David Kinch's Los Gatos join is one to savor.

According to Bon Appetit magazine, we have even more reason than ever to be culinarily smug. Santa Cruz resident David Kinch’s Manresa in Los Gatos, which has collected two Michelin stars, has now also been named among the twenty “Most Important” restaurants in the country. In fact, it was ranked # 5 (even above the hallowed Le Bernardin in New York). The editorial staff of the magazine chose these restaurants as defining how we eat out. “They're the fearless spots that drive chefs to innovate, restaurateurs to imitate, and the rest of us to line up.”

From that write-up, I take away that these restaurants, which also include San Francisco's Swan Oyster Depot and LA's Animal, are those establishments unafraid to surf the point, to think ahead of what's already on everyone else's plate and to re-frame what the status quo expects. These would be restaurants that in the past would have thought beyond steak and potatoes toward the neighborhood of seared ahi and basil panna cotta. And in an era of belt-tightening and playing-field-leveling, it's nice to know that some chefs and their patrons have the budgets and imaginations with which to dream. (I'm not dissing pizza. No, really.)


Wine Whine: From reader Ian Alper comes a very polite correction of my comments about corked wines and the innovative new Zork Cork. My original description of a wine being “corked” involved air getting into the bottle and causing the oxidization that tastes “off.” But no. A wine that is tainted with a chemical compound is technically “corked.”  Alper notes that a “corked wine is one tainted with TCA (2,4,6-trichoroanisole).
Corked is often described as wet cardboard, although sometimes it can be at a level that is not detectable but rather the wine just doesn't taste very good.”
Another reader chimed in that the flaw in wines that are “corked” is due to a chemical that causes musty aromas and flavors in the wine. This compound frequently occurs in natural corks, but also can come from damp surfaces and cleaning products‚ as well as the barrels themselves, used in the wineries. 

Salad With That Pizza: At Pizzeria Avanti, the legendary brussels sprouts salad continues to evolve. Last week, we partnered our classic Margherita pizza with one of those wintry salads laced with pancetta, shell beans, nuggets of winter squash and roasted brussels sprouts. Joined by a glass of Nero d'Avola, the salad—actually more like an earthy fresh stew—could make a destination all by itself. . . . Kudos to Mikael Wargin of Wargin Wines, whose 2010 “Big & Beautiful California Red just took two “Best in Class” awards at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

Life Earth Farm Sheep-Shearing Demo: A rare opportunity is coming up on March 23 at Live Earth Farm—the chance to watch, and participate in, demonstrations by professional shearer, Bruce Wool (the perfect name!). The Live Earth folks like to call this the 4th annual Sheep to Shawl event, which takes you through every part of the process of making wool into clothing and artworks.  Bring the children—everyone can have fun with the sheep, the shearer, dying yarn, making spindles, even washing and combing the yarn and attempting a bit of knitting as well. This is the kind of hands-on old-fashioned opportunity that inspires future farmers and sheep ranchers.  The event will take place in and around the Farm's renovated turn of the century redwood barn, rain or shine.  Saturday, March 23, from 10am to 2pm at 1275 Green Valley Road. An extra bonus—Storrs Winery will be providing tastings while their resident vineyard baby doll sheep are shorn. Truly an event worthy of an “adorable animals” YouTube.