Beyond PB&J: It's picnic-at-the-theater season, and Dish is gobsmacked by the options.
By Amber Turpin
Byington Winery, way up at the top of Bear Creek Road, certainly knows how to use its expansive view. All summer long, oenophiles are invited to pack a picnic and enjoy the veranda at the Thursday evening live music gatherings from 5 to 8pm. Naturally, wine is available by the glass or bottle. On Aug. 15 at 7pm, Byington offers outer space in style at its annual Star Gazer Dinner. A five-course al fresco meal paired with Byington wines will be preceded by a talk on the Perseid meteor shower, courtesy of UCSC astronomy professor Richard Nolthenius. Talula Bay Catering (based in Los Gatos) is preparing several lovely dishes, such as a crab salad appetizer on endive with tarragon and roasted fillet of beef with wild mushroom pan sauce and ragout of fennel. This tempting event may have sold out already, but it's worth checking (www.byington.com) just in case ... at least mark it down for next year. Byington also hosts the outdoor weekend jazz concert series each second and fourth Sunday through October. Next up: the Stan Erhart Band noon–4pm on Aug. 10.
The Open Space Alliance (OSA) is teaming up with Slow Food Monterey Bay for its sixth annual fundraising farm dinner at High Ground Organics in Watsonville. What to expect on Aug. 17? An outrageously extensive menu prepared by guest chef Jozseph Schultz (using only locally grown and organic ingredients), a private tour of Harkins Slough natural resource easement, a bumper crop of factoids on habitat restoration and plenty of wine. The benefit supports OSA's new Sustainable Small Farm Protection Program, which aims to ensure the security of family farms in Santa Cruz County through conservation and stewardship of agricultural land. The five-course meal will include alluring multiethnic dishes such as Indian Chaat, a mix of spiced potato, cucumber salad, strawberry-tamarind dressing and "wheat balloons"; Greek-style calamari; wok-seared free-range beef with a mint, cilantro, chili and lime glaze; wood-fired Turkish bread; at least half a dozen dips, relishes and chutneys; elderflower fritters and even "hand-imported Balinese chocolate nib brittle." This is just the start of what one can expect. Call 831.423.0700 or contact [email protected] for reservations.
Shakespeare Santa Cruz gives us an incomparable annual summertime dose of culture. It's also a great reason to construct an outstanding picnic. Inspired by a recentNew York Times article, I have some suggestions. Start by visiting your closest farmers market to get the raw goods. Stop by your favorite bakery for a fresh baguette or two and something sweet, or better yet, bake your own. Make sure you don't forget the cheese ... and splurge on something other than TJ's stock smoked Gouda. A little goes a long way when you have a beautiful wedge of farmstead cheddar or a round of gooey Epoisse. Stop by Soif, Vinocruz or an area tasting room for your wine, because nothing is better than an alfresco play with a glass of wine. Purée some chickpeas, curry some egg salad, marinate some green beans, pickle some red onions and whip up some aioli, and you'll have a night to remember. A thermos filled with something hot isn't a bad idea for chilly third acts in the Glen, either.
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