8Eightyeight Cigar Merchants serves delectable libations and cultivates cigar-chomping camaraderie within a private facility that fuses elements of a cigar lounge, pool hall, and sports bar. The club's massive walk-in humidor houses brand-name cigars for members to puff away on while monitoring news and sports such as pay-per-view UFC fights on a cluster of flat-screen TVs arranged in front of comfy leather chairs or while shooting pool within the white-brick billiards room. In addition to members-only cigar and alcohol tastings, 8Eightyeight Cigar Merchants hosts a plentitude of private fundraisers, corporate events, and parties for Groucho Marx enthusiasts.
After moving to the United States in 1968, Mark Lewis sorely missed the fresh fish he had found so readily available across the Atlantic Ocean. He was born in Marseille, France, and grew up in Casablanca, Morocco, where he spent leisurely days fishing the rivers with his friends. Lewis decided to create Dry Dock Fish Company to give Americans a taste of his beloved homeland. For more than 25 years now, Lewis and his family have been listening to customers' fish stories with a smile and working tirelessly to give people a deeper appreciation of the fruits of the sea.
According to his bio, Lewis's favorite selections are the Santa Barbara shrimp, local halibut, and mahi-mahi. But renowned chef and restaurateur Giacomino Drago was drawn to the whole branzino; as part of the Farm to Table video series, he prepared one for dinner after a culinary excursion to the Beverly Hills Farmers' Market. You can find the branzino—along with sashimi-grade tuna or salmon smoked in-house—at the main storefront, in gourmet restaurants from Los Angeles to San Diego, and at more than 20 farmers' markets in Southern California. The shop also stocks delicacies, such as jars of preserved lemons and limes from Morocco and jars of preserved jelly bracelets from 1986.
During the years he spent in Switzerland, Timothy Heide befriended an American chef who worked in the same area, and together they traveled to oil and vinegar shops in the region. Over time, Heide cultivated a plan to open his own oil and vinegar boutique upon returning to the United States.
Now, Heide strolls across the terra-cotta-hued floors of Taste It!, his own shop, encouraging patrons to sample the olive oils and vinegars he cares so much about on cubes of bread. On the shelves, glass bottles and jars form sleek ranks that include Mediterranean-region olive oils steeped with the flavors of tangerine or slow-roasted chili. More neutral oils, such as the mild, fruity Morroccan arbequina, add to meals without overpowering them. Balsamic vinegars, aged for 18 years and infused with vanilla or bordeaux cherry, can be drizzled over ice cream or used to make memorable salad dressings.
As he slips among the shelves, Heide also sometimes brews complimentary cups of coffee or cappuccino for patrons. He hasn’t stopped dreaming of new outlets for his energy, and plans to open a wine cellar in the summer of 2012 and a cotton-candy attic when the technology is available.
In 1976, two UC Davis graduate students bought 20 acres of land in the highly arable Capay Valley. One of the students, Kathleen Barsotti, was working toward her master's degree in ecology and was determined to grow vegetables and fruits in an eco-friendly way: organically. The organic-food movement hadn't yet entered the public consciousness, and Kathleen worked overtime to convince restaurants, stores, and consumers of the taste-able merits of her process. Over time, given the possible health and environmental benefits of certified organic food, she succeeded. The farm sprouted to 300 acres to accommodate the increased demand. Today, a second generation runs the farm as well as a shop inside San Francisco's Ferry Building. Dubbed Farm Fresh To You, the store furnishes customers' bags or portable cornucopia horns with all sorts of soil-sprouted goods, including heirloom tomatoes, sweet peas, and fresh asparagus. The farm also teams up with fellow Yolo County and Pacific Northwest farms to deliver boxes of seasonal produce to area homes.