Crab season is departing early, but salmon is on deck, and Santa Cruz spring has sprung in the form of a fine-dining spin on Detroit pizza inside Sante Adairius’ Midtown portal.
I hope you have a snack handy, because you’re about to be very hungry. It’s your last chance to get Dungeness crab — the season is coming to an end this week, about two months earlier than expected, due to migrating whales becoming entangled in the fishing equipment. It’s hard to be sad, though, because salmon season opens Saturday in Monterey Bay, and it looks like it’s going to be a good one.
After an extensive remodel, chef Todd Parker has reopened the kitchen inside Sante Adairius Rustic Ales’ Midtown location as Bookie’s. Now, he’s putting his own fine dining-inspired spin on Detroit-style pizza using seasonal ingredients and an intense attention to detail.
Speaking of details, you’ll get lost in the meticulous designs of baker Laurel Tisserand. She recently launched an online bakery featuring cookies that are as playful as they are stunning.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is shutting down the crab season early this year. The final day of the season for all of California will be next Friday, April 8, about two months earlier than anticipated. Recent incidents of humpback whales becoming tangled in commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear off San Mateo County prompted the agency to announce the early closure last week. Migrating whales also delayed the opening of the season by almost a month as fishermen waited for them to make safe passage toward warm waters off the coast of Mexico. While the short season is hard on local fishermen and their crab-loving customers, the CDFW’s decision is meant to ensure a viable fishing ecosystem for all Californians. Your best bet to find crab locally is at H&H Fresh Fish Co. in the Santa Cruz Harbor.
The good news is that the salmon season opens Saturday, which means fresh king salmon will be available next week through at least the end of April. Perhaps I buried the lede with this one. If there’s anything I love more than local crab, it’s local salmon. The ocean abundance projection showed significantly more salmon than last year, so it should be a plentiful season.
The clang of pizza pans shuffling in and out of an oven punctuated my call with chef Todd Parker. He was par-baking the fluffy, focaccia-like pizza dough of his thick Detroit-style pizzas to prevent the toppings from burning and decrease the final bake time to just 10 minutes.
Last Saturday, Parker reopened the kitchen inside Sante Adairius Rustic Ales’ Santa Cruz Portal as Bookie’s, featuring his “inauthentic” take on Detroit-style pizza, a thick, rectangular pie characterized by a deeply crispy cheese “crown” that flows over the sides. The name is a reference to Bookie’s Club 870, an influential hub of Detroit’s punk, new wave and underground rock ‘n’ roll scene in the 1970s, and Parker wanted the name to have the sound and feel of a classic East Coast pizza joint. That said, he doubts that anybody from the Motor City would identify his version, made with naturally fermented sourdough and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, as true Detroit-style pizza. Options include pies topped with Fogline Farm chicken tossed with barbecue sauce, mushrooms and bitter nettles or spinach and olive alongside a simple cheese, sausage or classic pepperoni, made with Detroit style’s trademark cup pepperoni.
Parker’s approach reflects his background in fine dining. Raised in Mississippi, he attended culinary school in New York and worked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe and the United States. He says that the thing that defines his cooking is the quality of ingredients, which drew him to Manresa in Los Gatos. After working there for five years, he helmed the inaugural kitchen at Bad Animal in Santa Cruz, before the pandemic brought his business to a screeching halt. Sante Adairius, an internationally acclaimed local brewery, invited Parker to take over its kitchen, and he and then-partner Zane Griffin launched Pizza Pals, a precursor to Bookie’s. While Griffin is not a partner in Bookie’s, fans of Pizza Pals will recognize some of their favorite pizzas and salads on Parker’s new menu.
His attention to detail and pursuit of perfection drove him to create a different, personalized sauce for every pizza on his menu. For the cheese pizza, he simmers, then blends, Parmesan cheese rinds with tomato sauce. Porcini powder boosts the white sauce on the mushroom and nettle pizza, while fresh green garlic amplifies the spinach and olive. I didn’t immediately notice the pepperoni in the marinara of my pepperoni pizza, but it was obvious that it tasted like really great homemade pasta sauce. “It’s just a little more thought put into it,” Parker says, “than just having tomato sauce and using that on every pie.”
