Tag Archives: foodie gifts

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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Dads & Grads gifts: Gilroy Premium Outlets, Santa Cruz restaurants & cookies

Selections from Le Creuset at Gilroy Premium Outlets. Photo credit: Le Creuset

Waited ‘til the last minute to buy the dad or grad in your life a gift for this weekend? If they like to cook or are a candy fan, see below for a few gift ideas at Gilroy Premium Outlets. Remember that the outlets feature nearly 150 stores, incorporating a range of tastes. For the dad not particularly interested in food, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th has a great selection of clothing and ties, plus designer sunglasses and wallets. And Bose is a good option for the dad that loves music or television.

Outlet hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.


Also, if you are shopping for a Santa Cruz foodie or are interested in purchasing a gift with a Santa Cruz theme, see end of article for more ideas.

Gilroy Outlets Food and Cooking Gift Ideas

    • Gift possibilities include grilling skillets, tongs, basting brushes and panini sets for Dad
    • Personalized gift boxes for dads and grads
    • Unique flavors including draft beer
    • Kitchen gadgets, cutlery, small appliances, BBQ accessories


Gilroy Outlets restaurants or cafes to purchase gift cards

  • Erik’s Deli Café
  • Starbucks


For refreshments while shopping, in addition to the aforementioned Starbucks and Erik’s Deli (the Sandwiches with Character at the latter are always popular), three options are:

  • All Natural Carts  (fresh fruit parfaits you can eat on the go)
  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
  • Gilroy Market Place (specialty coffees, pizza, garlic fries, sandwiches and more)


Santa Cruz Gifts/Gift Cards

Lots of folks appreciate restaurant gift cards; one idea is a card from The Glass Jar, which owns Assembly, The Picnic Basket and The Penny Ice Creamery. Purchase a card at any of these three, and your recipient can choose which venue to redeem it at. Same with Soif and La Posta, you can purchase gift cards at either restaurant, and they are good at both.


Last but not least, Pacific Cookie Company has options if you want to mail a gift. These include what they refer to as “dad-inspired cookie gifts” like Executive Sweet Pack (15 cookies, currently on sale for $23.50 from $26.50). Graduation-themed gifts include Congratulations Cookie Gift Tower (a dozen cookies, $21.95).

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Last minute foodie holiday gifts in Santa Cruz

Cookies from Pacific Cookie Co. Photo credit: PCC web site

Cookies from Pacific Cookie Co.
Photo credit: PCC web site

Haven’t finished your holiday shopping and have some foodies on your list? Want to shop local? There are lots of choices in the Santa Cruz area including some discounts; here are some highlights including a gift fair tomorrow that has plenty of options–whether you want to buy something food/drink-related or something else that’s made locally.

First, the gift fair:

2nd Annual Holiday Artisan Food & Gift Market — Saturday 12/17 at Food Lounge

I went to this fabulous event last year and bought gift items for several friends/family members, not to mention a few things for myself! The market will feature locally made packaged foods including jams, olive oil and hot sauce that are currently available in the Food Lounge Pantry, which opened in September. The holiday market will also offer beautiful jewelry, textiles, glass art, print art and kitchen antiques. Additionally, a few small-batch food producers will offer tamales, empanadas, meat pies and other items that would work well for holiday entertaining or for a delicious dinner with your family. Plus they will sell ready to eat food that customers can enjoy while shopping like empanadas (from La Sofrita Puerto Rican pop-up), tamales (Yoli’s Adobo) and savory pies (Artisan Hand Pies).

“We offer this market as close to the holidays as possible so that all of our vendors’ food-based products are fresh for gift-giving and entertaining,” said Andrea Conklin Mollenauer, one of the three partners in the Food Lounge, an incubator kitchen and event venue that will celebrate its second birthday in January. “We are excited to offer market space to 25 local vendors who don’t have their own brick-and- mortar places to sell products.”

Vendors with food gifts will include Friend in Cheeses Jam Co., Notso Hot Sauce, My Mom’s Mole, Ashby Confections, and Farmer Freed Salts. Non-food vendors will include True Blue Indigo (textiles), Love Light Vintage Candles, Verdant California (body products) and  Fereshteh Fatemi (artisan jewelry and greeting cards – disclaimer, this is the author’s mother).

In addition to the holiday market, the Food Lounge Pantry is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to

7 p.m. as a hub for local artisan food products – a perfect stop for holiday shopping, including next week when you realize which folks you forgot to buy for!

