Lily Belli on Food: Alderwood adding Pacific Ave. location, an epic apple tasting and great guanciale
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… It’s official: Downtown Santa Cruz’s Alderwood will open a second location on Pacific Avenue, in the space that was previously occupied by Snap Taco, which closed last spring. I have suspected that the fine dining restaurant, which opened just a few blocks away at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Center Street at the end of 2018, might be expanding into the space ever since the facade of the building was painted in Alderwood’s trademark cobalt blue. On Friday, a sandwich board appeared in front of the restaurant that confirmed that Alderwood Pacific is “coming soon.” The sign notes that the new restaurant will have a raw bar, salads, sandwiches, burgers and cocktails – so it appears to be a more casual spot than the haute Michelin Guide-recognized joint around the corner. The restaurant is hiring for all positions and will hold a job fair this Thursday and Friday. No timeline yet on when Alderwood Pacific will open; chef Jeffrey Wall assured me he will share more details “soon.”
This isn’t the only new restaurant the Alderwood family is opening. The restaurant group also owns Flashbird, a fast-casual fried chicken sandwich spot, and plans to expand it from its flagship location at Abbott Square to second and third locations, on 41st Avenue in Pleasure Point and Mount Hermon Road in Scotts Valley, respectively. The group also opened a small bakery, Buns & Sons, inside Flower Bar in downtown Santa Cruz — which is also a member of the Alderwood group. Right now, Buns & Sons bakes primarily for Flashbird and Alderwood, but loaves are occasionally available for sale to the public inside Flower Bar. The Alderwood restaurant group also acquired local hot sauce company Burn Hot Sauce last year.
All this amounts to the most significant expansion by a restaurant group in the area, and makes Alderwood the head of the county’s largest and most diverse culinary conglomerate. I’ll look at what this might mean for our changing Santa Cruz culinary landscape.
… I can be a bit of a geek when it comes to agriculture, so when farmer Freddy Menge let me know that there is an opportunity to taste more than 70 varieties of apples Oct. 8 at Live Oak Grange, it caught my attention. The heirloom apple tasting is hosted by the Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers and is part of the Grange’s fall festival and 90th birthday celebration. All of the apples will be provided by local farmers and apple hobbyists and will include everything from pink- and red-fleshed varieties and unidentified “found” apple trees to classic dessert and cider apples — basically, “a lot of weird stuff” you’d never be able to find anywhere else, says Menge. Guests are invited to explore the enormous range of colors, aromas and flavors ranging from pungent and citrusy to vanilla and tropical fruit. Many will come from Menge’s own orchard containing more than 80 varieties of apples at Epicenter Nursery & Fruit in La Selva and others will come from apple breeder Jim Rider’s personal farm in Watsonville and other local farms.
The event will also include live music, cornhole, a pie walk and an apple pie baking contest. Entry is $5. Find more information about this event here.
… Gourmet Grazing on the Green, one of Santa Cruz County’s premier culinary events, returns to Aptos Village Park on Saturday, Oct. 15, from noon to 4 p.m. As always, dozens of local wineries, breweries, restaurants and food businesses will showcase their products for our tasting pleasure — and typically pull out all the stops with their most exceptional creations. I’m excited to attend again, see some familiar faces and meet new business owners, winemakers, brewers and chefs.
This year, Lookout is a sponsor, and I’ll be hanging out at our booth from 1 to 1:30 p.m. if you’d like to stop by, say hi and talk about our local food scene. Tickets are still available, but you’d better hurry — this event almost always sells out in advance. Get yours at sccbg.org. Gourmet Grazing on the Green is a charitable fundraising event for Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for Santa Cruz community members living with cancer.
If you enjoy my free newsletter every week, you’ll love my stories on our local food scene. Only members get full access to all of Lookout’s content, including Eaters Digest, my Friday column with dining news, reviews and the best food and drink events in town each week. At Lookout, we strive to create a better Santa Cruz County with high-quality, trustworthy local news and information — and that includes all my coverage through the week of the people behind our food. For the next two weeks, you can support local journalism and an incredible local organization. Become an annual member and 10% of the price of your membership will support the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s Adam Webster Fund, a program that funds educational experiences for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. This program needs our help in ramping back up after being hit hard by the pandemic. It gets better — that donation will be matched by O’Neill Sea Odyssey donors. Click here to learn more or the link above to join Lookout.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Many people grew up eating seaweed in salads, sushi and soups, but if you didn’t you might not know what a nutritious and culinarily versatile ingredient it is — or how environmentally friendly. Learn about Santa Cruz’s own commercial seaweed forager, Ian O’Hollaren, owner of Seaquoia, in our Friday farmers market profile.
15 — Number of farms participating in the ninth annual Open Farm Tours on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8-9. See the full lineup on Eventbrite, and watch for my guide later this week.
“Now is a great time to go out and eat indoors” — Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County’s chief health officer. Newel, a voice of caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, notes that community spread is currently so low that she feels it is safe to dine indoors at a restaurant without a mask. Check out Friday’s Eaters Digest to understand her reasoning.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
When I think of Fogline Farm, I think “chicken.” While the sustainable local farm up by Año Nuevo State Park does offer exceptional poultry, I sometimes forget that it also has wonderful charcuterie. This week at the Westside farmers market, I decided to try some guanciale, or Italian cured pork cheeks — think pancetta meets bacon but richer and more complex. It’s a key ingredient in two of my favorite pastas, carbonara and amatriciana, but isn’t commonly found at grocery stores. For around $7 I took home a little over a quarter of a pound — more than enough for pasta for four adults and a pasta-loving toddler. Using this recipe from the New York Times, I whipped up a batch of amatriciana for my family and my in-laws. Guanciale can sometimes have a very strong flavor, but this one is subtly smoked but still wonderfully rich, with golden fat that gave the pasta a silky texture. Amatriciana has only a handful of ingredients and is quite simple to throw together. While it could easily be made with pancetta or bacon, it becomes something truly special when made with guanciale. Grab some next time you’re at your local farmers market or buy it online at foglinefarm.com.
THIS WEEK, I’M LETTING OUT A TINY CHEER …
… because Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti announced this week that, despite inflation pressures, the company plans to keep the price of its infamous hot dog and a soda combo priced at $1.50 “forever.” The cost of the combo has remained at a mere six quarters since 1985 and has become one of the most legendary deals out there. These days, I’m taking my wins where they come, and it’s nice knowing that if I have any money left after spending hundreds of dollars buying bulk items at Costco, I can always stop by the food court for an affordable meal.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ Whiskey Hill Farms’ clean-fuel revolution (Good Times)
➤ SFO food workers launch strike for higher pay (San Francisco Chronicle)
➤ The robots are here. And they are making your fries. (Washington Post)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.