As 2021 gives us its last hours, Lily Belli talks about some of the more important local food and drink news to come in 2022. In particular, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales will be opening its third location, a beloved local bartender comes back to Santa Cruz, and Lily lets us know what she’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve.
Happy New Year! If you’re reading this, we did it. Or, at least, just a few hours left. On to 2022, and I have a good feeling about this one. At least the year is ending with some good news, including an expansion by a local brewery to Oakland, a new cocktail list from one of my favorite local bartenders, and a delicious pop-up worth seeking out.
If COVID has once again crushed your New Year’s plans, I’m right there with you. I mean, I have a baby, so I probably wasn’t going to make it out anyway, but still. I am, however, going to have a fabulous New Year’s Eve, and I’d love for you to join me (virtually).
Capitola-based brewery Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is taking the reins at a beloved craft beer bar in Oakland. After it opened in 2007, in the early days of the craft beer boom, the Trappist developed a reputation for pouring some of the finest beers in the world with meticulous care and attention. Over the years it became an institution and a mecca for beer enthusiasts, who traveled from all over the world to visit its gorgeous, intimate tasting room inside an 1870s Victorian in Old Oakland.
The Trappist regularly featured beers from Sante Adairius, which has been ranked one of the 10 best breweries in the world by passionate fans enamored with its Belgian ales, saisons, sours and IPAs. An Instagram post from Dec. 29 announced that owners Adair Paterno and Tim Clifford were “humbled” when the Trappist owners, who had become their good friends over the years, offered to pass them the torch. “They both leave us a legacy and a space that we are honored to steward into its next life,” the post reads.
Paterno and Clifford officially take over in January, and Rustic Ales Oakland Arbor will open soon after. This is the third location for Sante Adairus, after its flagship Capitola brewery, which opened in 2012, and the Santa Cruz Portal in Midtown, which opened in 2017.
Emmanuel Hernandez, one of Santa Cruz’s most beloved bartenders, has returned after a brief stint over the hill at Dry Creek Grill in Campbell. Hernandez has helped craft the cocktail menus at some of the best bars in town, including Front & Cooper, Barceloneta and Soif. Now you can find him at Avanti Restaurant on the Westside, where he is creating a seasonal cocktail menu with rare spirits and syrups and cordials that he creates in house.
My first drink is a riff on a boulevardier, one of my favorite cocktails. In Hernandez’s version, with Four Roses bourbon and the traditional Campari, he replaces the red vermouth with an allspice liqueur for a bigger hit of warm spices and adds a housemade apple cordial. He pours the ruby cocktail over a single huge, clear ice cube and garnishes it with a translucent shard of orange candy balanced on the edge of the glass. I take a bite before dropping the candy into the drink and giving it a swirl. The cocktail is rich, smooth and spicy, starting sweet and ending with an appetizing bitterness.
Over a plate of sizzling Idiazabal cheese with roasted peppers ($13), which I pile onto toasted slices of homemade sourdough, Mezcalito Manny (@mezcalito_manny) slides me a cocktail he named after himself. Hernandez has a personal connection to every ingredient in the Mezcalito: bitters made from chocolate from Oaxaca, where his family is from; smoky Mexican mezcal; pineapple, which he enjoyed eating with his grandmother; and amaro, the bartender’s typical post-shift drink, as anyone who has worked in the service industry can attest. The result is a delicious, layered cocktail that I can’t stop sipping.
Hernandez plans to add a fireside old fashioned to this winter cocktail list, made with rye whiskey, toasted pecan syrup and citrus bitters, both made in house so he can control the flavor profile and sweetness. You can enjoy his new additions and the other fan favorites, all $13, on his menu at Avanti, Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m. avantisantacruz.com.
Apéro Club, the uber-hip natural wine bar tucked away behind Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing in the Westside’s Swift Street Courtyard, is becoming a destination for very cool pop-ups. A few weeks ago I stopped in for a glass of wine and a few bites from La Afición, which I knew nothing about except that the food looked delicious on Instagram.
Over a chilled glass of gamay from the Loire Valley, my friends and I threw back raw oysters with smoked olive oil and jellied sherry vinegar, dragged pieces of fried winter squash with crispy sage through browned-butter aioli, and ooh’d and ahh’d over a creamy persimmon pudding with creme anglaise.
Chef Lucas Morris-Lopez is originally from San Juan Bautista, and lived and worked in Santa Cruz for nine years before relocating to Mexico City three and a half years ago. He’s visiting family until mid-January, and is doing a few pop-ups at select locations while he’s here.
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, La Afición is collaborating with Mestiza for a “Cali-Mexa”-inspired pop-up at La Posta. Reservations are highly recommended, and can be made via OpenTable. La Afición is also doing two pop-ups in San Juan Bautista, on Jan. 6 and Jan. 14, and at least one more pop-up at Apéro Club on a date TBD. After returning to Mexico City, Morris-Lopez hopes to open his pop-up as a restaurant back in the first part of next year. For more info, follow him on Instagram at @laficioncdmx.
I know I’m not the only one staying in for New Year’s Eve. There are some tempting-looking prix fixe dinners out there, including those at Home in Soquel and Vim in Santa Cruz. But the swift and merciless spread of Omicron has many would-be revelers avoiding crowded indoor settings. I’ll be staying in, too, but my reason is more mundane: I have a 7-month-old baby.
But after he goes to bed at 7 p.m., my husband and I have big plans. We’ll start the night with a dozen fresh oysters, probably shucked and eaten directly over the kitchen sink.
Next, we’ll start cooking a grain-fed grass-finished ribeye, our favorite cut from El Salchichero, and argue about when to turn it (that’s part of the fun). I’ll open the nicest bottle of local wine we could responsibly afford, and finish our meal with take-and-bake chocolate chip cookies from Mutari.
If you’re also staying in, it’s the perfect night for a dinner party, even if the guests are just the beings you live with. Fry chicken and wash it down with lots of champagne! Fold your own dumplings! Eat blinis and caviar with an icy martini! If you do, tag me on Instagram @lilywrenn, and we will ring in 2022 together.