12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day Two: Staff of Life in Santa Cruz and Watsonville

Staff of Life Natural Foods in Santa Cruz

Staff of Life Natural Foods is the next participant in Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” You can win a fantastic prize. Keep reading for how to enter.

A beloved member of the community since 1969, Staff of Life carries a giant selection of organic food and vitamins and supplements. There is a bakery section with traditional and gluten-free options; a butcher department with meat, seafood, and poultry; a large bulk section; artisan cheese; craft beer; a diverse wine selection; a deli with made-to-order sandwiches; and a hot and salad bar.

This year has seen many additions. They added a Watsonville location in March. This summer, the Santa Cruz store’s Café del Sol added gelato and sorbetto to its menu; these treats had already been offered at the Watsonville shop.

In late September, Staff of Life opened a Gift and Garden shop at its flagship Santa Cruz location which stocks home accessories, candles, stationery, kitchenware, plants and pots, birdhouses, and more if you need any holiday shopping ideas.

The supermarket offers seniors a daily five percent discount for all items except sushi, liquor, or anything on sale. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, this discount doubles to 10% off.

Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Santa Cruz and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in Watsonville. Staff of Life will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Contact Information

staffoflifemarket.com, IG @staffoflife

Santa Cruz location: 1266 Soquel Ave., 831-423-8632

Watsonville location: 906 E. Lake Ave., 831-726-0240

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CONTEST:

One lucky reader will win a Staff of Life gift card worth $50.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by Thursday Dec. 16 at 10 p.m. with the words “Staff of Life” in the subject line. The drawing will take place the next morning and the winner will be notified via email.

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12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day One: Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap in Santa Cruz

Teriyaki tofu bowl at Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap

Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap on Capitola Road consistently serves happy customers with its Aloha spirit, so I thought it fitting for them to be the first participant in Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaways” with prizes from wonderful local businesses.

Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap currently offers indoor dining, patio dining, takeout, and delivery.

Hours are 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Upcoming holiday hours: Open Dec. 24 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Dec. 25, open Dec. 26 4-8 p.m., Jan 1. closed.

The menu is diverse and can satisfy people with varying tastes. There are teriyaki bowls, poke plates, Hawaiian-style tacos, burgers, made-in-house Kalua pork dishes, and more. With the delicious fresh poke, you can choose from 10 varieties like Braddah Timmy’s with chili flakes, avocado, cucumber, sesame oil, Alaea sea salt, sweet onion, green onion, and housemade kimchee.

As the name suggests, Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap has lots of drinks on tap including Maui Brewing draft beer and hard seltzer, Corralitos beer, Tanuki cider, and Kombucha.  

Pono Gift card special through 12/31: a $25 card costs $20 or buy a $100 card & get a $20 bonus card.

Located in Silicon Valley? Owner Timmy Hunt opened Pono Hawaiian Grill San Jose one year ago. It’s a cloud kitchen that does takeout and delivery; there is no on-site dining. Visit ponohawaiian.com or IG @ponosanjose.

Contact Information for main Santa Cruz location:

Pono Hawaiian Kitchen & Tap, 3744 Capitola Rd., 831-476-7458

ponokitchenandtap.com, IG @ponokitchenandtap

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CONTEST:

One lucky reader will win a Pono gift card worth $50, valid at the Capitola location.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by Wednesday Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. with the word “Pono” in the subject line. The drawing will take place the next morning and the winner will be notified via email.

Side note: Please be aware that although my website is called santacruzfoodie.com, I am not affiliated with the Instagram account called santacruzfoodie – that is someone else’s account. My IG is @tarafatemiwalker. I have been told many people mistakenly believe @santacruzfoodie is mine.

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Christmas offerings, cheese event from Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz & Capitola

A few holiday sides from Whole Foods Market (photo used with permission)

Christmas is around the corner, and Whole Foods Market in Capitola (1710 41st Ave.) and Santa Cruz (911 Soquel Ave have lots of special offerings to choose from. In addition, the annual “12 Days, 12 Cheeses” promotion with a 30 percent discount just started! More on that a little later in this article.

For Christmas, place orders in person or online at shop.wfm.com through Dec. 23 for in-store pickup.

Whole Foods Market has partnered with cookbook author Chloe Coscarelli for a pre-made vegan holiday meal. Here are details on the dinner for two:

  • Cremini Mushroom Roast with Mushroom Gravy
  • Miso Creamed Greens
  • Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole 
  • Jalapeño Cornbread Dressing
  • Pumpkin Curry Soup (V). 

