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Culinary Alliance of Santa Cruz County (CASCC)


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As linked elsethread, an article in the March 3, 2004 Santa Cruz Sentinel ("New alliance pins Santa Cruz to the culinary map") featured a new group here in Santa Cruz County, a non-profit group of culinary professionals who intend to get Santa Cruz county recognized as a culinary destination. I joined earlier this month, as a "food multimedia artist." This thread is intended to highlight CASCC's activities and success. So many good things are happening in the region.

From the CASCC website:

Our Mission

The mission of the Culinary Alliance of Santa Cruz County (CASCC) is to build vibrant and enduring relationships between people who are professionally engaged in providing food, beverage and hospitality in the Santa Cruz region. Through this coalition we will:

  • Generate and support public awareness of sustainable, artisanal local products and the quality culinary services our members offer.
  • Foster opportunities for learning and networking among our members.
  • Harness, enrich and highlight our wealth of local food resources for the greater Bay Area, nation, and world.

My first assignment as a CASCC member was to photograph Live Earth Farm and interview the farmer, Joe Rubin. (I have photographed about two dozen organic farms in the last five years. It's one of my favorite things to do.)

Green garlic at Live Earth:


And here is Joe, in front of the bread oven they built at Live Earth, who oftens hosts community events. Can you see the sleeping dragon on top?


So yesterday, I headed to downtown Santa Cruz with my little buddy, Rowan, who is a six-year-old foodie. Swear to God: he comes to my house, pulls a chair up to the stove, and we cook together. He knows his herbs and spices, and I've seen him stirring pots at his own house, standing on a stepstool.

We had lunch (a fabulous grilled chicken chimichanga at El Palomar, though they are not yet a CASCC member), then I took him for gelato at CASCC member GelatoMania Café. It's a really nice spot: airy and light. There is wireless internet access, as well, and (of all things) an oxygen bar.



Rowan was very happy with his two flavors of gelato (mint-chocolate and a kind of Dutch chocolate). When we chatted about what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "I don't want to be a singer, Tana. I want to be a gelato maker."

We headed to the Farmer's Market so Rowan could meet farmer Joe. En route, we bumped into chef Brian Curry from Ristorante Avanti, also a CASCC member. Brian is a stellar chef who produced absolutely perfect courses at an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner last summer at Happy Boy Farm. When I met him last year, he told me he had bought the entire crop of English peas from a farmer—for the whole season. This is the kind of thing that makes such good sense. Joe had told me that Brian and Ristorante Avanti had thrown a "farmer's appreciation dinner," and it was wonderful.

I introduced Rowie to Brian, and said Rowie was a foodie. Brian whipped out a gigantic stainless steel spoon from his back pocket and helped himself to some of the gelato, telling Rowan, "See, if you ever want to be a chef, you always need to carry a spoon." Pretty cute.

So we headed over to see Joe, and his booth was all abuzz because, as Brian had told me, "Green garlic is here!" He was swarmed with customers. By then, Rowie was full of gelato, and I said, "Maybe Joe will want the rest." Boy, did Joe want the rest. He gave me a bunch of baby beets so young you could practically see their umbilical cords. The greens were glistening with life. If there is anything I love more than baby beets, I don't know what that would be.

These are just about life-sized:


Rowan and I continued our rounds, and headed over to yet another CASCC member's booth, because Rowan knew they were they. He pulled me by the hand over to Donnelly Chocolates, and they were also mobbed. We waited patiently. Well, I waited patiently. Rowan, as I have mentioned, is six, and was very eager, nay, bursting, to know what awaited him. I asked why he wanted chocolate when he had just told me he was done with his chocolate gelato. "That's different, Tana."

We settled on one piece for Rowan, and one piece for my daughter, whom I was getting from school later. Rowan chose the Tahitian vanilla in milk chocolate, and I picked out a raspberry dark chocolate truffle for my girl. Rowie said it was the best vanilla thing he'd ever had, and noticed that it contained actual vanilla bean, "with the speckles in it, like you make, Tana." (He's had my crème brulée.)

All in all, we had a splendid afternoon, and of course the perfect weather that characterizes Santa Cruz made it all the better. That weather is the reason it's Eden here.

EDITED because I misspoke about not growing decent peaches. That's just not true, and I don't know what I was thinking. Doh!

