EATERS DIGEST: A guide to food trucks and pop-ups, yakitori and takoyaki on the Westside and the weirdest cookie

Daruma Kiosk offers takoyaki at Humble Sea Brewing.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Use Lookout’s guide to food trucks and pop-ups to help you navigate Santa Cruz County’s thriving scene, including a pair of pop-ups serving yakitori and takoyaki on the Westside. Plus, Ser and Madson wineries grace the pages of Wine Enthusiast.

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Lily

Welcome to the weekend, my friends. Many of us have been glued to the national news Friday, but don’t forget that there are still wonderful things happening in our community. I was proud to publish a guide to food trucks and pop-ups in Santa Cruz County, which includes more than 40 small, locally owned businesses that add their culinary uniqueness to our community. It’s a guide that is worth using — and sharing. My colleague Giovanni Moujaes added a great sortable food truck cheat sheet so you can sort by cuisine, geography, price and my picks.

You’ll find more food truck and pop-up news in this issue of Eaters Digest as well. Stay Cool Ice Cream Truck, a newcomer to the scene, needs help getting back on its feet after a devastating crash. Yakitori Toriman and Daruma Kiosk team up each week on the Westside to offer smoke-scented yakitori and savory takoyaki. These dishes are rare even in the wider Bay Area, and we are lucky to have access to them here.

In other news, our local winemakers are receiving some national attention — Nicole Walsh of Ser Winery in Aptos graced the cover of the June/July issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine, and Madson Wines’ Cole Thomas is also mentioned inside. And with summer officially here, there are several events worth checking out.

News

Full Steam Dumpling serves hand-wrapped dumplings and ramen at the Santa Cruz Art Center and local farmers markets.
Full Steam Dumpling serves hand-wrapped dumplings and ramen at the Santa Cruz Art Center and local farmers markets.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, food trucks and pop-ups are booming in Santa Cruz County. These small, non-brick-and-mortar food businesses are producing some of the most creative food in the county, from Eastern European perogies to Venezuelan arepas to vegetarian Cubanos. I created a guide to help you find them all, and there are more than 40 on this list. Bookmark it and refer back to it whenever you’re feeling adventurous. There are more food trucks and pop-ups emerging all the time, so I’ll be updating this list regularly. Happy hunting!

When Joezette and Casey Cowden launched the Stay Cool Ice Cream Truck a few weeks ago, they anticipated a summer of serving frozen treats, Marianne’s ice cream and Sambazon açai bowls. The couple spent more than a year restoring a 1971 Ford ice cream truck and refurbishing it from the inside out in order to hit the streets of Santa Cruz County and serve at local events. Sadly, just a few weeks ago the truck was involved in an accident, and needs urgent repairs that won’t be covered by their insurance. If you’d like to help this family-owned business get back on its feet in time for the summer season, check out their GoFundMe page.

I was excited to see Santa Cruz County wine receive some national recognition in the June/July issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Two Santa Cruz County vintners graced the pages of the California-themed issue, and one of them was featured on the cover. Inside, writer Matt Kettmann introduces a group of coastal winemakers who are also passionate surfers. At the top of the story, Nicole Walsh of Ser Winery, who has a tasting room in Aptos Village, balances on a surfboard with a bottle of her Cabernet Pfeffer. That’s also her raising a wineglass above the waters of Monterey Bay on the cover. Cole Thomas of Madson Wines, who makes natural wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains when he’s not surfing Steamer Lane, is also featured. We often hear about how our coastal environment influences the grapes, so it’s fun to see how it also influences the winemakers. Read the story on winemag.com.

Eat this

Japanese yakitori is prepared over a coal-fired grill at Yakitori Toriman.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Even in the wider Bay Area, yakitori is hard to find. In Santa Cruz County, we’re lucky to not only have a regular yakitori pop-up, but an excellent one. Yakitori Toriman serves a menu of skewered snacks ranging from ground chicken sausage to lamb chops to okra, all prepared over a long, coal-fired grill. Smoke wafts out from under a red awning adorned with Japanese lanterns, activating your salivary glands as you approach the booth and infusing everything with a clean, appetizing flavor.