For non-vegan meals, there are a plethora of selections. Some would be considered classics (whole roast turkey meal for four, eight or 12 people – organic option available), while others are paleo-friendly or have another twist (how about a beef Wellington or lamb shank feast for four?). You can also order scrumptious a la carte sides like cider-roasted Brussels sprouts with pepitas or corn pudding.

Last but not least, desserts include Midnight Bûche de Noël (Yule Log — chocolate sponge cake filled with champagne mousse and topped with chocolate buttercream) plus several pies:

  • vegan Scarlett (juicy pear, tender apples and figs, and tart cranberries topped with a crispy walnut streusel)
  • Cherry
  • Apple
  • Blueberry
  • Pumpkin (vegan or traditional)
  • Pecan

Cheese Event

From now through Dec. 21, it’s the Holiday Cheese Bash where customers can save 30% off 12 different cheeses for 12 days. These include Klare Melk Truffle Gouda (exclusive to Whole Foods), Quadrello di Bufala, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, and Cowgirl Creamery Organic Mt. Tam—which Whole Foods playfully refers to as “Brie’s quirky Californian cousin.” Prime members even receive an extra 10% discount after the 30%.

Local Store Details

Whole Foods Market Santa Cruz is located at 911 Soquel Ave. Call (831) 426-9901 for more information.

Whole Foods Market Capitola is located at 1710 41st Ave. Call (831) 464-2900 for more information.

For more Whole Foods Market locations, see the store locator.

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A little more time to catch Pacific Catch’s Endless Summer menu

Endless Summer menu highlights, photo courtesy of Pacific Catch

Fabulous restaurant Pacific Catch, known for its sustainably sourced seafood and other delicious dishes, has a great ‘bonus menu’ going on through the end of October. “Endless Summer” features dishes like Ahi Poke Bombs, Pupu Platter, Korean Poke Bibimbap, and Passionfruit Pot De Crème. Suggested cocktails to accompany the limited-time food menu include Shark’s Tooth and Lilikoi Mai Tai.

The restaurant invited me to sample the Endless Summer menu, and I am so glad that I took them up on this opportunity. Here are some highlights from my recent lunch at the Campbell location, where I dined on the outdoor patio: I tried an Ahi Poke Bomb (Inari tofu pocket filled with sushi rice and choice of original, Korean, or serrano yellowfin tuna pokes; 1 for $5 or 3 for $13). I chose original – it was extremely fresh fish and the seasonings and textures worked beautifully together.

Next, I enjoyed a Ceviche Taco (fresh jicama shells filled with shredded lettuce and choice of three ceviches: Baja shrimp, sea bass, or spicy yellowtail; 1 for $5 or 3 for $13). I picked sea bass. The flavor was mild and satisfying, the fish very tender. This was a perfect snack-sized treat that got my mouth primed for my entree.

I almost chose the Endless Summer Rainbow Sushi Bowl ($25) for my entrée; with a variety of sashimi plus crab salad and more, it was very tempting. In the end I decided on Korean Poke Bibimbap ($19). What an exquisite combination of ingredients! The large platter came with Korean ahi poke, spicy cucumber banchan, kimchi, pickled carrot, shiitake, edamame, and sushi rice, plus a gochujang soy-chili sauce that adds savory heat. You can also add on a sunny-side egg ($2) or Korean-style steak ($6); I was in the mood for steak and was very happy I ordered this ‘extra.’ If you’re unfamiliar with banchan, like the cucumber in this entrée, these are usually cold “side dishes of vegetables” served alongside rice in Korean cuisine.

My dining companion selected a dish off the regular menu: the restaurant’s immensely popular Lobster Roll ($27). Picture this: a butter-toasted King’s® Hawaiian roll overflowing with tarragon-and-dill-seasoned lobster salad, avocado, radish, romaine, and chives. Pacific Catch is generous with both the lobster and the fabulously fresh avocado. Not only did my lunch partner devour the sandwich down to the wonderful roll’s last crumb, but he also savored every bite of the addictive sesame slaw that comes on the side.

A couple more notes about our visit: during the meal, we received attentive service. The diners at the patio’s other tables all looked well-fed and well-cared-for. In addition, I have to mention the high-quality, nice-looking dinnerware that our food was served on. It was impressive enough that I turned over one of my plates to look up the brand in case I wanted to buy some for myself at a future date. It’s England-based Dudson and through online research I discovered the company only makes tableware for the hospitality market. Ah well, I will just enjoy it when dining at Pacific Catch.   

Speaking of visiting PC, I recommend doing that as soon as possible—or at least by the end of October! That way, you can try some of these limited-time goodies, and sprinkle in a few selections from the regular menu as well.

