Lily Belli on Food: Trout Farm Inn resurrected, Alice Waters at UCSC and Michelin misses
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… A couple of weeks ago, I reported that renovations at the Trout Farm Inn in Zayante appeared to be nearing completion. That is true, but unfortunately I got some of the details wrong. Thankfully, co-owner Kym DeWitt shared the full story with me about the revival of the historic Santa Cruz Mountains landmark. Many locals have fond memories of the popular bar, restaurant, live music venue and pool, which was sadly destroyed by a fire in 2016. New owners rebuilt in 2018, and sold again 2021. I’m happy to report that in just a few weeks, guests can once again enjoy the iconic spot in the redwoods. The pool should be open by the Fourth of July, says DeWitt. A poolside snack shack will offer burgers, fries, hot dogs, cold sandwiches and salads, as well as fun cocktails, canned drinks and frosé (that’s frozen rosé) in plasticware. A full-service restaurant serving elevated comfort food and a full bar will open later this summer.
DeWitt and her husband, Shawd, Olive Moredock and Craig Renfroe also own Beer Thirty in Soquel, Beer Mule in Watsonville and a third, yet-to-open location on Soquel Avenue in Midtown Santa Cruz, but the Trout Farm will not be another craft beer bar. Rather, business partners Jessyka and Tachu Soto invited the Beer Thirty team to collaborate with them on the Trout Farm last year, and the foursome jumped at the opportunity. Together, they are working to bring new vigor to the site while honoring its history. Look for a story on what they have in store for us on Lookout later this week.
… Culinary icon Alice Waters comes to Santa Cruz next month. On July 15, Madame Chez Panisse will be the guest of honor at the Foodways Dinner for Student Success at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn at UC Santa Cruz, hosted by the Center for Agroecology. Chef Brooks Schmitt, former head of the food truck Bruxo, assisted by the student culinary team, will prepare a five-course menu inspired by Waters and the seasonal, local, farm-to-table ethos established by her restaurant in Berkeley in the 1970s and 1980s. The menu features ingredients grown on campus, including summer vegetables from the UCSC garden with aioli and olive oil cake with field strawberries, as well as California-grown ingredients like lamb and Hog Island oysters. There’s also a tour of the UCSC Farm and a silent auction. All of the proceeds directly aid the Foodways Fund, which brings free, organic, locally grown food to students, provides field and kitchen internships and supports the Cowell Coffee Shop basic needs center. Tickets are $225 per person, $825 for groups of four or $1,200 for groups of six. Register at agroecology.ucsc.edu.
… Tuesday, Outstanding in the Field released tickets for three more fall events, including its season finale Nov. 20 at Pie Ranch in Pescadero. This annual last-dinner-of-the-year foraging feast begins with a mushroom hunt led by “King of Mushrooms” Todd Spanier before guests sit down for a multicourse dinner at the 14-acre farm — expect porcinis and other wild mushrooms, fall vegetables and earthy wines. The chef for this event hasn’t been announced yet, but if you’re keen anyway, purchase your ticket for $385 at outstandinginthefield.com. (Farther afield, the Nov. 13 event on the Sausalito waterfront prepared by chefs Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club and Brett Shaw of Good Good Culture Club also sounds incredible.)
… The Michelin Guide added a dozen “new discoveries” in the San Francisco Bay Area to its California guide last week, and I was disappointed to see no new entries for Santa Cruz County. Currently, downtown Santa Cruz’s Alderwood and Aptos’ Mentone are the only local restaurants listed in the guide. Alderwood is listed without a designation, which is an honor unto itself, and Mentone has a Bib Gourmand — a special designation one notch below a coveted Michelin star.
The Michelin Guide infamously uses stars to denote the world’s best restaurants. Three is the highest honor, and one and two stars also note restaurants of the highest quality. (In addition to Mentone, chef David Kinch’s two Los Gatos restaurants also are listed in the guide; Bywater has a Bib Gourmand and Manresa has three Michelin stars.) In Monterey, Stokes Adobe was added to the list, bringing the number of Monterey County restaurants listed in the guide up to 16, with Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Aubergine sporting a star.
Both Alderwood and Mentone are exceptional, but I can’t help but feel that there are other local restaurants that deserve recognition as well. Chef Nick Sherman is producing stunning food at Trestles Restaurant in Capitola, and chef Brad Briske’s local, farm-to-table cuisine at Home in Soquel should not be overlooked (the man is curing his own salumi, for goodness’ sake). Chef Benjamin Sims has served exquisite seasonal dishes and wood-fired pizza for almost 10 years at Bantam on the Westside, and Venus Spirits Kitchen & Cocktails consistently wows with hand-crafted cocktails and exciting food. All of these restaurants offer high-end service despite a changing and challenging industry landscape. The full Michelin Guide California will be revealed in the fall, including new star designations. I hope the mysterious, always-anonymous reviewers will spend more time in our county in order to experience what local talent here has to offer.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Venus Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside opens tomorrow, just three weeks after the beachfront restaurant space in Aptos’s Rio Del Mar passed hands from Café Rio. Chef John Harry helms this second location for the Westside distillery’s restaurant. You might remember him as the opening chef de cuisine at Alderwood. More recently, he served at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, and returned to Santa Cruz County to bring a seafood-focused menu to Beachside, with inspiration from the California coast and his low country Georgia roots. In this recent Q&A, Harry discusses his plans for the new restaurant. Make reservations at venusspirits.com.
“We’re not going to point fingers or play any mean games. I don’t think that’s right. We’re going to take the higher ground and take care of the issues as they come.” — Dan Satterthwaite, on a series of anonymous complaints that have targeted his business, New Bohemia Brewing Co. on 41st Avenue. Satterthwaite is working to resolve issues with the county, but the complaints have forced layoffs and caused significant financial damage to his business.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
On Monday, Lookout correspondent Grace Stetson’s mom, Elinor, gifted me a wonderful little book, “How to Repair Food” by Marina and John Bear. It was originally published in 1987, and focuses on how to fix cooking mistakes. I have to confess, it was a major distraction to have it on my desk. Not only does the wisdom inside look very useful — for a crumbly cake, “Freeze it. Ice it. Slice it. Thaw it. Sis-boom-bah.” — but some of the solutions range from, erm, let’s say “creative” to just plain sassy. For example, the authors suggest adding curry powder if your frozen spinach is too “spinachy.” Don’t have enough broccoli? Cover up your lack of proper planning with a rich hollandaise sauce. Mr. and Mrs. Bear simply do not have time for your overcooked steak, though, and suggest that you keep cooking it until it is charred enough to use “to scratch pictures on the walls of your cave.” This book is a hoot and a half, to say nothing of the useful advice. You can grab a third-edition paperback, with Tanya Zeryck joining her parents as authors, at bookshopsantacruz.com.
THIS WEEK, I’M CRAVING …
… The Grotto, my new favorite sandwich at the Seabright Deli. Blackened, locally caught rockfish teams up with crunchy lime-dressed slaw, herby chimichurri sauce, creamy aioli and peppery arugula on a crusty, warm roll. It’s a summery, “eat it by the beach” kind of sandwich, which is convenient because the deli is just a couple blocks away from Seabright Beach. Read more about it in Friday’s Eaters Digest.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ The truth about the gas stove ban (Tasting Table)
➤ From sourdough to inflation: How the pandemic changed the way we eat (Eater)
➤ Cannery Row to welcome miniature golf pub (Monterey Herald)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.