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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.

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.

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