EATERS DIGEST: Ivéta goes upscale with new downtown restaurant and Smitten Kitchen comes to Santa Cruz

Ivéta Downtown is open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Monday.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

In this edition of Eaters Digest: Ivéta Downtown opened this week on south Pacific Avenue with an elegant lunch and dinner menu, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen has a Santa Cruz tour date and the best Oktoberfest in the county.

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Welcome to Eaters Digest, your weekly dose of Santa Cruz County food news, reviews and events.

This week, I had the pleasure of dining at Ivéta Downtown, an elegant new sister restaurant to Ivéta’s Westside café and UC Santa Cruz campus coffeehouse. This, however, is not the place to grab a cappuccino and linger for a few hours over one of Ivéta’s famous scones — this new spot, located at the south end of Pacific Avenue, is a lovely, sit-down restaurant open for lunch and dinner. See my take on it below.

Bookshop Santa Cruz announced that it will host cookbook author Deb Perelman early next year. The recipe queen behind the wildly popular cooking blog Smitten Kitchen will be at the Hotel Paradox on Jan. 23 to celebrate the release of her third cookbook. This weekend, don’t miss out on Open Farm Tours and what is, in my opinion, the best Oktoberfest celebration in Santa Cruz County, at Tyrolean Inn in Ben Lomond.

Last, if you missed them, take a few minutes to read the important stories by my colleague Mark Conley on pesticide use on agricultural land near communities in Watsonville. Both stories in this two-part series are linked below.

Let’s dive in.


Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman comes to Santa Cruz on Jan. 23.
Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman comes to Santa Cruz on Jan. 23.
(Via Bookshop Santa Cruz)

Home cooks, mark your calendars: Bookshop Santa Cruz announced Thursday that Deb Perelman, the matron behind the enormously popular cooking blog Smitten Kitchen, is coming to Hotel Paradox on Jan. 23 to promote her new cookbook, “Smitten Kitchen Keepers.” I’ve used Perelman’s approachable recipes for years and some, like her everyday meatballs, lasagna Bolognese and perfect blueberry muffins, have become family favorites. I’ll definitely be there, and I’m curious to see if Perelman is as charming and funny as she seems to be in her writing — my bet is yes. Tickets are $40 with a copy of “Smitten Kitchen Keepers” or $7 without. Purchase through

This week, Lookout released two stories that dive into an urgent local health issue — namely, the use of pesticides near communities in Watsonville, particularly near schools. While pesticide use near schools seems heavily regulated, concerned citizens complain that the effects are apparent and information is difficult to access. In Part 1, my colleague Mark Conley explores the dangers of pesticide use near neighborhoods with schools in Watsonville. In Part 2, he investigates the push-pull between multibillion-dollar ag companies and environmental justice advocates to go organic.

Eat this

Ivéta opened a sit-down restaurant at the south end of Pacific Avenue this week, and it’s very classy. I walked in during my lunch break earlier this week expecting to find a case of pastries, a coffee bar and a menu of sandwiches and salads a la Ivéta’s popular Westside café. Instead, I stepped into a beautiful light-filled dining room that opened onto a large, shaded patio. Wine glasses were already set on the tables, and I was immediately greeted by the charming hosts.

The crab cakes and the burrata at Ivéta downtown.
The crab cakes and the burrata at Ivéta downtown.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Located at the south end of Pacific next to Big Basin Vineyards’ new tasting room, its opening shows continued interest and investment in revitalizing the connection between the wharf, the Beach Boardwalk and the rest of Pacific Avenue.

The menu includes a half-dozen appetizers, a couple of salads and five main courses, including mushroom risotto, local sea bass, a ribeye and a burger. My eyes lingered over the chicken tenders out of curiosity, but my guest and I decided to make our lunch out of several appetizers — four made a very satisfying meal.

A small cucumber salad ($12), composed of a pile of long, thin strips of Persian cucumbers and tomatoes in a zippy vinaigrette was a fresh start. The burrata ($15) — a stunner of a dish — was burst open to reveal its luxurious, cream-soaked center and decorated with fresh violets, pearls of saba (a sweet balsamic-like condiment), figs and tomatoes and chunks of golden honeycomb. We happily piled this gorgeous treat onto focaccia.

The two crab cakes ($18), made with sweet Dungeness crab, were meaty and flavorful and paired simply with a tasty dill yogurt sauce with capers and fennel. The Brussels sprouts ($15) nearly stole the show: fried into a pile of frizzy, dark leaves and tender centers with sweet bites of roasted apple, crunchy almonds and salty bacon. Whoever grew up turning their nose up at Brussels sprouts needs to try these.

The newest member of the Ivéta enterprise is an elegant addition to the downtown scene. I’ll be back for dinner to try the entrées — and the beignets and panna cotta. Ivéta Downtown is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find it at 545 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.


Feeling festive? Tyrolean Inn, that slice of Alpine Germany in Ben Lomond, is hosting its annual Oktoberfest celebration this Saturday and Sunday. This restaurant is bedecked with dirndls, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, steins and hearty German fare 365 days a year, so it really goes all out for this holiday. Expect live music by Alpiners USA from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., cold liters of German beers and themed fare — my husband always gets the pork knuckle, while I can’t resist the sausages and kraut — all served on long wooden tables under the redwoods. I’m eager to see if the restaurant revives the stein-holding contest and if the ski-shot will make an appearance. If you go to one Oktoberfest, it should be this one. This event goes from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. both days. Entry is $10 for adults and free for kids under 10.

Inspired by the Open Studios Art Tour, which kicks off this weekend, the Open Farm Tours show kids — and adults — where...

Open Farm Tours is this Saturday and Sunday. At this annual event, 15 farms throughout the Pajaro Valley will open their orchards, nurseries and ranches for guests to explore, learn, experience and taste. Reservations are required and most tours are family-friendly. Use my Guide to Open Farm Tours to help plan your visit.