Dining Reviews

Outdoor Feasts

DiningLeadThe next Mole and Mariachi Festival, Grazing on the Green and a review of Route 1 Farms last dinner

If you missed it last year, (and especially if you went last year) here is your advanced notice for the next Mole & Mariachi Festival to be hosted by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 20, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park, at 144 School Street.

And listen up, all you aspiring mole makers: chefs will compete for People’s Choice as well as Judges’ Choice honors. This is a great way to showcase a business, and show off your skills with chiles, chocolate, achiote, pine nuts, cilantro and other tasty ingredients. There will be lots of prizes for the best mole sauces and participants can soak up live music, folklorico, tortilla making and craft activities. Admission is free; tasting kits will cost $10. To get involved in the event, as a chef, volunteer or sponsor, email [email protected] for more info, or visit the website.

And while you have your calendar out, don’t forget Gourmet Grazing on the Green—a major autumn food and wine event—happening Sept. 27 in Aptos Village Park, from noon – 4 p.m. Live music, beer, food and, because it’s September, a probability of sun. Make plans to be there! For information and tickets, visit: http://sccbg.org.

Route 1 Farms Dinner: Part 2

God is in the details. We sat, along with 120 others, with rows of heavily fruited pear trees behind us. Long emerald strands of peppers and lettuce bordered the redwoods before us. Jeff Emery poured his sensuous Grenache from 100-year-old vines as the first plates emerged. The butter lettuce was practically alive in a memorable opening dish, created by Feel Good Foods, in which beets, dill and large slices of wild salmon had been dusted with fennel flowers. An insanely delicious dill aioli dressing turned it into magic. Next came a beautiful and ambitious summer vegetable minestrone loaded with carrots, squashes, cannellini beans and chard, and topped with garlicky pesto. Ambitious, because we’re talking about a freshly-made soup served to 125 people, outdoors. Part of the success was a partnering 2010 Touriga red, exuding berries and spice, from Emery’s Iberian Quinta Cruz label. Our final savories began with yellow Austrian crescent potatoes and romano beans, tossed together with light herbs and spices, and another platter of grilled eggplant (grown on Larkey’s Ocean Street Extension fields) with creamy feta, peppers and oregano. Here were vegetables so fresh, so exactly ripe, so complete in their intensity, that we could gladly have enjoyed another round of them as the entree. Fogline Farm chicken—grilled on the spot—topped a cushion of tangy grilled radicchio. And a platter of spaghetti tossed with Carmody cheese, heirloom tomatoes and chives finished us off. These last dishes were accompanied by a gorgeous plum-intensive 2010 Pinot Noir from Bailey’s Vineyard, and a 2011 Petite Sirah. I grabbed a sweater as the sun moved behind the trees, and listened to tales of wild boars the size of ponies (farmers have their very own “big fish” stories), as Emery came around one last time, pouring a 2007 Rabel traditionally made Port, and we considered dessert. Imagine bowls of vanilla ice cream from The Penny Ice Creamery, topped with gold and red raspberries, walnuts, and bits of dark chocolate brownie. Now top it with freshly whipped cream. Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds. And then some. Congratulations to Heidi and Amy of Feel Good Foods, and their tip-top crew of servers who never, ever let the dinner lag. An astonishing feat. And to Jeff Emery and his 36 years of putting the Santa Cruz terroir into memorable vintages. But especially to Jeff Larkey, his crew, his fields, and his amazing, hard-working journey as a tireless organic grower. This is exactly why I live in Santa Cruz. PHOTO: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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