Dining Reviews

Chef Jessica Yarr Launches Ukrainian Soul Food Pop-Up

Yarr explores her culinary heritage in new venture called Chicken Foot

Chef Jessica Yarr is exploring her culinary heritage in a new venture called Chicken Foot. COURTESY PHOTO

She has been an award-winning pastry chef at Gabriella, former executive chef at Assembly, and a classically trained cook and gastro-anthropologist, among other things. Now, Jessica Yarr has reinvented her remarkable repertoire yet again, in playful and unexpected ways. 

Exploring her Eastern European family and culinary heritage, Yarr brings her inquisitive instincts to a new venture called Chicken Foot (a nod to the nose-to-tail quest for foods that spark conversation), and the menu is down-to-earth in the most delicious sense. 

“What is it about food that creates controversy and conversation?” Yarr asked herself. Her response, which digs deep into her own Ukrainian heritage, fills a niche that’s underrepresented on the West Coast. “It’s about sustainability,” she explains. “Everything is precious.” 

Yarr saw the pandemic as an opportunity for business pivots, and she says the pop-up format fit her needs as well as the realities of the time: “Not too much pressure, and I have the freedom to grow slowly.” 

In addition to a short, exciting menu for her new pop-up pickup gigs—with Feb. 13 Valentine’s offerings at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales—Yarr has initiated a collaboration with the Westside’s natural wine depot Apero Club

“The last Sunday of each month will be Chicken Foot Day,” she told me. Yarr will be there in her chicken outfit serving up some tasty Ukrainian soul food. 

“The menu has created such response,” she informs me. “It sparks nostalgia for grandmother’s foods, New York memories, travels in Georgia. [The one next to Russia, not the one next to South Carolina.] Nostalgia is what makes people feel warm and happy.” 

Chicken Foot’s menu has it all, from pierogies and borscht to Russian honey cake and chocolate red beet cake. Something new that strikes an old chord. It is incredible that this genre of Euro soul food wasn’t properly channeled before. The textures, fragrant pastries, and layered fillings of these beautifully handmade foods will delight those with childhood memories and win new fans among the Ukraine virgins, as it were. Learn more at chefjessicayarr.com

Valentine’s! 

Many dining rooms are offering takeout packages for this romantic holiday, from Persephone in Aptos, to Avanti and Vim on the Westside. In downtown Santa Cruz, Barceloneta is offering a five-course prix fixe ($150 for two people). The dinner comes with easy reheating instructions and a choice of libation, which includes a gin vermouth cocktail, half bottle of Cava, and several wines. The dinner includes jamón serrano with pickles, Dungeness crab croquetas, a beet and citrus salad, Liberty Farm duck with wild mushroom paella, and dessert of churros con chocolate. Pickup is Feb. 13-14, 4-7pm. Call 831-900-5222 to order or visit eatbarceloneta.com

Gabriella Cafe offers a $75 per person, five-course menu includes focaccia and Castelvetrano olives, followed by oysters, or scallop with Meyer lemon dressing, or local Dungeness crab cake; salads including Caesar, brussels sprouts or roast beets with arugula. Choose an entree from grilled swordfish, or shiitake risotto, seared duck break, grilled rack of lamb, or Del Monte NY steak, and dessert of either blood orange chamomile panna cotta or red velvet cake truffles. Yes, that definitely has my number! 

Order by calling 831-457-1677 or visit gabriellacafe.com/events, and pick up from 3-6pm on Valentine’s Day, or make your reservation for patio or sidewalk seating under cozy heat lamps.

Happy Birthday Gayle’s Bakery!

This lucky region wouldn’t be what it is today without 43 years of Gayle’s Bakery and Rosticceria’s outstanding pastries, salads, epic sandwiches, takeout meals, and rosticceria specialties! The thanks of a grateful dining public!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Deb Buchinsky-Valdes

    February 19, 2021 at 11:50 am

    do you have a mailing list?
    I moved from Johnson City, NY and a Ukrainian neighborhood growing up
    [email protected]

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