EATERS DIGEST: Big flavors at Namaste India Bistro, a farmers market guide and new brunch pop-up

Roland Saher of Molino Creek Farm at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Big, bold flavors from northern and southern India brighten up Westside Santa Cruz, and one local chef brings a fresh take on brunch with a new pop-up. Plus, two events for wine lovers ... and don’t miss Lookout’s farmers market guide.

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Lily

Even as the summer begins to come to a close, we have openings.

Namaste India Bistro opened on Mission Street in Santa Cruz earlier this month, joining a very small handful of restaurants serving Indian cuisine in the area. I was impressed both with the quality and variety of dishes, as well as the friendly service. Read more about my experience below.

Chicken Foot chef Jessica Yarr is launching a new, fun brunch concept in honor of the restaurant industry’s least favorite shift. Expect seasonal, sometimes retro, always plant-forward brunch dishes to start popping up, beginning with one at the Scotts Valley farmers market Saturday morning.

Speaking of farmers markets, the Lookout staff have been hard at work creating a guide to farmers markets. Launched Friday, you’ll find information about all 10 Santa Cruz County farmers markets, tips and tricks to help you have the best experience, answers to common questions and farmers market profiles. Check it out in Lookout’s Guides section.

Finally, find two must-go events for oenophiles, both at downtown wine bar Soif. On Saturday, former Soif executive chef Tom McNary returns for one night for a French-inspired pop-up. In October, Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible,” will speak and sign copies of the new third edition.

Enjoy!

News

You might love brunch, but the person making your food almost certainly does not — at least, that’s the stereotype set down by restaurant industry folk. But a new concept from Chicken Foot chef Jessica Yarr takes inspiration from every cook’s least favorite shift. The Brunch Shift will offer fun, whimsical, plant-forward takes on brunch classics. Her opening menu includes “hella flaky” biscuits with pork or mushroom gravy, a “hot mess” of loaded hash browns and Benedict-style poached eggs over baguette with greens. Plus, find a selection of pastries like mochi donuts, fruity toaster tarts and miso furikake scones.

Yarr announced the Brunch Shift with a video on Instagram of local chefs, including Lance Ebert of S.C. Bread Boy and Andy Huynh of Full Steam Dumpling, sharing why they hate making brunch. But Yarr loves it — it’s always been her favorite shift, even coming off a long Saturday night in the kitchen. “It’s also my favorite meal to dine. I really think it’s a meal that is underappreciated and underrepresented in the fine dining community,” she said. “Where’s the Michelin star for a great brunch spot?”

Find the Brunch Shift at the Scotts Valley farmers market this Saturday from 9 a.m. to sellout and on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m. at Apéro Club on the Westside. Yes, there will be mimosas. Bring your own silverware if you can, and follow @thebrunchshift for future pop-ups.

Strawberries from Dirty Girl Produce
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

I’m proud to announce my colleagues and I have released a guide to Santa Cruz County’s farmers markets. The farmers markets are an integral part of our dining community, and now you can enjoy a resource that helps you discover them more deeply.

In it, you’ll find a complete list of all 10 markets in the county, including a searchable list of vendors, what they sell and where they sell it. We’ve also answered some common questions on the FAQ page and offered some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your farmers market experience. Finally, our intern Thomas Sawano spoke with Roland Saher of Molino Creek Farm for our first Farmers Market Friday profile. Expect more interviews with market vendors regularly. In the coming weeks. I’ll soon publish interviews with Nesh Dhillon and Catherine Barr, executive directors of the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets and the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, respectively.

We hope you enjoy this guide and use it to its fullest. Oh, and don’t forget your bags!

Eat this

Baigan ka salan, lamb shank vindaloo and garlic naan at Namaste India Bistro.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

This month, Namaste India Bistro opened on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, joining a very small handful of Indian restaurants in the county. Local residents seem eager to enjoy its vibrant flavors, and the restaurant was packed last Tuesday night. My husband, Mike, and I started off with three vegetable samosas stuffed with potato and peas, served with refreshing mint, tangy tamarind and sweet mango chutneys. For dinner, we shared the lamb shank vindaloo ($23) and baigan ka salan ($17.95), a dish of roasted eggplant in a southern-style sauce of coconut milk, mustard seeds and curry leaves. I loved this dish, the sweet, vibrant sauce contrasted with the smoky, creamy eggplant. The lamb was impressive, and was so tender it easily fell off the shank into a rich, northern-style tomato-based sauce with potatoes. Both dishes came with rice and we added housemade garlic naan — and then ordered more.

Service throughout the evening was professional and our host, AJ, patiently answered our questions about the large menu. He also kindly brought us two mango lassis to sip between courses when, he said, the kitchen got a little backed up — but we didn’t notice much of a wait.

As I reported in my newsletter Tuesday, this is the third location for Namaste India Bistro, which also operates in Monterey and Santa Clara and is owned by the same family that ran Mumbai Delights in downtown Santa Cruz from 2016 to 2020. Namaste is open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday. As a Westsider, I’m excited to have this exciting restaurant nearby and can’t wait to return to explore more of its dishes. Find its menus and information at namasteindiabistro.com.

Events

Chef Tom McNary.
(Via RR Jones)

On Saturday, former Soif executive chef Tom McNary returns to his old stomping grounds. For one night only, McNary takes over the kitchen at the downtown wine bar with a French-inspired pop-up. A classic French bouillabaisse — a fish and shellfish soup with fennel, saffron and grilled bread — crowns the menu. He’ll also offer pissaladiere, a flatbread topped with tomato, caramelized onions, nicoise olives and arugula; a summer bean salad; fried goodies with aioli; and a fig and raspberry tart for dessert. The event starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. or sellout. View the full menu online at soifwine.com.

Another special event is coming up at Soif, and oenophiles might want to snag tickets now. Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible,” will speak and sign copies of the new third edition at Soif on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. This event is presented by Bookshop Santa Cruz and will be fun for wine newbies and somms alike. “The Wine Bible” is an essential text for anyone interested in exploring wine and is the bestselling wine book in the United States. Tickets range from $5 to $45 depending on whether you’d like to pick up a copy of the book. Wine and snacks are not included in the price but will be available for purchase. Grab your ticket on Eventbrite.

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