Tag Archives: chocolate

Valentine’s Day gifts & activities from Santa Cruz chocolatiers, Gilroy Premium Outlets

Mutari Craft Chocolate House on Pacific Ave.
Photo credit: Mutari Facebook page

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching—here are some shopping ideas if you’re a chocolate lover in Santa Cruz or you’re considering a trip to Gilroy Premium Outlets.

 

Santa Cruz Chocolatiers

Santa Cruz County residents are very lucky; we have a variety of talented local chocolatiers. Some highlights, in alphabetical order:

 

Ashby Confections, 16 Victor Square, Scotts Valley

 

Donnelly Fine Chocolates, 1509 Mission St., Santa Cruz

 

Mackenzies Chocolate, 1492 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz

 

Mutari Chocolate (specializes in single origin craft drinking chocolate, it’s featuring housemade bon bons for Valentine’s shopping) – two locations: 1108 Pacific Ave., next door to Assembly, and 504A Front St. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Front St. location — usually open weekends only — is going to be open Wednesday 2/14 from noon to 9 p.m.

Gilroy Outlets

 

If you haven’t made restaurant reservations yet, there aren’t many left—how about staying home with your significant other or gathering a group of friends for some Valentine’s Day fun? Host a stay at home date or girls’ night with goods from Le Creuset or Kitchen Collection for accessories and tools to whip up a festive dinner party. Both have shops at the Gilroy Outlets.

 

Want to buy a sweet Valentine’s gift, either for yourself or someone else (whether it be a romantic partner, a co-worker, family member or friend)? You can find raspberry hearts, “conversation beans,” sour “smoochi” lips, Valentine’s Day gift boxes and more at the Jelly Belly store.

 

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Inauguration day Planned Parenthood benefits in Santa Cruz

Equinox Winery is one of many California businesses donating a portion of proceeds on Inauguration Day to Planned Parenthood

Equinox Winery is one of many California businesses donating a portion of proceeds on Inauguration Day to Planned Parenthood. Photo credit: Equinox Facebook page

To coincide with Inauguration Day, today and tomorrow Friday and Saturday Jan. 20 and 21, companies across California including ones in Santa Cruz are showing their support for Planned Parenthood by donating sales proceeds and making other contributions to the reproductive health care organization. There are also a variety of businesses donating to other worthy causes like immigrants’ rights. See highlights below.

  • Downtown Santa Cruz’s Soif Wine Bar and Restaurant has announced it will donate company sales from Jan. 20 to Planned Parenthood. Hours today are 5-10 p.m.
  • Equinox and Bartolo Winery and Tasting Room in Westside Santa Cruz will donate 20% of profits from today to Planned Parenthood’s Santa Cruz chapter. Hours are 2-7 p.m.; they are staying open an extra hour for this fundraiser.
  • Fish Princess Farm is donating 20% of all purchases through Sunday, Jan. 22, to Planned Parenthood. They are open today from noon-6 p.m. Customers can select which chapter when they make their purchase. Fish Princess produces goat milk soap, chicken eggs, cut flowers and fresh produce; its downtown retail shop stocks soaps, lotions, edible treats (like Ashby Confections) and other goodies.
  • Chocolate the Restaurant will donate 20% of sales today to Planned Parenthood. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Pacific Cookie Company is donating 20% of sales from noon-5 p.m. tomorrow, Sat. Jan. 21, to PP.
  • Discretion Brewing is donating 20% of pint sales today to the Santa Cruz County Immigration Project (SSCIP), a program of the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

 

Details:

Soif Restaurant & Wine Bar, 105 Walnut Ave., 831-423-2020

Equinox & Bartolo Winery & Tasting Room, 334 Ingalls St., 831-471-8608

Fish Princess Farm, 109 Locust St., 831-402-0635

Chocolate the Restaurant, 1522 Pacific Ave., 831-427-9900

Pacific Cookie Company, 1203 Pacific Ave., 831-429-6905

Discretion Brewing, 2703 41st Ave., Ste. A, 831-316-0662

 

