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Crop Circles

The Culinary Alliance calls Santa Cruz County to eat and drink with area's leading culinary lights at its Harvest Dinner Series

By Steve Billings

If you've been reading these installments recently, you may have realized that we've gotten up from the table and walked outside into the fresh air to where food is grown in an effort to highlight this area's unique producers.

But words can only convey so much. Luckily, on Sept. 1, the Culinary Alliance of Santa Cruz County (CASCC), a nonprofit organization composed of food, beverage and hospitality professionals "dedicated to nourishing the community from farm to table," will provide us seven hands-on opportunities to savor the county's bounty by presenting its first ever Harvest Dinner Series.

CASCC's Harvest Dinner Series riffs on the well-established "winemaker dinner" theme at which patrons interact with and learn about a particular vintner's wines paired with a chef's offerings. Yet these seven songs will have an even sweeter, more integrated melody, as they'll each focus specifically on our freshest seasonal produce paired with talents of a local chef and the distinct wines of our region.

As a patron, you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself all county long while learning about where the food comes from and meeting the people who helped bring it to you. Series-goers can tour the whole span of Santa Cruz County, from the West Side's Ristorante Avanti all the way to Live Earth Farm in Corralitos, where Sand Rock Farm chef Lynn Sheehan will set a table.

"I love the late harvest flavors of Santa Cruz," says Sheehan. "We'll be working with the best ingredients at their peak: exquisite, short-season Williams pears, fresh local walnuts, creamy, organic local goat cheese, the rich flesh of winter squashes paired with the last of the deep-hued heirloom tomatoes, their lush essence infused with sparkling acidity. Our menu is created to highlight and celebrate the pairings between our exceptional wines and produce here in the Santa Cruz region."

The event reþects CASCC's evolving identity and commitment to independent, local business.

"At first, our focus was to put Santa Cruz on the map as a culinary destination, given the incredible agricultural resources and culinary talent here," says Patty Freedman, co-organizer of CASCC. "And now we have enhanced our vision--we see our mission as creating a vibrant culinary community committed to the use of local and sustainable foods, nourishing the community, farm to table."

Advance tickets are required and will be available from the restaurant participating, or at the CASCC table at the Cabrillo Farmers Market on Saturdays through Oct. 16, from 9am to 1pm. More information about the schedule and tickets can be found on the CASCC website, www.culinarysantacruz.com.

Schedule of Harvest Dinner Series

Sept. 1: Kuumbwa Jazz Center with Happy Boy Farms and Storrs Winery, with performance by Claudia Villela and Ricardo Peixoto Band, and special guest, Brazilian guitar legend Guinga. Dinner will be served at 6:30pm before 7pm show, with a second dinner before the 9pm show. $40 per person; tickets available at Logos Books & Records, 1117 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, online at www.ticketweb.com or call 866.468.3399.

Sept. 8: Southern Exposure Bistro with Two Small Farms and Silver Mountain Winery; 831.688.5566.

Sept. 15: Ristorante Avanti with Meder Street Farm and Pelican Ranch Winery; 831.427.0135.

Sept. 22: Theo's Restaurant with Molino Creek Farm and Bonny Doon Vineyard; 831.462.3657.

Sept. 29: Soif Wine Bar and Merchants with Homeless Garden Project and Varner Winery; 831.423.2020.

Oct. 6: Sestri Restaurant with Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Everett & Daughters Farm; 831.479.0200.

Oct. 16: "Feast on the Farm" at Live Earth Farm, with chef Lynn Sheehan of Sand Rock Farm, Hain Pastured Poultry and Organic Walnuts, River Run Vintners and Osocalis Distillery; 831.688.8460.

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From the September 1-8, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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