If you’re a Pacific Catch rookie, I have a tip: peruse the menu ahead of time at pacificcatch.com/menus or you might be overwhelmed. It’s giant and has something for everyone, including influences from a range of cuisines. Over the three times I’ve been there I have not been disappointed with anything I’ve tasted. The diverse menu includes appetizers like shiitake miso soup, and dishes like sushi rolls, shrimp tacos, a Wagyu beef cheeseburger, and fish and chips (with the aforementioned sesame slaw). There are sides like Thai brussels sprouts, turmeric tahini cauliflower, Mexican-style corn on the cob, and Kimchi fried rice. There are also kids’ dishes for your little ones.

A Bowls & Greens section has tantalizing pre-designed combinations but if these aren’t to your liking, you can substitute a different base or protein (the latter includes salmon, grilled tofu, skirt steak, chicken breast, and more). Last, but by no means least, check out the Fresh Catch section. First you pick a fish from three choices including Hawaiian yellowtail. Then you select a style from four choices including Golden Turmeric or Asian Herb Chimichurri. Finish by picking a side and you’ll be served a filling, tasty large meal. 

Learn more about Pacific Catch—with 11 Bay Area locations such as Santa Clara and San Francisco—at pacificcatch.com.

Pacific Catch Campbell location & hours:

1875 S Bascom Ave. 550, Campbell,  (408) 879-9091

Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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A few Bay Area Father’s Day meals

Father’s Day Box from Teleferic

Need last-minute Father’s Day plans and want to venture outside Santa Cruz County? Here are a few choices, including ones in San Jose, with menu highlights. Happy Father’s Day weekend!

Winner Winner Chicken (San Mateo)  Located in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Mall, Winner Winner Chicken is known for their hot chicken, gourmet salads and nostalgic desserts.  Just in time for Father’s Day, it’s launching ‘Champange Wishes & Hot Chicken Dreams’ brunch service this weekend. This menu is available until 3pm:

  • HOUSE MIMOSA $2.99 MODELO MICHELADA $8 SM WHITE CLAW SPRITZ $8
  • COASTAL BERRIES & GREEK YOGURT $6.95 house granola & maple syrup
  • CHARRED AVOCADO TOAST $9.95 artisan achiote sourdough, old school egg salad, Haas avocado, wild arugula, lemon oil, everything bagel seasoning
  • CHICKEN & WAFFLE $14.95
    Belgian cheddar waffle, Maldon sea salt butter, maple syrup
  • THE VARSITY SANDWICH $13.95 applewood bacon, maple ham, fried cage free eggs, American cheese,
    artisan sourdough, comeback sauce, served w/ side or fries or tots
  • GRIDDLED CUSTARD FRENCH TOAST $9.95 coastal berries, maple syrup, balsamic sugar
  • WINNER WINNER BRUNCH BURRITO $12.95 crispy chicken, scrambled cage free eggs, applewood bacon, tater tots, house pico, queso, salsa rojo

Pacific Catch (Over 11 locations throughout the Bay Area, including San Jose)   Enjoy laid back aloha vibes with a fun food menu and a full bar. Pacific Catch, best known for their sustainable seafood, has many offerings for dads and families to choose from. From their Livin’ Aloha menu featuring musubis, poke tostadas and the moco loco burger, to fish burgers, tacos, ceviches and poke bowls, Pacific Catch is a perfect spot for seafood-loving dads.  

Teleferic Barcelona (Palo Alto and Walnut Creek)   For dads looking to celebrate with a Spanish twist, head to Teleferic Barcelona which is known for its menu featuring Spanish tapas and paellas (seven choices such as Mediterranean Crab, Paella Truffle or Negro). Several sangrias include signature Sangria Teleferic with red wine, gin and brandy.  A special Father’s Day Dinner box comes with an assortment of tapas, paella and dessert for two; order here.

1) Choice of: Sangria (32 Oz – Serves 3 glasses) Wine (Red/White/Rose)

2) Gazpacho: Traditional cold tomato soup made of raw, blended vegetables,8oz (gf, v)

3) Tuna Tacos: Marinated ahi tuna with mashed avocado & wonton shells

4) Jamón Ibérico (38 months cured): Iberian pata negra ham 38 months cured (gf)

5) Aged Mahón Cheese: Hard white cheese made from cows’ milk, named after the town and natural port of Maó, on the island of Menorca off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. 