Location: Food Lounge, 1001 Center St. Santa Cruz

Date/Time: Sat Dec. 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Next, some gift card discount highlights:

Until Christmas, Hula’s Santa Cruz (221 Cathcart St.) is offering a special: Purchase a $50 gift certificate for someone else and get a free $10 certificate for yourself; purchase $100 and get a free $20 gift card to treat yourself.

Mission Hill Creamery (1101 Pacific Ave.) has these discounts until Christmas: Buy a $25 gift card for $20 OR buy four $10 gift cards and receive the fifth free OR re-Charge your existing gift card with at least $20 and get 20% off your gift card purchase.

Through Dec. 24, Johnny’s Harborside (493 Lake) is offering a bonus: Purchase a $50 gift certificate for someone else and get $10 free; spend $100 and get $20 free, etc.

Other gift ideas

Last but not least, other foodie gift options include certificates from local restaurants. The Glass Jar announced they’re offering a card that’s good at any of their three restaurants—that’s Assembly, The Picnic Basket AND The Penny Ice Creamery. If you know people who are fans of Soif and/or La Posta, you can also purchase gift cards that are good at both. And Crow’s Nest gift cards are redeemable at the restaurant or its neighboring Crow’s Nest Beach Market.

Want to send a sweet Santa Cruz-themed food gift to someone? Pacific Cookie Company has lots of options. These include Top Tier Cookies & Chocolate Box ($49.95), with 36 two-ounce cookies and 32 white and milk chocolate flower medallions made by local chocolatier Mackenzies Chocolate; Sweet Elegance Cookie Gift Box ($37.95) with 24 two-oz. cookies, Season’s Eatings Christmas Tin ($26.95) with 36 one-oz. cookies, and Classic Cookies and Milk ($24.95) with a dozen two-ounce cookies and two 8-oz cartons of organic milk (it’s shelf-stable low-fat Horizon milk which doesn’t require refrigeration). Also, Los Gatos-based Manresa Bread now ships its scrumptious artisan bread anywhere in the continental U.S.; see my November article and/or the Manresa site for details.

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Christmas 2016 at Whole Foods Market on the Central Coast

Assorted cheese from Whole Foods Market Credit: Whole Foods Market

Assorted cheese from Whole Foods Market
Credit: Whole Foods Market

Whether you need to shop for a holiday feast or check some folks off your gift list, Whole Foods Market locations in Capitola, Santa Cruz and Monterey have lots to choose from—including the always-dependable gift card idea (ones for the market itself or for other retailers).

Customers need to place orders for holiday dinners two days ahead of their desired pick up date. Food is available for pickup Dec. 18-24, and then again on Dec. 26 (WFM is closed on Christmas Day). Order in person or online.

For gifts, WFM has several selections where part of your purchase goes to a worthy cause. For example, they partnered with PBS Kids to carry the company’s toys and help raise money. I’ve seen some of the Aurora Plush Animals in the store (pandas, penguins, foxes and more) and they definitely look cuddle-able! Some of the animals are endangered species. There are also some colorful and fun PBS Kids toys made with a composite featuring rubber wood from mature trees that no longer produce latex. All net proceeds benefit PBS Kids’ mission of “building knowledge, critical thinking, imagination and curiosity to empower children for success.”

Other “gifts with a cause” include ones where part of proceeds goes to Whole Planet Foundation to help alleviate poverty worldwide. These include Alaffia trios (coconut oil triple-milled bar soap or whipped body butter); one percent benefits WPF. Or if you buy west elm kitchen products made from upcycled denim—such as potholders—a dollar from each purchase goes to WPF. In addition, they have gift cards for sale where one percent benefits the Whole Kids Foundation (which aims to support schools and inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness). These include Chipotle and Best Buy physical gift cards, and Starbucks digital cards.

There are room sprays and handmade soy wax candles from Thistle Farms; scents include lavender & lemon (Gratitude) and Geranium & Citrus (Hope). Thistle Farms is a community, sanctuary and social enterprise led by women survivors of trafficking, addiction and prostitution. It provides housing, recovery support and education. Each spray or candle purchase directly benefits the women who made it.

WFM wine experts have compiled a list of “10 favorite wines for the holiday season.” Available online, each wine has several suggested food pairings plus a recipe for an additional food pairing. Two examples: Andover Estate Pinot Noir goes well with items like Sartori Herbs des Provence BellaVitano cheese or roasted winter vegetables, or with the dish “Easy Porchetta Pork Tenderloin” (recipe included). Autoritas Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with Vermont Creamery Coupole cheese, poached white-fleshed fish, or “Bay Scallop Linguine with White Wine and Parsley” (recipe included).

