sets: Aphrodisiac Truffles with either a “calming and relaxing blend” (herbs include Kava Kava) or “stimulating and invigorating” blend (includes Siberian Ginseng). Or you can create your own gift with chocolates such as Monterey Bay Sea Salt Caramels or Ceylon Cinnamon Ginger Creams.

In December 2013, chocolatier Jennifer Ashby opened the chocolate shop Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley, at 16C Victor Square. Have you visited yet? It’s chock full of tasty, award-winning chocolate made by a fabulous local artisan. This talented confectioner has lots of fans–ones like Chaminade Resort & Spa (they are utilizing her sweets in a special “An Affair to Remember” romance package this month), her many online customers (order at ashbyconfections.com), and people that pick up Ashby treats when they’re grocery shopping at retailers such as New Leaf Community Markets, Shopper’s Corner, and Staff of Life.

I first became an Ashby Confections fan after tasting the amazing chocolate at the 2011 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival—they are a longtime participant of this festival that benefits UCSC re-entry students. At the January 2015 Chocolate Festival, the company received several awards: Best Truffle, Best Caramel, Most Unique Use of Chocolate, and Best in Show.

Ashby, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and the Culinary Institute of America, formed her chocolate company in 2004. Before opening the SV store, Ashby made and sold her creations at Heather’s Patisserie in Aptos.

Jennifer and her staff make everything at the shop by hand using fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever possible.  All of the chocolate is either fair trade or direct trade, and some of it is organic as well.  She regularly uses locally sourced ingredients, including ones from Route One Farms.

One chocolate she uses a lot these days is Askinosie, which is produced in Missouri by Shawn Askinosie and his team. It’s a relatively new addition to Asbhy’s confections. “It’s is single origin and sourced for either Tanzania, Ecuador, Honduras or the Philippines,” says Ashby. “We are using the chocolate from Ecuador beans in our confections now, she adds. “We also are blending our own milk chocolate in house now using the dark Ecuadorian chocolate.”  Ashby is proud to be using this chocolate.  “Shawn does direct trade with the farmers, and does profit sharing with them as well as numerous things to help the community that these beans come from, like building water wells.”  The flavor is complex, and the texture is smooth.  “The aftertaste is so pleasant.  Using his chocolate has definitely made my confections better,” says Ashby.

She has recently created several new products such as Coco Tortoise, which has caramel on toasted coconut with either milk or dark chocolate; Rosewater Marshmallows; and Dark Chocolate Truffles made with local honey. She is also coming out soon with a line of chocolate bars made with organic California olive oil and “other foods and spices that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as turmeric.”

In case anyone needs suggestions for a chocolate to try, the most popular items at the shop right now are Ghost Pepper Caramels. Ashby describes them as “pleasantly spicy with the amount of ‘kick’ that is found in medium-hot salsa…a delicious menagerie of sweet, spicy, salty and chocolatey.”  Another customer favorite is Rocky Road. But I’m sure whatever you try, you’ll enjoy. Bon Appetit! Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Store location: 16C Victor Square, Scotts Valley, 831-454-8299
Store hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue-Sat, Noon-6 p.m. Sun
Web site: ashbyconfections.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ashbyconfections