EATERS DIGEST: Crabs are here, and Sante Adairius welcomes a new brewer
Monterey Bay’s commercial crab season will open Thursday, but crabs from Northern California have already made their way to Santa Cruz; Sante Adairius welcomes a new brewer and releases a collaboration with Venus Spirits.
Crab lovers, it looks as though you will be able to enjoy your favorite crustacean at your holiday table after all. The local commercial crab season will open Thursday, but crabs from Northern California have already made their way to Santa Cruz.
Also included in this edition of Eaters Digest, Sante Adairius welcomes a new head brewer and offers a delicious collaboration with a local distillery, and several fun, food-centric holiday events coming up this week.
By now, you’ve probably missed the deadlines for ordering holiday presents online, and that’s OK. Wallace Baine, Lookout’s arts and entertainment writer, and I curated dozens of suggestions for locally made gifts. Read them all here.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this Thursday that the commercial Dungeness crab season will open next Thursday, Dec. 16, in what it calls Zone 4, which includes Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay. The season was delayed in order to protect migrating humpback whales, which can become entangled in the traps.
But Dungeness crabs from Northern California have already made their way to Santa Cruz. I received a text alert Tuesday from H&H Fresh Fish Co. that crabs had arrived at its shop at the Santa Cruz Harbor. Through its partners at Ocean2Table, H&H was able to bring in live crabs from Fort Bragg and cooked crabs from Crescent City, where the crab season opened on time at the end of November.
Co-owner Heidi Rhodes says that while H&H typically waits in solidarity with the local fishermen for the local season to open before offering crabs, it made an exception because its customers are clamoring for crab for the holidays. Now that the season opening is in sight, H&H will be sourcing from local fishermen.
Live crab is available for $14 per pound, which Rhodes says is consistent with last year’s pricing. A limited amount of cooked crab, normally offered only to H&H’s community-supported fishery club members, is available for $18 per pound. Rhodes reports that most of the crabs are 1.5 to 2 pounds. Live crabs can be cleaned on-site for 50 cents per crab. Members receive $1 off per pound.
To celebrate, I brought two large cooked crabs home with me, as well as a jar of H&H’s homemade seafood butter. The butter, made with a special blend of spices, cilantro and parmesan, is a delicious accompaniment to crab or grilled oysters.
I made a pasta with fennel, capers and white wine, finished it with a judicious amount of seafood butter and topped it with a pile of sweet, tender crab meat. All I can say is, it’s time to take your buckets and coolers down to the harbor.
Humble Sea Brewing Co. announced this week that brewer Drew DiCocco will be leaving to become head brewer at another local brewery, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. DiCocco held the position of head of special projects at Humble Sea for four years, during which time he helped craft its mixed-fermentation program, clean-barrel aging program and also spearheaded the blends for the exclusive Kooks Club.
“Although we are sad to see him leave, we are very proud and happy for him to take this big step in his career,” says head brewer Nick Pavlina in an Instagram post.
DiCocco’s barrel aging skills will be at home at SARA, which is nationally renowned for its mixed-fermentation and barrel-aged beers. Tim Clifford, owner and brewer at SARA, is excited to welcome DiCocco to the team: “Drew comes to us with vast experience working his way up through several respected breweries. We feel fortunate to have him as our new head brewer, and I look forward to working closely with Drew to continue to make the best beer we are capable of making.”
Speaking of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, I enjoyed a bottle of its new batch of Regency Effect this week. The brewers at Sante aged their saison, fermented with their house culture, in American oak barrels that previously contained gin from local distillery Venus Spirits. The result is an elegant, perfectly balanced, seriously drinkable beer, with gentle acidity and notes of juniper and other gin botanicals throughout.
While most of SARA’s bottle releases are gone in a flash, I’m told it has bottled a more generous amount of Recency Effect. Still, if I know SARA’s fans, I’d visit the Capitola or Santa Cruz locations sooner rather than later. $28 for 750 milliliters.
Staff of Life is hosting its annual Festivus Seasonal Tastings at its Watsonville location on Friday and in Santa Cruz on Saturday. This event showcases Staff of Life’s many holiday treats, and each ticket includes unlimited tastings of champagne, vintage port, cider, Napa cabernet sauvignon, specialty meats, caviar, traditional torrone and panettone, and much, much more.
The Watsonville event benefits the Agricultural History Project Center and Museum, and the Santa Cruz event benefits Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. Tickets are $25 in advance through Eventbrite and $30 at the door.
Wine certainly isn’t the only beverage you can pair with cheese. On Sunday at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Melanie Hatchett of Take on Brie will teach you how to pair craft beer with your favorite cheeses while you enjoy SCMB’s featured beers and trivia. Each guest will leave with a cheese board and a bottle of SCMB ale. The class is $50 and goes from 2-4 p.m. Purchase your ticket here.
On Thursday, drink craft beer and raise money to support Live Earth Farm’s Farm Discovery Program at Fruition Brewing in the East Lake Village shopping center in Watsonville. From 6-8 p.m., a generous portion of the day’s sales and raffle proceeds will be donated to support the program, which has diverted 105,000 pounds of fresh organic produce that might otherwise have been wasted to the plates of people in need through partnering pantry and meal programs. Join the celebration to support this important work for meal and nutrition security.