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Dining Reviews

Tomato Queen

Love Apple Farm’s World Tomato Society, plus new culinary spaces opening soon

Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farm at their tomato plant sale in Scotts Valley. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

It was a terrific 10-year alliance between Love Apple Farm and Manresa Restaurant, but now lycopene queen Cynthia Sandberg and three-star Michelin chef David Kinch have “mutually decided to end a very long relationship,” Sandberg told me last week.

During their time together, the duo inspired countless farm/restaurant collaborations—one of the best, and most delicious artisanal examples of “going viral.” But now Sandberg is having a great time re-inventing herself. It seems to happen every 10 years, she confesses.

“First I was a purchasing manager in Silicon Valley, then a trial attorney, then a farmer for a Michelin restaurant, now an educator and organizer for tomato freaks worldwide,” she says. Yes, Sandberg is taking Love Apple in new, global directions.

“We’ll continue our tomato plant sale, making it even bigger and better. I’m proud to say that it’s the largest tomato plant sale in California. We will also continue our full roster of expanded gardening classes,” she says.

“And I’ve started a venture focusing on all things tomato,” Sandberg reveals. “It’s called the World Tomato Society, and basically it’s a global organization that celebrates the world’s most popular fruit. I will be growing lots of tomato plants here at Love Apple in order to focus on seed-saving, trialing new tomato varieties, and preserving old heirloom varieties of tomatoes.” Sounds luscious. Sandberg, ace grower and tomatoista anticipates “a fabulous year of change” for herself, both personally and professionally. We’ll be watching to check out Sandberg’s next move. And wishing her the best of luck!

Check worldtomatosociety.com for the juicy details.

Speaking of Tomatoes

We are addicted to tomato chutney. Seriously. We go through about a jar a week of the sensational and sweet/tart Tomato Chutney from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods (available for around $5 at New Leaf, Shopper’s Corner, etc.) Maybe the secret involves the way the raisins and wild onion seeds work with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. The flavors go brilliantly with many foods. We’ve slathered it on omelets, whisked it into vinaigrettes for green salads (it loves arugula), and recently discovered how useful it can be in recreating a mini-holiday dinner. You’ve got bread, mayo and sliced turkey, right? Now add a layer of tomato chutney to that sandwich and close your eyes. Thanksgiving dinner, only spicier. Get some.

Almost Here

That would be the incredible expanding Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, still putting the finishing touches on its updated corner of Seabright and Soquel. Housed in the historic Ebert’s building, complete with the signature art deco clock, Lillian’s is being detailed as we speak. Keep your appetite revved up for a May opening. Also being fine-tuned is the new Westside Verve. Joined at the hip with Bantam at 1010 Fair Ave., the newest Verve has a smart little front patio all set to host caffeine lovers. Soon.

Wine of the Week

Byington Alliage 2012 is one of those welcoming red Bordeaux blends that makes friends with almost everything. The handsome blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc offers feisty tannins upon first opening, but by the second day has softened into a procession of satiny flavors. Blackberries give way to cassis and hints of iron. We enjoyed it across two evenings, with spicy foods and with grilled pork. Elegant without being pretentious, this creation of 14.1 percent alcohol errs on the side of perfection. Easy to like, again and again. $32, at the Capitola Whole Foods. And online of course.

Crab Alert

There’s Dungeness crab now coming in at Ocean2Table. The guys from the sustainable seafood fishery are offering delivered shares of local Dungeness crab. Ian and Charlie deliver their fresh catches at locations near you. Check the Ocean2table Facebook page for information about prices and deliveries. Nothing beats fresh.

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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