Lily Belli on Food: Manresa going out with a bang and no Thanksgiving Dungeness crab, again
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… In a loss for the Bay Area fine dining scene, Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos announced on Monday that it will close its doors for good at the end of the year. Reservations through December will be released on the reservation site Tock at 12 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, including spots at a decadent New Year’s Eve party on the last day of service Dec. 31.
The news didn’t come as a surprise, but it’s still disappointing. In August, chef and owner David Kinch announced that he would leave his three-Michelin-starred restaurant, which he founded in 2002, at the end of the year, but at the time the future of Manresa itself was still uncertain.
Nonetheless, Manresa is going out with a bang — the December tasting menu will feature “a monthlong toast and celebration of exceptional products, ideas and dishes old and new,” reads a news release. The restaurant will add an additional day of service on Tuesday for the last two weeks of December in order to accommodate as many guests as possible for its $595-per-person tasting menu with $225 optional wine pairing. The “no holds barred” last day of service on New Year’s Eve is $725 per person with a $325 optional wine pairing, with luxury additions of caviar, truffles, treasures from the wine cellar and goodness knows what other delights.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Manresa a few years ago, and it was a formative experience. I’ll never forget how the exceptional service allowed all of my cares and worries to fade away, leaving only my guests, the beautiful food and the moment. It’s hard to overstate Manresa’s influence on the Bay Area’s dining scene or its connection to Santa Cruz. Named after Kinch’s favorite Santa Cruz County beach, his cuisine reflected the exceptional agriculture of the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains and the bounty of Monterey Bay. As Manresa earned national and international accolades, it drew attention to the ingredients and potential we have here in our own backyard. Numerous Manresa alumni have gone on to establish their own culinary projects in Santa Cruz County, including chef Lalita Kaewsawang of Hanloh, currently at Bad Animal, and Bookie’s chef Todd Parker.
Actually, Santa Cruz County might be the winner in all this. Free from his considerable duties at Manresa, Kinch is now able to focus on his other more casual — but no less thoughtful — culinary projects, including Mentone in Aptos and Manresa Bread, which just Monday opened its fifth location, on the Westside in Santa Cruz. Cheers to Manresa and to David Kinch on his new culinary endeavors!
… When I saw headlines announcing that there would be no Dungeness crab on Thanksgiving this year, it took me a minute to remember that we ever had Dungeness crab on Thanksgiving. It’s the fourth year in a row that crab season has been pushed back from its original opening date of Nov. 15, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last. The new opening date for commercial crabbing is Dec. 1, but that will depend on the migration of humpback whales, which can get tangled in the crab pot lines used by commercial fisherman and many recreational anglers. In 2021 the season didn’t open until Dec. 16, although crabs from farther north made their way to Santa Cruz about a week before that.
Recreational crab fishing is open, but only if you use hoop nets or snares. If you’re talented enough to catch a legal crab this way, you have my respect and you’ve certainly earned that crab!
… Daniel Aguirre has set up his Happy Dog Hot Dog cart on River Street in Santa Cruz for the past eight years, offering sausages from Corralitos Market & Sausage Company with plenty of homemade toppings. Unfortunately, his little red cart caught fire recently during an event. Thankfully no one was hurt, but Aguirre believes it’s time to invest in a larger and safer cart. If you’d like to help Aguirre get back on his feet, visit his GoFundMe page.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Manresa Bread opened a retail shop in Santa Cruz on Monday, delighting local fans who have made pilgrimages to its other four Bay Area locations to snag loaves of naturally leavened bread and pastries. I spoke with head baker and founder Avery Ruzicka about her baking philosophy, what’s in store for the holidays and why she insists on milling her own flour.
“What brings us together are our faults.” — Prudy Foxx of Foxx Viticulture at Rootstock at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History on Saturday. Foxx was one of six panelists speaking about the history of wine making and growing in the Santa Cruz Mountains at a nearly sold-out inaugural event. She shared how the topography and geology of the Santa Cruz Mountains — due to the San Andreas fault — created an infinite number of microclimates for grape growing.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
By now you’re all aware of my son Marco’s deep love for ice cream. On Saturday night, my husband, Mike, and I took him out for some and realized as we approached the Penny Ice Creamery in Aptos that he hadn’t been to an actual ice cream parlor before. He couldn’t see above the counter, so Mike lifted him up to look in at all the different ice cream flavors. Oh, how his eyes got big! He wrestled to be let down, tugged my purse from my shoulder, opened my wallet and took out my credit card — yes, really — and waved it at the young man working behind the counter. Needless to say he was very happy with his tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream. And just to clarify — I promise he eats a balanced diet with lots of whole foods and limited sugar, but I don’t think those stories are as funny as the lengths he’ll go for his favorite treat.
THIS WEEK, I WANTED SOUP …
… and fast, so I made my easy tomato soup recipe. It’s so easy, requires no chopping and can be made entirely from things out of the pantry that it hardly counts as a recipe at all. It takes slightly longer than opening a can of tomato soup, but I promise it’s at least twice as tasty. If you don’t already have a tomato soup recipe in your back pocket, here’s mine:
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of brown sugar, then add a mix of earthy and sweet spices — a heaping half a teaspoon of paprika and ground ginger plus a few generous shakes of nutmeg and cloves do the trick. If I have garam masala in my pantry, I’ll just add a big teaspoon of that. Toast the spices for a few seconds, then add a full 28-ounce can of good quality tomatoes – whole, crushed or sauce, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to blend it up anyway — and 1-2 cups of broth. Bring everything to a simmer and let it jam for a few minutes while you make your grilled cheese sandwich (yes, this is a required part of the recipe). Once the sandwich is done, remove the soup from the heat and blend it with an immersion blender. Finish it with about a half-cup of half ‘n’ half or cream, to taste. Feeds two to three people on a cold and stormy evening.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ How the bloody mary garnish lost its mind (VinePair)
➤ Julie Powell took food writing to a franker, darker place (New York Times)
➤ ‘Black Power Kitchen’ and the legacy of cookbooks on a mission (Washington Post)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.