Staff of Life
Dining Reviews

Staff of Life Celebrates 50 Years

An OG organic grocer’s big birthday, plus some kickin’ chicken

Staff of life team members at the grocer’s Soquel Avenue store. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

Hardly possible, I said to myself as I read the banner stretched across the front of the Soquel Avenue Staff of Life Natural Food Market. Fifty years! To celebrate this milestone in organic foods, authentic pastries and right livelihood, Staff of Life is throwing itself an anniversary party on May 18.

Come join the fun, which will include live music, BBQ, beer and wine tastings, raffles, free samples, and all things Santa Cruz. Congratulations to organic pioneers Richard Josephson and Gary Bascou, who started it all back when the words “vegan” and “gluten-free” had little relevance, if any. I can still taste those incomparable and huge sunflower seed cookies that often served as breakfast.

In the early days, the idea of a full butcher and seafood counter was unthinkable, and now it’s bountiful and state-of-the-art. There was no alt-makeup section, but there has always been plenty of bulk grains, nuts and flours, along with boundless incense offerings. Think of the changes Staff has seen in its half-century from 1969 (a year when everybody was a hippie, or at least pretended to be) to 2019!

Staff of Life’s 50th anniversary party will happen 12:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Staff of Life Natural Food Market, 1266 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-8632, staffoflifemarket.com.

Playin’ Chicken

Kickin’ Chicken does some outrageous cooking—and perhaps, given the kim chee-BBQ chicken and waffles—the ultimate fusion food. At least that was my take away last week, when the al fresco chefs set up shop at the entrance of Birichino’s wine tasting room. The aromas, the flavors, the crunchy textures—it was all good. And the scent was seductive. I caved for an impromptu order of Chicken Rillettes, served with a lavish side of hot-and-crispy chicken skin ($12). (Anyone who’s spent even an hour at a train station cafe in France knows about rillettes, the French version of high-octane, country-style paté.)

Paired with a glass of the very newly released methode champenoise sparkling Chenin Blanc by Birichino, it made for a memorable sensory delight. My compliments to KC chef and entrepreneur Daniel Mendoza, whose watchword is “from the fryer to your couch.” Currently cookin’ out of Motiv, these folks cater, deliver and pop up at some of the smartest places in the greater Santa Cruz area.

kickinchickensc.com.

Walkin’ the Walk

A moveable feast, or at least a walkable sip, can be yours at the Downtown Santa Cruz Wine Walk on Sunday, May 12, from 3-6 p.m. Some of the top oeno-flavors from the Santa Cruz Mountains can be sampled during this strollfest among the shops and sidewalks of downtown Santa Cruz. The concept is simple. Those who want to visit the various pouring locations first stop in at Soif Wine Bar & Merchants at 105 Walnut Ave. That’s the registration point where you can purchase your $40 pass, pick up your tasting glass and a map of the pouring sites. Registration check-in opens at 2:30 p.m. (and closes at 4:30 p.m.). If you purchase tickets online, the advance price is $35. And yes, you must be 21+ to take part. eventbrite.com.

Pastry of the Week

The ethereal GF Carrot Cake from Manresa Bread, available at Verve locations throughout Santa Cruz ($4). The word “tumescent” was invented for this light, addictively flavorful, buttery little tea cake, shaped into a miniature round cake and studded with spices and walnuts. Large enough that it can serve as a midday second breakfast, even if you share it with someone else. Truly an inspired partner to a cup of coffee, this is a glorious morning pastry, moist and light with a gossamer crumb.

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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