In Scotts Valley, a long-delayed opening for Faultline Brewing in the Hangar complex approaches next month. And Lily Belli muses on the difficulties in pulling off an exclusive, one-night-only dinner event.
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This week’s Eaters Digest is a little unconventional. Normally, I offer my readers snack-sized food news, tasty eats and edible events, but this week the appetizer and entree are hearty, stick-to-your-ribs-style news briefs.
First, dig into the news that opening day for Scotts Valley’s much-anticipated Faultline Brewing is mere weeks away. Mountain residents can expect to kick back at the Sunnyvale-based brewery’s new location at the Hangar by mid-August and dig into tasty eats prepared by “Master Chef” contestant Jordan Roots.
For the main course, I offer a reflection on a recent wine-pairing dinner experience at Persephone in Aptos. This summer has been ripe with similar exclusive one-off events, and I muse on why they can be hard to get right.
This weekend, head to Monkeyflower Ranch outside of Watsonville for a farm tour and cheese tasting, and to Ulterior in Santa Cruz for an exceptional-looking pop-up featuring upscale Filipino cuisine.
Hope you’re hungry!
Exciting news for Scotts Valley: Faultline Brewing expects to open in the Hangar development by mid-August. I know, you’ve heard that before. The second location for the 20-year-old Sunnyvale-based brewery has been in the works for more than a year, and an expected spring opening date came and went. The holdup was due to construction delays and supply-chain issues, assistant general manager Andrew Pederson told me — a story I hear all too often for new businesses.
Once the doors are open — between Aug.15 and 20, Faultline hopes — valley residents will be able to enjoy a full-service brewery and restaurant, featuring a full bar with upscale, localized versions of classic drinks, 10 taps full of exclusive brews from Faultline and a pub-style menu with some elevated twists. Helming the kitchen is executive chef Jordan Roots, whom some of you might remember from Season 4 of “Master Chef,” when he came in seventh. I asked for an example of a few dishes to share with you, but Pederson insisted they’re keeping the menu close to their chest for now.
Faultline Brewing is known for “bringing back the classics,” says Pederson, so expect to see more malt-forward beer styles including red ales, summer ales, kolsch and hefeweizen. The Scotts Valley brewery will be open seven days a week for lunch through dinner, and perhaps later if the community desire is there. Later, it would like to add community nights, trivia and karaoke. “We want to be that place in Scotts Valley where everyone can relax after a long day and get some good food and drinks in the process,” Pederson said.
Faultline is currently hiring bar and kitchen staff. If you’re interested, reach out through faultlinebrewing.com.
In a dining guide earlier this year, I reported that wine-pairing, farm-to-table and other special dinners are back with a vengeance after a pandemic hiatus, and right now we’re in the height of the season. I’ve had a chance to partake in a few of these one-night-only spectacles this summer, and while my excitement to be out for a fun evening after a year and a half of eating at home softened any judgments I might have had, I was also reminded that these events are really tricky to pull off.
These meals are not like a normal dinner. First, the wines (and occasionally beers) are a key component that each dish must complement and enhance. And because each ticket runs anywhere from $150 to $350 — or more, in some cases — chefs are motivated to impress. They can’t rely on tried and true dishes already on the menu that have been workshopped over weeks or months, and might push themselves to test new, ambitious ideas. Also, because everyone eats at once, for the evening they also become caterers churning out dozens of versions of each course simultaneously. No small feat!
I kept this in mind last Sunday when I attended one of Persephone restaurant’s monthly wine-pairing dinners. This time, famed Santa Cruz Mountain winery Ridge Vineyards provided the pairings and the inspiration for the $200-per-person, six-course feast. David Amadia, president of Ridge, was in attendance to guide us through the wines, while Persephone co-owner Alexander Potter hosted and introduced each course. The event took place outdoors under Persephone’s cozy, heated chalet-like patio which offered guests serene views of the forested Aptos ravine behind the restaurant.
Chef Cori Gouge-Ayer expressed her passion and talent throughout the meal. A stacked panzanella salad with juicy heirloom tomatoes and salty local feta paired well with a flinty, citrusy 2021 grenache blanc. I loved how the Calabrian chili honey drizzled over the second course of burrata and prosciutto brought out creamy, sweet notes in Ridge’s oaky yet bright 2020 estate chardonnay.
The most ambitious dish of the evening was also my favorite: a Scotch duck egg with a beet-and-duck tartare and a tart-sweet cherry gastrique. The fried exterior of the egg was crispy while the yolk stayed gooey. Although I was initially skeptical about raw poultry in the tartare, the dark, minced duck meat was rich and flavorful. The Ridge Geyserville 2014, a blend of Anderson Valley old-vine zinfandel and carignane, buoyed the dish with flavors of plum, earth and mushroom.
However, there were some misses. In my main course, a porcini pasta with duck-liver marsala cream sauce, the house-made fresh rigatoni noodles were undercooked and gluey. I expected more meaty mushrooms to be present, but the porcini were fully incorporated into the sauce, unfortunately turning it grayish brown. The sauce was also a bit heavy on sweet Marsala for my taste, but it did help open up the 2018 Mataro, a young mourvedre that was tight as a fist.
The Persephone staff bounced back in the dessert course, a blueberry-on-blueberry experience with blueberry semifreddo and Meyer lemon curd paired with Ridge’s 2014 Geyserville Essence, a late-harvest zinfandel that smacked of baked blueberries. My one quibble with this dish is that the menu promised pavlova — a pillowy meringue with a marshmallow-y center and one of my favorite desserts — but what arrived were small, crispy meringues. Although tasty, a slight disappointment.
I was surprised that, at this price point, there was no meat course. I know meat is passé is some circles, but I expected a protein — and it would have paired well with the larger-than-life reds from Ridge.
Overall, the dinner was exciting, the pairings were smart and the service was professional. I look forward to returning to Persephone for another one of these luxe dinners — there are three left before the end of the year — and to see what chef Cori cooks up in the cozy dining room.
During a normal meal, it would be easier to shake off a few errors or miscommunications, but such a high price point demands that the chef really hit it out of the park. As I said, it’s no easy task, and one can forgive if someone slips once or twice while climbing a mountain.
On Saturday, spend your afternoon touring the pastoral wonderland that is Monkeyflower Ranch in Royal Oaks, home of Garden Variety Cheese. Meet the cheesemakers themselves — a flock of 100 dairy sheep — and resident pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats, visit the cheese cave and sample award-winning cheeses and yogurt. Bring a cooler to take your farm products home. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Purchase tickets at brownpapertickets.com.
This Sunday starting at 5 p.m., chef Paul Suniga brings his fine-dining Filipino cuisine to Ulterior in downtown Santa Cruz. Suniga does only occasional pop-ups, each featuring an intriguing, colorful menu of upscale versions of Filipino dishes, like chicken adobo confit with rice, sorrel and beech mushrooms and fried milkfish with mango tomato salad. Don’t miss it!