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Dining Reviews

Tabitha Stroup: A Smash-Hit in the Pop-up Scene

Tabitha Stroup of Friend in Cheeses adds pop tarts to upcoming pop-up, plus a Waiters Race event on Walnut Avenue

Tabitha Stroup of Friend in Cheeses is an unstoppable creative force in the kitchen. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

She who never sleeps, the wild woman of artisanal, handcrafted and good-for-the-planet jams, chutneys and sauces—Tabitha Stroup—takes the next step in pop-up cuisine by offering pop tarts at her next pop-up next to Assembly.

Yes, she absolutely planned that marvelous bit of rhyming wordplay—pop tarts at the pop-up. So pop over on First Friday, Aug. 5, for Stroup’s amazing vintage stylings. To pair with glasses of bubbly or beer, you can look forward to forbidden fruit marmalade and bacon tart with bourbon glaze. How post-millennial, no? Consider strawberry tarragon and chevre tarts. Pinot cherry tarts with black pepper glaze. Pork pâté tarts and prickly purple-heart jam. The pop queen will add a few more surprises for inquiring first Fridayers, but I’m thinking this sort of popular event will be populated early by those bored with popcorn and other predictable items. Things start popping at 5 p.m. and will continue until every last pop tart is gone. Details on Stroup’s Facebook page and at friendincheesesjamco.com.

Gluten-free Front

The quest for ever-more palatable gluten-free products has us combing the waterfront (that’s a metaphor) for items we can live with. A shout-out to Felix Kulpa gallery director Robbie Schoen who, having read of my quest for all things senza di gluten, surprised me with a gift loaf of gluten-free, 100-percent whole-grain bread from Canyon Bakehouse. It’s available in Staff of Life’s refrigerator section, and sure enough this seven-grain version acts very much like gluteny bread when toasted and liberally attacked by butter and jam. The slices are small, perishable (two days and challenges begin), but better than merely acceptable. Brown rice flour, tapioca flour and whole grain sorghum flour provide the texture (OK, some texture). We actually enjoyed it. The best gluten-free bread so far.

Waiters Race 

Soif’s annual street fest starts at noon on Sunday, Aug. 7 on Walnut Avenue, with eight teams of waiters negotiating a skill-challenging obstacle course to show off their professional polish. I’ve judged this in past years and it’s total silly fun. This year David Kinch of Manresa (three Michelin stars) joins Cabrillo’s Sue Slater and Bay Area hotel honcho Paul Mekis on the judging stand. It’s free, open to the public and I highly recommend bringing sunscreen.

Brunch at Bantam

I can absolutely swear that I’ve never written these words before: “whatever you do, don’t miss the maple-glazed doughnut!” But I mean it. Bantam’s artisanal culinary style has never been better showcased than with the final, barely legal bite we shared at last Saturday’s brunch. Nothing is ordinary at this attractive glass-lined restaurant. My companion’s decaf coffee was custom-made in a Chemex glass unit, while I sipped my industrial-strength Verve java served with little brown sugar cubes. Only work responsibilities in the afternoon prevented us from joining fellow brunchers for a flute of Sommariva Prosecco. Another time, sigh.

We began with a pretty plate of heirloom tomatoes and crunchy, moist, fried house bread on a bed of soft, sensuous burrata with bits of Armenian cucumber and basil ($11). Easily my favorite dish of the morning, this update of panzanella hit all the right spots—indulgent, exploding with flavor and perfect as a complete breakfast. But the glazed doughnut—actually it could be properly described as a frosted yeast doughnut—arrived with its hole (also glazed) on the side. Each bite was rich and light yet substantial. An artisanal update of the people’s pastry and worth every bit of its, ahem, $7, pricetag. Gluten worth consuming. Bantam, brunch, 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays. Cheeseburgers start at noon.

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. Her new book 'Inside the Flame' is available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and on Amazon. Visit her website at ChristinaWaters.com.

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