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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.

paccookie.JPGLast Sunday, before the Mark Morris Dance Co. performance at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, I cruised around Telegraph and spotted the new Pacific Cookie Company store.

Talk about location! The inviting new home of cookies and ice cream resides at the top of Telegraph Ave, within spitting distance of the Berkeley campus. The place was packed with patrons. Congratulations to Kara Pearson & company!

muns.JPGFrom Muns Vineyard comes a spectacular example of Santa Cruz Mountains terroir.

Muns’ 2009 Estate Pinot Noir is everything you could want in a brilliantly balanced wine. From the nose of white pepper, roses, and licorice, straight into an expanding heart of tangerine, bay leaves and a long, slow finish ot black cherries, this is a gorgeous pinot noir. Its luscious 100% pinot noir grape composition has been coaxed into elegant nuance by aging in Hungarian oak, and at a highly desireable 14.1% alcohol it is light enough to partner almost anything, yet won’t get in the way of simply kicking back and enjoying.

This could be one of the top five pinot noirs I’ve ever tasted, and one that justifies our pride in what the SCMtn appellation can produce. Stop by VinoCruz and buy what remains after my recent purchase (I emptied out my piggy bank). At $40 this memorable Muns creation rivals many Burgundies at triple the price.

th.jpgSorry Liza, you did look like a man in drag.

Okay, now I’ll be nice. The collaborative selfie (thanks to über hunk Bradley Cooper) was a delightful moment amongst rather predictable turns on the stage.

Harrison Ford will probably not be asked back. Nor will poor Kim Novak who should sue her plastic surgeon.

Alfonso Cuaron was an elegant recipient of the Best Director award - but his outstanding film Gravity, which won seven awards, was robbed of its rightful Best Picture Oscar.

Everybody knows that. But still, it was the huge and obvious snub.

Ditto Leonardo DiCaprio’s non-Oscar for Best Actor.

Cate Blanchett’s crass and ungraceful acceptance speech should pretty much confine her to Australia for the rest of her acting career. But it was made up for by the stirring remarks from Jared Leto who managed to be both political and sincere.
Meryl Streep proved once again that she’s not only a great screen presence, but she’s also a real player.

And why on earth so much time was spent on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” instead of a photo-montage tribute to both Shirley Temple and Philip Seymour Hoffman I’ll never know!!

Loved Ellen. The pizza. Fab.

gravity2.jpgGravity is just a theory, one of those soundbytes physicists like to brandish in order to explain the properties of energy and matter.

It’s also the title of a web of visual sorcery woven by director Alfonso Cuarón, whose two-person space odyssey Gravity took me completely by surprise. Prepared to submit to a few hours of special effects tedium, I was instead immediately mesmerized and in the end, deeply moved. And here at last was a film in which the use of 3D photography made gorgeous sense.

Gravity is a loveletter to our sweet, flawed, blue planet, an allegory told—as perhaps it only can be—from a long way away.  As two astronauts spin helplessly in a spacewalk gone wrong, the smooth majesty of earth’s oceans, land masses and great graceful clouds orbits slowly in the background. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life; Children of Men) uses his lens as a portal for spiritual meditation on the entire idea of being lost, far from home, terrified yet determined to make it back.

A radiant, resourceful and believable Sandra Bullock is medical engineer (more…)

mv5bmtu2mjk2ndkyml5bml5banbnxkftztgwntk0nzcymde_v1_sx214_.jpgHaving finished my popcorn, I had no more excuse for staying in my seat. So I walked out after about 50 minutes of this exercise in conceptual vacuity. “Unwatchable” comes to mind as I ponder what aberration of judgment caused the Motion Picture Academy to nominate Nebraska for: Best Cinematography (visual tedium in black and white); Best Picture (they obviously needed one more title to round out the required ten nominees); Best Actor, Bruce Dern (for once, too smart for the part); Best Supporting Actress, June Squibb (reminiscent of those elder alarm commercials, i.e. “I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up); Best Directing, Alexander Payne (clearly a political payoff).

What were they thinking?

Bruce Dern is the centerpiece of this fuzzy road saga, playing an aging blue collar alkie headed to Nebraska to collect a sweepstakes prize. The acting is wretched, littered with cardboard comments and responses which are worsened by the lack of a believable script. Yes perhaps there are lots of losers in the vast stretches of American high plains country. But watching the squirm-making (more…)

sones.JPGYou’re about to launch into a plate of luscious pasta, with Italian sausage and marinara. So you crave the exact right red wine, and you crave it now!

Winemaker Michael Sones has made the wine you need. Sones Zinfandel Central Coast 2010 is everything a zin should be. Extravagantly full-bodied, spicy, packed with attitude yet discreetly so. An assertive black cherry nose, with a hint of autumn forest mahogany and birch fills each sip—the balance is spot-in, so much so that essentially the hand of the winemaker remains transparent. The wine itself speaks most clearly.

This is a wine that rewards the full attention of the mouth. A very likeable, and big-shouldered (15% alc) red that partners robust foods brilliantly ($24 at all the usual suspects).

wolf.jpgIt’s lewd, it’s crude, and it alternately glamorizes and villifies one of the dirtiest demimondes of capitalism. It’s also outrageously entertaining, vibrantly directed, and loaded with memorable performanes.

The Wolf of Wall Street will literally split the viewing public in half: those repulsed, and those fascinated. It also — finally — brought me around to what a huge talent is Leonardo diCaprio. (If Jonah Hill doesn’t take the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor then the Academy is truly deaf, dumb, and blind.)
Did I mention that it was lewd and crude? No, really. Very.

amerhust1.jpgA couple of Hollywood makeup artists and costume designers sat around late one night, drinking and smoking and suddenly the idea hits them. The late 70s! Disco, John Travolta, wide lapels, polyester, and big hair. Let’s pile all those things into a movie. And throw in a few Oscar winners just to insure big box office.

And so it came to pass that American Hustle — oh so aptly named, my fellow filmgoing suckers —was born. In which we salaciously observe that even with fake curls and bell bottoms, Bradley Cooper is sexier than Daniel Craig and Elvis put together. We learn that the ghost of Robert DiNiro (both living and legendary) is alive and well. We are force fed the attempts of costumers and media hypsters to coax charisma into the stubbornly bland Amy Adams. We learn all over again that Jennifer Lawrence OWNS the screen, that cameras lick her face and salivate at her every gleam, sparkle and bounce. And we acknowledge something we have always known: Welshman Christian Bale is arguably the finest male actor working today (with profuse apologies to Benedict Cumberbatch).

But is all of this trivia really enough to hang a film on?

Fans of director David - Silver Lining Playbook - Russell may think so. (more…)

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