.Rolling Stoned

Cheech and Chong introduce a locally made vodka with special powers

It would be intriguing enough that Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are introducing a high-grade collectible vodka in partnership with UBlendIt of Scotts Valley.

But it gets better from there. The Judge’s Water—named for the courtroom scene in cult hit Up In Smoke where Chong’s character Anthony Stoner discovers the magistrate’s water is actually vodka—comes with a kit to convert the bottle into a water pipe.

Like Stoner tells Pedro de Pacas (Marin) in the 1978 movie, “You better fasten your seatbelt, man.”

On top of that, a portion of proceeds will support those imprisoned unfairly for cannabis-related crimes.

UBlendIt first got traction around greater Santa Cruz by partnering with local hubs like Hula’s, The Catalyst Club and Number 1 Broadway for house-brand spirits, so the collaboration carries some poetic symmetry, and marks the first of many celeb projects to come.

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CEO John Spagnola enjoys bringing award-winning spirits to the table (UBlendIt vodka took double gold at the latest San Francisco Spirits Festival), but takes more pride in the visioning process.

“It’s fun working with big names and developing strategies around new products,” he says. “You get to be really creative.”

Pre-orders are available now at reservebar.com.


Popular Westside farmers market artisan pizza whiz Jayne Dough has quietly opened La Marea Cafe & Pizzeria in the former Reef Dog in Capitola. She’ll do breakfast and lunch featuring items like frittatas, bagels and focaccia sandwiches, but the star will be her signature deep-dish, house-fermented, Detroit-style sourdough pizzas. instagram.com/lamareacafe/


Beneath the redwoods of Ben Lomond, new(ish) Aroma Restaurant is rounding into shape after eight months open. In the former Tyrolean Inn, the pan-continental menu—think Peruvian ceviche, Spanish paella, chicken adobo, garlic Aleppo prawns and kalbi short ribs—pairs with the rare setting, magnetic hospitality and a talented and diverse kitchen. “A really beautiful place,” longtime local chef/Aroma partner Mario Ibarra says, “with a really nice concept.”



If there’s a better place for literature and dinner than Bad Animal, I’ve yet to find it. Bad Animal is the downtown S.C. bookstore that welcomes in purveyors for extended residencies that often lead to more good things. Former resident Katherine Stern, for instance, is working on debuting The Midway in the former Oyunaa’s Mongolian Cuisine next to the Rio Theatre on Soquel Avenue. Meanwhile, Hanloh Thai holds it down  at the bookstore Wednesday-Sunday (which also doubles as a natural wine bar), doing inspired Thai like grilled oyster mushroom salads, lemongrass-chili black cod and claypot pork belly confit.

badanimalbooks.com, hanloh.com

LAST CALL Food news nibbles, served fast: At Sunset Magazine International Spirits Competition, Venus Spirits took home Double Gold, Best of Class and Best Other Agave Spirit for its El Ladrón California “mezcal”…Big Sur Foragers Festival brings back the Fungus Face-Off on Jan. 20.


November is Native American Heritage Month. One awesome way to honor it is with a Nov. 18 forum at the Resource Center for Nonviolence with leaders from The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band sharing perspective on reclaiming historical narratives, with lunch provided by chef Joseph Schulz of India Joze and Friends of Juristac.



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