 

 

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Time for the 2016 Santa Cruz Mole & Mariachi festival

Mole poblano prepared by David Jackman of restaurant Chocolate, a first-time competitor at the Mole & Mariachi Festival Photo credit: David Jackman

Mole poblano prepared by David Jackman of restaurant Chocolate, a first-time competitor at the Mole & Mariachi Festival
Photo credit: David Jackman

The 4th annual Mole & Mariachi Festival is Saturday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park. The family-friendly food and music festival has free admission. If you want to sample moles, there is a $10 tasting kit for sale that includes six tastes; additional tasting tickets can be purchased for $2 each.

 

Ten local restaurants and chefs—including first-time participant David Jackman of Chocolate—will prepare moles. The other competitors are restaurants El Chipotle, El Jardin, and El Chino; caterers and food makers Cesario Ruiz of My Mom’s Mole, Taquitos Gabriel’s and Sunny’s Catering; and home chefs from Club Tuxpan Santa Cruz, Emma Pinto (Mama Marquita’s) and Lidia Montesino (JoLí Molé).

 

In addition to sampling mole, attendees can purchase beer from Discretion Brewing, wine from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, fresh-fruit aguas frescas by Mollie’s Country Café and chavelas (a drink made from beer, tomato juice, and spices). Food vendors will sell mole dishes for lunch such as mole Oaxaqueño plates from El Chipotle; mole sopés, mole empanadas and mole huaraches from Taqueria Lidia; and mole tamales from Taquitos Gabriel’s. Also, there will be non-mole selections for sale from Mission Hill Creamery, Garcia’s Fish Tacos and Sason Mexicano, plus churros, fruit cups and roasted corn.

 

There will be music and dance performances, free kids’ crafts and face painting, piñatas every hour, and a raffle with prizes including an all-inclusive trip to Mexico, a wine collection valued at $800 and a stay in an Airstream trailer at the KOA campground across from Manresa State Beach.

 

For the first time ever, Mariachi Feminil Orgullo Mexicano — an all-female mariachi band — will perform at the festival. Other performers include live mariachi music from Mariachi Alma de Mexico and the group’s youth bands, Mariachi Juvenil Alma de Mexico and Mariachi Infantil Alma de Mexico, and dancing by local dance troupes Senderos and Estrellas de Esperanza. Mojigangas (giant, dancing puppets that have been popular at previous festivals) will return.

 

A diverse array of artisans will show and sell work at the festival marketplace, including Artemex’s display of blouses, dresses, drinkware, dolls, jewelry and other handmade items from Mexico; Artesanias Mexicanos; Creative Woman and Alejandro’s Trade. Watsonville food company The Green Waffle will sell take-home packages of healthy waffles.

 

Festival attendees and a panel of local judges will select their favorites. The judges include state Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird; Patricia Santana, owner of Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant; Santa Cruz City Councilmember David Terrazas; Edible Monterey Bay writer Debbie Luhrman; Tony Solis of the Santa Cruz Sentinel; Good Times Publisher Jeanne Howard; and Santa Cruz Life writer Christine Candelaria.

 

All event proceeds benefit the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park (including educational programs and restoration and improvement projects) via Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. The event encourages alternative transportation by providing free trolley rides from downtown.

Location: Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School Street

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Restaurants reward bicyclists during Spring Bike Week in Santa Cruz

BIke to Work Santa Cruz: May 6-13, 2016

BIke to Work Santa Cruz: May 6-13, 2016

It’s time for the 29th annual Spring Bike to Work program, which includes Bike Week from May 6-13, and several restaurants and food/drink vendors are offering participants a variety of rewards and fun activities. Here are some highlights.

Monday, May 9: Bike-In Movie Night is from 7-9 p.m. at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (402 Ingalls St.). This family-friendly evening will feature “Goonies” and include snacks.

