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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
09.10.08

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Phaedra

Raining Authority : Patricia Rain knows vanilla.

Dish

In the weeks ahead: a benefit for Santa Cruz vanilla goddess Patricia Rain and a Bonny Doon Vineyard-Blue Moon Organics harvest dinner. Yum.

By Amber Turpin


Anything But Plain
There's no doubt that Patricia Rain is the Vanilla Queen. Both near and far, across continents and seas, she has contributed to an extended food community by promoting the joys of pure, quality vanilla and spreading respect and compassion. Just one out of dozens of her worldwide actions has been founding the International Tropical Farmer's Network, which conducts outreach and education on fair trade and organic certification and economic justice to vanilla farmers and their families. And the ubiquitous ingredient is mind-bending when utilized per her suggestion and variety. Unfortunately, Rain has been facing some serious health issues and needs some support. On Sept. 28 at the Seymour Center in Santa Cruz, a gala benefit luncheon is being held in her honor, featuring offerings from the best local chefs and restaurants, wines, live music and exciting auction items.

United Way sponsors this event, and all donations are tax-deductable. Visit www.patriciarain.com or www.vanilla.com for more information.

MEAL PLANNING 101
One of the greatest misconceptions about maintaining a healthy diet is that it costs too much money. This is the most prevalent argument against organics and is at the nexus of Slow Food bashing. However, in the United States we currently spend only 10 percent of our paychecks on food. In other words, healthy food has become a low priority compared to the rest of our consumable "must-haves" like cell phones and designer shoes. Our culture of convenience and current economic disaster makes that $5 packaged item seem like an easy fix. Viewing this as a dinner solution is in fact a much costlier way to eat--financially, environmentally and nutritionally. New Leaf Community Market is kicking off its Fall 2008 Culinary Academy program with the class "Meal Planning" on Sept. 25. Learn to prepare your own delicious and fresh meals at home, veering away from the to-go mentality and toward vibrant self-sufficiency with time-saving techniques and hands-on skills. Chef Jennifer Brewer is a graceful and warm teacher who will help show you the way. (www.newleaf.com or 831.466.9060, ext. 126)

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
This time of year lends itself to amazing alfresco dining opportunities. Our lovely summer is starting to soften into fall, and a fitting celebration is the upcoming farm dinner at Blue Moon Organics in Aptos. The pre-equinox feast on Sept. 20 will feature Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard pouring a selection of his favorites along with a six-course meal highlighting the season's best. San Francisco-based chef Gabriel Cole, most recently of Google and consultant for Slow Food Nation, will prepare the stunning dinner sourced with impeccable fresh Blue Moon farm produce: smoked gazpacho with cilantro oil; caramelized beet strawberry salad with pickled relish, goat cheese and French vinaigrette; late summer Napoleon; roasted acorn squash and zucchini with homemade ricotta, feta tomato concasse, basil and toasted pine nuts; intermezzo of strawberry soup; pan-seared duck breast or braised tempeh with blackberry gastrique, confited torpedo onions and green beans; vanilla bean and rosemary couscous; a cheese course of chèvre Cigare; and triple melon granita for dessert. (www.bonnydoonvineyard.com or 831.786.0588)


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