6) Choice of Paella (serves 2):

Mixta: Pork, mushrooms chicken, gulf shrimp, calamari, & octopus (gf) (serves 2)

Carne:Wild mushrooms, chicken & pork (gf) (serves 2)

Vegetarian: Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans & mushrooms (gf, v) (serves 2)

7) Torrija: French toast with Catalan cream & vanilla dressing (v)

King’s Fish House (San Jose)  Dads can have a meal “fit for a king.” Selections include Prime Steaks, Surf & Turf as well as items from the raw bar, shellfish platters and fish house favorites. Drinks include beer and 10 specialty cocktails.  

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Santa Cruz Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 7

Goodies from Cheese Shop 831
Photo courtesy of Cheese Shop 831

Welcome to the final installment—part 7—of my holiday foodie gift guide with information for several local businesses if you have some last-minute shopping to do. Contact me at tara@santacruzfoodie.com with questions or comments.

Also see:

Gift guide part 1

Gift guide part 2

Gift guide part 3

Gift guide part 4

Gift guide part 5

Gift guide part 6

Note: some past installments include events that have taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

I wanted to mention one non-food-related idea: there are so many wonderful artists in our County, and some rely on the annual Open Studios event to bring in a significant part of their income. Due to the pandemic, OS could not take place this year. The sponsoring organization—Arts Council Santa Cruz County—launched a great “curated directory” website to showcase visual artists and provide easy opportunities to support these creative individuals. Visit the Visual Artists Network website at visualartsnetworkscc.com.

My mother, Fereshteh Fatemi, is one of these artists—a talented jeweler—and she’s donating 10% of her sales through Christmas to Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County.

Speaking of Second Harvest Food Bank, another gift idea is to make a donation to them in honor of someone that you care about. This year, more than ever, people are relying on SHFB for food. The organization distributes over eight million pounds of food each year to children, families, vets and seniors in Santa Cruz County.  More than half of the residents they serve are kids. Traditionally, every dollar donated provides four healthy meals to someone in need. Right now, thanks to a challenge grant from the COVID-19 Local Response Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, donations are being matched so your dollars are having a double effect.

Here are a few more gift possibilities:

Captiola’s Brown Ranch Marketplace (the center with Trader Joe’s) recently welcomed the store Cheese Shop 831. Owner Jillian Pirolo was supposed to open her business several months ago but got delayed due to the pandemic. I’ve been told by one friend who shopped there that they have amazing cheese—including local, regional and international varieties—and I’ve seen on Instagram @cheeseshop831 that they have other products like olive oil, handmade cheese boards, truffle hot sauce, towels and oven mitts. Visit cheeseshop831.com.

Aptos gift shop Hammond Glass Engraving & Gifts is open by appointment from Tuesday through Saturday. They carry items like Christmas mugs,  Spode mugs, wine glasses, high-ball glasses and serving dishes. The shop has been around for 30 years, and Jessie & David Campbell bought the business in 2018. I haven’t been there myself, but I hope to check it out post-holiday-season. Visit hammondaptos.com.

Five Star Catering put together a fun Local’s Gift Box; read more and purchase online. It supports eight local Santa Cruz area businesses affected by the pandemic including Mutari Craft Chocolate, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, Edith Meyer Wedding Cakes, and Magnolia Fine Gifts and Apothecary. They are even offering no-charge, no-contact SC County delivery. Visit fivestarcatering.com/holidayboxes.

Michelle Kneads Dough Monterey County is home to talented pastry chef Michelle Lee. A finalist on Food Network’s recent Halloween Baking Championship and a former staff member at restaurants including The C Restaurant+Bar at Intercontinental the Clement Monterey, Michelle found herself out of work due to the pandemic. She decided to get her cottage food permit and start doing pop-up “QuaranTreats.” I’ve enjoyed her food at The C and at special events, and also bought one of her yummy QuaranTreats and plan to buy more. I don’t know if she does gift cards for future treats, but just telling any “sweets fans” you know about her is a gift in itself! Visit Instagram.com/michelle.kneads.dough.

Lots of wineries and breweries are offering gift cards if you want to give your gift recipient the choice of what exactly they will receive. You can get contact info for many wineries at the Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains website. Visit winesofthesantacruzmountains.com/wineries.

A final list of stores & vendors (without going into too much detail I wanted to make sure and at least share a few more names):

Santa Cruz County

Counter Cultures Kitchen Visit IG @countercultureskitchen

El Salchichero Visit elsalchichero.com

Far West Fungi Visit farwestfungi.com/pages/santa-cruz

Farmer Freed Salts Visit farmerfreed.com

Itso & Notso Hot Sauce Visit makefoodhappy.com

Marini’s Candies Visit mariniscandies.com

Mountain Feed & Farm Supply Visit mountainfeed.com

Sushi Market Sprouts Visit Instagram.com/sushimarketsprouts

Monterey County

Carmel Honey Company Visit carmelhoneycompany.com

The Chef’s Stash (weekly local food boxes curated by chef and restaurateur Gabe Georis and chef Brandon Miller, with omnivore and pescatarian options). Visit thechefsstash.com.