Tuesday, May 10: Cycle & Dine — A number of restaurants and breweries have partnered with Santa Cruz’s Ecology Action, host of the annual Santa Cruz County Bike to Work program, to provide cyclists with meal discounts. Customers need to ride their bikes to the venue and be prepared to show their helmet to each location’s servers.
Lupulo Craft Beer House: 15% off select beers and sandwiches
Village Grill & Creamery: 15% discount on all grill items (excluding ice cream)
Chocolate: 15% discount
Saturn Cafe: 20% discount
Charlie Hong Kong: 10% off signature bowls
Silver Spur: 20% discount
Discretion Brewing: 20% off all pints of beer and 15% off snacks, morsels and the Ploughman’s Lunch courtesy of The Kitchen

Thursday, May 12: Bike to Work/School Day is being celebrated from 6:30-9:30 a.m., with free breakfast for cyclists at 13 breakfast sites for the general public and more than 45 school sites. Locations include Aptos, Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Soquel, and UCSC. Selected sites will include free massages and basic bike maintenance. Participants also have the chance to win a Blix electric bike. One public site is Downtown SC on Pacific Ave. between Water St. and Locust St. In addition to breakfast, there will be treats from Companion Bakeshop (bacon cheddar biscuits, gluten-free almond cakes and more) and coffee from Verve. Here is the full breakfast site list with details.

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Lindt Chocolate expands Easter treat offerings for 2016

Lindt Chocolate has lots of fun items for Easter 2016

Lindt Chocolate has lots of fun items for Easter 2016

Lindt Chocolate has always been a delicious option for Easter with many fun offerings, and this year they added even more great selections—whether you’re looking to make an Easter basket for one of your kids or you want to buy a treat for a special someone.

I had a recent opportunity to try a couple items—the traditional mini chocolate egg bag and the brand-new large, hollow milk chocolate Lindt “Little Chick”—and highly recommend both (the latter also comes in a package of five mini hollow figures made from milk chocolate).

The 2016 Lindt Easter collection is available online, at Lindt Chocolate Shops, and at select retail locations.

Here are a few other Easter highlights from Lindt:

Lindt Bugs and Bees
These decorative, foil-wrapped critters are perfect for spring and to crawl around in Easter baskets. The bugs and bees are comprised of milk chocolate with hazelnut and have a crisp filling.

Lindt Chocolate Carrots
These make a cute combination with the Lindt bunny since all bunnies love carrots. Each of the four solid milk chocolate carrots is blended with hazelnut.

Lindt GOLD BUNNY Basket
This ready-to-gift bunny basket features a pair of hollow milk chocolate Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures in a springtime display.

NEW: Lindt GOLD BUNNY Storybook Gift Set
This gift set comes with a 3.5 oz Lindt GOLD BUNNY in milk chocolate and the new “An Easter Surprise: The Tale of Lindt GOLD BUNNY” storybook (as told by the Lindt Master Chocolatier).

NEW: LINDOR Milk Egg Carton
This carton of six smooth LINDOR eggs comes in Milk Chocolate and is perfect for decorating or egg hunting.

NEW: Lindt GOLD BUNNY Carrot Car
Lindt GOLD BUNNY is now on the go. One 3.5 oz Lindt GOLD BUNNY takes the wheel of a specially designed Carrot Car with two 10g Lindt GOLD BUNNYS in tow which are created with premium Milk Chocolate. This one is available exclusively at Kroger.

Happy Easter!

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz chocolate festival has sweet cause

Buttercup Cakes & Farm House Frosting at the 2015 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival

Buttercup Cakes & Farm House Frosting at the 2015 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival

The 9th annual Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival is Sunday, January 17, and there will be delicious sweets with a delicious cause: UC Santa Cruz scholarships. The event is from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Cocoanut Grove by the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival brings together about two dozen vendors. See complete list. Participants include local confectioners and bakers like Ashby Confections, Buttercup Cakes & Farm House Frosting, and Pure Heart Chocolate; restaurants like India Joze; and companies like MÄKSĒ Gourmet Rice Crisp Bars, My Mom’s Mole, and Nut Kreations. Wineries include Burrell School Winery and Vineyard and Sones Cellars, and breweries include Highway 1 Brewing Company.