Parker applies that same care to his chicken wings, which are salted, dried and par-roasted before they’re fried at a super-hot temperature to create maximum crispiness without breading or coating. I am normally not a huge fan of chicken wings, but the sauce, which Parker reveals is mostly butter and Frank’s Hot Sauce, is so silky, with a tangy kick and addictive heat (even the mild version), I found myself back a few days later ordering more.
His green goddess salad might be on the lighter side of Bookie’s menu, but it still makes a strong impression with additions of funky, cheesy nutritional yeast and fresh dill and fennel.
Bookie’s is now open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Parker and the team at Sante Adairius invite the community to celebrate his grand opening this Saturday with a few special drafts. DJ2Row, aka Brad Clark of Private Press Brewing, will spin records from 4- to 8 p.m. More info at bookiespizza.com.
It’s hard to convince yourself to eat one of Laurel Tisserand’s cookies. I became mesmerized by photos of her designs after discovering her Instagram feed. Each one is decorated with a captivating level of detail that sucks you in — before you know it, you’ve been staring at the thatch on a cookie decorated to look like country cottage, with foxglove and daisies growing by the front door, imagining smoke drifting from the chimney and fantasizing about curling up by the fireplace with a great novel. Next to it, the cable knit on a cookie shaped like a sweater looks so cozy, I wonder if they have it in my size. Another cookie boasts a bowl of steaming Chinese dumplings and I almost reach for my chopsticks. A pearl succulent drips down a pot hanging from a macrame holder, and I wonder, do I need to water it?
Her designs are as adorable as they are beautiful. A collection of fruits included bananas, pineapples, shiny strawberries and fuzzy peaches; others featured images from the cartoon worlds of Zelda, “She-Ra and the Princess of Power” and “Adventure Time.” Many take playful inspiration from queer themes. Tisserand’s cookies are a fixture at markets and craft fairs at Greater Purpose Brewing in Live Oak. No matter how many she brings, she says, she always sells out of mushrooms: “Santa Cruz definitely has a thing for mushrooms, and gay people love mushrooms. Queer people are a fan of fungi.”
The secret to Tisserand’s remarkable detail comes from a surprising source — her time working as a henna artist at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. She discovered that the cones used for henna body art were ideal for a high level of detail unachievable through traditional pastry bags. Tisserand found she enjoys the challenge of working with royal icing. “It’s such a versatile medium. You can create so many different textures, build it up and layer it,” she says. “There’s a structural element and you can thin it out and paint with it. It’s fun to try to make something look fuzzy or soft, but with icing.”
Her designs set her apart from other bakers and gained her a following of more than 40,000 fans on TikTok. The support on social media encouraged her to obtain a cottage food license, and a few months ago she began offering her personalized, highly decorated desserts as LaurelBakes Cookies & Cakes.
Despite their exquisite designs, Tisserand insists that they’re meant to be eaten. “Every kind of art that I’ve done in my life has been impermanent. There’s something I like about that,” she says. “It’s a lot of pressure to create a piece of art and say, ‘Now buy it and own it forever and cherish it.’ But with the art that I make, I don’t feel the pressure for it to be perfect if I know that it’s going to be eaten, washed off or faded. So I like when people eat my cookies. It makes me happy.” Email her for custom orders at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Instagram at @laurelbakessc.
One the best reasons to head to the Westside Marketplace this Sunday is the food — Venezualan arepas from Pana Food Truck, Neapolitan pizza from Mattia Pizza Truck, tacos by Taquizas Gabriel, craft coffee by Three Waves Coffee and classic ice cream by Aunt LaLi’s. Pace yourself between courses by checking out more than a dozen makers and artists, with upbeat bossa nova vibes by musical trio Papiba and Friends. This free event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the old Wrigley Building. More info at scmmakersmarket.com.