Lily Belli on Food: Yarr takes up residence at Ulterior, short-term kitchen space & Giving Tuesday
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… In the past year since chef Jessica Yarr launched Chicken Foot, a pop-up that focuses on Eastern European foods with a modern, plant-forward twist, I’ve fallen in love with her colorful, seasonal takes on pierogies, knishes, latkes and dumplings. Now I don’t have to wait for one of Yarr’s pop-ups to enjoy her food — Chicken Foot has a new home at Ulterior, the speakeasy above Motiv in downtown Santa Cruz. Starting Thursday, guests can visit for dinner three nights a week. On Sundays, Chicken Foot transforms into Brunch Shift, Yarr’s breakfast project that focuses on fun twists on classics, like fruity toaster tarts, “hella flaky” biscuits and gravy and a “hot mess” of hash browns, melty cheese, local peppers and farm eggs.
Many excellent local chefs and pop-ups have held residencies in the Ulterior space in the past, including Kickin’ Chicken and Lionfish Supper Club, but Chicken Foot is the first since the pandemic. Yarr says her goal is to breathe new life into the space and highlight its speakeasy vibe. “I want to offer a different experience than anything that’s been there before, while harking back to the old Pearl Alley Bistro days,” says Yarr. Meanwhile, the cocktail artists at Ulterior have created a menu of wintery craft cocktails, mocktails and brunch-themed drinks to pair with the new menus and the team at the Westside’s Apéro Club curated a wine list of hand-selected natural wines.
Yarr’s winter residency launches this Thursday with a reservation-only “Speakeasy Spectacular” opening-night party, with seatings at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The four-course tasting menu is $95 per person, and includes a confit chicken leg or cauliflower steak served with braised gigante beans as an entrée and caramelized honey cake with bruléed persimmons for dessert. See the full menu and purchase tickets at chickenfootsc.com. Starting Friday, Chicken Foot will be open Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner and Sundays 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for brunch through the winter. And FYI: Due to its liquor license, Ulterior is a 21-and-over space.
… Good news for small food businesses — a new kitchen space for short-term rentals opened on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz in mid-November. Kitchen 831 is dedicated to periodic and short-term rentals for things like caterers, pop-ups, events and cooking classes. Owner Matisse Selman says his new space is for “everyone that I’ve been turning away for the last five years.” Selman also operates Extra Kitchen in the Sash Mill in Santa Cruz, which has five kitchens and accommodates food businesses preparing products for wholesale distribution, including farmers markets, wholesale and grocery stores. He hasn’t been able to offer space for someone who just needs a kitchen for a day or two — until now. “Now that we have two facilities, we can work with anyone,” he says.
The kitchen and walk-in space is open 24/7 and available to rent by the hour or day. Rates depend on frequency, client needs and space needs. Selman believes it would be a good fit for anyone who needs to prepare food for a large event, like a wedding; as a “ghost kitchen” for businesses that cater specifically to delivery-only platforms; or a pop-up — but really, the sky’s the limit. Currently, a personal trainer uses the space to meal prep for clients. It’s also ideal for food trucks and pop-ups, like current tenant Good Dogs, a local hot dog pop-up.
Find Kitchen 831 at 2890 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz. Contact Selman by phone at 831-227-5069 if you’re interested.
… Last call for Unsung Santa Cruz nominations for the restaurant industry! This is the second year that Lookout has honored members of our community that are doing valuable work but don’t usually get the recognition they deserve. This year, I’d like to draw attention to amazing front- and back-of-house staff members who rise above and beyond their job description and help keep the food businesses we all love humming along.
This person could be a dishwasher who shows up for every shift, an all-star line cook who executes every dish with precision and care or an unflappable server who never fails to make even the most difficult customers feel at ease. If these valuable members of the hospitality industry didn’t show up, our restaurant world would crumble, and I’d like to share their stories.
Do you have someone in mind? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday put “Industry Nomination” in the subject and share why they deserve to step into the spotlight.
ON THE MENU
You might have noticed a new line item at the bottom of your receipt at some coffee shops and restaurants — a mysterious “service charge” that usually ranges from 3% to 20%. What is a service charge and where did it come from? Is it here to stay, and should it affect how much you tip? I’ll share what you need to know about this national trend that’s playing out locally.
$3,900 — Price per pound for fresh white truffles at Far West Fungi in downtown Santa Cruz. This delicacy is sold by the ounce and is currently in season if you’d care to indulge. Check out a podcast recommendation below to learn a little more about this sought-after luxury.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
Giving Tuesday — that’s the day this newsletter publishes — is a great time to make a difference in your community by making a donation to a local nonprofit. If you’re able, consider giving a little (or a lot) to a Santa Cruz County-based organization that helps keep our neighbors’ bellies full every day of the year. A few of my favorites are:
- Second Harvest Food Bank, Santa Cruz County’s local food bank, feeds thousands of community members every month.
- Teen Kitchen Project delivers healthy meals to individuals and families dealing with serious illnesses, all prepared by local teens who learn valuable culinary skills.
- Homeless Garden Project offers job training, community, support services and hot meals to people experiencing homelessness.
- Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes provides healthy meals to farmworkers, working families, the elderly and disabled and other Pajaro Valley residents.
- Food What?! uses organic farming, nourishing food and community to educate young people about food systems and social justice.
THIS WEEK, I’M LISTENING …
… to a fascinating interview with journalist Rowan Jacobsen by Milk Street host Christopher Kimball on his latest podcast, “Secrets of Classic German Baking.” Jacobsen’s latest book, “Truffle Hound,” digs into one of the world’s most elusive and beloved foods: truffles. In the episode, he reveals what truffles are, the differences between black and white, how they got to be so ridiculously expensive and more. This interview is the first segment on the podcast and starts at around the 3-minute mark.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ For the future of meat, food tech startups look under mushrooms (San Francisco Chronicle)
➤ On ‘Diasporican’: A conversation with Illyanna Maisonet (From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy)
➤ We tasted all of the grocery store eggnogs to find the best (Food & Wine)