We go to our favorite restaurants in quest of a favorite dish. Or the prospect of discovering something new that will rev up our tastebuds and take them for a ride. It’s true, the menu is paramount. Yet how many times has that perfect dinner—killer apps, simpatico wine, disarming entree, and a seasonal dessert clear off the charts—how many times has all of that been undone, ruined, yes—destroyed!—by lackluster service? You know exactly what I mean. A skillful server, on the other hand, can resurrect even a mediocre dinner and leave you with happy memories of a satisfying night out.
That’s why I’m thrilled to point out that this coming Sunday, Aug. 13, from noon to 3 p.m., that gourmet quadrant of downtown Santa Cruz, aka Walnut Avenue, will resound with the energetic expertise of the fifth annual Waiter’s Race. Grounded by the Soif consciousness, the delightful and highly fraught three-person relay features teams from eight area restaurants. Friendly competition is the mantra of what is always way more fun than you think it should be. You’ll be watching these skilled servers negotiating their way through a thicket of tables, chairs, napkins, cocktails and very full wine glasses. First server grabs tray, then glasses, then moves on to a table filled with napkins which must be rolled a special way. No drop of liquid can be spilled as they navigate the various obstacles en route to the finish. Then they transfer their tray to the next team member, who must repeat all of the above plus some extra high-difficulty maneuvers. Teams are assigned points according to speed, skill, and style. Since you’re wondering, last year’s first place winners from Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar will return to defend their championship against teams from the Crow’s Nest, Woodstock’s Pizza, Soif Wine Bar, and a special team of bartenders. It’s gobs of crazy fun in which we all come away with a new appreciation for just how hard it really is to stay poised and smiling while balancing full trays and not spilling a drop. OK, not spilling very much.
Who, you might be wondering, will be judging the above hospitality hijinks? None other than celebrity chef David Kinch of the two-Michelin-star Manresa, as well as mega-winemaker and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, Randall Graham. Also helping weigh in on the final winning selection is our very own Santa Cruz Mayor, Cynthia Chase. Foodies and libation groupies will want to arrive early to catch the pre-race action as the team members salute each other with mimosas, meet and greet the competition and attempt to memorize the rules governing the race. An inspiring sight in these questionable times. Waiter’s Race is Noon-3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13 in front of Soif on Walnut Avenue.
Confined to my couch for the past six weeks, following complicated foot surgery, I found myself in need of instant comfort foods. While still in that post-surgery fog I relied upon ginger ale, yogurt and the occasional bowl of soup. Ginger ale has always been my go-to medicinal liquid, something about the fresh clear flavor.
As time wore on, so did my boredom. Eight Donna Leon mysteries. The collected works of John le Carré. Beaucoup Netflix. Hell, I even read Dante’s Inferno in English with Italian on facing pages. Soothing, reading Italian out loud. Carry-out from O’mei, Sushi Totoro, and Ristorante Avanti helped fill in our dinner times. But the thing that really got me through it all was Chobani brand coconut yogurt. Who knew? Tart, but not aggressively so, this creamy yogurt was a dreamy alternative to my usual fruit favorites. The big score was five containers for $5 one week at New Leaf. It got me through weeks of forced immobility. Chobani Coconut Greek Yogurt. Trust me.