Bringing you bits & bites you can sink your teeth into

Pulse – events & entertainment

Some things are very dark—so dark, they’re depressing. But they’re also important. Blackfish, the documentary about killer whales and theme parks, is one such thing. The movie is emotionally wrenching but it tells a story that needs to be told. If you can bear it, watch it. Then, decide for yourself if you want to spend your dollars to support theme parks that capture and imprison killer whales, and endanger human workers.

Seeing footage of a whale calf being removed from its mother and hearing the mother’s calls for her missing calf is heartbreaking. Watching full-grown whales confined to small pools is tortuous. Seeing the capture and enslavement continue today—knowing everything we know about intelligent, highly social species like whales and dolphins—is, in my humble opinion, inexcusable.

If you want to add your voice in support of whales and dolphins, sign the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins.

Book Buzz – DARK SURF news & goings-on

Authors do some crazy Internet searches, particularly when writing about dark themes like revenge. Since I began writing DARK SURF, my web searches have become kind of, uh, sketchy.

While working on DARK SURF, I searched for the best ways to restrain someone against their will. Duct tape, rope, zip ties, whatever—I researched it all. For the DARK SURF sequel, I’ve researched guns that fire underwater and underwater night vision goggles (yes, these goggles do exist but are pretty expensive). I’ve also researched easy ways to break into a house and leave without a trace.

In case the NSA or some other law enforcement agency is watching, my computer should have a banner across the top of my screen that says: “I’m not a criminal. I’m simply a novelist with a dark imagination.”

Now…where did I put those zip ties?

Book Buzz – DARK SURF news & goings-on

Do you listen to music when you work? I do sometimes when I’m writing my novels. It not only makes it more fun, but it’s a quick way to put me in the right mindset. While working on DARK SURF and the sequel, the 2 bands I’ve listened to the most have been Kaiser Chiefs and Wavves.

I listened to Kaiser Chiefs’ Employment and Off With Their Heads albums repeatedly while writing DARK SURF. Songs like “Saturday Night” (Employment) and “Never Miss a Beat” (Off With Their Heads), among many others, put me in the exact right state of mind to get into my characters’ heads.

Then I got into Wavves. Their surf punk sound is the perfect match for my beach settings. Songs like “Super Soaker” and “Green Eyes” on King of the Beach, and “Sail to the Sun” and “Lunge Forward” on Afraid of Heights provide an awesome vibe for writing about surfing—and darker things.

As I continue editing book 2, I’ll have some new material to listen to soon. Kaiser Chiefs plan to release their 5th album, Education, Education, Education & War, on March 31. Want a sneak peek? Here’s a little post-punk song called “Bows and Arrows.”

It’ll be interesting to hear Kaiser Chiefs’ new sound since founder & drummer Nick Hodgson left the band in 2012. Bassist Simon Rix says this of the forthcoming album: “The album has a few themes on it… One of those is us against the world. We are better when we work together than when we do things on our own. ‘Bows and Arrows’ are useless on their own, that’s the starting point for that song. A call to arms. You are not alone. We can do anything when we do it together.”

So, thanks for joining me on this ride, Dark Surfers. We can do anything when we do it together.

Crave – food & drink

Recipe – Blue Crush champagne cocktail


  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Blue Curacao
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Chambord (or you can substitute black raspberry liqueur or black currant liqueur)
  • 1 to 2 ounces chilled champagne or sparkling wine
  • ice
Blue Crush champagne cocktail

Blue Crush champagne cocktail


  • Combine Blue Curacao and Chambord in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover & shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into a clear martini glass.
  • Top with champagne and gently stir.
  • Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
  • Makes 1 serving.

This champagne cocktail is like an adult version of a Slurpee or Popsicle. If you like sweet drinks, give it a whirl. If it’s a little too sweet for your palate, squeeze a fresh lemon wedge into it. With its deep turquoise blue color and a lemon twist, it’ll be the prettiest drink at the party.

Crave – food & drink

Recipe – Killer Mimosa champagne cocktail


  • 5 or 6 medium-size fresh basil leaves (or 3 large leaves)
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or 1 stevia packet)
  • 1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) gin (e.g. Tanqueray)
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) chilled champagne or sparkling wine
  • ice
Killer Mimosa champagne cocktail

Killer Mimosa champagne cocktail


  • Combine basil, rosemary and sugar in an empty cocktail shaker. Use a wooden muddler (or the back of a spoon) to crush the herbs to release their flavor.
  • Fill shaker with orange juice, gin and 1 cup ice. Cover & shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute.
  • Top with champagne & gently stir.
  • Garnish with an orange peel spiral.
  • Makes 1 serving.

