As far as I’m concerned, the sinfully irresistible Kouign Amann from Companion Bakeshop is a holiday occasion all by itself. For the uninitiated, this beautiful creation sparkling with sugar is made of layers and layers of buttery, sugary pastry formed into something like a fist-sized four-leaf clover. Upon baking, the ingredients caramelize into a cascade of textures from soft and chewy to crisp, flaky and crunchy. A rich golden hue, the K. Amann is a daily possibility at this busy Westside bakery and coffeehouse, where I often indulge in a double macchiato and whatever looks good (lately my main pastry squeeze is the aforementioned Kouign Amann).
Companion acknowledges the seasons with a revolving offering of tarts, pinwheels, and tea cakes, and right now the season calls for pastries involving pumpkin (such as the Seasonal Fruit Pinwheel, which is filled with pumpkin and dusted with pumpkin seeds). The Vanilla Seasonal Tea Cake currently offers one’s taste buds a delicious balance of plums and ginger embedded within a moist but substantial cake. If you can get past the Honey Apple Galettes you’re a stronger woman than I, and on especially glutenesque days I can be found calling for one of those outrageous walnut boules which I slice up at home and slather with English countryside butter (from Shopper’s) and that Stonewall Kitchen Peach Amaretto jam. Breakfast of champions!
Pizzeria Avanti is a bustling go-to destination for enlightened pizzas by the looks of its steady stream of to-go patrons. But we like to dine in and always (always!) begin with whatever the salad special is that night. Last week we fell under the spell of a mix of market greens, avocado, Bosc pears, and chèvre lightly tossed in an exceptional shallot vinaigrette ($8). The key to P. Avanti’s salad success is balance. Nothing jumps out of sync, every bite offers an imaginative blend of flavors and textures. Kudos to Hugo and company!
Muns at Home
Mary Lindsay of Muns Vineyard was pouring a few wines for Linda Ritten, wine buyer and co-owner of Home Restaurant in Soquel. As sun filled a corner table accessorized with bottles of 2009, 2012, and 2013 Muns Pinot Noirs, I thought back on the many meals I’ve had in this room over the years when it was Theo’s and Ethan Hamm roamed the dining rooms making sure everyone was enjoying his charming restaurant. Turns out, in a bit of poetic irony, Home’s chef Brad Briske recently hosted a lunch custom-created for Ethan and his wife Greta’s 50th anniversary. A sweet bit of nostalgia—the original owners being celebrated by the new owners. As I hoped, the 2009 Muns Pinot Noir remained definitive of Santa Cruz Mountains terroir, loaded with style, black cherries, and elegant tannins. The 2012, a rich garnet hue, was still enjoying big tannins—this wine will age on and on. I was very impressed with Muns 2013 Pinot Noir (like all these wines made from the estate’s Dijon clones). This beauty offered itself more immediately than the 2012, exuding fruit and an appealingly rounded mouthfeel. These wines would go brilliantly with Briske’s bold meat-intensive menu. Then we got a sample of the 2013 Syrah, from a single acre grown on the 10-acre Muns estate. Antique leather and tobacco perfumed this robust creation. A long cassis finish implied perfection partnered with barbequed meats and complex winter stews. Muns’ 2009 Pinot Noir is set to show up on Home’s expanding wine list, and Vino Cruz (practically across the street) is currently running a vertical of Muns Pinot Noirs. The essence of our region. homesoquel.com.