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Dandy Candy: Truffle Gateau was created in a Santa Cruz kitchen in the 1980s.


The chocolate truffle treat that toured with King Tut was dreamed up in Santa Cruz.


Holiday Riches
CHOCOLATE LINK At a recent local wine event, the table heavily laden with brightly colored foil-wrapped cubes that are touted as "a chocoholic's dream come true" had no obvious link to Santa Cruz. Nor did the striking, tall blonde woman and her husband offering samples of their Truffle Gateau, which has been featured in Chocolatier Magazine and won "Best Confection" at the California State Fair. Little did I know that their recipe for this ridiculously decadent brownie-meets-truffle concoction was born on Taylor Lane near the Santa Cruz Harbor 18 years ago and tested on a group of happy neighbors who functioned as a ready-made focus group. Jim and Linda Keys, who now reside in Sacramento, would frequent the now-shuttered Chocolate Bar in Capitola and always left unsatisfied. This was way before the single origin, high-end chocolate boom that has resulted in aficionados worldwide. They experimented at home and created the baked confection using good quality butter and eggs and Belgian chocolate. Truffle Gateau is sold at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom; the "Egyptian Gold" variety with its 24 carat edible gold leaf design was the exclusive chocolate on tour with the recent King Tut exhibit. Order your own online at

The Cheese Chicks maintain a busy schedule of full sensory food education with their next classes at Praise Cheeses Pass the Wine. On Dec. 3 and 10, Tabitha Stroup and Melissa Schilling hold their "Holiday House Cookie Bake," a dough-mixing, goodie-manufacturing extravaganza for the whole family, including the tots (there'll be a baby sitter on hand). Mom and Dad can enjoy festive winter cocktails (including a taste of Melissa's homemade Kahlua), dance to "funky jazzy house music" provided by a live DJ and get ahead of the holiday baking game. Ticket holders can choose from six cookie dough choices to roll into logs, wrap and take home to bake at their leisure, along with a charming cookie cutter. Call the Culinary Center on Front Street in Santa Cruz for more information: 831.429.1390.

Nov. 15 marked the first meeting about what may become a fascinating new food venture on the Westside: a culinary business cluster at the old Lipton Tea plant. The proposed project would involve food-related businesses of varying sizes, with an emphasis on organics, coming together to share certain resources, like kitchens and other benefits, like the exchange of information and advice. The cluster would also serve as an incubator, giving brand-new businesses a leg up. Representatives from the city's Redevelopment Agency coordinated this meeting to get a sense of what role the city could play and to find out what kind of interest food professionals might have in forming such a venture. Some exciting ideas were tossed around, such as huge demonstration gardens, school programs, an on-site restaurant and diverse marketplace of local goods. If you have a food business concept that could potentially fit into this project, you are invited to take part in the next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 10am in the Police Community Room, 155 Center St., Santa Cruz.

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