In the early 90s, I lived in the Santa Cruz area. Yes, there were plenty of brain-damaged hippies. I could smell pot emanating from every corner. Homeless people lined Pacific Ave where a semi-famous independent book and record Logos store once stood. Many of the records I own today were purchased from Logos. I do wonder today how fancy Pacific Ave has become - how successful the city has been in eliminating the homeless presence. My roommate back then asserted : Santa Cruz, the way it is, the pan-handlers are part of it. If they weren't there, you wouldn't like Santa Cruz. Excellent point. I was a young tech-worker back then making more money than I could possibly spend. I took on contracts that appealed to me. A couple of friends and I wanted to start a company; but in the end, Santa Cruz was too laid back. It's atmosphere was not-conducive to doing work, both literally and figuratively. One roommate I had sold fine wines for a living to the local restaurants. He sold really good stuff, so good to the point that if we tried a wine we did not like, we poured it down the drain laughing regardless of the price. If it's shit, it's shit. The more expensive, the harder the laugh. The center of the house was the huge combined kitchen and dining room. He picked the wines, maybe got some very fresh ingredients from the organic food store (the industry wasn't as commercialized back then, so organic vegetables tasted better as it was picked more ripe, also Odwalla was FUCKING awesome back then). I would do a lot of the cooking because I had the potential: I understood the importance of technique seeing my grandmother and mother cook. We'd have friends over all the time. They would just drop by without notice, knock on the door, and we'd invite them in for a meal. After the meal, the friends would insist of doing all the clean up. Ahh, this was true communism and camaraderie! Hey it's Santa Cruz! My roommate gave me a book on Italian cooking. I don't remember who authored it, just that the book was an old paperback with fine print and no pictures, but plenty of explanation. The three things he insisted upon was that we use the pasta with the chubby lady on it, real Parmesan cheese imported from Italy (the Wisconsin Parmesan is something different LOL), and Monari Federzoni balsamic vinegar. (Remember that back then, we didn't have such exotic selections in the USA). I've mostly stuck to these three things. While I'm not an expert in balsamic vinegars, I've found that other brands, even special expensive ones with fancy packaging, never had quite the same taste, complexity, fruitiness, and bite of the imported Monari Federzoni stuff. There was always something missing. So this was super cool when a couple of you guys sent me a care package. Thank you @Taverius! Wow, what an amazing community we have from people all over the world. Perhaps world peace is possible. But only after we slay those objectivists extremists! I've got my stash of bourbons, smaller stash of tequila, soy sauces, and now balsamic. I can really get into this. This is what I got. I have no idea of their history or story. All I know is that one is aged 12 years and the other is aged 25 years, the "extra vecchio" one. And I know that what I've tried so far, the 12 year Afinato, is amazing. If anyone is knowledgeable, please chime in! For those familiar with cask-strength bourbons, this is like "cask-strength" balsamic. Looking at the small bottles, I thought I would be bummed because I would run out of it soon. Not so, merely a few drops are needed! I normally don't eat salad, mainly because Asians tend to eat more cooked vegetables and my wife makes super weird American salads with all sorts of random shit put into it like pine nuts, dried cranberries, avocado, feta cheese, chickpeas, oranges, etc. It's basically a mish-mash of random shit into grossness. I prefer my salads simple with high quality greens, maybe romaine, red butter, and arugula. I love arugula because I like sweet salad dressings and bitterness plays well with sweet. Yes, I picked out some leaves especially for this experience! I'm hooked now and will probably eat more salads and thereby extend my life. Next up, I need to find some quality cheesecake in town. I love cheesecake. It is my favorite desert. No kidding. I don't know how you guys figure this out.