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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
09.10.08

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Phaedra

Just Resting : Pace yourselves, grazers--it's a five-hour lunch.

Let's Go Grazy

Two dozen Santa Cruz chefs and wineries offer up samples of their best at this weekend's Grazing on the Green, and all for a good cause.

By Matthew Craggs


According to a series of bumper stickers seen around Santa Cruz, one person can make a difference and we should all practice random acts of kindness. While sticky mass-produced proclamations of individuality have led us astray in the past, in at least one case there may be something to be gleaned from this piece of popular wisdom.

For over a decade, a group of Santa Cruz business owners and restaurateurs have been filling their spare time with efforts to raise money in support of cancer research and treatment. Formed in 1995, the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group (SCCBG) found its creation in four friends whose lives had all been affected by cancer.

"Thirteen years ago a group of the current board members used to play tennis every Friday afternoon, and we all had lost a family member or a good friend to cancer. We thought that it would be fitting to create an event that both supported people struggling with cancer and cancer research," founder John Battendieri explains. In addition to Battendieri, the founders include Bob Munsey, co-owner of Shadowbrook and the Crow's Nest; Jerry Neilsen, co-owner of Café Cruz and local businessperson Terry Pershall.

"With their history, their background and their businesses, they wanted to create the benefit event of the area," says event director Jeni Brill, describing the origins of the upcoming Gourmet Grazing on the Green, now in its fifth year. "Our best local restaurants and chefs come out to prepare their best dishes with local produce donated by the area's farmers."

The results are impressive. Guests can expect the full range from hors d'oeuvres and first courses to main entrees and dessert. Munsey's Shadowbrook will tempt guests with white Mexican prawns, known for their large size and sweeter meat, wrapped in bacon from Corralitos Market and glazed with a sweet soy sauce accompanied by pickled ginger sauce. Caterer Santa Cruz Green Cuisine will be on hand to offer roasted and marinated beets wrapped in endive and radicchio.

Following these appetizers, Johnny's Harborside opens the starter courses with a salad featuring house-smoked salmon and a wasabi aioli, while an heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella and croutons drizzled with pesto coulis makes an appearance courtesy of Café Cruz. Custom Culinary Concepts will prepare a traditional New England clam chowder with beef spiedini--Italian skewers grilled over an open flame or cooked under a broiler.

Munsey's other local restaurant, the Crow's Nest, kicks off the main dishes with a lamb chop sporting Iranian flair in the form of a hazelnut crust and pomegranate demi-glace. Coulis, a French sauce traditionally made from any vegetable or fruit purée, will make a second appearance this time as a rosemary-infused plum sauce complementing a roasted pork tenderloin from Fresh Prep Kitchens.

Gourmet Grazing on the Green will also host a number of desserts, including a mango mimosa sorbet in a cookie cup by Scotts Valley's Mint and fresh peach bread pudding smothered in bourbon butter sauce.

Live jazz, local artists and demonstrations by New Leaf chef David Wells, on how to prepare healthy meals, will join wineries and breweries. A sneak peak at over a dozen wineries reveals Muccigrosso's Lyn Zin, a white blend from Sones Cellars called La Sirena, Storrs' Chardonnay and Hunter Hills' Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet, which recently won a Silver Medal at the California State Fair.

With the exceptional food and drink on offer, Battendieri sees the $65 tickets ($55 in advance through participating restaurants) as not only supporting a great cause but as an economic alternative to a night out on the town. "It's a culinary experience, a gourmet experience. ... I think it's a great value to go out and basically have a 15-course, five-hour meal complemented by great wines and organic beer for a lot less than you'd pay at a restaurant."

In the past 13 years, SCCBG has given over $800,000 to fund support services and cancer research. Its contribution, of which $38,000 came from last year's Gourmet Grazing on the Green, helps to provide support groups to the families and individuals afflicted with cancer and solely funds four research projects currently at UCSC. As SCCBG continues to do its part in providing aid and resources to the local community, the least we can do is help them out by helping ourselves.

THE FIFTH ANNUAL GOURMET GRAZING ON THE GREEN is Saturday, Sept. 13, noon-5pm at Aptos Village Park, 100 Aptos Creek Road, Aptos. Tickets are $55 advance/$65 door. (www.sccbg.org or 831.465.1989)


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