Elroy’s Fine Foods Visit elroysfinefoods.com

Happy Girl Kitchen Visit happygirlkitchen.com

Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market Visit jeromescarmelvalleymarket.com

Other Brother Beer Visit otherbrotherbeer.com

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Santa Cruz Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 6

Aptos Apiary honey, one of many gift options at local farmers markets
Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets

Here is part 6 of my holiday foodie gift guide—with some ideas for bakeries, Italian groceries, farmers markets and more. Let’s shop local and support small businesses as much as we can this season (and beyond)!

Also see:

Gift guide part 1

Gift guide part 2

Gift guide part 3

Gift guide part 4

Gift guide part 5

Note: some past installments include events that have taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

Bakery Gift Cards

Your favorite local bakery can use your support right now. One idea: visit in-person and buy a gift card and one bakery item & put them together for a nice gift! Or if you prefer to shop from home, buy a gift card online. Our wonderful local bakeries include Gayle’s, The Buttery, The Farm, and Companion Bakeshop. Going to Gayle’s? You might combine it with a stop to neighboring Lyons and Melrose, which offers floral arrangements plus a variety of gifts like unique ornaments, European candles, soap, home décor, and packaged sweets. Visiting The Buttery? Its Soquel Avenue location is just four blocks down from the shop Home/Work, which features gift ideas like mugs and bowls, bamboo lunch boxes, beeswax wrap, aprons, homemade hot sauce kits, and seed ball kits like “Pizza Garden” (grow your toppings).  The Farm Bakery, Café & Gifts has its own chock-full-of-fun-items gift shop. You can pick up one of their signature fruit tarts plus things like housewares, linens, whimsical water bottles, cookbooks, candles, toys, and more. Companion Bakeshop has two locations; the Aptos one is in the same center as Outside-In, a shop that has enticing items like botanical candles, travel mugs, Talavera dishes, fleece jackets, puzzles, and ornaments.  

Farmers Markets

Your local farmers market is a wonderful place to shop for gifts. Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets runs these markets: Wednesday downtown Santa Cruz (DT), Saturday westside Santa Cruz (WS), Sunday Live Oak (LO), and Felton and Scotts Valley (both closed for the season). Below is information on several vendors and products, and their corresponding markets. A fun gift idea to either put with these products or use on its own? Each market sells gift certificates in any amount at the information table at. These funds can be spent over time at any stand at any of the markets. For exact market locations, hours, and more info, visit santacruzfarmersmarket.org.

Listed alphabetically:

  • Apricot King – preserves and dried fruit – DT
  • Aptos Apiary – honey – DT
  • Ashby Confections – DT, WS
  • Bella Vista – olive oil – WS
  • Blossom’s Biodynamic Farm – DT, WS, LO
  • Blue House – dry beans and popcorn – WS
  • Copper Moon Apothecary – soaps, lotions and salves – WS, LO
  • Dirty Girl – tomato preserves – DT, LO
  • Fruition Brewing – DT weekly, LO & WS rotation
  • Good Faith Farm – olives and olive oil – DT
  • Hakouya Miso – DT, WS, LO
  • Hidden Fortress – coffee beans – DT, LO
  • Home Away – fresh pastas, sauces, charcuterie, olives – DT, WS, LO
  • Il Biscotto – traditional Italian cookies – DT weekly, WS and LO rotation
  • Pottery – DT, WS, LO
  • Prevedelli – preserves – DT
  • R & K Honey – WS, LO
  • Santa Cruz Cider – DT
  • Stocking stuffers – things like persimmons, pomegranates, kiwis – DT, WS, LO

Italian goodies

Some Italian restaurants—like Seabright’s Tramonti and midtown Santa Cruz’s Sugo—have created “miniature markets” inside their dining rooms in order to sell holiday gifts. Both are posting pics on Instagram of select offerings, so it might be a good idea to browse online before shopping. Also, Aptos-based Italian restaurant Mentone has a few items that would make good gifts. Visit Tramonti (IG @tramonti_santacruz) for pre-assembled gift baskets with artisan Italian selections or a la carte items like a package of Italian chocolates or fancy balsamic vinegar. If you can manage perishable items with your gift they have a refrigerated grab and go section with things like housemade marinated artichokes, jarred housemade Italian sauce, and packaged gnocchi. Visit Sugo (IG @sugoitalianpastabar) – for packaged pasta, sauce, and Panettone, an Italian type of sweet bread that’s traditional around Christmas. Visit Mentone (IG @MentoneCA) for tee- and sweat-shirts, beanies, wine, and cocktail kits. They are also taking pre-orders for Xmas Eve dinner with add-ons like a holiday wine pack and ManresaBread cookies and granola. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention downtown Santa Cruz’s Zoccoli’s Deli, which has been in business since 1948 and is fully stocked all year long with Italian groceries including sweets. All four of these places have gift cards that you can purchase as well, either for the entire gift or to combine with other items to make your own special gift.

