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blaurent.JPGA perfect entree of crab risotto cake topped with prawns, in a crab bisque with chives.

Typical of Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles, where we had dinner—we always have dinner here—on our way to the Mojave.

Girl, get with a make-over program. And pronto! No one’s going to elect a refrigerator for President.
If you don’t have the discipline to shape up and set an example, then you don’t have the discipline to be Commander in Chief!

lailimezze.JPGA recent lunch at this splendid dining room offered not only a large-scale kebab threaded with plump, utterly moist wedges of grilled chicken, but this jewel-like little mezze platter.

All of your favorite Mediterranean food groups are here in this pliant quartet of supple flavors. Babaganoush, tzatziki, hummus, and tabouli. Warm soft pita provided the point of insertion. A terrific lunch appetizer.  Laili—more than a nighttime destination.

bottoms.jpgSome authors have a book signing. Others have a book signing in Venice. Such a one is Rita Bottoms, fresh from her gala reception at Bookshop Damocle on Calle del Perdon, Venezia. Bottoms was celebrated in Italy last month for the new edition of her delightful Riffs & Ecstasies: True Stories, which is smartly revised, complete with new stories, new illustrations and best of all—facing pages in Italian!

É vero! Riffs & Ecstasies is now yours to savor in both Italian and English. And is available, for $15, at Bookshop Santa Cruz, La Sirena on the Westside of Santa Cruz, City Lights in San Francisco, and, of course at Damocle in Venice. Pick up a copy, enjoy Bottoms’ inimitable way with an anecdote, and/or practice your Italian!

gueoc.jpgYes it’s pinot grigio. Get over it. It’s also a sprightly bottle of delicious white wine for—wait for it—$7.99.

An appealling 2012 vintage, this aromatic—light yet not austere—warm weather elixir offers a drinker-friendly 12.5% alcohol. AND it won a double Gold Medal at last year’s SF Chronicle wine competition. Uncomplicated, brilliant with summer foods, just crisp enough to hold your attention. At Shoppers. Better hurry!

Yes I did say seven dollars and ninety-nine cents.

soifsalmon.JPGDuring its kitchen transition, Soif’s staff doesn’t miss a step. Here’s an example from last week’s appetizer menu. A gorgeous plate of house-cured local king salmon, with paper-thin pickles, peppery sprouts and a swoosh of creme fraiche.

lovers.jpgA sanguinous love letter to post-industrial ennui, Jim Jarmusch’s visually enthralling Only Lovers Left Alive is, essentially, a soundtrack with a film attached.

donuts.jpgStrictly anecdotal, based on my own personal experience - but….I’m convinced that food overloading is really an attempt to correct a bad mood. Let me go further. People eat more than they actually need to, or even want to, in an effort to stave off depression.

But when you go on a diet, you feel deprived. Irritated. Upset. Can’t wait to reach your “desired weight” so you can go off the diet.

Okay. Simple logic—how about instead of the artificial forced march of dieting, substituting another feel-good habit for that donut? When I go out for a walk, I come back not only energized, but feeling terrific. Endorphins. Duh. Same sort of mood elevation that is produced by consuming chocolate cupcakes, or french fries. Without the calories.

So that brings me back to where I began (pax TS Eliot). Eating to the point of gaining lots of weight could become so yesterday by substituting a non-eating happy-making activity. Crochet, read, sing, paint, walk, garden, kiss.
“Dieting” is always an artificial road trip to disaster. Changing your lifestyle is just that - acquiring a new way of life.

easterlamb.JPGOur friends the Hoys set a mean table. I mean with all the trimmings, from an opening salvo of Veuve Clicquot to dessert of strawberries with freshly whipped cream. And once again our host outdid himself with an expertly grilled rack of lamb so tender it put butter to shame.

With our gorgeous dinner of roast asparagus, red potatoes, lamb, salad and cheeses we enjoyed a bottle of Cigare de Volant Reserve 2007 that lived up to my expectations—and more! A secret to our enjoyment was the subtle absence of bread. Without the extra carbs, the meal felt generous yet not filling.

My modest contributions, in addition to the Rhône-style wine, included yellow bunny rabbit Peeps and nonstop wit.

17ave.jpg17th Avenue Studios in Santa Cruz is hosting a Spring Art Show May 10th and 11th (Mother’s Day weekend).  The first of four collective 2014 exhibitions by the group’sdiverse artists. 40+ studios will be open from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday and Sunday. You’ll see hundreds of beautiful original artworks, meet the artists  and get a glimpse into the creative processes behind their work.

The Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine food truck will be on the scene Saturday from 12:00 to 2:00 PM, along with live music by The Crooked Road Ceili Band, a local Celtic trio.

Art is mother to us all so bring your Mom - 980 17th Avenue. And it’s all FREE.

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