The Homeless Garden Project’s Cesar Chavez Day of Service is the perfect opportunity to get back to the land. PHOTO: BERNARDO SALCE
Dining Reviews

Kicking Off the Season With Bubbly and Burrata at Bantam

Plus, an update on David Kinch’s Mentone and an opportunity to give back

The Homeless Garden Project’s Cesar Chavez Day of Service is the perfect opportunity to get back to the land. PHOTO: BERNARDO SALCE

Once a month or so my writer friend, let’s call her Jenny, and I hit the bar at Bantam exactly at their 5pm opening time. We descend on glasses of wine along with a shared appetizer. 

I have formed a similar habit with my Friday walking partner, let’s call her Katya. Again, the bar at Bantam makes us welcome. Even our purses are welcome thanks to those strategically-placed little purse hooks under the weathered wood bar top. 

Jenny and Katya both like Sauvignon Blanc or something bubbly, but I’m a red wine woman and invariably find something wonderful in the key of Tempranillo or a Rhône blend on the Bantam menu. Then I watch the bartenders as they perform sorcery with herbs, citrus, bitters, ice, and some pastel or bronze-colored liqueur. I always wish I’d ordered a cocktail, but after the first sip of wine I just smile contentedly. 

I have to share this most recent appetizer Bantam provided. It is unexpected, beyond delicious, and a perfect size for two people to share, unless those two people play for the Lakers. A beautiful mound of quivering mozzarella burrata arrived on a pretty porcelain plate surrounded with flash roasted bits of yam and topped with hazelnuts in a hazelnut-marjoram pesto ($12). It was even more outrageous than it sounds, the soft fresh cheese pitched against the bite of the herby pesto and the crunchy hot bits of yam. A transparent veil of freshly grated parmesan sat draped on top of the cluster of toasted hazelnuts. It is an inspired combination of flavors and textures. Bantam continues to dazzle. And the sunsets viewed from there are just as dazzling.

Bantam, 1010 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. bantam1010.com.

Mentone Ready for its Debut

The new Mediterranean dining room from the Michelin-starred mind of chef David Kinch was poised to open this month at the edge of the cozy Aptos Village, at 174 Aptos Village Way. The opening has been postponed as the county grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.

Spanning culinary traditions from Nice to Genoa, Mentone will take many fresh and seasonal cues from coastal California as well. 

When it is ready to open, get set for pesto, farinata, ratatouille, pizza, focaccia, and housemade salumes and California-Riviera cioppino. Mentone will join the exciting neighborhood that already includes the Ser Tasting Room, Cat and Cloud, and New Leaf Market.

Get Back to the Garden

The Homeless Garden Project is always up to something: fresh CSA harvests, tempting produce at the on-site Farm Stand, and community events at the panoramic Natural Bridges Farm at the end of West Cliff Drive. March 29 is the perfect time to bring friends and come out for the Cesar Chavez Day of Service, from 9:30am until 2pm. 

Help prepare the land for the spring garden, enjoy lunch, and hear some inspiring words from organic trendsetter Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm. Cochran pioneered commercial organic strawberry farming in California. Concerned about the effects of using chemicals in growing, Cochran developed a wide range of crop rotation methods and was also among the first few California organic farmers to have a contract with the United Farm Workers. 

Cesar Chavez was a farm worker civil rights leader, and community organizer. Chavez labored as a migrant worker in California, where he experienced the struggles of farm worker life and became an advocate for the environment, consumer rights and education. Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, later known as the United Farm Workers. Come join the Homeless Garden Project and celebrate Chavez’s birthday on March 29. 

homelessgardenproject.org.

UPDATED March 16, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect new information about the opening date for Mentone.

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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