Santa Cruz Greek Festival
Dining Reviews

Festival fever: Mole & Mariachi, Greek Festival converge on Santa Cruz

Plus a screaming wine deal at Shopper’s Corner, and an update an upcoming openings

Authentic food is a centerpiece of the annual Santa Cruz Greek Festival.

Live like a Greek! Or at least dance, eat, drink, and party like one at the Santa Cruz Greek Festival, Sept. 7, 8 and 9th.

The aroma of oregano and the taste of ouzo always transport me back to Crete, where I spent some time a while back savoring the joyful Greek approach to life. Slightly closer to home is the annual Greek Festival here, on the grounds of the Prophet Elias Church in downtown Santa Cruz. And if you have never taken in the sights, sounds and fabulous aromas of this wildly (justly!) popular street festival, now’s your chance. Greek folk dancing by costumed young performers accompanied by live music from the Spartan Band, the kind that Zorba loved. Trust me, you’ll join in after that first glass of Metaxa. And you can comb through the Greek agora filled with gorgeous ethnic pottery, clothing and jewelry for sale.

But as far as I’m concerned the big draw during this three-day adventure in Grecophilia is the food! Greek pastries are fine, delicate, and intensely flavorful, baked by members of the Prophet Elias congregation. Moussaka that is to die for is only one of the savory specialties you’ll want to surrender to. Roasted lamb, calamari, gyro, souvlaki, spanakopita, and all of this tastes even better once you have stopped by the on-site Taverna and ordered a glass of authentic ouzo or that rich and bracing Greek brandy, Metaxa. The Greek Festival is your quick trip to Mediterranean party consciousness. Do not miss this event of lavish sensory proportions. Bring your friends. Stay all day. Put down your cell phone and dance! Friday, Sept. 7 from 5-10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 8 from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 9 from noon to 7 p.m. Admission is free. 223 Church St., Santa Cruz. Details at livelikeagreek.com.

Festival Fever

The sixth annual Mole & Mariachi Festival returns to the beautiful Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. And the name of the game is the glorious Mexican mole in all of its complex deliciousness. Music, margaritas, My Mom’s Mole, plus lots more. Admission is free and mole tasting kits are available for purchase. The Festival is a benefit for nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, and event proceeds fund educational programs, visitor services and restoration at the Mission.

New Food Updates

Chef David Kinch, who has famously embarked on a dining venture in the new Aptos Village complex, emailed me admitting that there’s “not much to say right now about the project,” but headed, “I am truly excited to be finally doing something on this side of the hill.” Kinch’s three-star Michelin restaurant Manresa experienced a recent fire, and Kinch says the renowned Los Gatos restaurant plans to reopen around Sept. 19. Chef/Owner Jeffrey Wall of the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant-in-progress Alderwood emailed me to confirm the debut is still scheduled for this fall, although there is “no firm opening date yet.” Ditto for the always almost Barceloneta tapas establishment. Erin Hempel tells me that her Aptos Companion Bakeshop should be ready to open Octoberish.

Wine of the Week

From the fabled bargain wine shelf at Shopper’s Corner, I recently scored a bottle of 2013 McHenry Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, marked down from $34 to $19.99. Yes, this is a big deal. The 13.4 percent alcohol wine shows off the terroir of the Bonny Doon estate’s 2-acre, 1,800-foot-elevation vineyard. An elegantly-structured Pinot, the McHenry opens with mint, blueberries, and a generous nose of bay leaves. The finish offers a distinctive suggestion of orange and mystery spice. Firm tannins. We have enjoyed this wine for two nights, first with Thai curry carry-out from Sabieng, and then with local king salmon from Shopper’s.

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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