You receive two skewers of each yakitori, and you’ll want to order more than one kind. You really can’t go wrong, but don’t miss the fatty and rich chicken meatball ($10) or the pork belly layered with green onion ($11). At a recent pop-up at Humble Sea Brewing Co. in Santa Cruz, I was thrilled to see a whole hamachi collar on the menu, which arrived with crispy skin and tender, moist and flavorful around the bone ($16).

A selection of yakitori and takoyaki from Yakitori Toriman and Daruma Kiosk.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Yakitori Toriman shares a booth with Daruma Kiosk, a takoyaki vendor. If you haven’t tried these fried, round, savory pancakes, you are missing out. The traditional takoyaki is prepared with a chunk of octopus in the middle and topped with sauces and funky bonito flakes, which seems to wave from the heat of the steam, but here you can also get several other flavors like shrimp chili and barbecue pulled pork. Yakitori Toriman and Daruma Kiosk team up twice a week on the Westside of Santa Cruz. Enjoy these Japanese street food snacks with a cold craft beer on Wednesdays at Humble Sea Brewing from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and with a chilled glass of natural wine at Apéro Club in the Swift Street Courtyard on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Follow Yakitori Toriman at @yakitori_toriman and Daruma Kiosk at @daruma.kiosk.

Forty food trucks and pop-ups now dot the Santa Cruz County landscape. Call it global food tourism — within 30 minutes....

Cracked Cookies look a little strange. Flat-bottomed with raised edges and a glossy, cracked surface, they don’t look like your mom’s chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin. But that’s because they are so much more than a traditional cookie. A Cracked Cookie is chewy, with an almost toffee-like texture that’s part pie crust, part crinkle-top brownie and part candy. Honestly, it’s a little hard to explain, especially between mouthfuls of cookie. I fell in love with the original browned butter flavor, but this mom-and-pop Santa Cruz-based company also offers peanut butter, chocolate, double chocolate and toffee versions. Find Cracked Cookies throughout the county at West End Tap & Kitchen, Beach Hut Deli and Seabright Deli in Santa Cruz; the Point Market in Live Oak; and the Palm Deli and Soul Salad in Aptos. You can also purchase online at crackedcookies.com.

Events

The Capitola Art & Wine Festival isn’t until September, but the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce is hosting a kickoff fundraising event Friday night at Bargetto Winery. Sip wine from wineries participating in the festival and nibble on appetizers by Busy Bees Catering, a charcuterie board by Sampa Kitchen and sweet treats from Sugar Bakery while enjoying music from Tim Brady of Cement Ship. The big reveal of the night is the unveiling of the 2022 festival poster artwork, done by local artist Amadeo Bachar. Funds from ticket sales and the silent auction go toward the festival this fall. Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. Go to capitolachamber.com to register.

Summer events are heating up at Soif wine bar in downtown Santa Cruz. Saturday brings an exclusive wine seminar on the Méo-Camuzet wines of Burgundy. Aficionado Luke Kammann will lead a tasting of the 2017 and 2018 vintages of Aux Boudots and Aux Murgers premier cru, single-vineyard wines from Nuits-Saint-Georges. If you got excited when you read that sentence, snag one of 10 spots for $100 via email at alexis@soifwine.com. On Thursday, stop by the wine bar for a special tasting of Sander and Hem wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The cost is $35 for the general public and $15 for wine club members.

Looking for vegetarian arepas or Filipino adobo? Head to the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum’s Summer Kick-Off Festival on Saturday, when Areperia 831 and Adobo To Go are serving up tasty homemade food along with Penny Ice Creamery frozen treats. At the festival, enjoy live animal presentations with the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center and Full Circle Falconry, live music from Andy Z, nature crafts, science activities and more. This event is free and family-friendly, and goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the museum at 1305 E. Cliff Dr. in Santa Cruz. More information at santacruzmuseum.org.

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