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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  • 2 months later...

It's been three months since I joined CASCC (Culinary Alliance of Santa Cruz County) and my life is transformed. What was the hardest, starkest winter of my life ended before spring arrived, as soon as I became a CASCC member. All of a sudden, every spare minute is claimed. Within a month, I found myself tapped for website duties and asked to help with membership. I've got a partner in crime, Annaliese Keller, who's been involved in the food scene in Santa Cruz since she moved here (as I did) in 1989. We're the membership arm of the alliance.

Today between 1-4 PM, CASCC is partnering with UCSC's Life Labs program in Summer Fare in the Life Lab Classroom Garden.

Activities include baking focaccia in a wood-fired cob oven, a local strawberry tasting, grinding corn and preparing fresh tortillas, and a sustainable seafood BBQ. (“Sustainable seafood” is seafood from sources, whether fished or farmed, that can exist long-term without compromising species' survival or the integrity of the surrounding ecosystem.) Children will sow seeds to take home, squeeze their own lemonade, take a honey taste test, and learn the importance of buying local by playing “My Local Tomato.” There will be face painting and musical entertainment by ZunZun - Music that Celebrates the Americas.

We've got lots of things coming up -- including a lavish event in October, which will celebrate the harvest.

CASCC founder, chef Lynn Sheehan, and chef Jim Denevan, founder of the Outstanding in the Field farm dinners and tours, are looking at pairing up for a farm dinner to benefit CASCC. That will probably happen in the autumn.

Farmers are joining, restaurants are joining, and culinary professionals of every stripe are finding their way to CASCC. Our most recent monthly meeting for members took place at Live Earth Farm. When the business portion was over, we got to go to the stables and see two baby goats, born seven hours earlier.

Here is a calendar of events for the next three months.

And I'm off to the farmer's market!

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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Sounds great, Tana. Is there any collaboration between CASCC and Slow Food? It seems as if there would be a natural fit.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sort of, yes, but not officially. One of CASCC's newest members is the head of Slow Food for Monterey Bay. It is a good match.

I gotta say, the mixers we are having, bringing prospective members, are the best. Because don't you want to go to a potluck with a bunch of chefs? Ooh la la.

Hey, don't you ever come to California? You should come visit. Think October 9 (that is the CASCC "Taste of Santa Cruz" Harvest Fare). And then every Thursday from August on, for nine weeks, various CASCC chefs/restaurants are pairing up with farms to do in-house dinners featuring that farm's best, in a harvest dinner series.

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  • 4 months later...

I was invited to photograph a dinner yesterday prepared by Chef Lynn Sheehan: the event was the final in the CASCC Harvest Dinner Series. She teamed up with River Run Vintners and Osocalis Distillery; the setting was beautiful Live Earth Farm.

Photos and menu from the dinner

We took our little grandson, Logan, who is eight months old. He ate every single thing that was served (eggplant caponata, chicken/green bean salad, tomato gazpacho with heirloom tomato slabs and bacon, chicken, chard, carrots, potatoes). Logan does not have a single tooth in his little Muppet mouth—he's a vacuum cleaner. (Normally I wouldn't take a child to an event like this, but it worked out perfectly, as I knew it would. He's a sunny little soul who holds court like the Churchill he is.)

The meal was so perfect: it straddled the line between summer and autumn beautifully. I regret no photos of dessert, which was one of the best things I've ever had. It was a Warren pear spice cake with brandied raisins and cream, along with a glass of Osocalis brandy, made in the hills near my house.

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Wow..that looks like its worth a trip up north. Do they have the dinners often?

Hi, Chris: the dinners are winding down for the year, as the weather's changing. However, to answer your question more thoroughly:

Chef Sheehan is not the only person doing farm dinners; my biggest web site client is

Outstanding in the Field, who is also a member of CASCC. They are just returning from a national tour (they visited farms in Colorado, Illinois, New York (3), and Georgia). There will be one more dinner on November 20, but not sure it will be on an actual farm.

Next year, OitF will do lots of dinners in California, and possibly more out of state as well. I think CASCC will be doing a few, as Lynn Sheehan really loves cooking outdoors. She did a bang-up job yesterday.

You can sign up on the CASCC web site for updates and non-spam mailings from them.

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