As the official season of summer draws to a close, I have my fingers crossed for a month of warm fog-free fall days. But to hedge my bet I set out to enjoy a summer dinner at 515 Kitchen and Cocktails.
From its eastern-facing balcony a life-sized sunset reflects from the glass-sided University Town Center building. 515’s upholstered beverage menu is hefty, and offers an eclectic selection of beers including 750 ml reserve brews ($24 to $45), reserve wines ($42 to $150), and more common reds and whites (starting at $22). An unusual specialty cocktail Little Bunny Foo Foo ($5) was served in a bulbous stemmed glass like the ones my grandparents filled with champagne. Just as in its namesake’s song – a little cute and a little ferocious – saffron gin, tamarind and fresh lemon juice were peppered with cayenne.
A Raspberry Mojito ($7.75), pretty in pink, was loaded with freshly muddled mint.
In keeping with the summer theme, I ordered Tapas-style. A large serving of rich, cheesy, creamy, large-grained Polenta ($6) was topped with dark, spicy marinara and more parmesan cheese.
For the Halfjoun ($7), chili-flecked lamb paste, finely puréed like pâté, was spread on thin flatbread and was topped with crumbled feta, red bells and pine nuts. After picking off the overpowering peppers, the rich lamb and toasted nutty flavors were simple and marvelous.
I liked the texture that diced potatoes added to the three Deviled Egg halves ($3), and I’d be all thumbs up if my serving had included the revered capers.
The pièce de résistance was the four little skewers of Ground Lamb Kabob ($9). The perfectly seasoned, juicy grilled lamb was served with yogurt mixed with spicy North African harissa chili sauce – a pairing made in heaven for Little Bunny Foo Foo.
515 Kitchen and Cocktails, 515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 425-5051. Full bar. Serving dinner nightly from 4 p.m. and weekend brunch from 10 a.m. Visit 515kitchenandcocktails.com