Dining Reviews

Sustainable Supper

Dining-GT1535The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs

The Homeless Garden Project celebrated its 25th anniversary last week with a gala sit-down dinner benefit for 150 guests. Set in the midst of their 3.5-acre organic garden overlooking the ocean, it was a vibrant gathering of movers and shakers in organic growing, politics, food, and wine. Such guests included frequent mayor Katherine Beiers (no event is complete without this marathon-running phenom), Molino Creek farmer and ag consultant Mark Lipson, architect Mark Primack, Charlie Hong Kong owner Carolyn Rudolph, cookbook author Carolyn Dille, my former campus colleagues Sue McLean and Connie Croker, and CCOF’s Cathy Calfo, who is also the HGP Board’s Vice Chair. The company, the ambiance, the food—all terrific, and it was one of the only such outdoor sit-down dinners I can recall starting on time, with courses arriving swiftly—fresh from the stoves and grills. Such expert timing makes the guests feel at ease and inclined to come back again and again.

Hors d’oeuvres from Hollins House’s John Paul Lechtenberg were circulated as guests arrived. One sensational app from Lechtenberg was a slow-roasted lamb shoulder, cubed and skewered on rosemary with a Padrón pepper mole and cilantro arugula pesto. My favorite from Lechtenberg was a piquant creation of strawberry bathed with balsamic, strands of fennel, and little pale green “caviar” of finger lime that was out of this world. From Sarah LaCasse of Earthbound Farm Organic came a luscious summer salad of tomato and zucchini carpaccio with tiny greens, toasted pine nuts and an extraordinary pesto vinaigrette. Abundant and tart with freshness, it made a contrasting partner for the baskets full of sliced francese. From the talented hands of chef Brad Briske (of Carmel’s La Balena, and formerly Main Street Garden Cafe and Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz) came an entree of Devil’s Gulch Ranch porchetta served with huge platters of fragrant and brilliantly spiced shelling-bean medley, as well as another platter of wax beans, olives, and sliced fennel tossed with Padrón peppers. Bowls of multi-colored cherry tomatoes—at their very peak of ripeness—arrived as another surprise side, sweet in balsamic reduction. The dessert, by Yulanda Santos of Post Ranch Inn, was simple and lovely. A light, barely sweet white cake spread with strawberry jam, topped with piped lavender cream and Meyer lemon curd and dotted with candied mint leaves. Utterly delicious, and, again, each bite tasted like summer—even in the gathering fog.

Wines were provided by Bonny Doon Vineyard—winemaker Randall Grahm and daughter were among the dinner guests—and by Burrell School Vineyards. Words of wisdom from Greens Restaurant founder Deborah Madison led to a personal narrative from Garden Project trainee Chris Roberts, which left few dry-eyed. I plan to participate in one or more of these wonderful outdoor HGP dinners each year—the rewards of attendance are profound, as well as delicious. The next Homeless Garden Project Sustain Supper is on Saturday, Sept. 19, with keynote speaker Catherine Sneed, who launched the Garden Project to address the high rates of recidivism in the San Francisco County Jail. The program was hailed by the USDA as “one of the most innovative and successful community-based crime prevention programs in the country.” Top chefs will prepare an elegant organic four-course meal, with musical accompaniment from members of the Santa Cruz Symphony. Details at homelessgardenproject.org.

Spirit of the Week

The bracing and botanical-inflected Gin Blend No. 1 from Venus Spirits tasted like a quick trip into the heart of Icelandic myth last week when I needed some quick respite after a tooth issue. A stellar creation perfumed with juniper cardamom, ginger and citruses. At Shopper’s Corner, but you can stop by the Venus Spirits tasting room on Swift Street to sample. venusspirits.com


FRESH PICKED A passed appetizer of strawberries from the Homeless Garden Project’s garden, with balsamic, fennel and finger lime, created by Hollins House chef John Paul Lechtenberg and served at the HGP’s most recent Sustain Supper. PHOTO: CRYSTAL BIRNS

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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