This cocktail packs a wide range of flavors into a champagne flute—from the garden-fresh herbs to the juniper essence of the gin to the tangy citrus. Wow! Serve it to your friends & ask them to guess all the ingredients. A word of caution: With 1.5 ounces of gin and champagne, this mimosa definitely packs a punch!

Crave – food & drink

Happy New Year! The Dark Surf Nightly test kitchen has 3 new champagne cocktails to help you ring in the new year. First up is a Limoncello Cooler. Later this month, I’ll share my recipes for my Killer Mimosa and Blue Crush champagne cocktails. Cheers!

Recipe – Limoncello Cooler champagne cocktail


  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) limoncello
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Cointreau or triple sec (orange liqueur)
  • 3 to 4 ounces chilled champagne or sparkling wine
  • ice
Limoncello Cooler champagne cocktail

Limoncello Cooler champagne cocktail


  • Combine limoncello and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover & shake moderately for 10 seconds.
  • Strain into a champagne flute.
  • Top with champagne & gently stir.
  • Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
  • Makes 1 serving.

This champagne cocktail is incredibly refreshing (and not too sweet)! The lemon flavor is prominent, so be sure to use a high-quality limoncello or, better yet, make your own using this recipe. If possible, use the same type of lemon for your garnish that you used to make your limoncello (e.g. if you made your limoncello with Meyer lemons, use a Meyer lemon peel).

Crave – food & drink

More and more olive oil boutiques are popping up in California—and that’s a tasty trend. We visited The Quail & Olive in Carmel Valley to sample an array of premium olive oils and vinegars. Tasting of the olive oils and vinegars is free, and the staff are extremely knowledgeable.

What’s unique about these olive oils is that they’re flavored during pressing; they’re not infused like many oils are. Fresh fruits or herbs are added into the crushing and run through the milling process with the olives. As a result, the taste is far superior.

Their California balsamic vinegars are made in the classic style, with no injected sugars or colors. These are great for salads, roasted veggies, marinades and reduction sauces.

Following are my favorites of the oils and vinegars I tried (and yes, I took home a bottle of each).

  • Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil – Robust, fruity & peppery, this rich olive oil mixes really well with the vinegars I bought. It makes salads much more tantalizing than regular oil/vinegar dressings do!
  • California Basil extra virgin olive oil – The flavorful basil makes this oil great for dipping bread, salads, sandwiches, pastas—anything you can think of.
  • Plum Basil Balsamic Vinegar – Fresh Santa Rosa Plums mix with opal basil and sweet Italian basil for a sweet, fruity, tangy flavor.
  • Tuscan Melody Balsamic Vinegar – Fresh oregano and blackberries combine for a delicious blend, and the oregano flavor really shines through.
  • Winter Ambrosia Balsamic Vinegar – This tastes like the winter holidays in a bottle. Handpicked apples and pears give it a sweet, fragrant, apple pie-like flavor. Note: This is a seasonal vinegar so get it while it lasts!
The Quail & Olive

The Quail & Olive

The Quail & Olive was opened by a board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Brabeck, who recognized that the chemical makeup of olive oil includes elements essential to preventing heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Located at 3 Pilot Road (just off Carmel Valley Road), the boutique is open Wednesday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (it’s closed Tuesdays). Visit and discover “A California Olive Oil Experience!”

The Quail & Olive recommends the following steps to maximize your tasting experience:

  • Hold the cup in your hand & gently swirl to warm the olive oil
  • Lift the cup to your nose & inhale the aroma
  • Sip & allow it to hit all your taste buds
  • Swallow & note the texture and taste

They also have a recipe blog at:

Crave – food & drink

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (SARA) is a small brewery & tasting room in Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz, Calif. SARA says its “approach to beer making is one of whimsy, highly inspired by the Belgian tradition, but also in harmony with brewers all over the world who push against boundaries of style with a nudge, not a shove.”

Even if you’re not a fan of Belgian-style beers (which I am not), there are delicious, unique brews to try.

During our brief visit, we sampled 2 beers.

