Archive for the 'Home' Category

chickories.jpgPerhaps this was the  “there” that Gertrude Stein claimed was missing from the “other” city by the Bay.  Haven is the sister Oakland dining room to Daniel Patterson’s celebrated Plum. Smart, vibrant and pulsing with exhibition kitchen vibes, Haven offers labor-intensive dishes that create genuine excitement for eye and palate. And most of the intriguing dishes I sampled last Sunday night worked brilliantly.

The kitchen is packed with guys in black engaged in some invisible choreography surrounding each plate. Attractive stoneware plates and platters add to the eye candy. The menus are tantalizing, and so is the bar menu of eccentric cocktails and designer liquors, including a very long list of top flight single malts. Let me put it this way, Haven makes its own house Cynar.

We started with shared plates of roasted cauliflower in brown butter with a thin pool of salty garum on the bottom. This house likes to use salt as a condiment I discovered—sometimes this was welcome. Sometimes it overwhelmed.

A second shared salad of shredded chicories (shown above) was flat out sensational. (more…)

lentilsbantam.jpgFrom Bantam comes this very satisfying creation in which fat chunks of crispy Fogline pork belly share the plate with roasted grapes and a luscious lentil and grape vinegar reduction. Intense flavor in every bite. This dish was the absolute star of my recent dinner at Bantam. Eleven bucks.
Okay, I’ll say it: this is a destination dish. Period.

basquewhite.jpgIn this case, it is a white wine from the Spanish district of Bizkaiko Txakolina (this last is pronounced “chocolina”), from the house of Berroia. At 12.5% alcohol it is a mineral dream, with a nose of kumquat and rose, pushed back with chalk and silvery minerals. The salty finish so refreshes your palate that you’ll feel like immediately pouring a second glass.

This lovely bright wine is full of life, and while extremely easy to drink, it offers gossamer complexity rarely found outside a Riesling. Most of the grapes in this disarming wine are something called Hondarrabi Zuri, the name alone suggests an exotic mountain hideaway.

For $20 a bottle @ Soif, this could be the very wine for a crab or oyster appetizer at your next holiday meal.

clostita.jpgLife’s too short not to savor the Santa Cruz Mountains terroir as exemplified in this appealing 2009 Pinot Noir from Clos Tita. Highly approachable, the lovely creation weaves the essence of the redwood forest—along with notes of mint, nutmeg and plums—onto its balanced tannins and 14.2 % alcohol. At $21.99 (Shoppers again) it is one of the more affordable fine pinot noirs produced in our appellation. Seek it out, and save a few bottles for Thanksgiving.

saul.jpgI’ve written many remembrances of beloved friends over the years, but none has been harder than this one. Words can’t reach the passionate heart and brilliant intellect of Saul Landau, a man who made the world a more vibrant place every single minute that he breathed.

Last month we lost that rare individual to whom the word “authentic” well and truly applies. Everyone who knew him mourns his loss. I know I will for the rest of my life. An elegant guy in a second hand wardrobe, he was very sexy. Very.

Saul Landau was the complete king of the risqué Jewish joke, and almost every phone call, dinner, rendezvous, interview, and meeting I shared with him began with a joke worthy of the Borscht Belt. What a pleasure to watch him unleash his punchlines! It was his way of greeting the world, making us all feel like insiders and immediate friends. Jokes aside, Saul spent his life, as he often told me, committed to “love and work.”  What else mattered? he would ask.

The work was work for social justice, equality, freedom from hunger and oppression—freedom from hypocrisy and unnecessary shopping! And it took the form of a non-stop body of journalism, political commentary, filmmaking, writing, lecturing, travel, and personal outreach. He never stopped hassling corrupt politicians, imperialist stooges, and the incurably stupid. A champion of human rights, the dignity of the oppressed and especially his beloved Cuba and Latin America, Saul gave and gave of his superb political instincts, his wit, and his robust analysis. Surely, we all thought, those fiery Progreso editorials he churned out, even when gravely ill, would continue on forever. Somewhere—in the heaven in which he claimed not to believe—Saul must still be brandishing his political expertise. (And admonishing past popes for hoarding the spoils of the Crusades!)

Saul was a graceful and gifted athlete—he loved to boast that (more…)

ultimatecrabcale.jpgSeptember might just be the most splendid month for travel - and the past three weeks on the Jersey Shore lived up to our expectations, and then some.

We hit Mud City Crab Shack in Manahawkin (yes, one of the many parts of the Jersey shore and marshlands that were seriously damaged during last year’s hurricane). Here we enjoyed definitive crab cakes, crab cakes so utterly packed with huge chunks of lump crab meat that there was almost no room left for seasonings and gravitational forces.  Major crab cakes, moist inside, crisp on the outside—served with luscious, sweet crispy slaw.

Plantation, on Long Beach Island, seduced us (more…)

cabshow.jpgI’m telling you about this wildly intriguing show — completely colonized by artwork in a 12 x 12 ” format—because in a burst of chutzpah I entered four (4) of my 12 x 12″ portraits.  The infamous 30 minute portraits.

Swing by and see my work - rarely will you have such an opportunity to gawk, feast, mock, usw. at artwork by a highly opinionated critic.  And there will be other nice pieces by other artists as well.

The 12 x 12 Show runs through November 1, at the Cabrillo Gallery. (831.479-6308).  C U there!

katesbake.jpgI’m crazy about the gluten-free, nut-intensive little pastries sitting temptingly in a jewelbox case at the front of Lulu’s - both the Octagon and “old” Lulu’s. Sensuous, fresh-baked, these artisanal gems offer delicious ways of enjoying some elegant bite of pastry with your macchiato, and yet leave gluten far behind.

Topped with walnuts or almonds, each is based upon heirloom recipes and made to enlighten your tastebuds.
Check these out!

breads.jpgAnother terrific dining spot—also a great bar scene—next to La Scala and around the corner from my hotel in Milan was the Trussardi Cafe, downstairs from the more formal Michelin spot.

Airy and accessible, the Cafe was always open for espresso, wine and meals—small and large.

One lunch there was memorable for its lovely creation involving halibut on a bed of shaved asparagus, with a luscious asparagus puree over the top.

As beautiful as any of the dishes was the basket of bread (above) that arrived along with my balloon of dark Sicilian wine. Housemade crackers, two or three varieties, a soft white roll and crunchy breadsticks all made waiting for the main course a lovely event all unto itself.

Italy just owns style, and more than that: (more…)

The end of an era, one in which the play was the thing. Until it wasn’t.

Those of you who enjoyed this season of Shakespeare Santa Cruz performances in the atmospheric Festival Glen, also enjoyed the final season of this 32-year cycle of lively, innovative, often charming, always literate plays.

Perhaps its day was done, but when it was good it was very very good.

Thank you Audrey!

[Required reading on this subject, a well-reasoned reposte, printed in the SC Sentinel, by savvy citizens aghast at UCSC’s decision.]

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