There are lots of other enticing articles on the WFM blog, including ones with recipes like “holiday cakes worth celebrating” (includes mini chocolate ricotta cakes and cinnamon-almond olive oil cake) and “holiday appetizers” (how about sweet potato bacon bites, spinach bites with honey mustard, or pigs in a blanket with cranberry-mustard dipping sauce? Ok now I’m hungry!).

For holiday appetizers, if you’re a cheese fan, WFM just announced a big “12 Days of Cheese” sale. From Dec. 13-24, a different artisan cheese is on sale for FIFTY PERCENT OFF each day! Some highlights with notes from the market’s cheese experts:

Vermont Creamery, Bonne Bouche (Dec. 15)

  • This mild ash-ripened goat cheese with earthy notes and a subtle hazelnut flavor is a visually stunning addition to any cheese board.

Uplands Cheese Company, Pheasant Ridge Reserve (Dec. 17)

  • The only three-time winner of the American Cheese Society Best of Show, this cheese has a sweet, broth-like flavor with notes of butterscotch and fruit.

Cypress Grove Chevre, Truffle Tremor (Dec. 19)

  • A silky, creamy soft-ripened goat cheese packed with truffles. Deep floral, herb and mushroom flavors. An American original!

Rapin, Le Maréchal (Dec. 20)

  • This creamy, raw-milk Alpine cheese is infused with flavor from herbs added by hand during the ripening process.

Papillon, Roquefort (Dec. 21)

  • This classic cave-aged sheep’s milk blue cheese shows rich spiciness, complex layers of flavor and a smooth texture.

Vermont Creamery, St. Albans (Dec. 23)

  • An American take on a traditional French cheese, sourced from milk from one farm. Delicate and smooth with rich creamy flavors and nutty notes.  Non-GMO Project verified.

As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving article, WFM’s 2016 holiday food shopping guide  features selections such as traditional turkey dinner for eight ($99.99). This comes with a fully cooked 10-lb. oven-roasted Diestel turkey, four pounds each of herb stuffing and mashed potatoes, a quart of turkey gravy, a pint of cranberry relish, 16 dinner rolls, and a nine-inch traditional pumpkin pie. You can also order turkeys (cooked or uncooked) and ready-to-eat sides a la carte.

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.

Whole Foods Market Monterey is at 800 Del Monte Center, (831) 333-1600.


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

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12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day 10: Win $50 gift certificate to Abalonetti in Monterey

Abalonetti offers gift cards, good for holiday gifts or anytime

Abalonetti offers gift cards, good for holiday gifts or anytime

It’s Day 10 of Santa Cruz Restaurant Examiner/Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” Today’s prize is a $50 gift certificate for Abalonetti in Monterey. See end of article for how to enter.

Abalonetti Bar & Grill will be closed on Christmas Day but open on Christmas Eve during traditional business hours (11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.). They will be serving the full regular menu. For more information or reservations, call 831-373-1851. The restaurant is located at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Abalonetti has been open since 1951. They specialize in Monterey Bay calamari, offering several varieties. Since 1999, Monterey County Weekly readers have voted them as having “Best Calamari” 14 times! Other menu highlights include delicious antipasto, wood-roasted oysters with garlic-pesto butter, clam chowder (choice of cup, bowl, or sourdough bread bowl), sandwiches at lunchtime (like crab or a fresh abalone BLT), pasta, cioppino, fish & chips, and grilled seafood (salmon, swordfish, etc.). The antipasto is a treat: it features marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts, roasted whole garlic bulbs, marinated tender Monterey calamari, grilled eggplant, feta cheese, roasted bell peppers, garlic spinach, and olives. You can get a full ($17.95) or half ($12.95) order.

If you’re in need of a holiday gift idea, Abalonetti offers gift cards you can purchase in person, as well as from the web site. When you purchase online you can instantly email, text or tweet the certificate to your gift recipient. These can be anywhere from $5-$250.
One person will win a $50 gift certificate to Abalonetti Bar & Grill.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by 9 pm. Wed, Dec. 23 and include the word “Abalonetti.” 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.

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12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day 8: New Leaf Community Markets gift basket

New Leaf gift basket. Image courtesy of New Leaf Facebook page

New Leaf gift basket. Image courtesy of New Leaf Facebook page

It’s Day Eight of Santa Cruz Restaurant Examiner/Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” See end of article for how to win a sweet and savory holiday gift basket from New Leaf Community Markets.

New Leaf Community Markets has lots of last-minute holiday gift options including foodie gift baskets that are available until Dec. 31 or while supplies last. “Sweet Delights” for $19.99 contains Theo Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Dark Chocolate Almond BarkTHINS, Marich Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels & Double Chocolate Praline Almonds, and Verve Buena Vista Dark Roast Blend Coffee.

