Gourmet Grazing with wine and food benefited Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group

Paradox Panzanella salad with frisée, castelvetrano olives, ricotta salata and tomato

The annual Gourmet Grazing on the Green, with many local wines, a few beers, and lots of gourmet food cooked by local chefs, raises vital funds for the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group (SCCBG). Last weekend’s event—the 9th annual Gourmet Grazing on Saturday September 15—actually sold out several days in advance. It’s a great event and I highly recommend buying your tickets early next year (they are traditionally sold at New Leaf Community Market, and $65 each or $500 for 10). The organizers do limit the number of tickets sold, which makes for a very pleasant environment. It doesn’t get too crowded to enjoy the event, and it still raises a lot of money. In fact, this year’s Gourmet Grazing raised more than $65,000 (up from $56,000 in 2011).

Admission includes food, wine, beer, a souvenir wineglass, and live music.

Here are some of my favorites from last weekend’s festival (although it’s hard to pick — everything I ate was delicious!):

• The Whole Enchilada: Squash blossom and zucchini tamale with avocado green salsa
• Solaire Restaurant and Bar (at the new Hotel Paradox): Two great dishes – Paradox Panzanella salad with frisée, castelvetrano olives, ricotta salata and tomato plus Niku maki with thinly sliced beef, scallions, sweet soy and ginger sauce
• Johnny’s Harborside: Salmon salad served atop a mini-BLT
• Café Cruz: Southwestern gazpacho with shrimp
• Café Rio: Local king salmon cakes with cabbage & carrot slaw, chili lime cream sauce & wasabi sesame seeds
• Niman Ranch: Pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon
• Coastal Chef Personal Chef Service: Rainbow Carrot and beet green salad with pistachios, golden raisins, and ginger vinaigrette

Other participating restaurants included The Crow’s Nest, Beast BBQ, Café Ella, Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room, The Penny Ice Creamery, Shadowbrook Restaurant, and Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine.

Participating wineries and breweries included Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery, Burrell School Vineyards, Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Seabright Brewery, Sones Cellars, and Vino Tabi.

SCCBG has funded cancer research and local groups — including many that support people living with cancer — since 1995. The organization was started by a small group of friends who used to play tennis together once a week; they had each lost a relative or friend to cancer and wanted to do something to make a difference. The first event the group hosted was a Spring Forward Against Cancer Tennis Tournament and Celebration; these tournaments are still held each year. Proceeds from SCCBG’s events, including this year’s Gourmet Grazing, benefit these local cancer support and research organizations: Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support and Services, The Katz Cancer Resource Center, UCSC Cancer Research, and WomenCARE.