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[whitespace] Cherry Good

And other ways to taste the season

By Christina Waters

DEBORAH OLSON, the queen of the local cherry market and fourth generation entrepreneur of the C.J. Olson dynasty of orchardists, called up to remind me about her big Olson Cherry Food & Craft Fair coming up on Nov. 18 and 19 (10am-5pm). "It's our way of getting the jump on the holidays," Olson told me last week. The fair is really one of those last remaining down-home events in the middle of what used to be endless rows of cherry, apricot and plum trees in Sunnyvale. Well, now the trees are down to 10 acres of apricots and three heroic acres of cherries, but the landmark Olson "cherry stand" at the corner of Mathilda and El Camino Real will probably keep on going through the next century. "It's really becoming an annual tradition," the cherry czarina revealed. "We're a gathering place, where there will be lots of tastings and new products." The Olson gift packs make doing your holiday shopping practically painless. Dried fruits, jams, chocolates, pies, all kinds of cherry and fruit-oriented delicacies fill these thoughtful gift ensembles. The event happens from 10am until 5pm both days, and yes, there certainly will be fresh cherries to sample and purchase. Plus, there will be fine local crafts, complimentary hot cider and old-fashioned warm atmosphere. "Come get into the spirit," Olson invited me and you and the entire Silicon Valley region. For more information about Olson's Cherry Stand, and the Nov. 17-18 event, call 408.736.3726.

Tasty Tortoise

Designer mustards--it all started with Grey Poupon--have been with us for a while. And they show no signs of going away. We like to try them with sautéed fish or chicken, as a quickie way of intensifying flavor without adding big calories, i.e., butter. Our new favorite seasoned mustards are from Terrapin Ridge (they also get points for the good-looking label design). The Wasabi Lime is killer, on its own with salmon, or added to unflavored yogurt or low-fat mayo. And we just picked up a jar of the Cracked Pepper, Lemon & Thyme Mustard. All the seasonings I love on fresh fish--and now I just open this attractive jar. Timesaving, packed with fresh, intense flavor and only about $5. Look for the Terrapin Ridge mustards at your favorite enlightened market--it's definitely available at Oakville Grocery.

Sage & Onion

On our thoroughly enjoyable weekend in Santa Barbara last month, we checked out the hot, one-year-old Sage & Onion in the heart of all that luscious Mission-style architecture just off State Street. Chef/owner Steven Giles knows his way around the kitchen, we discovered, as we sampled a luxurious tarragon-spiked squash amuse bouche topped with a float of truffle oil. Beautiful breads--including one spiked with both sage and onion--kept company our excellent Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc '99 (which I highly recommend for those weary of oak). The room, with its mezzaluna chandeliers, adobe cove ceilings and exceptional service, was perfectly lit and loaded with low-key glamour.

I had my mouth set for one of Giles' celebrated appetizers involving slices of warm new potato, each topped with a seared scallop surrounding a roasted corn relish. The surrounding sauce was haunted by light traces of sage. It was one of the best starters I can remember. Another dish of ahi on gossamer potstickers filled with ginger and prawns was equally disarming. Pork medallions, strewn with Mission figs on rich mashed potatoes, proved slightly overcooked. Giles--a transplanted Brit who apprenticed in Europe--explained that his clientele was still squeamish about pink pork. A pity, since there's no longer any danger about "undercooked" pork. Our compliments on an outstanding dessert involving slabs of frozen mascarpone, planted like creamy icebergs in a "minestrone of autumn fruits and berries." Sage & Onion (34 E. Ortega St., 804.963.1012).

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From the November 16-22, 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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