  • 831 West Coast IPA is a classic example of the modern India Pale Ale. It has bold citrus flavors and aromas from Magnum, Columbus and Citra hops. 7.2% ABV
  • Vanilla Joe porter is made with Verve Coffee and vanilla beans. The aroma of this robust porter is just like a fresh brewed cup of coffee. And, as the beer warms up, more of the vanilla scent comes through. Both the coffee and vanilla contribute to the rich flavor of this deep, dark beer. If you like coffee, this is a really awesome and flavorful porter! 6.8% ABV
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales 831 West Coast IPA & Vanilla Joe Porter

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
831 West Coast IPA & Vanilla Joe Porter

SARA’s beers are barrel-aged and the barrels play into the decor as well. Barrels serve as tables inside the tasting room & outside in a specially designated area of the parking lot. Some barrels have barstools, some don’t. The casual feel lends itself well to chatting with other beer aficionados at the barrels around you.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is located at 103 Kennedy Drive in Capitola, which runs alongside Highway 1. Tasting room days and hours are limited, so check the website before you go.

Crave – food & drink

Like many brewpubs, Highway 1 Brewing Company in San Mateo County was started by a homebrewer. Its slogan is “Turning Water into Something Drinkable.”

Highway 1 Brewing Company

Highway 1 Brewing Company

The indoor dining room (with its 12 windows) and the bar have views of Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean. From the bar, if you follow the line of kegs out back, you’ll find outdoor seating as well.

I sampled the following brews and found them to be very flavorful—so flavorful, in fact, that they bordered on tasting like different styles than they actually were.

  • Rock Queen Pale Ale is a super-hoppy pale ale that’s treading perilously close to IPA territory. This beer, which has big citrus/grapefruit flavors, was throughly enjoyed by my IPA-loving friends. 5.9% ABV
  • Knuckle Down Brown is a brown ale that’s teetering into porter territory. It’s rich, dark, bitter goodness in a pint glass. 5.5% ABV
  • Peg Leg Porter  is a bourbon porter, which our server said is aged in bourbon barrels. This full-bodied dark beer, with hints of bourbon and vanilla, is poured in a 12 oz. glass rather than a pint glass. 7.8% ABV

Note: The beers on the Highway 1 Brewing Company website might not be what’s being served in the tasting room, so call ahead if you’re looking to taste something in particular.

We also sampled a few unique appetizers.

  • Fried Risotto Balls $6.95 – In this dish, balls of mushroom risotto are deep-fried, so they’re crispy on the outside and soft & creamy on the inside. The risotto had a nice mild mushroom flavor with small chunks of mushrooms. My friend, who loves the taste of mushrooms but hates the texture, found these to be delicious.
  • Spicy Buffalo Bites $8.95 – Instead of chicken, these bites feature cauliflower that’s beer-battered, deep-fried and coated in buffalo sauce. The pile of saucy veggies is served with a small side of bleu cheese dip (though I found the dip to be a bit watery and thought ranch dressing might work better here). The buffalo sauce was very spicy and, as a result, very tasty. It paired well with the IPA, softening the citrus flavors. It also brought out chocolate notes in the porter.

Highway 1 Brewing Company opened in February 2013. It’s located at 5720 Cabrillo Highway in Pescadero. For the brews, the views and the food, it’s definitely worth a stop.

Dusk Patrol – surf news & initiatives

In Kauai? Wanna learn how to surf or take your surfing to the next level?

Poipu Beach Surf School, located on the south shore of Kauai at Poipu Beach, offers beginner, intermediate and advanced surf and stand-up paddle lessons. Lessons include the use of a surfboard or paddleboard, rash guard and reef walkers. (The reef walkers are a great amenity for this area, which can be rocky.)

What I like about this surf school is you do a quick lesson on land and then spend most of your time in the ocean, on the board, catching waves. A typical beginner lesson starts out with a 10- to 15-minute land lesson, which includes info about the surfboard and instruction on how to paddle, stand up, and other techniques. It closes with ocean safety tips. The rest of the lesson is spent in the ocean and the instructor stays with you the entire time.

The instructor we had was extremely knowledgeable, experienced and enthusiastic. Even if you’re a beginner, there’s a really good chance you’ll get up on your first try, thanks to the expert, easy-to-understand instruction. And the instructor was great at offering tips and encouragement throughout the lesson.

Lessons are available at group, private or family rates.

So, if you want a fun, friendly surfing experience, be sure to check out Poipu Beach Surf School. These guys rock!

And if you’re in the Poipu Beach area and want to buy a pair of your own reef walkers, we picked some up at Nukumoi Surf Co. for $15.99. Nukumoi Surf Co. is at 2100 Hoone Road, across from Poipu Beach Park. They also rent surfboards, bodyboards, and other items.