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Dining Reviews

Westside Buzz

Verve Coffee Roasters opens on the Westside, plus a new craft beer taproom coming to Pacific Avenue

Olga Mota with an Americano and hazlenut cake at Verve’s new Westside location on Fair Avenue. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

It’s happened again. Another Verve Coffee Roasters—that outlet of enlightened espressos and pastries—has opened on the Westside of Santa Cruz.

The location of the tiny chain’s fourth shop is one of the best around—across the street from New Leaf Market and right next door to Bantam. Also, if we can believe a recent article in Sprudge (a website devoted to trends in new-wave coffee), Verve Coffee Roasters will place another one of its stores this month in the world’s busiest train station—in Tokyo! I’d call that thinking big. According to the interview with Verve founder Colby Barr, this will not be a franchise situation, either. More like an embassy, a genuine outpost of Santa Cruz Verve style, only in the largest city in the world. Extremely chill.

But let’s get back to our own neck of the woods.

The new Westside Verve is, as you would expect, hip to the max. Sleek pale woodwork flatters the long, low front counter of poured and polished concrete. The high ceiling offers ample back wall space upon which perch tiny botanical islands of epiphytes and their friends. Even the industrial hardware here adds visual design appeal. The bank of Nuova Simonelli espresso machines gleams with film noir style. Stacks of logo cups, caps and T-shirts snag the eye from three different angles. And of course, for me, one of the primary draws is that jewel-box case loaded with extravagant pastries, cakes, scones, and wickedness from the folks at Manresa Bread. Here’s the combo to consider: A small Americano—enough octane for three-four hours—plus one of those buttery hazelnut cakes with a rosette of the purest, darkest chocolate ganache in the center. With that $7-duo you can glide through mid-terms, tax forms, or the latest Jonathan Franzen tome with ease. For your seating pleasure, the glass-walled main room offers wrap-around high counters, and a central corridor of long refectory-style tables and chairs just waiting for you, your macchiato and your laptop. Out front, at the edge of the property facing New Leaf Market, there’s a crafty enclosed patio with a wraparound bench for enjoying al fresco coffee klatches and checking of iPhones. Sweet. The latest installment of Verve sits at 1010 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. Open daily, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Personal Pour Taproom

Something new and dramatically different in the way of craft beer tasting will open in May on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, right down the street from O’Neill.  Patrons can open a tasting “account” with a credit card and then taste at will. Imagine being able to graze at will over a wall of beer taps, choosing whatever catches your eye and pouring yourself a sample. Pour Taproom is the brainchild of Felton native Chris Reno, who has described this high-tech new venture as a “free-range tasting room.” Stay thirsty, my friends.

Appetizer of the Week

The splendidly unctuous roast asparagus wrapped in prosciutto I enjoyed last Tuesday at Gabriella while listening to sage raconteur Peter Kenez charm a full house of admirers.

Wine of the Week

The amusingly labeled Proper Claret 2013 ($11.99 at Shopper’s Corner) from the feverish mind of wine innovator Randall Grahm proved an able companion for a wide range of foods, from cheeses to grilled trout. An appealing, non-concept-driven blend of Cab, Merlot, Tannat, and Petit Verdot, with a smidge each of Syrah and Petite Sirah, this friendly red wine can romance even leftover pizza with more than a touch of flair. Nice value for the money, and that’s saying a lot.

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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