Santa Cruz’s seasonal marine layer can drag a morning out into an entire afternoon, which makes summer the ideal season to brunch in Santa Cruz. My new favorite place to post up is Bantam. The Westside pizza kitchen now keeps its doors open from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays to serve the mid-morning (or midday) meal with their trademark rustic Mediterranean-meets-Santa Cruz style.
The light-filled restaurant buzzes with activity, filling as quickly for brunch as hungry patrons can make it through the door—drawn like moths to Bantam’s wood-fired oven, which glows like a hearth from the back of the high-ceilinged room. Because it’s perfectly acceptable to have a cocktail with breakfast in Brunchland, I’d suggest starting the most important meal of the day with a flute of sparkling wine and fresh-squeezed mandarin juice as you get cozy.
“We have been wanting to do brunch for some time. There are so many fun dishes we’ve been wanting to try,” says owner Benjamin Sims. The result is a playful rotating menu that strays from your typical two-eggs-your-way and what-kind-of-toast-would-you-like fare.
Think blueberry pancakes the size of your plate oozing with fruit; whipped chicken livers, thick and silky as buttercream frosting on house-made sourdough toast and topped with luscious roasted black cherries; house-cultured yogurt with granola and fresh figs; a vegetable succotash of summer squash, creamy white beans and chili butter with herbaceous jolts of tarragon and basil, topped with poached eggs, their runny yolks quivering as the dish is placed on the table.
There’s more, so much more, but whatever you do, I suggest you finish (or start—it’s the weekend after all) with one of their sourdough cinnamon rolls, spread generously with mascarpone. Now that’s what I call a breakfast of champions.
Fermentation maven Kelly Dearie dove head-first into the world of probiotic beverages to help her husband recover from two serious illnesses—and it worked. Eager to share her botanical tonics with others, she founded Creative Cultures and began producing tasty cure-all beverages, like Pollen Up with bee pollen and eggplant-colored Beet Kvass. “For me and my family, learning how to use food as medicine was a matter of survival, and Creative Cultures was born out of that intense lifestyle change, which turned into a lifelong passion to inspire others to do the same,” says Dearie in an introductory video on her website. Available at local natural food stores, Creative Cultures hopes to expand its mission of health along the West Coast. Check out their Kickstarter campaign at creativeculturesfoods.com. Ends Wednesday, July 13 at midnight.
Speaking of probios—Burn Hot Sauce’s probiotic, three-ingredient hot sauce has taken over my breakfast, and now they’ve added a new product to their growing arsenal of spiciness: chili powder. In an effort to lower waste to as close to zero as possible, Burn dehydrates the unused seeds and skins that don’t blend finely enough to make it into their low-temperature hot sauce, preserving the probiotic qualities from fermentation. With all of the flavor and kick of their Thai bird, Serrano and Cayenne chilis, and the umami cheesiness of nutritional yeast, the powder is amazing on popcorn, as a marinade for meat and veggies, or on roasted potatoes. Find it at their booth at the downtown farmers market. $3 for 1.5 ounces. burnhotsauce.com.