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It's time to get into the mood of the season

By Christina Waters

CALIFORNIA CAFE IN LOS GATOS and Flora Springs winery dinner are pairing up on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7pm, for a five-course, prix fixe wine dinner. The Cafe's executive chef, Miles Neal, has shown little restraint in designing a menu to show off the lush Chardonnays and intriguing red wines from this top winery. I started drooling when I considered an opening course of citrus cured salmon, along with fresh oysters paired with a 1998 Soliloquy, Napa Valley. Next comes a course of pear, Roquefort and butter lettuce with candied pecans and chardonnay vinaigrette, paired with a reserve chardonnay. And there's a third course of mushrooms and butternut squash ragout on an asiago tuille with truffle essence, served with a 1998 pinot noir. Neal's main course is a luxurious juniper and peppercorn crusted rack of venison with huckleberry demiglace, served with a 1996 cabernet. Dessert of hazelnut soufflé and plum coulis is paired with a NV Ruby Port, Napa Valley. All this for only $85 (tax and tip not included). Call California Cafe--50 University Avenue in Old Town, Los Gatos--for reservations now: 408.354.8118.

Halloween Baking

Le Boulanger goes the extra distance to treat its customers right. According to the popular bakery/cafe's director of retail sales, Ray Montalvo, the chain normally gives away about 6,000 chocolate chip cookies to kids dressed up in costume on Halloween, and this year was no exception. "It's a tradition we want to continue," Ray said. This year kids in costume who made a visit to their favorite local Le Boulanger bakery/cafe got treated to a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Meanwhile, at the extraordinarily prolific Le Boulanger bakery/cafe group, the mighty California Fresh sandwich is the top seller, with nearly 40,000 of the turkey and Monterey Jack on crunchy Dutch roll sold during the last three-month period. "The California Fresh is our best seller," Montalvo revealed recently. That whopping figure comes from the combined 17 company stores; still, it's a serious number. But then California Fresh, packed with Dijon mustard, mayo, avocado, onion and lettuce too, is a serious experience.

Class Act

Joey Altman is not only one of the cutest babes in the kitchen, but he's also the inquiring host of Bay Café, Bay TV's food show where Altman slices and dices right along with other talented chefs and foodies. Altman, in case your memory banks are limited, was the guy who powered Miss Pearl's Jam House in San Francisco, before coming down to our neck of the woods to open The Palace in Sunnyvale, and now Wild Hare in Menlo Park. The tres chic Wild Hare will be the site of Altman's latest cooking class, "An Evening with Joey Altman at Wild Hare," given through the Draeger's Culinary Center, on Thursday, November 9, starting at 6:30pm. (For reservations, call 650.685.3704.) Altman is a charmer, but he also is a terrific teacher--patient, clear and graced with a winning sense of humor. Participants in the class--which costs $65--will learn their way around making scallop carpaccio with arugula, white truffle and Parma ham (that's the British way of saying "prosciutto"). Then you'll watch Joey walk you through red wine-braised rabbit with gnocchi, pan-seared halibut with zucchini, thyme and almonds and another main dish of pan-roasted squab stuffed with oven-dried tomatoes, Swiss chard and bacon. A dessert of poached pear cobbler with candied ginger gelato should bring the entire class to its knees. And of course you'll be sampling all of this wonderful stuff as you learn how to make it. Come meet Joey Altman--you'll thank me for this tip.

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From the November 2-8, 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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