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It's Not Easy : The Culinary Center recently held a taste test of store-bought and artisanal cheeses.


Get hip to holiday cooking with classes at the Culinary Center of Santa Cruz.


CLASS ACT Melissa Schilling and Tabitha Stroup, co-owners of Praise Cheeses—Pass the Wine, offer a class called "Oenomusiphilia" through Cabrillo College that focuses on combining all of the five senses for a thorough appreciation of food and wine. Using this synesthetic concept helps empower the novice foodie venturing into the daunting world of gastronomy. Schilling and Stroup are also frequently found at the Culinary Center of Santa Cruz on Front Street, instructing the public in this unique philosophy. Their Oct. 19 Sip-O-Ween event challenged our palates in blind taste tests to choose between budget and high-end wines and mass-produced versus artisanal cheeses. "Rules are for raising kids and work, not this," says Stroup about letting go of palate preconceptions. A fittingly freaky experience indeed, yet one that really got to the heart of self-trust. On deck in coming weeks are a winemaker reception with Silver Mountain and classes on handmade truffles and healthy holiday party foods. For details, visit or

KOAN ON THE COB Tucked at the end of a long road near the edge of the Ventana Wilderness, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center has been drawing those with a hunger to work, chant, bathe and pray since it was established in 1966. One main draw is the food, which is praised by anyone who has eaten it. Look only to the countless tattered copies of Edward Brown's Tassajara Bread Book and the retreat center's affiliation with the vegetarian destination restaurant Greens in San Francisco for proof of Tassajara's credentials. Nutritionist, chef and dietitian Karla Oliveira brings us the next glimpse into the Tassajara kitchen with the new Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics & Appetizers. Sure to anchor the next generation of go-to gourmet vegetarian tomes, this book is full of tempting recipes and gorgeous photos. There's even some wisdom thrown in as well and the thought-provoking paradox of Zen cooking, or "being concerned with the outcome of the food while not being concerned." At her recent signing at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Oliveira spoke about the evolution of these recipes as the "labor of the past 25 years of guest Zen students' work." Sampling the rich chocolate chew cookies or the artichoke walnut spread was an effectively delicious marketing tool for all assembled. For information on Oliveira's personal chef service, Conscious Eating Cuisine, call 831.335.1766 or visit

UP FOR AUCTION The Kuumbwa Jazz Center is having a benefit party on Nov. 3 to ensure we can continue to enjoy this fabulous local venue. The evening starts with an oyster bar attended by Bill the Oyster Man and hors d'oeuvres. Dozens of local and rare private-cellar wines will flow as well as music by the Brian Fitzgerald and Daniel Green Duo. Dinner by chef Cheryl Simons begins with a radicchio salad with pancetta and walnuts, then herb-crusted rack of lamb, ratatouille and leek soufflé. Apple tart and a variety of truffles will be served for dessert. Auction items include a three-night San Francisco getaway with a jazz show at Yoshi's and dinner at Boulevard, tons of wines including a 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, and a chance to attend the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland. Whoa. Get tickets ($175) now if you can. 831.427.2227.

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