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Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 5

A floral cupcake bouquet from The Giving Cake
Photo courtesy of The Giving Cake

Here is part 5 of my holiday gift guide to encourage everyone to shop local and shop from small businesses—it mostly has food-related gifts. I’ll post another guide soon.

Also see:

Gift guide part 1

Gift guide part 2

Gift guide part 3

Gift guide part 4

Note: past installments include events that have already taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

Restaurant Gift Cards

Just a reminder that your favorite local restaurant (or two) can use your support right now. Same with local ice creameries, breweries, wineries…you get the idea! Buy a gift card and you accomplish two things: you have a gift for a foodie friend or family member, and you are helping a small business survive these challenging times.

Sweets

There are so many sweet Santa Cruz County offerings that I can’t mention them all (I’ve included a couple in previous articles). I’ll highlight a couple here & if possible I’ll include a couple more in a near-future article. Local chocolatiers Mutari Chocolate have lots of delicious gifts like Chocolate Chunk Take & Bake Cookies, craft hot chocolate powder, single origin chocolate bars, and seasonal truffle gift boxes. Order and pick up at 504 A Front St. for someone in town, or have your gift shipped anywhere in the country. Visit mutarichocolate.com.

I don’t know if Anouchka Bakery does gift cards or not, but I just tried baker/owner Anna Landaw’s Snickerdoodle cookies for the first time (her flavors rotate, and she does pies and other items) & I can say with confidence that she knows what she’s doing. And she has free SC County delivery! Update Dec. 13: I discovered she is creating chocolate cream pies & delivering them on Christmas Eve. You can order half-pies or whole pies. Visit anouchkabakery.com.

Last but not least, Anna Lieby launched her new business The Giving Cake earlier this month—but she has been baking for most of her life. She offers boxes of cupcakes or intricate “floral cupcake bouquets” and donates all profits to local nonprofit organizations. Her current list of fund recipients: CASA, Center for Farmworker Families, Digital Nest, Homeless Garden Project, Imagine Supported Living Services, Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services, Resource Center for Nonviolence, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, Teen Kitchen Project and Ventana Wilderness Alliance. I’m excited to be a first-time customer soon—I think I’ll start by buying myself a gift! For information, visit IG @thegivingcake or facebook.com/TheGivingCakeSantaCruz.

Jam and More

Speaking of Center for Farmworker Families, Love Cultivated’s owner Natalie McKinney donates five percent of her profits to CFF, which “promotes awareness about the difficult life circumstances of binational farmworker families while proactively inspiring improvement in binational family life both in the US and in Mexico.” Love Cultivated offers “small batch artisan provisions inspired by the farm and orchard.” I have bought and loved Natalie’s products which include jam and marmalade (made from fruit sourced from local farms and farmers’ markets using copper jam pans and no added pectin), goat milk soap (with milk from the McKinney Family goat herd, & flowers from the family’s cottage garden), and gardeners’ salve and whipped body butter. There are very limited quantities left for holiday shopping but remember you can always purchase post-holiday-season. Visit love-cultivated.myshopify.com or IG @love.cultivated.

Coffee

There are a multitude of local, independent coffee shops that you can support, including Coffeetopia (see Instagram), Cat & Cloud, Eleventh Hour Coffee, Pacific Coffee Roasting Co. (see Facebook), People’s Coffee (see FB), Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. & Verve. They all have gift cards and various products for sale this holiday season. Verve is also offering (online only) holiday packages like the Cozy Coffee Gift Bundle. It comes with a 12-ounce bag of Holiday Blend coffee, a Verve-branded Kinto mug, a candle, and a Verve knit beanie. In addition, they are doing “Holiday Drink Happy Hours” at all of their locations from 2pm to closing where customers can get seasonal signature beverages for $3. This season’s specialties include Café De Olla Con Panna, which is a shot of espresso sweetened with spiced piloncillo syrup and topped with spiced whipped cream. Verve refers to it as “a holiday take on a classic Mexican drink.” Visit vervecoffee.com.

