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[whitespace] Shopping Talk

California Cafe keeps savvy consumers from dropping when they shop

By Christina Waters

KYLE WIENS, EXECUTIVE CHEF at the California Cafe in Valley Fair Mall, is setting new standards for fine dining in a world-class shopping situation. Wiens, who's just put the finishing touches on his spring menu, was sous chef at the glamorous cafe for eight and a half years before moving into the chef's slot last July. "We've been doing lots of specialty menus lately," Wiens revealed. Which means seasonal items, like a month's worth of asparagus, and a special bevy of artichoke dishes that wrapped up last week.

Lest you think this California Cafe is content to offer bistro sandwiches and gargantuan salads, check out these new items. Halibut crusted in Dungeness crab with cauliflower, bok choy and shiitakes in chardonnay butter sauce--imagine diving into that after a hard afternoon at Banana Republic. Spring lamb chops with Castroville artichoke and red potato hash got my taste buds working. So did another menu item: a stir fry of asparagus, red pepper, mango and tofu with sticky rice and plum soy.

California Cafe is more beautiful than ever, and it's still housed at one edge of the oldest, classiest mall in the area. "One thing that's really been popular," Wiens says, "is our Saturday brunches. Lots of people love the idea." And a lot of people love the idea of making California Cafe a pitstop before or after a movie, or a game or show at the Arena (seven minutes away). California Cafe opens at 11am daily, and serves continuously--that means you can get a gorgeous meal at 3:30 in the afternoon if you want--until 10pm, till 10:30 on weekends. Call 408.296.2233 for reservations. I love to make an entire day of shopping, and chef Wiens is one of the reasons why you can shop till you drop, without succumbing to junk food.

Let Them Drink Wine!

Call them party animals, or call them fun-loving vintners. We call them the Santa Clara Valley Wine Growers, a close-knit group poised to party at the 25th annual version of the Spring Wine Festival. It all happens, as always, at scenic Casa de Fruta Country Park on Saturday, April 29, from noon until 5pm. What you get for your $30 ticket is not just that highly collectible souvenir wineglass (save them for auctioning on eBay). You also get to enjoy a New York steak barbecue lunch with the all-American trimmings, live music, the wildly popular barrel race and lots of other activities adults can perform in public. Those of you over 21 are cordially invited, and this is not only seriously fun but it allows you access to winemakers from Cooper-Garrod, Guglielmo, Fortino, J.Lohr, Mirassou, Picchetti, Pedrizzetti, Solis, Thomas Kruse and many more. Wonderful wines, and this time of year the rolling hills of south Santa Clara County are in full spring splendor. Splendor in the grass, if you will. For your tickets--also available at participating wineries--call 800.548.3813.

Wine With Heart

It's Spring Passport Day at the Santa Cruz Mountains wineries, coming up this Saturday, April 15. From 11am to 5pm, 20 tiny top wineries (I can't resist alliteration, although I know it's so immature) will be open for visiting, tasting, touring and buying. You'll have a chance to enjoy a drive through the coastal hills, redwood forests and sunny slopes while chatting with winemakers from Ahlgren, Bargetto, Roudon-Smith, Byington, Clos la Chance, David Bruce, Zayante and many more. For information, call 831.479.WINE or visit the website at www.SCMWA.com.

And more on the local winemaking front: Great architecture, local history, terrific wines and impeccable hors d'oeuvres are only a few of the reasons to pencil in Sunday, May 7, 2-5pm, for the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Auction--Wine With Heart. An annual opportunity to sample the handiwork of almost every single Santa Cruz Mountains winery, the event is held for the first time ever at the Hayes Mansion in San Jose. A massive, turn-of-the-century Mediterranean-style estate, the Hayes is a gorgeous place. Plus, your $45-per-person ticket gets you fine foods from Bay Area restaurants, tasting and live/silent auction excitement. For details, call 831.479.9463.

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From the April 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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