Three baskets for $29.99 each are Gourmet Snacking (includes alcohol; must be 21 and over to purchase), Gourmet Snacks-to-the-Max, and Sweet & Savory. Gourmet Snacking contains 4505 Meats Chicharrones Pork Rinds, Royal Hawaiian Sea Salt Macadamia Nuts, Olli Salumeria Salami, Chinook Sunflower Seeds, New Zealand Jerky’s Grass-Fed Beef Jerky, and Santa Cruz Scrumpy Hard Apple Cider. Snacks-to-the-Max features everything from the Gourmet Snacking one minus the hard cider, with the addition of Jeff’s Naturals Castelvetrano Olives. Last but not least, Sweet & Savory has Olli Salumeria Salami, Feridies Salted Peanuts, Friend in Cheeses Fig & Fennel Jam, Cranberry Hazelnut Raincoast Crisps, Chuao Dark Chocolate Honeycomb Bar and Chocolove Dark Chocolate with Almonds & Sea Salt Bar.

If you buy “non-gift-basket” items that you’re intending to use as gifts, New Leaf provides a free gift bag with your purchase. Stop by the Holiday Solutions Station for these. Also, remember that New Leaf sells gift cards to the market; you can buy them online ($25 and up) or at the store’s cash registers. It’s safe to say that most “good food” fans in Santa Cruz County would appreciate one of these as a holiday gift.
One person will win a New Leaf sweet and savory holiday gift basket worth approximately $30.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by Mon. Dec. 21 at 9 p.m. and include the words “New Leaf.” 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.

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12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day 5: Farmer Freed culinary salts from Santa Cruz

Farmer Freed culinary salt blends come in six varieties

Farmer Freed culinary salt blends come in six varieties

It’s Day Five of Santa Cruz Restaurant Examiner/Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” See end of article for how to win a Farmer Freed culinary salt three-jar set. Special note: it’s been brought to my attention that after my articles are posted, there is sometimes a several-hour delay before a notification is emailed to my subscribers.  These email alerts are not something I control, so during this giveaway (or anytime, for that matter), you can always check my home page to see if a new article has been posted.

Santa Cruz resident Emily Jane Freed runs her own business, Farmer Freed culinary salt blends, which she makes with organic ingredients from local farms along the California Central Coast. “We know all of our farmers and their families’ names, and we are proud to know the people that grow the additions for the culinary salt blends,” says Freed.  The salts can be used in two ways: add a pinch when cooking, or use as a finishing salt as you sit down to enjoy a meal.

Farmer Freed salts are sold in Santa Cruz County stores, online and at selected stores in the greater Bay Area. Her blends come in six flavors: Everyday Herb Salt, Sababa Salt, Spice It Up Salt, Pucker Up Citrus Salt, Dilly Goat Salt, and Vanilla Bean Baker’s Salt.

They make great gifts—to yourself or to others—and this weekend you can buy them in person at two events. Farmer Freed will be at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge on Saturday, Dec. 19 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. for a Holiday Artisan Food & Gift Market, which features over 25 vendors selling unique, local, small batch artisan foods and gifts, and at the Live Oak Farmers’ Market Sunday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Vanilla Bean Baker’s Salt, which Freed says is good with items like cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, breads, pancakes, and waffles, is sourced sea salt from South San Francisco which is the only North American sea salt bed in the US. The sea salt is steeped with both whole and ground vanilla beans (grown under organic conditions) from The Vanilla Company in Santa Cruz who works with vanilla farms throughout the world to bring better working conditions and wages to their farmers.

“Everyday Herb Salt is a perfect match for eggs, popcorn, avocados, roasted veggies, and everything,” says Freed. “One of my favorite things about the Everyday Herb Salt is when people sing Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair’ since this salt blend includes parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” she adds. All herbs are organic and grown locally on Hwy 1. Spice It Up pairs well with pizza, pasta, eggs, popcorn, and can be used as a meat rub.

An interesting note: Freed is also Regional Production Manager at Santa Cruz’s Jacobs Farm/del Cabo, Inc. where she grows organic culinary herbs, edible flowers, and mixed vegetables. Seems like farming is in her blood!

“When creating Farmer Freed, I wanted a way to give back to the Jewish community—which plays an important role in my life,” Freed says. She created the Sababa Salt, which is modeled after Za’atar, (a Middle Eastern herb mix that includes oregano, marjoram, and thyme). Additionally, 36 cents from every jar of Sababa Salt goes to support female farmers via Farmer Freed’s “You Grow Girl” program—which empowers women to farm organically and sustainable within a Jewish agricultural context. This “You Grow Girl” network includes female farmers from California and Canada; Freed is working to include farmers in Israel too.