Each food vendor will have treats such as truffles, cupcakes, or ice cream available in exchange for a tasting ticket. Buy tasting tickets at the event (admission is free) or online. Each $15 purchase gets you six chocolate or wine tastes.

There will be live music and a silent auction. Attendees can enjoy activities like cupcake decorating ($4) and face painting (prices vary depending on artist). Select booths will sell chocolate products like Valentine-themed gift boxes.

The festival benefits re-entry student scholarships at UC Santa Cruz (for students returning to higher education after an extended absence, often students who are also parents or military veterans).

The UCSC Women’s Club, a nonprofit organization open to women from both the campus and local communities, presents the chocolate festival. The club has meetings throughout the year (except for the summer) with engaging speakers, and also hosts interest groups including book clubs. In the last 37 years the club has awarded over 340 scholarships totaling nearly $250,000 to deserving women and men for research activities, tuition and childcare.

The Details
Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival
Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz
Sunday, January 17, 2016 from 1-4pm

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day 1: Pure Heart chocolate from Santa Cruz

Pure Heart truffles, from top to bottom: Bittersweet Triple Chocolate, Rose Cardamom (not available currently), & Verve Espresso. Photo credit: Warren Jones

Pure Heart truffles, from top to bottom: Bittersweet Triple Chocolate, Rose Cardamom (not available currently), & Verve Espresso. Photo credit: Warren Jones

Becky Potter started Pure Heart Chocolate in 2015 in Santa Cruz, and she is the first participant in the Santa Cruz Restaurant Examiner/Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” That’s right: today is Day One of TWELVE DAYS of food-related giveaways! You can win a great prize. Keep reading for how to enter.

Pure Heart is organic, artisan, raw chocolate that is very tasty. It’s dairy, gluten, and preservative free. There are three truffle varieties: Bittersweet Triple Chocolate, Verve Espresso and Lemon Ginger. Any of these would make great holiday gifts.

Potter sources her cacao and other ingredients from farmers who use sustainable methods. “I’ve been making raw vegan chocolate truffles for the past 5 or so years, perfecting my craft over time, using the kitchen as my creative outlet to make chocolate that is not only more delicious than the mega-produced, waxy, cloyingly sweet variety I could find on store shelves, but more sustainable, too,” she says. “By leaving out the dairy, the processed sugars, and the hard-to-pronounce preservatives, I found that what I was left with was cacao in its purest form–raw, unadulterated, and incredibly delicious.” Pure Heart doesn’t have its own brick and mortar retail location where they sell chocolates, but you can find them at New Leaf Markets in Santa Cruz—in the bakery cases—and you can buy them online. At New Leaf truffles are sold individually for $3.25. They are at the westside, downtown, and Capitola stores.

Potter says that one convenient way people can get holiday pre-orders in before the (fast approaching) Dec 19th deadline is to print the holiday order form off her website, fill it out in its entirety, then take a picture with their iphone and text it to her at 530-400-3811. She can confirm with customers that she received the text, and have orders ready for pick up on Dec. 21 in the evening or Dec. 22 in the morning at Extra Kitchen (commercial kitchen at 254 Potrero St. across from the Sash Mill).

She also wants to remind potential customers not to put a truffle in a stocking like a typical “stuffer.” Because the truffles are raw and need to stay refrigerated, a good alternative is to put a note in the stocking to check the refrigerator for truffles (and perhaps even champagne…). That should make the gift recipient quite happy!
****
NOW FOR THE CONTEST:
One lucky reader will win a box of Pure Heart truffles worth $18. The winner needs to be able to pick up the chocolates from the aforementioned Extra Kitchen at a time to be arranged with Becky Potter.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by Mon. Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. and include the words “pure heart.” The drawing will take place the next morning and the winner will be notified via email. Employees of Examiner.com are not eligible for the promotion.

