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Dining Reviews

FoodWhat?! Benefit, Octagon Closes and New Tasting Room

A benefit you won’t want to miss, a farewell to a favorite cafe and a new Birichino tasting room coming soon

A young grower at a FoodWhat?!’s farm in Watsonville. An exhibit of the youths involved with the organization will be on display on Friday, Nov. 4, for a benefit at the Food Lounge. PHOTO: DAVID DENNIS

Some events are cooler than others. Some events have more moving parts than others.

For example, an event that benefits young growers of the FoodWhat?! Farm, in which a new wine from award-winning winemaker Nicole Walsh will be released. And, oh yeah, the wine, from Walsh’s Ser Winery, is a 2014 Ventana Surfboard Syrah, made from organic grapes from Coastview Vineyards. Yes, Ventana Surfboards & Supplies will be there with a booth showcasing Surfboard Syrah gift packages, plus eco-friendly surfboards and rad apparel. Not enough for you? Well the reception is also a show of photographs taken by David Dennis of the young growers of FoodWhat?! Farm. This sounds like a win, win, win event. It all happens at the Food Lounge, from 5-10 p.m. on First Friday, Nov. 4. Admission is free and there will be lots of flavors, visuals, and beautiful people on hand to make this an action-packed evening. Santa Cruz Food Lounge is located at 1001 Center St. in downtown Santa Cruz.


Octagon Sans Lulu’s

The elegant alliance of caffeine and history dreamed up by the fertile mind of entrepreneur Manthri SinathLulu’s at the Octagon—will exist in memory only by the time you read this. “We’re going to continue growing our full-service cafe up the street on Pacific Avenue,” Sinath reassures fans who have grown addicted, uh, devoted to Lulu’s superior roasts and blends. “Happily, all of our Octagon crew will be relocated to our other stores, so there will be no job loss for anyone,” he says.

Sinath’s operation in the 19th-century Octagon site was notoriously popular with flaneurs, academics and politicos—plus those who simply liked to unfold their laptops and stay all morning. Surely that can’t be exactly great for the bottom line. “The museum wants that building way more than we do,” Sinath tells me. “It’s hard to work with, with no windows and no ventilation.”

Expect the unexpected from this business savant, who cops to having new projects and “perhaps a new operation or two” in the works. “I want to thank Mark Primack for designing out the Octagon and staying so faithful to the design values of the building, while giving us a stunning space to work in, and to Bill Schultz for his incredible attention to detail in the buildout,” Sinath says. Nonetheless, it leaves a decaffeinated hole in the heart of so many of us who somehow loved Lulu’s Octagon and its particular vibe.


Soif News

Yes, it’s true that the new cocktail scene at Soif is humming right along. We’ve already begun our intensive fieldwork, sampling from the long list of gin drinks and the wall of amaros. The “French Lavender” is effortless to enjoy, and for devotées of bitters there’s the crimson-hued “Sacred Heart”—roughly equal parts Campari, Venus gin and Fernet Branca. The apps have never been better, as exemplified by a recent plate of beautiful late-harvest plums, heirloom tomatoes and black olives on buttery radicchio.

Also, one of the boite’s prime movers, wine buyer John Locke has plans to join his winemaking partner Alex Krause in opening the first Birichino label tasting room just down the block from the popular wine bar/restaurant. Locke revealed that the partners are working architect John McKelvey, “as well as les dames de Stripe. Should be cool.” But as to when, Locke admits, “only the Gods and the City of Santa Cruz know. And neither seems willing to talk at the moment.” He hopes to have the new Birichino tasting room open by Dec. 1. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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