Lily Belli on Food: Poet & Patriot’s new life, a Vietnamese pop-up, and a Cavalletta preview
Hello again! I have returned from a four-month break I took this spring to have a baby. Now, Cecilia is a bouncing, thriving 4-month-old, and I am brimming with new story ideas to bring to you, our Lookout readers. Thank you to Jessica M. Pasko, who kept you up to date on Santa Cruz County’s dining news and shared her personal food experiences through this newsletter while I was on parental leave. And thank you to contributing food writers Laura Sutherland and Ashley Spencer for their reporting while I was away.
… The storied and beloved Poet & Patriot Irish Pub in downtown Santa Cruz closed in July 2020 and the space has remained vacant for the last three years. Now, local business owner Max Turigliatto plans to open a new cocktail-based business there within the next year. He’s calling it the Alley Oop, and it will serve food in addition to having a cocktail-forward menu.
It will be the second time the 31-year-old Turigliatto will undertake such a project. In 2019, he revived the down-in-the-heels Santa Cruz dive bar The Watering Hole into Mission West, updating its interior, drink selection and overall vibe into an upstanding bar for the Westside community. “This is an opportunity to do the same thing I did on the Westside and really put my two cents into downtown,” Turigliatto told me. Last weekend, over one of his solera-style cocktails served in vintage-style glassware, I sat down with Turigliatto to talk about his transformation of Mission West and his plans for the Alley Oop – expect a story later this week.
… On Monday, July 31, Tram Vu, co-owner of Mariposa Coffee, is holding a sit-down Vietnamese dinner pop-up at Woodhouse Blending & Brewing in Santa Cruz. Unlike her downtown café, which offers Vietnamese and Cuban snacks made with meat-free alternatives, the family-style menu is omnivorous. The four-course dinner includes spring rolls three ways — with shrimp with nuoc cham dipping sauce, pork belly with shrimp paste and beef with anchovy sauce — and a vermicelli noodle bowl with pork belly. The meal will be paired with both alcoholic and non alcoholic libations. Tickets are $62 through Eventbrite.
… Last call for tickets to the Winemakers Dinner at Bonny Doon Vineyards’ Aptos tasting room this Thursday, July 27 at 7 p.m. Bonny Doon winemaker Nicole Walsh will pair her eclectic and creative wines with a dinner by Four Calendar chef Valentin Lopez. Expect carefully sourced produce from local farms, foraged ingredients and playful cuisine that reflects Lopez’s Mexican heritage. Tickets are $144 at bonnydoonvineyard.com.
… On Monday evening, Trestles restaurant in Capitola held a pop-up for Cavalletta, chef Nick Sherman’s forthcoming restaurant in Aptos with business partner Shawn Ryberg, to give guests a sneak peek at the menu. California-inspired Italian dishes, like risotto with summer corn and sweet rock shrimp; bucatini all’amatriciana; and an Italian chop salad, were presented in Sherman’s thoughtful and unfussy bistro style. Watch for more Monday night pop-ups on the restaurant’s Instagram page while the team finalizes the details at the new Aptos restaurant. I visited the pop-up last night, and will share more details about my meal and where this project stands on Lookout later today.
… Earlier this month, Michelin, the tire company that awards a tiered number of stars to the best restaurants in the world, announced new members to its California guide. No new Santa Cruz County restaurants were added to the list, but the Bay Area and Monterey County won big. Petiscos in San Jose, Maligne in Seaside and several restaurants in San Francisco and the East Bay earned Bib Gourmands – Michelin’s designation for great value at an affordable price. Notably, Chez Noir, which opened in Carmel last year, earned a coveted star. In doing so it became only the second restaurant on the Central Coast to earn the designation – Aubergine, also in Carmel, earned the first in 2019 when the guide opened up to the Central Coast for the first time.
In Santa Cruz County, Mentone in Aptos retained its Bib Gourmand, and Alderwood Santa Cruz retained its mention in the guide.
How do we feel about Michelin in Santa Cruz County? Do we care what this overstuffed tire company thinks of our local eateries? The answer, for some, is yes – I know at least a couple of local chefs who are actively seeking its recognition. But most of the other culinary professionals that I speak to regularly seem uninterested.
On one hand, Santa Cruz County has always been innately cool. Do we need an outside force to tell us what we already know, let alone one that’s been criticized for focusing on Eurocentric and Japanese restaurants while failing to recognize other cuisines? On the other, Santa Cruz’s culinary offerings are regularly overlooked by the larger Bay Area and the wider Central Coast community. If San Jose and Monterey can have Michelin street cred, why not us?
As of now, only Alderwood Santa Cruz could, perhaps, qualify for a star, based on the level of cuisine, price point and quality of service. More area restaurants could earn a mention or a Bib Gourmand. Now, anyone who is invested in this list will need to wait until the mysterious reviewers visit our seaside town again.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Soif Wine Bar and Merchant has poured its last glass at its Walnut Avenue location in downtown Santa Cruz. It closed on Sunday, and new owners Alexis Carr and Dede Eckhardt plan to reopen the shop a few blocks away in the Victorian home that once held Caffe Pergolesi – timeline TBD.
115 — Number of ice cream flavors available at Ice Cream on Fair, Marianne’s new production facility and scoop shop on Fair Avenue on the Westside of Santa Cruz. The parlor is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“I too was punched in the face at that Taco Bell.” — Redditors are sharing their memories at the Taco Bell that once stood at the corner of Laurel Street and Pacific Avenue. Before it was demolished in 2021, it was the site of many late-night escapades that were often unsavory, and sometimes dangerous. Yet Santa Cruzans are walking down memory lane with humor and just a bit of fondness. Check it out for a laugh.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
I recently took the plunge and purchased a kitchen item that I’ve had my eye on for a while – a John Boos wood cutting board. Boos has been the name in high-quality cutting boards for decades, and I am absolutely in love with my new 20-inch by 15-inch maple board. At 1.5-inches thick, it feels sturdy and safe, is an attractive addition to my kitchen counter and I know I’ll have it for life – my mother has had her Boos block since before I was born. (She also taught me the trick of putting a clean kitchen towel under the block to prevent any movement while cutting.) If you’re willing to part with a chunk of change for a chunk of wood, you can’t do better.
THIS WEEK, I’M LISTENING TO …
… ‘The Stephen Satterfield Show’ on my podcast app. You may already know host Stephen Satterfield from the Netflix series ‘High on the Hog,’ from his work as a sommelier and writer or from his media company Whetstone, which focuses on amplifying food stories and voices from people of color. This spring, he released the first season of his eponymous podcast. In the eleven episodes now available, Satterfield interviews prominent culinary voices like former San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho, Bay Area chef Reem Assil and Haitian chef Gregory Gourdet – whose restaurant Kann was recently named Best Restaurant in the Country by the James Beard Foundation – about everything from social media presence, pandemic survival, their creative struggles and so much more.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ Remodeled Venus Beachside puts spirits front and center, leans into seafood (Lookout)
➤ In-N-Out confirms anti-mask policy, says workers must communicate ‘with our smiles’ (SF Gate)
➤ Anchor Brewing open to workers buying the company — but time is running out (San Francisco Chronicle)