Dining Reviews

The Can’t-Miss Carnitas Kit from Steamer Lane Supply

Plus, Mother’s Day dinners and more local options worth checking out

Ryan Weigner stops in at Steamer Lane Supply on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz with his daughters for a quick to-go order. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

One woman’s pushback against this winter of our discontent: a Carnitas Kit for Two

Gifted with a brilliant sense of food, Fran Grayson’s been humming along at her surfing cafe with a view, Steamer Lane Supply, for a while now. But right now is her moment when what it takes to make it through all of this is a very small operation built around take-away, low prices, and a menu packed with huge flavors. 

The hot item now is a kit for creating your own in-house carnitas tacos with all the trimmings. Grayson’s firm, clear dominatrix directions ensure that even someone with Norwegian ancestry can serve up authentic carnitas. Included in the $24 kit is a foil-wrapped slab of slow-cooked pork, a pack of corn tortillas, a mound of fresh-sliced cabbage, cilantro, little containers of two salsas, a bigger container of luscious escabeche of pickled carrots, peppers, onions, limes, and another container of nopales ready to strew on top of everything. 

Here was a righteous dining experience to tweak as we wished. The pork, fired up for a few minutes on each side of my own cast iron frying pan, was so good we couldn’t talk. The marinated carrots were addictive. This food is alive! We had the satisfaction of preparing it at home, with no hint of reheating. Grayson’s very clear directions guaranteed that the crisp, sizzling results were frankly outrageous. All we could do was eat. And eat. We added Tapatio but it wasn’t really needed. 

There was enough provided in the Carnitas Kit for two medium-sized people to enjoy two meals. And we did. If you’re a larger size person you might not want to share at all. So get two. But I warn you, Steamer Lane Supply is generous with portions. 

Again, the process is simple as hell. You call, order, give your card number, then drive into the 10-minute parking spot right in front of the shop on West Cliff Drive. You call or text and someone (in mask and gloves) brings out your food and pops it in your car. Don’t forget to include a healthy tip when you pay! And be grateful that chef-entrepreneurs like Grayson don’t let viruses get in their way. 

Steamer Lane Supply, 698 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 831-316-5240, steamerlanesc.com. Takeout 9am-6:30pm daily. 

Caffeine Reawakening 

Verve Coffee Roasters is back open in Santa Cruz with full coffee and tea take-away, plus select grab-and-go items. Find location info at vervecoffee.com

Ser Does Mother’s Day 

Just in time to help us celebrate Mother’s Day, even under the new normal conditions, here’s a proactive idea combining a wine tasting room (currently unable to host tastings) with local food establishments currently without a full schedule of patrons. Nicole Walsh, winemaker at Ser Winery, is offering a curbside pickup at Ser’s Aptos Village Tasting Room paired with East End Gastropub for pickup on May 9 after 4pm. The menu serves four and includes spring salad, poppy seed scones, a bacon and chevre frittata, chocolate cookies and a bottle of Ser sparkling wine plus a fresh flower bouquet, all for $100.

Ser is also partnering with Feel Good Foods for pickup on May 10 from 2-4pm. The meal includes a bottle of Ser’s superb 2016 Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield along with dinner for two of wild local King salmon with Meyer lemon relish, assorted fresh sides, and a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for $120. These are creative flavors and intriguing wines, packaged together for you to take home to Mom. Order by 9am on May 8. Details are at serwinery.com.

Pantry at Bittersweet Bistro

While picking up your to-go order, grab some essentials. There are eggs, milk, cheese, pasta, fish, chips, dips, and much more in the Bittersweet Bistro dining room transformed into a grocery pantry. Learn more at bittersweetbistro.com

Market Delay 

Farmers Markets in Downtown Santa Cruz, Westside and Live Oak, are open, but the Felton and Scotts Valley seasonal markets are waiting until the first week of June.

Wine of the Week

There is yet another deal of the decade from Shopper’s Corner wine buyer Andre Beauregard, who’s currently offering a velvety balanced Chalone Pinot Noir 2016 filled with Estate Grown grapes weighing in at 14.1% alc. After letting this wine open for a half an hour or so we detected tones of plum and cherry with a citrus finish and bass notes of bay leaves. This beauty cries out for chicken and pork. $16.99. Get some before I do. 


Check out our continually updating list of local takeout and delivery options.

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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