Dining Reviews

Exploring the Bold Flavors Served at The Hollins House

John-Paul Lechtenberg makes meals fun and exciting in Pasatiempo

Diners sit at spaced out tables outside The Hollins House. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Fun to eat, exciting to look at, and every bite delicious—that’s the way John-Paul Lechtenberg creates his menu up at Pasatiempo’s The Hollins House.

I’ve always loved the view from the top of the greens at Marion Hollins’ estate. Had it not been so foggy the night we craved Lechtenberg’s cooking, we could have enjoyed that view of the day from the dining terrace stretching along the championship golfer’s gracious house. 

Last week we ran up to get a takeout dinner, and sure enough it was as memorable as ever. It always amazes me how close Pasatiempo is to downtown Santa Cruz. Less than four minutes. And after last week’s dinner I’ll be heading up there more often. 

A plump portion of octopus had been grilled to tender perfection, accompanied by spicy slices of Spanish chorizo, the perfect foil for the mild-flavored cephalopod. Large slices of herb roasted potato accompanied the octopus, along with seriously garlicky arugula pesto and a little salad of bitter greens and bright purple radishes ($28). Here’s a kitchen that respects this delicacy. Every time we taste octopus as good as this we always swap travel memoirs about Crete. 

An order of the house burger showed off the chef’s expertise with perfectly grilled beef, housemade brioche bun, and condiments ($16). The plump patty of ground chuck arrived topped with melted swiss and cheddar cheeses, plus garlic aioli, thinly-sliced bread and butter pickles and deluxe onion jam. House made catsup and a side of outstanding fries filled up the rest of the to-go box. The fries disappeared rapidly. 

These were orders that traveled well and dished up easily onto our own plates. The next day we split another dish from Hollins House, allegedly an appetizer order of housemade bratwurst that was large enough for an entree. Arranged in substantial slices, the brat sat on purple braised cabbage studded with raisins so good I could have eaten it as the main course. With the robust sausage came more relishes—spiced mustard seeds, a tomato relish, garlic mayo, and more of the excellent pickles. Three thick slabs of char-grilled sourdough bread accompanied this hearty meal for $18. 

I find myself reaching for muscular adjectives when describing these dishes from the hand of chef Lechtenberg. Oh, he knows his way around delicate diver scallops, ricotta gnocchi, and Dungeness crab cakes. But it’s his way with bold, unapologetic flavors that we have come to crave. Dinner reservations, for amply spaced indoor seating or patio dining, are a must. 

The Hollins House, 20 Clubhouse Road, Santa Cruz. Thursday-Sunday, 4-7:30pm. For takeout call 831-459-9177. thehollinshouse.com

Ser Tasting Room, at 10 Parade St. in Aptos Village, is now open for indoor tasting, serving 12 people at a time with distanced seating. Since food is required to accompany indoor tasting, participants are encouraged to have a meal brought in or delivered from local favorites such as Cafe Sparrow, Aptos St. BBQ, Akira, Betty Burgers, and Mentone—all within walking distance. Outdoor patio seating is also available for wine tasting. Friday 3-7pm, Saturday-Sunday noon-7pm. Reservations at serwinery.com or 831-616-6062.

Brunch is anything but boring at East End Gastropub. Yes, you can find mouthwatering potato and eggs specialties, classic waffle creations, and Eggs Benedict variations. But there are also unexpected possibilities such as grilled halloumi salad, Huevos con Elote crab omelette with grilled corn, chipotle crema, and avocado puree, fried chicken bao buns, and Jersey pork roll sandwich. Brunch with a multi-culti accent. Get brunch takeout or order a mimosa and enjoy on the heated patio Saturday-Sunday, 10am-3pm. 

1501 41st Ave., Capitola. eastendpub.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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