Local preserves on a cutting board with pickles and bread
Dining Reviews

The Heritage Food Project to Present at County History Fair

Santa Cruz Heritage Food Project delves into the rich history of food culture in Santa Cruz

Mrs. Thompson’s chili sauce and tomato apple chutney—two sauces recreated from old Santa Cruz recipes for The Heritage Food Project’s cookbook; these ones come from Libbie Gilmour, great-grandmother of co-founder Sierra Ryan, circa the late 1910s. PHOTO: LIZ BIRNBAUM

Happy 150th, Santa Cruz! One special presentation at the Santa Cruz County History Fair at Louden Nelson Community Center this weekend will showcase the history of our local foods and crops. Even serial mayor Cynthia Mathews is understandably high on The Heritage Food Project, and shares their informative website, scheritagefood.com.

Foodies won’t want to miss the 1:30 p.m. presentation, “Harvesting Our Heritage: Telling a Sweet and Savory History of Santa Cruz County,” by Sierra Perry Ryan and Jody Biergiel Colclough—who co-founded the Heritage Food Project four years ago—as well as Elizabeth Birnbaum, and Katie Hansen who joined the project in 2013. Ryan explains that the Project includes a book, expected to launch in July 2017, filled with lore, recipes and local food history.

The project’s historians, or “heritagistas” as they call themselves, combed through archives, discovering fascinating histories and recipes along the way. The Baldwin collection at the Museum of Art & History, for example, yielded “a home economics notebook of a student at Santa Cruz High in 1922,” Ryan says. “We used their strawberry shortcake recipe in the book.”

Admission to the various History Fair events is free, and the action begins at noon on Saturday, Oct. 8 at Louden Nelson Community Center, at the corner of Laurel and Center streets. Come by to hear about the history of Santa Cruz seen through the lens of berries and apples, dairies, vineyards and regional wines. And artichokes, Brussels sprouts and dry-farmed tomatoes. The Project explores our signature foods, how they came to be planted, and why they blossomed into our favorite harvests.


Ribbons For Local Gals

This just in: local gals make award-winning dishes! Ace home gardener, preserver and cook Dee Vogel told me that on a visit to the Santa Cruz County Fair a few weeks back she discovered that her plum and chocolate jam had won First Prize. “And so did the tomato jam, and so did my gluten-free (GF) walnut squares,” she says. Vogel used her Great Aunt Helen’s recipe for the walnut squares, substituting GF flour mix for regular flour. “And [drumroll please], my pickled green beans got the second place in the Ball contest,” she said, via email. “Apparently if your preserved item is canned in a Ball brand jar, you are automatically entered in the Ball contest. Who knew?”

Having tasted Vogel’s tomato jam and the odd-sounding, but sumptuous plum and chocolate jam, I agree 100 percent with the judges. “We knew this stuff was good,” admits Vogel, “but now we have the full authority of the County Fair Board behind us.”

Vogel is not alone. Bonny Doon artist Linda Brackenbury surprised even her family by taking a blue ribbon at the aforementioned County Fair for her judge-pleasing apple pie. Possibly the most challenging accomplishment for a home baker—a great apple pie.


Only in Jersey?

Last week at the Jersey Shore, I stumbled upon an entire half-aisle devoted to GF products at the Acme supermarket in Manahawkin. Coming from what we all think of as the epicenter of gluten-free consciousness (Santa Cruz), I was blown away. Better than that, I discovered a new Pamela’s gluten-free product: the addictively chewy, nutty, delicious Whenever Bar. We loved the Oat Raisin Walnut Spice version, but we adored the outrageously delicious Oat Cranberry Almond bar. Studded with cranberries and crunchy almonds, plus GF oats, chia seeds and very lightly sweetened with agave, they are incredibly delicious and filling. Life-sustaining and a mere 180 calories. I’ve been looking through our local markets but still can’t find the GF Pamela’s Whenever Bar.


Wine of the Week

Birichino Old Vines Grenache 2014. The Instagram of local Grenaches. Endlessly drinkable. $20. Get it. Drink it. You’re welcome.

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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