Anna Landan of Gayle's shows off their garden salad with grilled chicken.

Soif is closed until Jan. 11 for its annual refreshing, but the restaurant at Casablanca Inn & Bistro is closed for renovations prompted by what a spokesperson called “damage from a recent storm.” There's no word on when the beachfront landmark will reopen. So meanwhile, there's Michael's on Main, continually reinventing itself, most recently by opening its kitchen up on Tuesdays to ambitious guest chefs. Anyone who sampled the Pacific Rim renaissance cooking by Tom Breszny last month can testify as to the deliciousness of this Guest Chef concept. At least in expert hands. So consider making reservations for the January 15 Crab Feed with Guest Chefs Paul and Terry Gregory. Dungeness crab is irresistible this time of year, and the matching wines will come from Monterey's Scheid Vineyards along with music from Jay Alvarez.  On January 22 it's cioppino night thanks to Cioppino Soquel's own Pinky Gilmore. Zinfandel from Renwood and Verdelho from Lee Family Farms will be poured, and Kevin McDowell works the guitar. The series goes on and on, so check the Michael's website for the full schedule, and don't forget to call for reservations—crucial for the upcoming Crab Feed —at 831 479-9777. 

Go to Gayle's: If you're looking for something delicious and fresh-tasting to erase the cloying memories of all those cookies, pies, and turkey dinners you just inhaled, you need to check out the vast array of tantalizing salads, entree, and sides beautifully packaged and ready to go at Gayle’s. I know, you're thinking “croissant,” but you should also think “chicken spinach salad.” Trust me.

Passport Day: For area wineries Okay – you keep hearing about this Passport Day thing, and 2013 is the year for you to experience it first hand. The concept is delightful, and idiot-proof. Perhaps that was a bit inelegant. Let's just say it's a simple idea: Santa Cruz wineries invite you into their vineyards, tasting rooms, and rarely-opened facilities. You (the inquiring winelover) purchase a “passport” that gives you admittance to participating wineries, from 11am to 5pm on Passport Day, January 19. Passports (($45 donation) are available at any participating winery on Passport Day. This gives you access to one visit and a waived tasting fee at each winery. You have a perfect excuse to get out of the house, tour some of the most incredible landscape on the West Coast, discover new wines, have fun meeting the winemakers, and touring the cellars. The Passport allows you lots of diverse tasting so the best plan is to mark your calendar, select a designated driver, and visit the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association website for all the details about how it works.

Salad Days: We revisted Pizzeria Avanti last night and were wow'd by a salad that reminded us of Rome. Very light on vinegar, lavish on extra virgin olive oil, the large, pungent arugula leaves were joined by fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced beets and pickled onions, and even winter tomatoes. Absolutely memorable. With the salad—which is now a destination dish in our neighborhood repertoire—we enjoyed an appetizer of Dungeness crab cakes, and the evening's special pizza. The generous pours of Basciano Chianti Rufina, 2009, and a lush rounded Callejo Tempranillo 2010 (both $8) made it a perfect, affordable meal.

Out-of-Town Food Fun:  It can be had at this year's Women Chefs & Restaurateurs “Women Who Inspire” awards and gala dinner, upstairs at the San Francisco Ferry Building on Thursday, January 17th from 6pm – 10p,m featuring a five-course gala dinner, created by Annie Somerville, Loretta Keller, Traci Des Jardins, Mary Sue Milliken, Suzette Gresham and Emily Luchetti. Individual tickets are $225, but you're worth it. 

Out-of-Town Food Fun:  It can be had at this year's Women Chefs & Restaurateurs “Women Who Inspire” awards and gala dinner, upstairs at the San Francisco Ferry Building on Thursday, January 17th from 6pm – 10p,m featuring a five-course gala dinner, created by Annie Somerville, Loretta Keller, Traci Des Jardins, Mary Sue Milliken, Suzette Gresham and Emily Luchetti. Individual tickets are $225, but you're worth it.