Good luck and happy holidays!
Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

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

Santa Cruz chocolate festival with restaurants and vendors benefits UCSC scholarships

Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival

Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival

The 8th annual Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival on Sunday January 18, with lots of food and wine, benefits UCSC scholarships. The event is from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Cocoanut Grove by the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival brings together about two dozen vendors. See complete list at womensclub.ucsc.edu/fundraising/chocolate-festival/vendors-list-page.html.

Participants include local confectioners and bakers like Ashby Confections, Marich Confectionary, and Buttercup Cakes & Farm House Frosting, plus restaurants and cafes like Zizzo’s Coffeehouse and India Joze. Other local companies who will be present include Mission Hill Creamery, Lifestyle Culinary Arts, Mutari Hot Chocolate, and wineries Sones Cellars and Bonny Doon Vineyard.

Each food vendor will have treats such as truffles, cupcakes, or ice cream available in exchange for a tasting ticket. Buy tasting tickets at the event (admission is free) or online. Each $15 purchase gets you six tickets. Wine prices are $5 for a souvenir glass plus one tasting.

There will be live music by Jazz by Five, and a silent auction with prizes including Giants tickets, chocolate baskets, and a magnum of wine. Attendees can enjoy activities like cupcake decorating and face painting ($4 each), and have the opportunity to buy chocolate products like Valentine-themed boxes at select booths.

The festival benefits re-entry student scholarships at UC Santa Cruz (for students returning to higher education after an extended absence, often students who are also parents or military veterans). The chocolate festival is presented by the UCSC Women’s Club, a nonprofit organization open to women of both the campus and local communities. The club has meetings throughout the year (except for the summer) with engaging speakers, and also hosts interest groups including book clubs. In the last 30-some years the club has awarded over 330 scholarships totaling more than $230,000 to deserving women and men for research activities, tuition and childcare.

The Details
Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival
Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz
Sunday, January 18, 2015 from 1-4pm

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Date Night Santa Cruz expands to 14 restaurants in Aptos and Santa Cruz

Food from Aptos restaurant Au Midi, a participant in Date Night Santa Cruz

Food from Aptos restaurant Au Midi, a participant in Date Night Santa Cruz

Date Night Santa Cruz is a unique dinner-and-a-movie program that began last December, and it just expanded big-time. “In the short three months since launch, the program has gone way above and beyond our initial expectations,” says Ike Jablon, Director of Marketing & Special Events for Nickelodeon Theatres—which also encompasses the Del Mar & Aptos Cinema. “To celebrate, we’re adding nine new restaurants into the mix to make the perfect Date Night for just about anyone!”

Yesterday the number of restaurants involved increased to 14—great news for the local community! Here’s the skinny: customers buy a $50 product 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 your Date Night package, you select which restaurant you are buying a ticket for (they are mostly in Santa Cruz, plus a couple in Aptos), but you can decide later which movie theatre you’re going to of the three in the “Nick Family.” Each restaurant gives customers a certain value to spend on dinner–usually $50. For more information, see the Nick’s Date Night web site.

Jablon created the program in partnership with The Downtown Association, and he is thrilled that so many restaurants have decided to collaborate. These include family-run French bistro Au Midi in Aptos, a perfect stop if you’re headed to Aptos Cinema. Michel Loubiere of Au Midi explains why he and his wife Muriel—the restaurant’s chef—joined the program: “I thought it was a good idea to promote the idea of going out at night and having a more cosmopolitan feel,” he says. “Dinner and a movie kind of remind me of a prix fixe dinner theater you can have in New York. I am happy to be part of it!”

More details:
Tickets for “Date Night Santa Cruz” all cost $50 regardless of the restaurant, and can be purchased at any of the partner restaurants or at the box offices for The Nick, Del Mar Theatre or Aptos Cinema.

Participating restaurants (in alphabetical order)
Assembly
Au Midi
Café Rio
Café Sparrow
Chocolate
515 Kitchen & Cocktails
Gabriella
Hindquarter
Hoffman’s
Hula’s
Kauboi
Laili
Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar
Soif

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