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Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 4


One of the gift boxes available through the El Pajaro CDC (Community Development Corporation) Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program
Photo courtesy of EPCDC

Here is part four of my foodie holiday gift guide to support local small businesses. I’ll try to post another guide in a couple days. Happy shopping & stay safe out there!

Also see:

Note: past installments include events that have already taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

Food Gift Boxes from local entrepreneurs

There are two upcoming Kitchen Pop-Ups at El Pajaro CDC, 23 E. Beach St., in Watsonville. The pop-ups include artisan food products for sale, both separately and as part of holiday food boxes that contain enticing product combinations. I have tasted most of these products and they are fantastic. Hours are 3-7 p.m. on two Fridays: Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. Shoppers may order holiday gift boxes at epcdc.square.site, and curbside pickup is available. At this site, you can also order ahead and pick up selected boxes at the Saturday Westside Santa Cruz or Sunday Live Oak farmers market. Some of the entrepreneurs’ products are El Pajaro CDC jam (organic berry jam); Hakouya (miso dressing) Il Biscotto (Italian cookies); Mary’s Fruit Tarts (shortbread cookies); My Mom’s Mole (dry mole mix); Rogue Pye (assorted hand pies); Santa Cruz Balsamics (flavored balsamic vinegars); Scrumptious Fish & Chips (condiment sauce); Teresa’s Salsas (fresh salsas); The Green Waffle (assorted flavors of waffles); and Yoli’s Adobo (sauce). The EPCDC Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program offers a fully equipped, shared-use facility to help culinary entrepreneurs start or expand food businesses. Learn more at elpajarocdc.org. Since they launched seven years ago, they have helped more than 60 businesses. To shop, visit epcdc.square.site.

Packaged Meals

Have people to shop for that don’t have time for cooking or don’t like cooking? You might consider a gift certificate to a business that offers prepared meals. These three local companies offer pickup and delivery options, with menus rotating weekly. I have been a happy customer ordering from all of them!

Foodsmith, based in Soquel, has paleo, vegan, and keto meals with organic produce. You pick from breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, for two, three, five, or six days. One recent paleo meal was Carne Asada Barbacoa Plate (grass fed beef with roasted peppers, sweet onions, dry-farmed tomatoes, butternut, chili-braised collards, cauliflower rice and avocado lime crema). Since 2017, Foodsmith has donated over 60,000 meals to people in need—including, this year, 1,500 meals to Grey Bears this holiday season (for those who are homebound) and meals to local hospital workers helping fight the pandemic. Buy gift certificates here. For more info, visit myfoodsmith.com.

Golden Roots Kitchen in Scotts Valley offers gluten-free organic dishes. Some are vegetarian or vegan, including the weekly frittata and a recent Roasted Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad, and a few feature pasture-raised animal proteins including Fogline Farm chicken. Founder and executive chef Melanie Geist emphasizes a farm-to-table philosophy and takes extra steps like “soaking and sprouting to make our plant based food more digestible and bio-available.” Buy gift certificates here. Also, next week they will be offering packaged snacks like warm olives, pan toasted nuts and chai spice molasses cookies and featuring Hanloh Thai Food’s pad Thai kit. “We think this kit would make a really fun gift,” says Melanie. For more info, visit goldenrootskitchen.com.

Golden Roots Kitchen has featured select dishes from Hanloh Thai Food for the last few months, and recently Hanloh joined the same Scotts Valley commercial kitchen as GRK. Hanloh’s founder/chef Lalita Kaewsawang, a former staff member of Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, offers a rotating menu of what she calls “Thai comfort food and country-style cooking.” Recent dishes have included vegan green curry (vegetables from Spade and Plow and Windmill Farm), Drunken Noodles, Son-in-Law Eggs, and charcoal-grilled lemongrass chicken. Buy gift cards here. For more info, visit hanloh.com.

Monterey County

The next Big Sur Foragers Festival, an annual benefit for the Big Sur Health Center, was slated for January 2021. Like many events, it’s pivoting to a virtual format—and tickets for one of these offerings, a raffle, would make a great gift. Prizes include a family ‘staycation’ (a suite at beloved Carmel inn Hofsas House plus a gift card for Lugano’s Swiss Bistro, which I still haven’t made it to!), a $500 gift card to popular Moss Landing restaurant Haute Enchilada (one of my favorites when I drive down the coast), and a restaurant trifecta with gift cards from Tarpy’s, Montrio Bistro, and Rio Grill (the first two are Monterey and the latter is Carmel—all wonderful spots). Tickets are only $5 or 6 for $25 and you get to choose which prize(s) you’re trying for. Visit bigsurforagersfestival.org/raffle for more information and a downloadable form.  

