EATERS DIGEST: A pét-nat parade at Birichino, Hop N’ Barley beer festival returns and a new culinary cozy

The Hop N' Barley beer festival
The Hop N’ Barley beer festival returns to Skypark in Scotts Valley this Saturday.
(Via Hop N’ Barley Festival)

Birichino winery is putting its own spin on fizzy, fun pét-nats, a beloved local beer festival returns to Scotts Valley and a chance to experience the as-yet-unopened Trout Farm Inn from your yoga mat — it’s all here in this week’s Eaters Digest.

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Lily

Happy Friday! As we head into the weekend, Eaters Digest has a little bit of everything. My beet obsession continues with Ukrainian pop-up Chicken Foot’s borscht, which is now available along with other Eastern European delights at four weekly Santa Cruz County farmers markets. I’m continuously delighted by Birichino winery’s pét-nat wines, including its latest fizzy rosé made from old-vine zinfandel.

As far as events, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. While the Trout Farm Inn has yet to reopen, a weekly yoga class will allow you to enjoy the pool deck and the saltwater pool every Wednesday morning. Author Leslie Karst will release her fifth culinary cozy — more on what that is below — at Bookshop Santa Cruz next month, and Grazing on the Green has set a date and released tickets for its fall festival in Aptos.

This weekend, don’t miss the full-scale return of the Hop N’ Barley beer festival in Scotts Valley, and get your tickets now for next week’s Echoes of Africa, a special event celebrating African cuisine and arts at 1440 Multiversity.

News

A date is set for 2022’s Grazing on the Green: Mark your calendar for Saturday, Oct. 15, for an afternoon of small bites from local chefs, samples of fine wines and craft beers, and live music in Aptos Village Park. This is one of the food and drink events of the season and offers an unbeatable culinary cross section of Santa Cruz County. All proceeds benefit local cancer-support nonprofits, including Jacob’s Heart and Teen Kitchen Project. This event sells out every year, and now fewer tickets than usual are available in order to allow for ample social distancing. Get yours in advance if you’d like to attend. Early bird tickets are $90 at sccbg.org.

The Trout Farm Inn’s highly anticipated reopening is still pending, but the party is already getting started. Every Wednesday morning, Tara Murphy of Estrella Collective teaches an all-levels yoga flow class on the pool deck overlooking the redwood trees and Zayante Creek. Here’s the best part — students can take a dip in the gorgeous saltwater pool after the class. Spaces are $20 and can be reserved at thetroutfarm.com.

I eat, read and write about food for a living, but even I wasn’t familiar with the term “culinary cozy” until recently. Now, suddenly, I see these food-themed mystery novels everywhere, and it turns out I’m a bit late to the party. Next month, Santa Cruz author Leslie Karst will release her fifth culinary cozy, “The Fragrance of Death.” It’s the latest installment in a mystery series centered around restaurateur and sleuth Sally Solari, and includes mouthwatering recipes in addition to red herrings. Although I’ve only just become aware of Karst, this kind of thing is extremely my jam, and I can’t wait to binge-read all five. With “The Fragrance of Death” out Aug. 2, Karst visits Bookshop Santa Cruz for an Aug. 4 discussion; the event is free and open to the public, and you can reserve your spot here. Read more about Karst and her other novels at lesliekarstauthor.com.

Eat this

From salads to kvass, my love of beets has been well documented. Chicken Foot chef Jessica Yarr’s borscht feeds right into my addiction. Her take on this cold, fuschia-colored beet soup is earthy and sweet, punctuated with bright, fresh dill. Crunchy bites of beet complements the silky broth. I’m not sure why borscht is associated with colder weather when it’s so refreshing on a hot day. You can find Yarr’s borscht, as well as other Eastern European-inspired prepared items like pelmeni and knish dumplings, at Chicken Foot’s farmers market booth every week at the Felton, downtown Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Westside farmers markets.

