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Photograph by Sean White
The Heart of the Cappuccino: The newly opened Verve takes foamy goodness to a new level.


Verve Coffee Roasters keeps Eastsiders jumping.

By Amber Turpin

After 11 years in the coffee business (including working for Oakland-based Mr. Espresso) and a "voyage to Portland" to learn some tricks of the trade, Ryan O'Donovan's dream is coming to fruition. Verve Coffee Roasters in Capitola, not even 4 months old, is what O'Donovan hopes will be the showcase for a widely recognized wholesale coffee roasting company.

The space on 41st Avenue at Portola is appealingly urban; all glass, concrete and honeyed wood tones with custom deco chalkboard stenciling and wall design. The beverage menu consists of all in-house roasted beans (done right next-door in the sparkling roaster) that are broken up into four categories: Americas, Africa-Arabia, Indonesia and Blends, which are further broken down by country, estate and varietal. One Verve exclusive is the Kenya Mutitu Peaberry (Nyeri) Auction Lot, only 20 bags of which were sold and five of which are now being brewed in Capitola.

In late March, the Western Regional Barista Competition is taking place in Berkeley, which, according to O'Donovan, is "quite the showing of coffee geeks. It's like the movie Best In Show, but for coffee." Two of his staff members will be competing there, a nod to an emphasis on training, consistency and the beautifully concocted microfoam on the Verve cappuccino. (831.475.7776)

The students are back in class at Cabrillo College after a long winter break, and that means the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program has returned to Pino Alto, its on-site restaurant at the historic Sesnon House. Lunch (first come, first served) and dinner (reservations accepted) are being offered Mondays through Thursdays as a sort of test run for the students to simulate a full-blown restaurant experience. The menu sounds impressive and the prices are shockingly affordable for three or four courses. A new development this quarter is the wine bar, showcasing local producers and featuring a handful of small plates, such as steamed clams with chorizo and tomatoes, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. It opens at 4:30pm Monday-Thursday. Call 831.479.6524 for reservations.

A torrential downpour of rain greeted a surprisingly large crowd for the annual Clam Chowder Cook-off last weekend. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Co. created quality versions of both red and white chowders to sample from vats of soup in revamped kegs. They won first place for their Boston chowder in the Professional category and also for Most Original Team. The "Manhattan Transfers," representing Dominican Hospital, posted a "lifestyle change" with a chowder that featured no butter, cream or pork and nutritional information for every half cup. UCSC's dining program also featured Manhattan and Boston chowders, the latter using all local and organic ingredients and the best oyster crackers around: Westminster brand from Vermont. The red variety, made by the "Redwood Sluggers: the best educated chowder on the planet," was Thai style with kefir lime and cilantro garnish, a refreshingly light and creative departure from the rest of the pack.

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