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SUMMER 2014 FEATURE STORIES


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Route 1 Farms scrambles to preserve land -

home1-nggid017-ngg0dyn-420x315x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010July 22, 2014 – Route 1 Farms owner Jeff Larkey has been holding a series of urgent meetings with neighbors and friends of the farm in hopes of finding a buyer willing to save his prime cropland on Ocean St. Extension at the outskirts of Santa Cruz. 

Two idyllic parcels he’s farmed for 30 years along the southern bank of the San Lorenzo River are set to go on sale next week—one six acres and the other 3.25 acres.

“It’s one of those unique places with perfect climate and perfect soil, along a riparian corridor, where you can grow anything,” says Larkey, whose year-to-year lease is up on December 31.

“Small farms on the fringes of urban areas are super important to our local food system,” he adds, “and they are endangered because of high property values in our area.”

The two parcels are expected to fetch a steep price and even though it’s zoned for commercial agriculture, Larkey wants to find the right buyer who is committed to preserving it as farmland in perpetuity through a conservation easement.

Buying the property himself is not an option. “I’ve never had that much money at one time,” the farmer said.

Larkey

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Holman buying Wills Fargo -

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 7.51.16 PMJuly 22, 2014 – EMB has learned that Holman Ranch is in escrow on a deal to buy the historic Wills Fargo restaurant in Carmel Valley from owner Ben Pon. Pon began divesting his properties last year with the sale of Bernardus Lodge to Noble House Hotels, but still owns Bernardus Wine. Holman Ranch operates a tasting room near the restaurant that’s often packed to capacity for special events, so the restaurant will provide welcome additional space. 

Executive Chef Jerome Viel is expected to remain at the helm of the classic steak house and saloon. The former butchery, where diners would go to pick out their steaks, is expected to be turned into a boutique showcasing the ranch’s high-end wines. Holman Ranch estate-grown wines are continuing to rack up the awards, with their 2011 Chardonnay winning gold at the Sunset International Wine Competition. Their 2010 Pinot Noir and 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir both garnered silver medals.

The beautiful Holman Ranch, with it’s vineyards, winery, olive grove, stables and stone hacienda has been named one of the best venues in the country for weddings and private parties. Wills Fargo may be a good fit for their growing wedding business, as

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Celebrating cactus and Mexican heritage -

20140629_160748July 22, 2014 – When people ask me how to save water in their edible gardens during this year of drought, my answer is two words: prickly pear. It’s a joke that I find knee-slapping hilarious—but also serious. It sounds extreme, and it’s not the answer most people expect, or want. Few Americanos look at Opuntia cactus—which includes the vegetable nopales and the fruit prickly pear or tuna in Spanish—and get hungry, and we don’t know how to eat it (although it’s a delicious and healthy addition to pico de gallo and a star ingredient in chorizo and eggs).

Of course, there are many ways to save water—among them rain barrels and graywater, mulching and compost. (See my article entitled Department of Lawn Replacement: In Defense of Food in EMB Summer 2014) But according to Manfred Warmuth, a member of the California Rare Fruit Growers, species in the Opuntia genus of plants require about 60% less water to grow (and it grows forever). That means that even this year, rainwater is enough!

Warmuth, who’s a computer science professor at UCSC by day, uses his homestead near the university to research which edible cactus species grow easily in Santa Cruz,

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Farmers’ Market Inspires Bistro Night at ATOM -

d1127ae1-65be-459d-bbab-3c1fb276cb66July 21, 2014 – Chef Adam Foster was walking through the Tuesday Farmers’ Market on Alvarado Street, when he came across some Black Monukka table grapes. Strangely enough, one of the first things he thought of was risotto—which he immediately put on the new Bistro Night menu at A Taste of Monterey.

Bistro Night is a short, supplemental, farmers’ market-inspired menu that changes weekly and is served Thursday to Sunday beginning at 5 pm. The idea was hatched by Chef Dory Ford, who owns Taste’s culinary partner Aqua Terra Catering. Foster’s onsite execution is spot-on. EMB’s reporter was invited to visit and sample the goods, which included the aforementioned grape risotto. The grapes were roasted and sprinkled on top of the risotto, along with toasted walnuts and a fresh salad of sprouts. Foster also stirred in some St. Nectaire cheese—a semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese that added extra creaminess to the dish. The seafood entrée was a mildly spicy chorizo-stuffed Monterey Bay Calamari. The stuffed tubes and tender tentacles were served on hearty herbed polenta accented by a little bit of savory puttanesca sauce and a bit of pickled fennel salad. One of the servers noted that another recent seafood

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Venus Spirits Launches This Week -

10343009_251155198411767_3421543603525319019_nJuly 15, 2014 – Those thirsty for a taste of Sean Venus’ Santa Cruz-made, small batch gin need wait no longer. The first 750ml. bottles should be arriving Wednesday at 41st Avenue Liquors, where they’ll sell for $31.99. Venus Spirits is hosting two release parties this week to introduce the brand: a sold out one Thursday at Stripe Men; and a “Drinks with the Distiller” event on Friday at Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant from 3-8pm. Venus Gin Blend No. 1 will be featured in handcrafted cocktails and Sean Venus will be on hand to talk about all things spirits-related. There will be complimentary small bites and no reservations are needed.

Made with an aromatic combination of juniper berries, cardamom, lemon, orange, tangerine, ginger and angelica root, Venus gin is the first product released by the brand new artisan distillery on Swift Street in Santa Cruz. A tequila-style white spirits called Ladrón will be bottled next week and shipped out by the end of July. They are also producing single-malt whisky under the name Wayward and have the first batch currently aging in oak barrels.