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Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 3

Santa Cruz-themed gift assortment from The Local Box Shop. Photo courtesy of The Local Box Shop

Here is part three of my local foodie holiday gift guide – hope you’ll join me in supporting small businesses. I am mostly highlighting food-related gifts, but also mentioning a few non-food items. If you have something you’d like to suggest for a future installment of this guide, please email tara@santacruzfoodie.com.

Also see:

Note: past installments include events that have already taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

This Sunday is the second installment of the Westside Marketplace: Dec. 6, 11am-4pm.

The collaboration between Food Trucks A Go Go and the Santa Cruz Mountains Makers Market is an outdoor market at the Old Wrigley Building Parking Lot, 2801 Mission Street. There is free admission and more than 35 Santa Cruz County-based vendors plus a range of food vendors. All vendors and attendees are required to wear face masks. Artisans selling products include Ashby Confections, Anuenue Juice California, Arose Teas, Bee Happy Today, and Freedom Touch Studios. See event page for full list of vendors. Food trucks will be Drunk Monkeys, Pana, Taquizas Gabriel, and Aunt LaLi’s ice cream. Beginning in February, there will be outdoor markets at this location the 1st Sunday of every month.

Bee Happy Today, one of Sunday’s vendors, also offers products through “goods4goodmarket,” an online marketplace that local resident Jill Potts recently launched to showcase “gifts that give back.” She features sustainable and socially impactful businesses like Maggie’s Organics, which is donating 10 percent of sales to The Center for Biological Diversity to help protect endangered species; and Bee Happy Today, which is donating a portion of proceeds to benefit Santa Cruz Bee Company. Visit goods4goodmarket.com.

The Local Box Shop offers hand-curated, locally sourced gift boxes including ones featuring items from women-owned Santa Cruz County food businesses like Ashby Confections and Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. Each also has soap from nonprofit Homeless Garden Project. Normally there are two sizes, small and large, but the small SC-themed box has sold out for the season. You can buy the large one here. The Local Box Shop also offer a variety of gift boxes sourced from artisans around the greater Bay Area. Company founder Molly Shane started the business earlier this year, partly to help support many “small businesses, artists and makers struggling to stay afloat in our Bay Area community.” She supports more than 25 small businesses, many of which are women-owned, black-owned, immigrant-owned, and POC-owned. thelocalboxshop.com

Speaking of Homeless Garden Project (HGP), their downtown boutique is open for your holiday shopping at 1338 Pacific Ave. As always, the shop has lots of appealing gifts handmade by trainees in HGP’s program. Food products include Lavender Shortbread Cookie Mix (organic ingredients, including lavender hand-picked from HGP’s farm), herb salts and other seasonings, strawberry lemonade pancake mix, and jam.  You can shop online too. Income from gift sales helps provide job training and transitional employment for people who are homeless, and volunteer and educational opportunities for community members who want to learn about and practice sustainable agriculture and social justice. HGP’s job training program delivers an annual average of 90% success for graduates securing stable housing and employment.

Another gift idea: if you want to give someone a Hanukkah gift or early Xmas present: Dec. 12 is HGP’s next virtual “Sustain in Place: A Series of At-Home Tastings” event. Cultivating Growth with Seedfolks will feature readings from Paul Fleishman’s award-winning book Seedfolks, a story of “personal transformation and growth at a community garden.” Readers will include local renowned author Jonathan Franzen, our current and incoming Santa Cruz Mayors (Justin Cummings and Donna Meyers, respectively), and Santa Cruz Shakespeare Artistic Director Mike Ryan. There are a range of ticket packages including one that includes a gift bag with HGP’s cookie mix and jam plus a loaf of La Posta bread. Visit website for more info & tickets.

Mission Hill Creamery is holding its annual gift card sale. Through Dec. 24, the artisan ice cream shop is offering 20% off gift card purchases if you spend at least $25. Go to the shop’s gift card site to order. During checkout, you need to click “add a coupon code” and enter the code “20%OFF” to receive the discount. If you don’t want to order online, you can also order by phone and they can also ship the cards. 1101B Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, 831-508-0774, missionhillcreamery.com

Johnny’s Harborside is also running a gift card promotion. Buy a gift card for $50 or more and receive 20% back on a separate card. For example, buy a $50 card as a gift and get a free $10 card for yourself, spend $100, get a $20 card, etc. Call ahead for curbside pickup during business hours. 493 Lake Ave, Santa Cruz, 831-479-3430, johnnysharborside.com.


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