PopUp Picnics
Dining Reviews

Savor Summer Harvest at UCSC Farm Cart, PopUp Picnics

Seasonal food events return with fresh local ingredients

Lizette, Laura and Carmen of Mole & Mariachi Festival favorite Taquitos Gabriel’s cooked at a recent PopUp Picnic. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

Summer in this neck of the woods always means that farmers markets are bursting at the seams with vibrant visuals, texture, aromas, and the sheer buzzing, blooming diversity of flavors.

While I like to graze around the county at our various outdoor markets, one of the ones dearest to my heart is the UCSC Farm & Garden Market Cart now open on Fridays from noon-6 p.m. at the base of the UCSC campus at the corner of Bay and High streets.

Under the canvas awning, the shaded tables are ablaze with colorful berries, flowers, aromatic onions, and other special treats grown and picked by apprentices at UCSC’s agroecology program. Early-season offerings from the farm include strawberries, blueberries and an array of tender lettuces, arugulas and other greens. As the growing season progresses, we can look forward to sweet corn, the famous dry-farmed tomatoes, plums, potatoes, oodles of sweet and hot peppers, heirloom variety apples, basil, and much more.

Flower bouquets—some romantically old world, others clearly created with free-form artistry—are also sold at the cart every week. I find it almost impossible to pass up the bouquets loaded with dahlias, sweet peas, sunflowers, nigelia, roses, and delphinia. And this will go on into late October, maybe early November. See you there!

PopUp in the Park

It’s official! Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks has unveiled PopUp Picnics in the Park, returning to Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park in downtown Santa Cruz for the fourth summer in a row. This year’s picnics will happen every Thursday through Aug. 15 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30pm. Picnickers can purchase lunch or bring their own. Savor the view of downtown from the Mission’s plaza, or enjoy lunch under the shade of avocado and redwood trees.

Many people we know swear by this Thursday al fresco event, where Taquitos Gabriel’s, a favorite from past summers and a popular Mole & Mariachi Festival competitor and food vendor, will be serving each week. The menu includes tacos, plates, burritos, quesadillas, and drinks with occasional specials, such as the wildly popular mole, and items priced from $2-10. Taquitos Gabriel’s plans to donate a portion of proceeds back to Friends on behalf of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park to fund education and restoration projects at the park. So order generously!

Factoid: the Santa Cruz mission is home to the oldest building in the entire county. The park’s signature adobe was built in the early 1820s by Ohlone and Yokut Indians, and is the only structure remaining from the Mission Santa Cruz founded in 1791. Many visitors and residents make the mistake of thinking that the small replica mission chapel is the oldest adobe on Mission Hill. But they would be wrong. So after you finish up your quesadillas, do take a look at the old 18th-century adobe preserved within the state park.

Toasting the Avocado

Avocado toast with bacon and tomatoes, accented with cilantro and lime juice, might just be the best open-face variation on the old BLT extant. It is done smartly at Cafe Iveta on Delaware and runs a mere $8.50. Pair it with the refreshing house lemonade and remember why you live here. And the owners of the almost-open Barceloneta at 1541 Pacific Ave. (the site of the former Benten) assure me that that they are “getting close!” We’re waiting with open mouths to welcome the new tapas eatery and owners Brett and Elan Emerson to Santa Cruz.

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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