There is a group of people behind Farmer Freed, not just Emily. Cheryl Isaacson from Lincoln Street Studios came up with the logo and labels for the salt blends. “Cheryl is a creative genius and I feel lucky to have her on the Farmer Freed team.” Keith Holtaway, founder of Pizza My Heart, is Farmer Freed’s business advisor and mentor via the Small Business Development Center. “Keith has gone above and beyond to help Farmer Freed get on shelves of shops and grocery stores throughout California and beyond,” says Freed. Keith is a fan of Pucker Up Citrus Salt (he uses it on fish and salads), and Sababa Salt (for roasted vegetables).

Emily Freed has been thinking about creating a women’s food entrepreneur group in Santa Cruz. “There are so many strong women in Santa Cruz who produce food products,” she says. “I think we could all benefit from sharing our experiences, networking with one another, etc.” She’s looking for a venue that would host the first gathering, and her idea is that all could bring their culinary creations to share. She encourages anyone that might have a space for this group to reach out and connect through the Farmer Freed web site’s contact form.

One lucky reader will win a culinary salt set worth approximately $30. It will include Spice It Up, Everyday Herb, and Vanilla, which are the most popular salts.

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by Fri. Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. and include the words “Farmer Freed.” 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.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Day 2: Win Peet’s Coffee holiday blend

Holiday blend from Peet’s Coffee and Tea

Holiday blend from Peet’s Coffee and Tea

It’s Day Two of Santa Cruz Restaurant Examiner/Santa Cruz Foodie’s “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.” See end of article for how to win great coffee from Peet’s. And if you haven’t finished (or started) your holiday shopping, here are some items to consider for coffee fans on your gift list.

Peet’s Holiday Blend: An annual tradition, this year’s special blend is spicy, rich and satisfying, slightly bittersweet balanced by notes of ripe fruit to create a smooth and full finish. It’s available at Peet’s cafes, local grocery stores and online (peets.com). It can be purchased by itself or as part of several gift packages. For example, if your gift recipient has a sweet tooth, there’s a gift set with a half-pound of 2015 Holiday Blend coffee and a three-piece package of popular Jo’s Peppermint Bark.

Exclusive Single-Origin Coffees in Festive Gold Tins: Peet’s exclusive line of exotic and rare premium coffees – CoopeDota Micro, Kona Peaberry and Jamaica Blue Mountain–are hand-scooped into golden keepsake tins. They’re available at all Peet’s stores nationwide.

DIY Coffee Lover Gift: You can use Peet’s premium coffee beans/grounds to make something creative. Peet’s suggests either 1) a DIY cold brew kit with the Holiday Blend or Peet’s Baridi (a special blend formulated for cold coffee), a re-usable coffee filter and a sampling of sweeteners. Stuff into a large mason jar and tie with a festive ribbon; or 2) a holiday survival kit including Peet’s coffee, bath products, candles, energy bars, a stress ball, and medicine for when you’ve attended one-too-many Christmas parties.




Five lucky readers will each win a pound of Peet’s holiday blend coffee

To enter, email your name to tfatemi@gmail.com by 9 pm. Tuesday, Dec. 15 and include the word “Peet’s.” The drawing will take place the next morning and the winners 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.


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!
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.

Holiday shopping 2013: Santa Cruz artisan food and gift sale

Cardamom Tuesday Silk Road elixir, available at Sunday's artisan food and gift sale

Cardamom Tuesday Silk Road elixir, available at Sunday’s artisan food and gift sale

Santa Cruz’s Front Street Kitchen is hosting an exciting artisan food and gift sale just in time for your holiday shopping needs. The event is Sunday, Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Event organizers have announced there will be “all local, handmade, small batch gifts” plus live music, samples from selected vendors, an artisan gift basket raffle, and free admission.

Vendors include Farmer Freed with culinary salt blends; Fish Princess Farm with salsa, preserved lemons, and chutney; and Cardamom Tuesday with artisan elixirs that you can use in coffee, homemade soda, cocktails, and more.

Other products are chocolate truffles, toffee, jams, ice cream club memberships, gluten-free baked goods, food-based beauty and bath products, and several sweets from local high school ROP students.

I can’t wait to do some shopping and support local independent businesses at the same time! Happy holidays.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

The Details:
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun. Dec. 15, 2013
Front Street Kitchen, 504A Front St., Santa Cruz
(831) 588-4515