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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
June 20-27, 2007

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strawberry parfait

Photograph by Farouk Algosaibi
Dessert First Coalition: Let's just hope you don't order the Strawberry Parfait on National Diabetes Awareness Day.

How to Make Your Own Holiday

Spread the celebration of life with Cafe Limelight's wickedly delicious desserts

By Denise Vivar

I once knew a woman who unabashedly announced her impending birthday to practically everyone she encountered--co-workers, acquaintances, the cashier at Trader Joe's. All that she asked of anyone was that they woke up on her day and said to themselves, "Today is Donna's birthday!" Accusations of megalomania notwithstanding, it occurred to me that this was a woman who was generous enough to share with us her exuberance, and I tell you it was downright infectious. People love to celebrate. We love to have an outlet for expressing joy. I have taken her good example and must say that I'm impressed with the results.

It just so happens that I will soon be celebrating another lap around the sun, and I thought I would share that with you, gentle reader. It also happens to be National Strawberry Parfait Day--June 25. Now, I know that some strawberry council somewhere probably lobbied Congress to mark this day, and it's OK--I don't mind sharing. In fact, I'm sure there is someone somewhere who has good reason to rejoice in the strawberry parfait, someone who is on that very day in celebratory mode. I like knowing that we're celebrating together, albeit apart. And how about March 2? It's National Banana Cream Pie day. And National Drink Beer Day? Sept. 28. These are days I think many of us can get behind. It's good to finally see some bipartisan cooperation when it comes to setting important goals for our nation.

I'm not sure I have technically ever had a strawberry parfait--layers of strawberries, cream and ice cream in a tall, fluted glass, but I didn't have to go far to find one.

I ambled into Cafe Limelight and put forth to owners Billy and Farouk that I was coming up on a birthday and invited them to participate in an early celebration. Limelight's partners and I go way back to the early days of the cafe, since before the paint was even dry on the patio railing. Billy, as smooth as a mint julep on a sultry summer night, and Farouk, warm as the spices on his famous hummus plate, rally behind any delicious excuse to conjure up a special treat. The wheels of creativity were set in motion, and I was invited to return the following evening.

At the appointed hour, my friend Nabil and I met and settled into the cozy orange lounge area. I considered moving straight into dessert mode. In fact, I had almost allowed it as the forgone plan, but I couldn't resist having at least half of my favorite grilled-cheese sandwich in town ($6.95). I love how the excess cheese oozes out of the panini edges and crisps on the grill--pure comfort, Farouk style. Nabil opted for another of my favorite dishes, the aforementioned hummus plate ($7.95). Billy purrs that Farouk's hummus is the best in Santa Cruz, and I have to agree. The consistency is smooth but not limpid, with a fresh-ground taste that stands up to the crisp peppers and cucumbers that accompany it. A generous sprinkling of paprika and fruity olive oil complement the hummus beautifully. Presentation at Cafe Limelight is always impeccable.

The parfait moment arrived, charmingly delivered. Layers of Kelly's Bakery madeleines mingled with scoops of Marianne's vanilla ice cream and sliced organic strawberries from Dirty Girl Farm. A crown of fresh whipped cream gloriously reigned over the creation. But there was more. There appeared a stunning dessert panini--grilled francese filled with a warm and luscious gourmet chocolate-hazelnut spread and, of course, more strawberries, all dusted with confectioner's sugar. And encircling this creation: strawberries halved and stuffed with a cocoa cream cheese filling and topped with Donnely's chocolate bits. I dipped and swooned and scooped and reveled in every bite. Farouk even created more for the other diners to share in the festivity. They have dubbed their new creation "Denise's Strawberry Panini Forever," and while this will never be a national holiday, it will be a treat I'll always remember.

Life should be a celebration. You don't have to wait for your birthday, or National Food on a Stick day to plan an extravagant dessert. At Cafe Limelight, your party hat is waiting.

Cafe Limelight

Address: 1016 Cedar St., Santa Cruz

Phone: 831.425.7873

Hours: 11am-3:30pm and 5-9pm Tue-Sun.

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