Pour Some Oolong on Me: At Chaikhana, the secrets of tea unfold like the lotus petal, more or less.
It's always teatime at Chaikhana on Cedar Street.
By Amber Turpin
A Drink With Jam And Bread
TEA TIME As with any nuanced food product (wine, chocolate, cheese, etc.), tea can be quite daunting. David Wright, owner of Chaikhana (which means "teahouse") on Cedar Street in Santa Cruz, has devoted the last 10 years of his life to tea and is a great resource if you are beginning your journey into the world of Thea sinensis. Over the last five years, Wright has been hosting what he likes to call "informative tea sessions." At 2:30 and 5pm on Sundays, he hosts a small gathering of five for some serious steeping in tea culture. For $5-$20 (sliding scale), each guest picks out one tea from the shop; over the course of about two hours, an interactive discussion and tasting ensues. David is also involved in the new Tea Cultural Center on Squid Alley, which has just begun to hold events, lectures, cooking demos and tastings in an effort to showcase the intricacies and joys of all things tea. The Center's website is not quite up and running, so stop into Chaikhana for more information or to sign up for a Sunday session. 831.423.4200.
Fungus food The 34th Annual Fungus Fair, Jan. 12-13, delivered all the expected mycological splendors, with vast displays, informative classes, art activities and vendor areas all weekend long. These are all great, but I really go year after year for the food. The main room that showcases the well-classified mushroom collection also features several samples of mushroom cookery. Shiitake mushroom lasagna and quiche are good wintertime lunch items, as are the two featured soup varieties, both made by Santa Cruz Fungus Federation member Bob Sellers. He's been making soup for the fair since 1982; this year's selections were a vegetarian boletus broth with barley and sautéed boletus "bacon" and cream of potato leek with "Man on Horseback" chanterelles, chicken stock and cream. "I've honed down the recipes over the years. Once I get it down, I stick to it," he says. Out back, Jozseph Schultz served up oyster and portobello mushroom pakoras, mushroom moussaka and Thai mushroom soup, while Daly City's King of Mushrooms had black truffle ravioli and cheesecake using chanterelles with apricot brandy glaze. At 3pm, chef Dan Brophy from Portland led a highly entertaining cooking demo, resulting in four more dishes to sample, including a decadent porcini and Dungeness crab bread pudding. And that was just Saturday ...
DELICIOUS DONATION Since its opening last August, the Santa Cruz Pasta Factory in Scotts Valley has been giving back to the community through its "Dinner's in the Bag" program. Mondays through Thursdays, $5 from each "bag" sold is donated to a different local school. The family-oriented time-saver meal serves four to six people and always includes a selection of the shop's daily-made pasta or ravioli. The week of Jan. 14 featured fresh fettuccine, Alfredo sauce, a vegetable stir-fry, antipasto platter with meats and olives, garlic bread and extra parmesan cheese. The week's menu is posted online; entrees can be ordered ahead of time and picked up between 3 and 7pm in time for dinner. Go to www.santacruzpastafactory.com for more information.
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