Valentine’s at Hallcrest Winery

Friday, February 14 through Sunday, February 16, 1 – 5pm

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at historic Hallcrest Winery with a candlelit tasting of exceptional Pinot Noirs along with cheese, homemade chocolate desserts and beautiful music.

Wine Proprietor, John Schumacher, has chosen his favorite Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noirs for you to explore, and the Hallcrest team has selected the perfect desserts to complement each of these wines.

This uniquely delicious pairing will take place in the romantic ambiance of our candlelit tasting room, accompanied by live music on Saturday by songwriter and musician Kara Hese. With its soulful and sultry style, Kara’s music is ideal for St. Valentine’s Day!

Please RSVP for parties of four or more people. It is open to all. Complementary for Hallcrest wine club members and $7 for non-members.

homelesssign.jpgTruly one stop shopping for those last-minute Santas — the eclectic and inviting Homeless Garden Project Holiday Store (in the arcade behind O’Neil’s and Annieglass) is full of tasty and charming items.  I was greeted by helpful and very efficient staffers last week who helped me choose a gift for my mom, made by local artisans of course. Candles, wonderfully-scented soaps, little succulent kingdoms, prints, cards, colorful woven items, jewelry, just terrific gift stuff — well-priced and waiting for you.

Put your money to work in the best possible way while filling the very last of your gift needs.

Open 10-8pm right now!

Gifts Galore!

homelessint.jpgInterior of the Homeless Garden Project Holiday Store - in the breezeway just behind Pacific Avenue.  Wonderful locally-made arts and crafts of high quality!

A Better Black Friday

christmas-present.jpgAh those crafty Surf City Vintners know how to get my attention. Holding their annual Art, Wine & Gift Bazaar this Friday, November 23 from noon to 5pm, the savvy winemakers will offer handcrafted, locally-made gifts by area artisans at each of the thirteen Surf City wineries.

Tasting fees on Friday will be waived with a donation of non-perishable food for the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. This is truly a no-brainer event.

Winetasting. Handcrafted gifts. The opportunity to grab some appetizers at Le Cigare Volant, party specialties at El Salchichero, pastries from Kelly’s, everything else you need at New Leaf — this is truly a one-stop-shopping event.

Yes, the day after Thanksgiving.  Step away from the computer—taste and shop away those holiday calories!

Fruitcake Matriarch

Here’s a vintage portrait of the highly independent woman whose fruitcake recipe I used, with chris-biker.jpgmuch variation, in my own recent effort.

According to her niece, Lisa Jensen, this portrait of Anna Augusta Kirstine Jensen was taken in 1920 or 1921, “when Chris would be 18 or 19 years old.”

Her fruitcake heyday happened much later, when she retired to Hermosa Beach, California.

Thanks Aunt Chris!

This was how the Magdalene must have felt, anointing the body with precious spices and elixirs, carefully wrapping it in clean linens before placing it in the cool dark place where it would wait—preserved and guarded—until its ultimate appointment with destiny.fruitcakes.jpg

As I watched my fruitcakes slowly cooling on their racks, the mythic significance suddenly hit me. Since the dawn of time, women’s hands had carefully wrapped such precious bodies—in some cases a dead loved one, in others a symbolic cake—the bearer of costly ingredients, memories and hopes for the future.

All such creations were intended to undergo a transformation. To wait until the moment when they would grace the center of the ceremonial table. I considered how many hearths, through how many centuries, had witnessed this preparation.

Mixing the ingredients of two bowls (there was just too much to manage in a single bowl) laden with chopped figs, More…

Nutty as a Fruitcake

When my sister and I were little, we would make the annual trek to Aunt Mariana and jimbeam.jpgUncle Doodle’s house for a holiday visit. Aunt Mariana would reach up high into her pantry and take down the fruitcake we were forced to eat each Christmas.

My sister and I would politely taste a forkful of this brown crumbly creation studded with eerily bright red and green fruits. We would take one bite and then cover the remaining bits with our napkins. Reading each other’s minds we would both think, “yes, but where’s the frosting?

Children hate fruitcake. But many decades later, those early negative impressions were replaced by a romantic afternoon’s experience, on a rainy October day looking out over Lake Como, consuming the local fig and nut cake washed down by grappa. What a difference time (and grappa and a romantic companion) can make.

This season —after years of building a fan base on two coasts for my labor-intensive Christmas cookies—I’ve decided to wade into deeper, more mythic culinary territory. Yes, I’m making fruitcake this year. More…

Marie Waters of La Mesa and Boulder Creek, California - and to Elizabeth Windsor of London and Buckingham Palace!

Easter Eggs Benedict!

easterpeeps.jpgSouthern-style specialties complete with live jazz this Easter Sunday April 24, fill the menu at Clouds Downtown, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Easter Eggs Benedict! Fried chicken and waffles, bananas foster, endless Mimosas. 110 Church St., Santa Cruz - 429-2000.

Or savor Easter brunch with a colossal view of the beach, Boardwalk and bay at Casablanca Restaurant, 10:30am until 2pm. Enjoy classics like New York steak and eggs, strawberry banana crepes, those Eggs Benedict, plus zesty salmon gravlox omelets, snapper piccata and of course you’ll want to chase those items with the easter bunny’s drink of choice—the fresh squeezed orange juice mimosa. Casablanca looks out over the corner of Beach and Main Streets - 426-9063.

Red Velvet Valentines

Music department manager Thomas Pistole sure knows how to pamper redvelvet.jpghis UCSC faculty & staff. Cupcake Diva Pistole uses any holiday as an excuse to break out his trusty cupcake carrier and fill it with colorfully-decorated, to-die-for pastries.

These are his latest - red velvet topped with cinnamon-flavored hearts.

A good man to know, especially around Halloween when his fabled carrot cupcakes with orange frosting are available.

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