photo 4Just recently, Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association held its 9th annual Pinot Paradise in Campbell, California and while wine is typically on our mind, we found 12 Foodie Favorites at Pinot Paradise that you will fall in love with. The event’s focus is to highlight the fantastic Pinot Noir’s coming out of this region and the terroir that it comes from. But of equal importance, the event also hosts several culinary stars of the region, including top restaurants spot and also many incredibly talented bakers and chocolatiers. The purpose of these participating restaurants and fine foods is not just to fill up the bellies of ticket-holders, but also to focus travelers on the gastronomic experience they can expect if they head south of San Francisco for a fun-filled weekend. The following are a list of the fine food purveyors at Pinot Paradise and what each cooked up to share, pair, and enjoy!

YumyTortasBella Chi-Cha, a cheese torta company, served up a sampling of their dips. They served a 3-layer Italian torta with pesto, Sonoma goat cheese, and roasted red peppers, a creamy Fontana farms apricot torta with a touch of red chile, and a fig torta with Wisconsin gorgonzola.

The favorite was served by California Café off University Avenue in Los Gatos. This yummy bite of smoked bleu cheese mousse, port reduction, and mushroom truffle duxelle were served in a tiny homemade pastry bowl. These small bites packed a powerful balanced punch between flavor and texture. Earthy, creamy, crunchy and tasty!

Chocolate Visions, owned by cutie-patootie husband and wife team, Lloyd & Lindy Martin, create and make some of the finest homemade chocolates and candies in Scotts Valley. They brought with them a Pate de Vin, a jelly confection made with 2009 Vino Tabi Pinot Noir, dark chocolate morsels made with 2009 Branciforte Ridge Pinot Noir, and salted caramels.

Always a “must-visit” table at Pinot Paradise, Cin-Cin Wine bar on Village Lane in Los Gatos, served up a Cripsy duck roulette, with a friseé salad, and cherry gastrique. The only thing out-of-balance with this tiny dish was the name. It just didn’t do this cute little bite justice. The crispy duck roulette was shaped into a cube, just right for a bite of culinary perfection. The crunchy texture of the duck cube paired well with the crunchiness of the friseé salad. Debatable was the use of cayenne in the cherry sauce, but it was so refined that it gave the blander taste of the duck an uplift.

The Stonehouse Bar & Grill located inside the Hilton in Santa Cruz , created a toasted crostini, spread with goat cheese, a touch of black pepper, and topped with a Pinot Noir infused dried cherries with a hint of orange zest (in the shape of an orange peel). This pairing was both subtle and loud. The creaminess of the cheese balanced out the flavor of the bold cherries.

Grapevine Wine & Cheese Shop in San Jose boasts to have one of the best and largest sections of cheeses to pair with their extensive wine list. They brought to sample Roquefort and honey, the not so subtle Quebec Cheddar, and a tad more subtle Holland aged Gouda.

The often misunderstood Christmas fruit cake staple has been given a new look and taste. Love Bites, was created to celebrate not only tradition, but great tasting fruit cake. Built around owner Diane Love’s grandma’s secret recipe, her company, Love Morsels, plans to revitalize fruitcake’s dismal reputation, one cake at a time. This freshly made, tasty, spicy cake will not only suck you in with one bite, it begs you to scream for more. These cakes are sold either in bite size morsels or by the cake.

The Monterey Chocolate Company brought with them, not only the fabulous Pomegranate Pinot Chocolate, but also a large cocoa bean to demonstrate that they purchase nothing but the best. Surprisingly, cocoa beans are quite large, the size of two fists, in fact. This tiny morsel contained 54% organic and fair trade cocoa infused with 2010 Villa del Monte, Regan Vineyards, Pinot Noir and fresh pomegranate.

Serving up one of the more impressive spreads was Nonno’s Italian Café off Highway 17 at Redwood Estates in Los Gatos. As always, their Italian imported parmesan cheese, drizzled in honey, was a crowd pleaser. Also served were their selection of toasted focaccia, assorted olives, mushrooms and dried fruits. The mission olives were dried and cured with a touch of salt and anchovies and stored in olive oil. The California button mushrooms were marinated in a secret Italian family recipe that the chef wouldn’t divulge. Whatever it was, these delectable treats were the perfect combination of texture and flavor!

Paradise Beach Grille in Capitola served both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of their Paradise stuffed Mushroom Caps. Stuffed with Gouda, parmesan, zucchini, red bell pepper, and prosciutto, these small treats were elusive enough to handle a big bold Pinot Noir.

Sushi Confidential served up a presentation of freshly made sushi. They were serving a California roll, spicy salmon roll, and the tempura crunchy roll (the favorite!) rounding out the bunch.

Viva Restaurant served up its light and refreshing Chinese chicken salad. Complete with radicchio, red and green bell peppers, cabbage and white chicken breast meet, served with light vinaigrette. Aggressiveness is the key to grabbing one of these. They are always gone before the end of the event!

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