2011: Diversity was the Word

dining hplatrThe 2011 year in Santa Cruz food landscape had a number of notable excitement/changes.

I appreciated experiencing the increased diversity brought to life by some new entrepreneurial families. Tran Noodle House introduced Vietnamese pho to Watsonville. This relatively simple soup of noodles and meat cooked in a well-made broth and embellished with crisp mung bean sprouts and fresh basil leaves is savory, centering, and meant to be slurped.

Pupusas with strongly fermented cheese, the national dish of El Salvador, along with pastelitos empanadas and Salvadorian tamales were introduced by Chelito’s on Ocean Street bringing an array of new flavors to town.

I’m pleased to see the emergence of calories posted on the menu boards of the national chains. I’ve been reading this data on websites for years, but the power of it really hit me at an unfamiliar restaurant. I almost lost my appetite reading the tallies for breakfast meals. We can only hope it succeeds in changing behaviors. I was also pleased to see numerous restaurants get into the breakfast business. Kianti’s, Ristorante Italiano, Crow’s Nest and Hindquarter, to name a few, have made breakfast intriguing again with their inventive morning menus.

Numerous eateries closed their doors this year, at least one of which had excellent food. Some restaurants instead, re-invented themselves, hoping to fare better in this economy. Vida Lounge became Betty’s Eat Inn, Gilbert’s became Firefish and Woodie’s Cafe, while Hoffmann’s opted for outside help. I was thrilled to experience Food Network’s visit to Santa Cruz, to see the stars in real life, and to share in the restaurant’s re-birth.

May 2012 be a year of re-invention, as we all strive to become the best of who we can be. As popular Chef Emerill would say, just “kick it up a notch.” | KP

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