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Photograph by Amber Turpin
Good Tasting, Too: Sardines are the backdrop of the Cooking for Solutions gala.


The Monterey Bay Culinary Arts Institute gets the go-ahead to open shop in the old Lipton building.

By Amber Turpin

Full speed ahead
On May 13, the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously approved a motion to support the Monterey Bay Culinary Arts Institute, a food-based business cluster that will find a home in the empty Lipton plant. On the front lines of the effort is Cynthia Jordan, UC Extension Monterey Bay Master Gardener Program poohbah and volunteer extraordinaire, who says this project will "connect all of the cosmic food dots." Anyone with budding food ideas should be excited about the "incubator" side of this project, which offers commercial kitchen space (conventional and certified organic), culinary training, business management, marketing tools and retail space. The Institute could make the Central Coast a food mecca right up there with San Francisco's Ferry Building or Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa (chef Andrew Cohen already coined this Copia South). The pulse of the Westside food scene gets stronger every day.

Cooking for solutions
When Alton Brown says he recently adopted the old police car motto "Serve and Protect," he doesn't intend to ditch the Food Network for a career in law enforcement. On May 15, Brown spoke candidly to attendees of the annual Cooking For Solutions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium about the guilt he feels being part of a food media that hasn't clearly shown a positive food source connection to the public. In an unprovoked endorsement, he passionately proclaimed that "this little card here, this Seafood Watch, this changed my life personally and it singlehandedly got the attention of chefs. That is the way you change society." Evidence of the Aquarium's sustainable seafood outreach is in the notable list of names involved this year. Celebrity chefs, huge hitters from the media and widely respected educators and scientists come together for this local dialogue each year, creating subsequent ripples worldwide. The food wasn't bad, either: Tempura-fried abalone with dashi-mirin and sake dipping sauce (Peter Pahk), paprika-seared wahoo with cauliflower purée and pine nut picatta (Barton Seaver), bison lollipop with curry aioli and fingerling potatoes (Alessio Giannuzzi), lamb "Ropa Vieja" croquette with licorice syrup (Robert Spairman), Thai-style catfish lettuce wraps (Rick Moonen)--and dessert and wine and bioluminescent jelly fish and ...

Pizza party
I heard someone say once that pizza is like sex: even when it isn't great it's still pretty damn good. When time constraints and energy levels don't jive with a motivation to make homemade pizza dough, pre-made dough can be a great tool for an easy, festive pizza night at home. A pizza stone is a good investment, or use a cast iron pan for deep dish. Outdoor grilled pizza can be your best bet on a hot summer evening. Companion Bread, found at the Westside, downtown and Live Oak farmers markets, makes organic sourdough pizza dough. Use it fast, as the starter will consume itself and it gets more difficult to handle. Another excellent resource is to visit your favorite pizza place and ask if they sell just dough. Until it closed, I usually had a backup ball or two in my freezer from Pizza Amore in Aptos, which made a great New York-style pie.

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