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[whitespace] Shane Griffin Pie Hard With a Vengence: Shane Griffin whips up a pizza at the new Café Lola.


The Greek Festival is 'Opa!' for business once again in downtown Santa Cruz

By Christina Waters

IF YOU DON'T own a DVD copy of Zorba the Greek, you might want to go out and rent one so you can brush up on your folk dancing technique. It's that time again.

For the 21st year in a row, friends of the Aegean will gather to dance, sing, eat, drink and play in heroic fashion at the Greek Cultural and Food Festival, Sept. 6-8. Look for a colorful agora (marketplace) to transform the grounds of the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church at 223 Church St. Continuous live entertainment will be highlighted by the charismatic Greek dancing provided by the Minoans of Marin County and by the Prophet Elias Dancers.

Many of us wait all year long for a taste of the authentic handmade dolmathes, moussaka, gyros and spanakopita, as well as dishes for you Greco-vegans. The wildly popular festival taverna will pour the signature liquors of Greece--ouzo, metaxa and retsina. Add some of those delicate pastries--the amazing kourambiethes, loukoumades, baklava, etc.--and you're somewhere on or near Mt. Olympus, metaphorically speaking.

Festival spokeswoman Shirley Manis told me that this year's fest boasts a deluxe silent auction, church tours for those curious to see the interior of Prophet Elias and the haunting icons created by Tatiana Grant, plus a chance to make some purchases of Orthodox books and gifts at the festival store. If the sounds of bouzouki don't get you up and dancing, you're obviously not alive.

Admission is free, and if you're one of those who have never experienced this vivacious Santa Cruz institution--one of the great block parties of our fair burg--then this is your year. Festivities begin Friday, 5-10pm, and continue Saturday, 11am-10pm and Sunday, noon-8pm.

Whatever Lola Wants: The ladies who lunch are already raving about the pizzettes at Café Lola--dinners will start in a few more weeks. We stopped by for breakfast at the smart new café and let the décor knock us out. Fortified by excellent espresso drinks, we admired the persimmon-enameled grillwork by metal sculptor Kirk McNeill. The blacksmith of Freedom Forge not only created the very California-Milanese espresso bar and room dividers for the sleek new restaurant at the corner of Bay and Mission, he also crafted sculptural grapes for downtown's Soif winebar. Beautiful egg dishes piled high with roasted red potatoes made a nice beginning to the morning. Huge window screens allow street viewing without sacrificing coziness, and the light fixtures--curved metal rods from which hang hand-blown glass globes, each one unique--are utterly gorgeous. Add the killer woodwork, especially the heavy, elegant chairs and upholstered booths, and you have a recipe for serious bistro elegance. Why then does sugar arrive in thoughtlessly generic paper packets? The place oozes classy charm, and the details need to match that message. We can't wait to try some of chef Benjamin Sims' dinner ideas. ... Café Lola is located at 1520 Mission St. (831.426.6322).

The ultimate al fresco dining adventure continues, as the "Outstanding in the Field 2002" series visits Mariquita Farm in Hollister on Sept. 8. Hosting farmer is Andrew Griffin and guest chef is Eric Tucker of the elegant SF vegetarian palace Millennium. An inventive fresh-picked, home-cooked meal will be prepared and presented on-site, where you'll be guided on a tour of the farm, meet the farmer, winemaker Scott Flint of Flint Cellars, and feast on a one-of-a-kind seasonal meal, with special guests Joe and Gayle Ortiz, priced at $90 per person. Bring a favorite dinner plate, and for reservations quickly call 877.886.7409. For more details dial www.outstandinginthefield.com.

Kudos to Tom Vinolus of Bittersweet, Robert Morris of Blacks Beach, Steve Wilson from Café Cruz, Scott Cater of Casablanca and Nicci Tripp of Theo's who will donate their culinary expertise to the second annual Santa Cruz Chefs' Dinner, happening Sept. 12 to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. The event is sold out and that makes me proud of our community. ... Congratulations to Ted Burke, whose mighty Shadowbrook restaurant has won a prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. The award recognizes the landmark's substantive wine list -- which calls for a toast!

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From the August 28-September 4, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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