From a high-end Alderwood-Australian wine pairing to vegan breakfast pastries, we’ve got you covered for a great eating weekend ahead.
Welcome to another edition of Eaters Digest, the weekly rundown of what’s good to eat and what’s going on in our Santa Cruz County food scene.
The sun is out, and if you’re heading to the beach, grab a bottle of Newtown Noir, an apple-pinot noir hybrid wine from Sones Cellars and Tanuki Cider. It’s the perfect warm-weather sipper. Also, find Sweet Bean Bakery’s wonderful pastries at a coffee shop near you — they’re made without any animal products, but that’s not as important as the fact that they’re delicious.
Alderwood is planning a luxe collaboration dinner with Australian winery Penfolds, U-picks are back at Live Earth Farm, and save the date for Monkeyflower Ranch’s open house next Saturday. Details and more below …
Alderwood restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz announced this week that it’s partnering with Penfolds, one of Australia’s oldest and most esteemed wineries, for an exclusive dinner June 8. Penfolds was established in Australia in 1844, rose to become one of the most revered wineries in the world and continues to be on the cutting edge of winemaking. Chef Jeffrey Wall will create four courses to pair with Penfolds’ fine wines, including the 2014 Grange South Australia shiraz, which retails for $850 a bottle. Penfolds ambassador Kim Stone will be on hand to share the winery’s vision. Only 40 seats are available, and tickets are $300 per person, but even at that price I have a feeling this event will sell out quickly. Reserve your spot on on tock.com.
Santa Cruz made national headlines Wednesday when two Starbucks in Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly to unionize, making them the first Starbucks in California to do so. Workers at the Starbucks at Mission and Dufour streets and at Ocean and Water streets voted to join the Starbucks Workers Union, joining more than 60 locations throughout the United States. Read my colleague Max Chun’s report on this milestone.
Excellent vegan food is becoming more accessible in Santa Cruz County. Last week, I was wowed by a plant-based Syrian lunch in downtown Santa Cruz. This week, I fell in love with vegan breakfast pastries from Sweet Bean Bakery. At The Ugly Mug in Soquel, I enjoyed a “ham,” “egg” and “cheese” croissant breakfast sandwich made with plant-based imitations that rival the meat-laden version. The croissant shone, with a lacquered crust and as flaky and buttery as any eaten on the streets of Paris. My other sweet treat was a sugar-dusted morning bun called a cruffin — croissant dough baked in a muffin tin so it twists up like a cinnamon roll. I loved peeling off the crispy outer layers to reveal the soft, fluffy inner heart, which was perfectly baked through and not in the least bit “stodgy” — as one blue-eyed judge on “The Great British Bake Off” might put it.
Baker Julia Daniel founded Sweet Bean in July 2020. They were inspired to create vegan versions of breakfast pastries in order to enjoy a classic café experience with something a little more luxurious than a nut bar — the de rigueur vegan coffeehouse treat. It took them a year and a half to perfect their croissant recipe, using Miyoko’s Creamery plant-based butter and a mix of coconut milk and maple syrup for egg wash. After testing many versions on their French housemate, they finally nailed it.
Daniel says that at Sweet Bean, they want to make pastries and cakes that happen to be vegan that anyone can eat: “More and more people are recognizing that vegan food is just good food. People are seeing it less as something different and weird and something that’s just delicious.”
In addition to The Ugly Mug in Soquel, find Sweet Bean pastries in Santa Cruz at Tabby Cat Café, Verve Coffee on Fair Avenue, 11th Hour Coffee on Ingalls Street, in Scotts Valley at Cruz Coffee, at Blossom’s Farm Stand in Corralitos, and Honeylux Coffee in Watsonville. Visit sweetbeanbakerysc.com for special orders, pop-ups and events.
Michael Sones of Sones Cellars and Robby Honda of Tanuki Cider collaborated to make the perfect summer sipper. Newtown Noir is an apple wine made with Newtown pippin apple juice and local pinot noir, which were fermented together and then bottle-conditioned in the Champagne style so it sparkles. The result is a fizzy, garnet-colored wine that tastes of blackberry, cola and apple blossoms. If you like natural wines and hard cider, this one’s for you, but I think anyone would enjoy a chilled glass on a beautiful day with a few special cheeses. At 10.5%, it’s a little stronger than most ciders but quite low-alcohol for a wine — perfect for a picnic or beach day. Each bottle retails for $25, and only 83 cases were made. Find it at the Sones Cellars tasting room in the Swift Street Courtyard on the Westside in Santa Cruz.
On Sunday, come cheer me on while I compete in the Pesto Competition at Mentone restaurant in Aptos. In honor of a visit from chef and “Pesto King” Roberto Panizza, chef David Kinch is hosting a regional qualifying match for the World Pesto Competition at his restaurant. Ten amateurs — including yours truly — will have 20 minutes to create their best-o pesto using a traditional mortar and pestle and ingredients provided by Mentone. The winner gets to compete at the Pesto World Championship in Italy, a dinner at Mentone and substantial bragging rights. Spectating is free, so come down, have a spritz and join in the fun. The competition starts at noon.
The strawberry U-picks at Live Earth Farm in Corralitos are back! Starting this weekend and running every Saturday and Sunday through June, families can reserve a two-hour time slot to come pick as many organic, sun-kissed strawberries as they can — the more you pick, the bigger the discount. Guests can bring buckets, boxes or other containers to harvest the berries, or purchase containers on site. The farm advises that you bring layers, wear sunscreen and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy the beauty of the farm. The cost is $25 per vehicle, and you can reserve your spot on Eventbrite. As the season goes on, U-picks for other fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers, will also open.
Staff of Life in Santa Cruz celebrates its 53rd anniversary this Saturday. Come party in the parking lot and enjoy complimentary tastings of beer, wine, bakery and deli items, and beauty and wellness samples. The event is free and goes from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. RSVP on Eventbrite.
Monkeyflower Ranch’s spring open house is next Saturday, May 21, from noon to 4 p.m. Farmer Rebecca King invites the public into her bucolic ranch in Royal Oaks to play with wobbly spring lambs, Great Pyrenees puppies and explore the ranch’s milking parlor and creamery. Enjoy a cheese tasting as well as sandwiches, salads and snacks made with Monkeyflower’s meats and cheeses, beer and wine. Bring a cooler to take home its homemade sheep’s milk yogurt, farm eggs, cheese, meat and other products. I had the pleasure of experiencing this celebration a few years ago, and not only is the farm gorgeous, learning about its cheesemaking is fascinating. But honestly, Monkeyflower had me at “puppies and lambs.” Go to gardenvarietycheese.com to reserve your spot for the tour.