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Let's Go Bowling: Lynn Sheehan (right) heads up the culinary festivities at UCSC this weekend.

Creative Juices

A UCSC culinary excursion and a tasty twist on jazz are reasons for salivation

By Christina Waters

Temptation, as St. Anthony knew, takes many forms. But I particularly like the academic shape it takes this Saturday, Oct. 25, 6-9pm, at UCSC's boldly designed new University Center. The tasting journey--cooked up by the awesomely talented Lynn Sheehan of Sand Rock Farm--begins at 6pm with a wine reception and hors d'oeuvres in the Rotunda of the University Center.

Surrounded by spectacular abstract artworks from painter/ professor Frank Galuszka, you'll sample wines from four of the Santa Cruz Mountains' top wineries and enjoy appetizers created from the UCSC Farm & Garden's freshest produce. Schmoozing with winemakers is always an educational experience, and much tastier than plasma physics, for example. Sheehan is obsessed with fresh, beautiful food design, and her creations can easily pamper the living arnold out of your taste buds.

Adding a sensory top-note to the predinner hour, the UCSC Gamelan Ensemble (directed by sound sorcerer Undang Sumarna) will fill the Center's innovative spaces with the magical sounds of Bali and southeast Asia. Gamelan music carries its own trance, and paired with the wine tasting should guarantee a heady experience.

At 7pm, guests will sit down to dinner in the high-ceilinged main dining room. A first course of wood-fired leeks with spice-roasted pumpkin velouté joins a 2001 Burrell School Cabernet Franc. Garden herb salad with Tuscan white bean crostini has been paired with a 2001 Zayante Vineyards Estate Chardonnay. For the main course, Sheehan offers range-fed chicken stuffed with walnuts, bleu cheese and an heirloom potato ragout. The dish is paired with the temptingly named Ménage à Trois 2000 from Salamandre Cellars.

Wrapping up the evening--this chef is the chancellor of desserts, in the opinion of my taste buds--is a financier cake with brown butter custard and caramelized local apples, joined by the complex 1989 apple dessert wine from Ahlgren, Mela d'Oro. Golden honey, indeed. I tasted this beauty at a wine dinner Sheehan orchestrated at her home base, the Sand Rock Farm B&B on Freedom Boulevard, and it is as delightful as it is rare.

What's amazing is that a $85 price ($75 for University Center members) can purchase all of this--exquisite gamelan, Santa Cruz Mountain wines, a multicourse dinner showcasing Farm & Garden ingredients and a chance to examine some large-scale paintings up close. Easily the soirée of autumn, this is a must-be-there event. For tickets sales and reservations, call 831.459.4321, or email Janice Clark at clarkj@ucsc.edu. Shuttle parking from the Barn Theater lot to University Center is provided in the ticket price--a blessing to those giving in to temptation.

KUUMBWA-DACIOUS: How about a chef-created dinner for $10 along with your only-at-Kuumbwa live music? Yeah, I thought you'd like that idea. Thursday nights the mighty music club hosts guests chefs for Cookin' at the Kuumbwa.

The series will be bringing you food from cooks at Pearl Alley Bistro, Chocolate, the 418 Organic Cafe, Olitas, Bobby's Can Cooking, DeLaveaga Lodge Restaurant, the Wharf House Restaurant in Capitola and Soif Wine Bar & Merchants. "Celebrity chef" John Livingston from Logos Books & Records served up a spicy dish, and Cafe Kuumbwa manager/chef Cheryl Simons continues to emphasize healthy, organic and innovative meals. Even better, the price for the Thursday night meal is always $10 if you purchase your Jazz & Dinner package in advance, and includes an entrée and several side dishes. It's more at the door, so try to think ahead. Homemade desserts (not included in the dinner price) include Mexican chocolate cake, chocolate crème brûlée, brownies, carrot cake and cheesecake. Kuumbwa's bar serves premium wines, micobrewed beers and nonalcoholic beverages. Last week Nicci Tripp from Theo's wowed the crowd. Coming up are: Madlyn Norman-Terrance of Creative Cooking & Catering on Oct. 23, Convergence Catering on Nov. 6, and Oswald Restaurant on Nov. 20. Chefs to be scheduled in 2004 include Joseph Schultz of India Joze fame and Rebecca Campbell from Rebecca's Mighty Muffins. Thursday dinners start at 6:15pm, and the music begins at 7pm. "Jazz & Dinner" packages range from $18.50 to $22 per person. For more information call 831.427.2227 or see www.kuumbwajazz.org.

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From the October 22-29, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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