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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Aptos Farmers Market at Cabrillo College

There's no better season to hit a farmer's market than summer and no better farmer's market near my hometown of Santa Cruz, California than the one every Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to noon at Cabrillo College. For our June excursion Stacie and I decided two foodies don't need to look any further for the stuff they love than a good farmers market. As you would expect in the heart of the agriculture rich Southern Monterey Country this farmer's market is totally top drawer. These purveyors of great food and produce are part of the nearly forty year old Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets. To see Stacie's recap of our trip to the Aptos Farmers Market click here.

Of all your senses that are invaded at a farmers market none catch my attention more than colors and these first few photos illustrate that perfectly.

Red Bell Peppers from Pinnacle Farms

Heirloom Carrots in surprising colors
Eggplant of all kinds creates purple envy.
Fresh Green husks and very cool bi-color white and yellow corn inside.

Produce is not the only locally made goodies you can find here. The legendary meats made by the Corralitos Market are available here every Saturday morning. I was heading to a bar-b-que on Sea Cliff Beach that night so I grabbed some of their popular cheese stuffed sausages.

Apple Wood Smoked Sausages from Corralitos Market and Sausage Company

I love peaches but am just CRAZY about nectarines and both are coming into their relatively short seasons. Having a fresh peach and nectarine tasting station is like a dream to me. The hardest part of having over ten different varieties to taste is to stop tasting because they are all so superlative. This much variety can create option overload but no one (especially me) seemed to be complaining. There is a fresh peach or even nectarine pie in my near future. I know it. I recall a very simple recipe for fresh peach pie that I posted about last summer. For that easy tutorial just click here.
Fresh Peaches and Nectarines from Kashiwase Farms
If you're still not hungry but would like to take home something cool and local the Aptos Farmers Market also has all kinds of flowers and plants. My herb garden has been lacking a good thyme lately and the folks at Cole Canyon Farm had exactly what I needed in a really robust English Thyme plant.

English Thyme is the most popular variety of thyme.
On the surface the Aptos Farmers Market  resembles many others you've seen in format. The rows are neatly laid out and everything is well organized. No dogs are allowed for health reasons and there is an abundance of great food to eat on the spot as well as goods to purchase for later consumption. However, this market has a special personality of its own and is strongly indigenous to California's Central Coast. The Cabrillo College campus sits high on a hilltop with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and yet is close enough to enjoy that fresh salty sea air. It is not the only farmers market in our area but is generally considered the favorite.

I admit to being a bit of a farmers market novice. I have learned from a few recent trips that getting there closer to opening than closing time is advantageous. The best selection is always early. Also, bringing cash along in smaller denominations is really appreciated by these small merchants especially if you arrive before their change supply grows. Finally, bags and even a cart of sorts can make your farmers market experience much better. Imagine going to a grocery store without a shopping cart and you'd be really limited to what you could carry.

Finally, a big thanks to all of the merchants who make the Aptos Farmers Market such a success. After all these years it is mostly based on quality and consistency which is a great foundation for any purveyors of food products. It's really worth a visit to 6500 Soquel Drive in Aptos on Saturday mornings.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Seems Like Surf's Up Forever

In the flavor-of-the-month world of pop culture golden anniversaries are extremely rare but The Beach Boys are celebrating that milestone right now that has stretched from 1962 to 2012. Actually, pop longevity at this level is unheard of so I welcome you to come up with another one. This year California's iconic band of brothers, cousin and friends are marking the moment with a world tour and album of brand new songs. Even the addition of "50" below their classic logo to celebrate these times feels like a natural fit.

As soon as the concert dates were first announced there was never a doubt that I'd be there for this historic concert at the legendary Greek Theater on the U.C. Berkeley campus.  What makes this anniversary even more important is the reuniting of all the original surviving members of the band. Like most performing groups they have had some rotation of personnel over the years and lost two original members, brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson, who have passed away. The reunion of four founding members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and David Marks on stage with Bruce Johnston is really a dream come true for any fan of the band.

Long time Beach Boys followers from left to right: Peter Fields, me, Les Chan and Stu Ganz
While Hawaiian print shirts were seen everywhere I opted to honor the occasion with my classic striped shirt which became a signature look for the band in the mid-sixties. However, the true back story on how these shirts came about will surprise many fans. They were actually inspired by the legendary folk group, The Kingston Trio. Beach Boy, Alan Jardine, was a big folk music lover and he encouraged the rest of the band to take on this matching striped shirt look too. At the show I was constantly approached by so many people who said my shirt was the perfect one for the evening.  One lady even came up to me and said I looked like a popcorn box! :-)

At the end of the day it is still all about the music and we were not disappointed. There was no opening act and the fourteen performers on stage filled the classic amphitheater with 2.5 solid hours of harmony drenched heaven. From the appropriate opening number, "Do It Again" to their standard closing encore of "Fun Fun Fun" they delivered big time for both the casual and ardent fans. Great photos, video clips and a tribute to Carl and Dennis Wilson on the huge screen behind them made this anniversary concert the real deal.

The highlight of the night for me was when the five Beach Boys huddled around Brian's piano and launched into "Add Some Music To Your Day" to open up the second set. They all took turns on the lead vocal making for one very appropriate anthem to this past fifty years of musical heritage.


In the end they played 46 songs nearly one for each of their years together. For a complete set list click here. When the entire group of 14 performers lined up at the end to take a bow they nearly stretched across the giant stage. The sold out crowd of 8500 fans showered them with appreciation.

My parting shot is of a souvenir I got during a quick stop at the merch booth. The bright yellow color instantly reminded me of summer and the sunny soundtrack The Beach Boys have created for five decades. Some people think all of these songs are about surfing, cars and girls but really they are metaphors about the joys of youth and youthfulness at any age. Their newest song is called "That's Why God Made The Radio" which I find to be a bit ironic. Every time I hear these harmonies jump out of a speaker I think that's also why God made The Beach Boys.