EATERS DIGEST: Tea at Vim, Burger in Aptos closes and Madson Wines opens Westside tasting room

Scones, bostock and tea at Vim Dining & Desserts.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

This week in food and drink news, afternoon tea at Vim delights, Madson Wines joins the Westside scene and Burger suddenly shutters its Aptos location. Plus, a Ukrainian cultural festival fundraises in Felton.

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Lily

Welcome to the weekend! Here are this week’s highlights from the Santa Cruz County food and drink scene.

Madson Wines is opening its first tasting room on the Westside of Santa Cruz, joining a neighborhood already full of wineries, breweries, restaurants, retail and bars. Winemaker Cole Thomas also moved winemaking operations to his new warehouse, which previously held Bonny Doon Vineyards. And in Aptos, Burger — stylized as burger. — has suddenly closed its Soquel Drive location, a spot it held for 10 years.

Also, I rave — with my pinky out – over a very fun afternoon tea at Vim Dining & Desserts in Santa Cruz. I was thoroughly impressed and utterly stuffed after its first event, and the restaurant has plans for monthly ones. Also, don’t miss the Ukrainian Cultural Festival this Sunday in Felton. It’s an even bigger celebration than the first festival, hosted last spring, and all proceeds benefit the people of Ukraine.

News

Bad news for burger fans in Aptos: Burger’s Soquel Drive location has suddenly closed for good. On Wednesday, the restaurant posted a note on the door and on Instagram thanking the community for 10 years of patronage, saying that it had decided not to renew its lease. Before the community had time to grab a last cheeseburger, craft beer and enjoy the beautiful view from the patio, the restaurant shut its doors. Talk about a sudden exit!

No one I spoke to at Burger’s flagship location on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, which will remain open, could say why the Aptos location closed, other than a desire to not renew the lease. It’s a surprise to many. It was a popular spot, and the view from the patio overlooking a forest offered a moment of serenity one wouldn’t normally expect from a burger joint. With such a desirable location with lots of outdoor seating, I wonder who will snag this spot next.

Ken Swegles and Cole Thomas of Madson Wines.
(Via Facebook)

A new winery and tasting room is coming to the bustling Westside in Santa Cruz. Madson Wines is moving into Suite G at 328 Ingalls St., behind MJA Vineyards, in a space previously held by Bonny Doon Vineyards, which is now in Aromas. It’s a big step for winemaker Cole Thomas, who started Madson in 2016 with viticulturist Ken Swegles and his wife, Abbey Crystal, who were until recently making wines in a barn at a vineyard in Corralitos.

If you haven’t gotten your hands on one of Thomas’ wines — mostly locally sourced pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah — you’re missing out. At once fresh and endlessly complex, every wine I’ve tried put a “wow” on my face. In particular, a bottle of 2019 pinot noir, full of violets, earth and tart strawberries, has left a long memory.

Madson joins a half-dozen or so wineries and breweries clustered around Ingalls Street and the Swift Street Courtyard, including Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Equinox Wines and Stockwell Cellars. Thomas says tasters should come prepared for a warehouse experience, although Madson will have a bar and an L-shaped couch tucked among the barrels. Guests should dress warmly, as cool temperatures help preserve Madson’s minimal-intervention wines, most of which do not contain any added sulfur. Crystal, who has decades of experience in the wine industry herself, will lead the tasting, which will be organized by vineyard or American Viticultural Area (AVA) and cost $25 to $35 per flight. At this time, it’s reservation-only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; visit madsonwines.com to book your spot.

Eat this

I never outgrew tea parties. I’ve always loved everything about them — the delicate tea cups and matching saucers; the tea with cream in a pitcher and tiny cubes of sugar; the tower of savory and sweet treats. Tea parties are at once formal and utterly whimsical — a lovely combination not often seen in the food world and one that always makes me feel like a kid playing “grown-up.”

So when I saw that Vim Dining & Desserts, which typically offers dinner, now hosts a monthly afternoon tea at the Westside restaurant, I could hardly hit the “reserve” button fast enough. Afternoon tea is a novel experience in the area — especially since the Quail & Thistle Tea Room in Capitola closed. Since the event included a combination of desserts and savory dishes, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see chef Jesikah Stolaroff’s pastry skills shine.

Everything about my experience was a joy, from the fact that all the other guests had obviously dressed up, too — I think I even saw someone wearing a British fascinator — to the delightful array of bites that arrived on a towering tiered tray. The $58-per-person fixed-price menu included five savory treats, five desserts and a pot of tea from Monterey Bay Herb Co. We also received tiny lavender scones with clotted cream and baked strawberries and little slices of almond-covered bostock while we waited for our meal.

Each treat was wonderfully composed, and I adored the rich mushroom tart with caramelized onions, the crispy smoked salmon pommes dauphine and the gooey slice of croque monsieur. We finished our meal with slices of classic almond cake with peaches and whipped cream, rosemary and orange macarons, tangy passionfruit cream puffs and several more sweet things. Even though each item offered only a bite or two, we left absolutely stuffed — but not before our host gave us little bags of caramel-covered popcorn to take home.

Owner Erik Skaug, Stolaroff’s husband, told me that they plan on doing afternoon tea once a month and might introduce themes, like a spooky Halloween tea in October. Follow @vimsantacruz on Instagram for updates on its next event. Make reservations at vimsantacruz.com.

Events

Tatiana Burdiak (left) and dance partner Billy Pursinowski
Tatiana Burdiak (left) and dance partner Billy Pursinowski will perform traditional Ukrainian dances at the Ukrainian Festival on Sunday in Felton.
(Via Blair Davis Photography)

Now six months on from the Russian invasion, war continues in Ukraine. The news cycle and the public’s attention might have moved on to other stories, but for a group of Ukrainians living locally, the war is their everyday reality. You may remember how, last March, they threw a Ukrainian cultural festival in Felton to raise funds their friends, family and countrymen abroad. Now the festival has returned — and it promises to be even bigger and more festive than the first.

Come to Hallcrest Vineyards in Felton this Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. to immerse yourself in Ukrainian culture through traditional folk dancing, live music and Ukrainian food from Pierogi Peddler and Chicken Foot. There will be several Ukrainian artisans offering handmade vinoks, Slavic clothing, accessories and merchandise, as well as an art museum and motanka doll workshop. Enjoy live painting by local artist Aaron Adamski, write a letter of support to the Ukrainian people and bring a T-shirt to tie-dye blue and yellow — the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

This event is free, but donations are encouraged. All proceeds will benefit the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, which provides refugee support, territorial defense and other aid directly to Ukraine. Get more info here.

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