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Saint Nick: Nickolas Gyorkos pours absinthe the traditional way at the Crepe Place.


Of Farmers and Fairies

By Amber Turpin

ECO-FARM In 1981, the networking efforts and concerns of an organic farm supplies salesman, Amigo Cantisano, bloomed into the first-ever Eco-Farm Conference. At the second conference a year later, attendees passionate about pursuing a long-term dialogue about sustainable farming and food planted roots for what is now the Ecological Farming Association in Watsonville. Now in its 28th year, Eco-Farm is held every January in Pacific Grove at the stunning Asilomar Conference Center. Once again this year, Jan. 23-26, hundreds of people will gather to participate in more than 50 cutting edge workshops, listen to prominent keynote speakers and eat amazing food in celebration of this delicious movement. This year, a diverse schedule of events too numerous to list here offers a vast transfer of knowledge and insights from those leading the pack on these issues, including author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Center for Food Safety director Andrew Kimbrell. Rounding out the long days of intellectual intensity are organic wine tasting, movies, a talent show, dancing, receptions and banquets. Visit for a full schedule.

The green fairy
After 100 years of being outlawed because of its mind-altering properties, absinthe is now legal with a few modern-day regulations. No one really agrees as to the real reason for the ban. Some say it was all propaganda; others believe that the chemical thujone in wormwood, one of the herbal ingredients in the drink, leads to hysteria and madness. Regardless, the simple truth is that absinthe is very strong (usually over 120 proof), tastes good (if you like licorice) and will make you feel kind of floaty. I've heard reports that thujone affects the brain in a similar way as THC-—enough said. All three main labels that are currently available in the United States, Lucid from France, the Swiss Kubler (the distillery that helped end the ban) and Absinto Camargo from Brazil, can be found at The Crepe Place. Our skilled bartender, Nickolas Gyorkos, adhered to the traditional preparation of the drink on "Absinthe Night" last Tuesday. A sugar cube is set upon a small spatula-shaped strainer called the "absinthe spoon" set on top of a small snifter. The anise-flavored alcohol is poured over this setup into the glass and then the cube is lit on fire. Ice water is used to extinguish the flame, making the drink cloudy, and is muddled a bit to dissolve the sugar. A domestic producer in Alameda, St. George Spirits, recently released a local-to-us version that is only available in limited locations. Look for it closer to home for a special splurge.

Winter wonderland
The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association doubles it up during the winter Passport program in January with The Great Wine Weekend, a perfect way to liven up this post-holiday period. The usual pleasures of Passport Saturday will offer diverse opportunities to taste the bounty from our distinct appelation, plus the exciting Wine and Crab Taste-Off on Sunday, Jan. 20, from 2 to 5pm. This year, Theo's, Michael's on Main, Ma Maison and Restaurante Barolo will prepare two crab-centric dishes each, all paired with local wines, to be judged by all of us and ultimately fight for the title of "Crab Cook 2008." Get tickets at or call 831.685.VINE.

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