Dining Reviews

Bad Animal Adds Wine School to its Offerings

The one-hour Wine School seminars will run Friday nights

Jess Mackay is co-owner at Bad Animal. The bookstore, restaurant and wine bar is now offering Wine School. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Bad Animal is fast turning into the go-to spot for the hip, the culturally inquisitive, and retro foodies of every persuasion.

The wine list at this cool bookstore is even avant garde, with long listings of Orange Wine (an ancient oeno-technique involving skin macerated white wine) and varietals made in Eastern Europe. My insanely sophisticated friend from the city met me for glasses of Sicilian Sikele Bianco, a delicious slab of paté, and a bowl of something wonderful called Cauliflower a la Polonaise that involved micro cubes of cauliflower, romanesco, egg, infant croutons, and yellowfoot mushrooms in a pool of brown butter (each item $12). The dish boasted organic farmers market ingredients and a luscious purée of caramelized cauliflower stems in brown butter.

Not content simply to offer a deep bench of pre-owned books of poetry, literature, plays, philosophy, etc., Bad Animal has now begun Wine School on Friday nights from 6-7pm. The emerging trend of boho multimedia retail continues with these one hour seminars on various wine-related topics. Classes are led by in-house grape guide Sarah Shields with a focus on four selected wines. With glass in hand, participants will learn more about various corners of the wine world and each other. Stretch your palate—knowledge is power. Seminars will cover intriguing topics and wine styles each Friday, I’m assured by Bad Animal co-owner Jess Mackay. Check their website for specifics. Better yet, join their email list so you won’t risk missing something you know you’ll love. All classes are one-off, so there is no need to attend them as a series. There are a dozen seats per session, plus four tastes of wine (totally roughly two glasses of wine) for $30. No food is provided in the class, the better to focus on the main attraction. Space is limited.

Bad Animal, 1011 Cedar St., 10am-10pm Wed-Sun. Tickets available at exploretock.com/badanimal

 

Anti-product of the Week

Forget about the utterly unappetizing Gluten-Free Buttermilk Pancake Mix from Sticky Fingers Bakeries. The word “ugh!” comes to mind. For some reason I was tempted to try this label, even though I love Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pancake Mix. The Sticky Fingers version, which relies on sorghum flour plus assorted other gluten-free starches, looked exactly like viscous Play-Doh when poured into the hot skillet. An extraterrestrial texture actually. It took for-ev-er to brown and when it did it required an acreage of butter and maple syrup to be even close to palatable. Terrible stuff. I’m back with the reliable Pamela’s which relies on almond flour. Pro tip: Add a hefty spoonful of plain yogurt to your gluten-free pancake batter and more liquid than called for (using water not milk for the most tender pancakes). Your breakfast partner will be enchanted, and that’s never a bad thing.

 

A Soif Valentine

The perfect moment for enjoying the food of love (with apologies to Shakespeare, who was actually referring to music) is Valentine’s Day, and Soif Chef Tom McNary has risen to the occasion. Be swift in making reservations for McNary’s special three course, prix-fixe menu for $75 (wine pairings add $35). Guests will have two options per course (tax and tip not included). Consider an amuse of either crab and avocado toast or an oyster shooter salmon caviar ponzu. The first course is lobster ravioli with uni, or Little Gem salad with fennel, citrus and hazelnuts. Your main course could be either seared sea scallops or red wine-braised short ribs, followed by a dessert of tangerine oeufs à la neige (eggs in the snow, in case you missed high school French) or chocolate bombe with pistachio and raspberry coulis. If you’re not salivating at this point, you’re not breathing. For reservations call 831.423.2020 or visit soifwine.com

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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