nopal.JPGIf you haven’t yet fallen for the delicious, versatile nopal cactus (the pad of the prickly pear cactus, minus the pricklies), then you must head on over to 176 Lincoln Street this Sunday, July 27, for the Festival del Nopal loaded with nopal-driven foods, live music, ballet folklorico, recipe contest, a cactus cooking demo, and all presided over by a genuine Nopal Festival Queen! Truly a community event, lots of fun, and the 10am-6pm festivities are free.

Bring your friends, family, and an appetite for the marvelous nopal. It tastes a lot like a tangy green bean, btw.

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From the first frame, you are hooked. Yes partly because Ida, written and directed by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, is shot in raw black and white. Partly because the camera is most often stationary, allowing actors to move in and out of our viewpoint—creating a softly unsettling sense of time standing still.

But the visual secret of this mesmerizing 85-minute masterpiece is the choice of an almost square aspect ratio. Instead of the wide horizontals of contemporary filmography, we watch the small, unflinching story emerge in a compressed space. The pressure on all sides pushes the action—such as there is in this quiet, steady pursuit of truth lost—pushes it into a space without time. A continuous Now. We could read this film forwards or backwards. Is it redeeming the past? Or is it pointing toward the inevitable recurrence of the future?

The story, if explained to someone who hasn’t seen the film, will sound unlikely.  A young novice, Ida (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) about to take her final vows, learns of the existence of an aunt—her only blood relative—and is told she must visit this woman before she can enter the religious life for good.

The aunt is played with the sort of spare visual dominance of a dark Ingrid Thulin by Agata Kulesza, a veteran Polish stage actress who is nothing short of shattering. As a former More…

chef9f-1-web.jpgI finally rolled out of bed and responded to all the emails I’d gotten, asking what I thought of the indie food film Chef.

Here’s what.
Jon Favreau could rattle off the auto mall listings from the Yellow Pages and be irresistible. The actor/director (Iron Man), wrote, directed and starred himself in this feel-good road trek following a gifted but volatile chef as he quits his designer restaurant gig for a questionable foray into the world of real food served up from a food truck.

Armed with his can-do sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo), his estranged son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and fresh ideas about Cuban pork sandwiches, More…

futomaki.JPGBetter than ever, this charmingly eccentric stronghold of sparkling fresh and beautiful sushi classics. We are devoted to the hamachi nigiri and the daikon-intensive futomaki roll, shown here. Edible art. Sushi Totoro on Mission Street.

squid.JPGFried calamari apps don’t get much better than this dish from Oswald, which I inhaled along with one of those cool pale green cocktails—like the Bitter Ricky composed of lime, gin, and bitters.

My gal pals told me, after I’d ordered, that they don’t do tentacles.

I ate the entire plate myself!

plums.JPGThe UCSC Farm & Garden produce cart spreads its wares out for your delectation, each Tuesday and Friday from noon to 6pm until oh sometime in late autumn.

Right now it’s plum season. Strawberries too.
Terrific stuff. Get some!

blaurent.JPGA perfect entree of crab risotto cake topped with prawns, in a crab bisque with chives.

Typical of Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles, where we had dinner—we always have dinner here—on our way to the Mojave.

Girl, get with a make-over program. And pronto! No one’s going to elect a refrigerator for President.
If you don’t have the discipline to shape up and set an example, then you don’t have the discipline to be Commander in Chief!

lailimezze.JPGA recent lunch at this splendid dining room offered not only a large-scale kebab threaded with plump, utterly moist wedges of grilled chicken, but this jewel-like little mezze platter.

All of your favorite Mediterranean food groups are here in this pliant quartet of supple flavors. Babaganoush, tzatziki, hummus, and tabouli. Warm soft pita provided the point of insertion. A terrific lunch appetizer.  Laili—more than a nighttime destination.

bottoms.jpgSome authors have a book signing. Others have a book signing in Venice. Such a one is Rita Bottoms, fresh from her gala reception at Bookshop Damocle on Calle del Perdon, Venezia. Bottoms was celebrated in Italy last month for the new edition of her delightful Riffs & Ecstasies: True Stories, which is smartly revised, complete with new stories, new illustrations and best of all—facing pages in Italian!

É vero! Riffs & Ecstasies is now yours to savor in both Italian and English. And is available, for $15, at Bookshop Santa Cruz, La Sirena on the Westside of Santa Cruz, City Lights in San Francisco, and, of course at Damocle in Venice. Pick up a copy, enjoy Bottoms’ inimitable way with an anecdote, and/or practice your Italian!