Venus Spirits is the first artisan distiller in our area to attempt to open a tasting room,

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On the Road Again: Chef Todd transforms Tarpy’s -
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Chef Todd Fisher (photo: Philip M. Geiger)

July 8, 2014 – For 20 years, Chef Todd Fisher drove past Tarpy’s Roadhouse restaurant to and from the kitchens of other restaurants, marveling at the beauty of the property, and imagining, given the opportunity, the marvelous things he would do with the place. Earlier this year, the opportunity arose, and he went for it.

Fisher was actually quite comfortable where he was, working in an enviable position with the Pebble Beach Company. But he’s always had a hard time turning down a challenge.

Just 10 weeks later, Fisher has laid significant inroads toward realizing his vision to return the restaurant to its roots as an authentic—yet contemporary and upscale—American roadhouse. Starting with his newly redesigned menu, Fisher is shifting from Tex-Mex to American-influenced roadhouse fare. This means serving up sea scallops in a gin-and-passion fruit vinaigrette, with chili oil, candied walnuts and endive. Or preparing shrimp and grits but using hominy, plumped with milk and heavy cream, to give it a tender, succulent consistency more like polenta, resulting in a more sophisticated version of grits.

Fisher is most excited about his 20 oz. T-bone steak, simply seasoned with sea

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Manresa Closed by Fire, Haute Produce for sale -
Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos (photo: CBSlocal)

Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos (photo: CBSlocal)

July 8, 2014 – A serious fire at famed Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos Monday morning has shocked the culinary world and created a feeding frenzy over haute biodynamic produce grown for Manresa at Love Apple Farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “What happened in the early morning hours yesterday was a setback,” owner/chef David Kinch said in a statement. “Rest assured we will be re-opening Manresa….better and stronger to again welcome you, our loyal guests.”

Early reports said the two alarm blaze caused $300,000 in damage and speculated it was caused by a leaky gas meter outside the building, but Kinch said it will take some time to accurately assess the damage. Fortunately no one was injured. Meanwhile the restaurant is closed indefinitely, affecting staff and all of its purveyors–particularly Love Apple Farms.

“It’s impacting a boatload of people, but especially hard on us because they were our only customer,” farmer Cynthia Sandberg told EMB. But the entrepreneur jumped into action announcing a small, 25-member CSA–that sold out within hours. A second and third CSA for later in the summer were added and Sandberg is opening a produce stand on the

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CARMEL FARMERS MARKET TO STAY IN PARK—FOR NOW -

365452eb-e9f9-459b-8dd0-3cc3a4af1408July 8, 2014 – Fans of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s year-old farmers’ market will still be able to find it in Devendorf Park on Thursdays, but starting on July 17 they should expect several changes. 

In something of a compromise hammered out over several hours of meetings last week, the council on July 1 voted to extend the contract of the market manager, the West Coast Farmers’ Market Association, for 120 days and to allow the market to stay for that period in Devendorf Park. Also during the 120 day period, the market manager may work with a new ad-hoc council farmers market committee led by Carrie Theis and Steve Dallas to experiment with an alternative location, if they so choose.

The council also voted to restrict the market operation in many ways:

• The market will, as of July 17th, only be able to operate within the park and cannot occupy the block of Mission St. that it previously has;

• The market manger must follow a more strict interpretation of the markets’ original guidelines by eliminating arts and crafts purveyors as well as prepared food vendors not based in Carmel. The guidelines also require that produce be mostly organic,

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Carmel-by-the Sea Council to take up Farmers Market tonight -
Carmel-by-the-Sea City Councilwoman Carrie Theis

Carmel-by-the-Sea City Councilwoman Carrie Theis

July 1, 2014 – The Carmel City Council could act tonight on the controversial location and hours of the year-old Carmel-by-the-Sea Certified Farmers’ Market.

Councilwoman Carrie Theis, who together with councilman Steve Dallas convened a contentious workshop on the issue at City Hall last night, said that she and Dallas would make several recommendations for action by the full council, based on the feedback they’ve received from local residents and business people.

“Obviously its something the locals really enjoy,” Theis said of the market. “We’re trying to see how to not impact the merchants and keep it going.” 

Among the recommendations that she and Dallas plan to propose tonight are to:

• Offer a 90-day extension of the existing contract with the market provider, West Coast Farmers Market Association;

• Change the market hours to 8:30 or 9am to noon or 1pm, from the previous hours of 10am to 2pm.

• In line with the market’s original guidelines, discontinue the sale of crafts and other non-food items;

• Discontinue the sale of prepared foods that are not made by Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants or caterers and

• Offer a couple of alternatives on the most disputed topic

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201 Main aims to liven up Old Town Salinas -

DSCN3217July 1, 2014 – Visitors to Old Town Salinas are cupping their hands to windows, peering through gates, and generally poking around 201 Main Street a lot more often these days—and with good reason. The once-derelict Wells Fargo Bank building is finally getting set to open as a sleek, sophisticated entertainment complex housing six food businesses and an event venue. The target date is August 1, but that’s not set in stone—they’re still awaiting final health inspection from the city. “After four years, I’ve given up on giving out dates,” chuckled Jesse Kehoe, vice president of the Berkley Group, which owns and will operate the complex.

The project began with two years of seismic upgrades to the building, which dates to the early 20th century. The Berkley Group, that includes Jesse’s brother Seamus, and is headed by their father, Gerry, maintained much of the structure’s original marble, as well as some interior brick walls and the high ornamental ceiling in the largest of three eateries, Giorgio’s. The complex has a lot of unusual, and dare we say, really cool features, which Jesse proudly showed off on EMB’s recent visit. Kehoe said the interior design was a collaboration among the owners,

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