Pétillant naturel wines are a specialty at Birichino winery.
Pétillant naturel wines are a specialty at Birichino winery.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

In the world of pink and fizzy wine, it doesn’t get much better than Birichino’s 2021 sparkling zinfandel Pétulant Naturel. This playful wine tastes of pink lemonade, raspberries and pink grapefruit and is a fun wine to pop open at the start a summer dinner party or on any warm day in the company of friends. The grapes come from vines planted a century ago on the back side of Hecker Pass between Watsonville and Gilroy. Most of the zinfandel from this vineyard, owned by the Bassan family, goes into Birichino’s Saint Georges Old Vines zinfandel, but 2021’s beautiful bumper crop inspired winemakers John Locke and Alex Krause to add to their collection of pét-nat.

Pétillant naturel is a style of naturally adding sparkle to wine, and the results are often more fun and decidedly less formal than Champagne-style sparklers. It’s become something of a specialty of Birichino’s — the winery has released more than half a dozen made from both red and white grapes. However, Locke and Krause’s style differs slightly from the traditional method. Typically, pét-nats are made by bottling wine toward the end of fermentation when there are still some sugars left. Fermentation finishes in the bottle, where the resulting carbon dioxide is trapped, creating a wine with about half the effervescence of Champagne. These wines can be unpredictable, and both low effervescence and exploding bottles are common. So Krause and Locke concocted a pét-nat method they feel allows for more control. In their “methode Birichinoise,” they freeze some fresh juice right after it’s pressed and ferment the rest of the wine until dry. Once fermentation is complete, they bottle the base wine and thaw and add the frozen juice back in. The sugars in the juice kick-start fermentation to create a gentle fizz.

The unorthodox winemaking style inspired Krause and Locke to call their wines “pétulant” instead of “pétillant” — one means peevish, the other sparkling. “We can still call it a pét-nat,” says Locke. It’s yet another quirk about this wine that brings a smile to my face — Birichino does, after all, mean “naughty” in Italian. Find this old vine zinfandel pét-nat and others at Birichino’s downtown Santa Cruz tasting room at 204 Church St., which also offers a $15 “pét-nat parade” tasting flight of three wines. More information at birichino.com.

Events

Hop N’ Barley, Santa Cruz County’s local beer festival, returns Saturday to Scotts Valley after a two-year pandemic hiatus. More than 50 craft breweries and cideries from the Central Coast and Bay Area will convene at sunny Skypark for an afternoon of sipping and sampling. But there’s a lot more than just booze — local food vendors, including H&H Fresh Oysters, Full Steam Dumpling and Tacos El Chuy will be on hand; five bands, including the Higher Collective and SuperBlume, will play from two stages of live music; lawn games like cornhole are free to enjoy, as are kids activities, including tie-dying and bubbles. Plus, a fleet of antique Volkswagen buses will be parked on-site in all their vintage glory courtesy of the Bus Junkies club. This year, proceeds from the festival will benefit the Homeless Garden Project. I helped organize this festival in 2015 and 2016, and it’s good to see it come back. Tickets are $45 for adults (kids are free) and include unlimited tasting. Purchase yours in advance at hopnbarley.org or at the gate.

Echoes of Africa will be held at 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley on July 16.
Echoes of Africa, a special evening celebrating African cuisine and art, will be held at 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley on July 16.
(Via 1440 Multiversity)

Next Saturday, July 16, Scotts Valley’s 1440 Multiversity, in partnership with the Silicon Valley African Film Festival, will host a one-night event honoring African cuisine and art. Echoes of Africa is a globally inspired take on 1440’s recurring Tapas and Tunes events. This time, guests will enjoy a sustainable, locally sourced tapas meal prepared by Olajumoke Akinsola, a Nigerian and West African chef, and soulful live music by Zimbabwean-born artist Piwai. After dinner, guests will take part in an interactive African drumming workshop with master drummer Nabi Bangoura using West African Djembe drums, which will evoke a traditional drum circle in an African village. Finally, visitors will view a screening of five narrative short films curated by Chike Nwoffiah, the founding director of the Silicon Valley African Film Festival, followed by a post-screening conversation with filmmakers Sydney Morgan Currie and Hilda Afrakoma. Tickets to this special evening are $85 and available through Eventbrite. More information at 1440.org.

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