Dining Reviews

Mentone Opens Indoor Dining; Katherine Stern’s Food Comes to Ser

Mentone ending its Little Beach patio to focus on indoor dining

Mentone pivoted quickly to carryout and al fresco dining after launching last spring. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

General Manager Chris Sullivan emailed me with the long-awaited news that Mentone’s dining room will be reopening this weekend. Or maybe that should be “opening,” since last spring’s closure happened almost the instant David Kinch’s new Mediterranean eatery made its debut.

The quick pivot was to open carryout and al fresco seating options. “Little Beach got us through to where we are,” says Sullivan. Now, indoor dining at Mentone begins on May 28. “At that point we will be offering dining room seating only, Wednesday-Sunday, 5-9pm, with the bar open until 10pm on weekends.” And you’ll be happy to know reservations will also be available starting this weekend. 

Mentone chef and founder Kinch, whose three-star Manresa in Los Gatos also just reopened for indoor dining, told me he’s “looking forward to spring and summer ingredients, everything that inspires us in our connection of California with the Riviera. Look for inspired takes on farinata, our salad Niçoise, ratatouille, pissaladiere, and lots of others.” Oh, and that incredible pizza itself! Do not miss the Pizza Quattro Formaggi. Utterly amazing. 

Mentone, 174 Aptos Village Way. mentonerestaurant.com.

Ser and Stern

Ser Tasting Room is offering special plates created by the incomparable Katherine Stern, whose new startup Midway has been pleasing crowds recently at various farmers markets. Stern’s open-air cuisine was the perfect midway point between her longtime gig as chef at La Posta and the next chapter in her career. Now she brings her cuisine on Thursdays, in one of those creative collaborations that popped up so brilliantly during the year of lockdown, with Nicole Walsh’s Ser Tasting Room. 

Newly opened indoors for tastings, the Ser facility will host such Stern specialties as cheese and olive finger foods, curried red lentil soup, candy cap panna cotta, and various crostati from 3-7pm on Thursdays. Perfect fare to accompany Walsh’s line of ingenious wines—don’t miss her 2020 Dry Orange Muscat

Ser Winery Tasting Room, 10 Parade St., Aptos Village. serwinery.com.

Hail to Hallcrest! 

Hallcrest Vineyards released its first vintage 80 years ago in 1941, and now it is time to celebrate at the historic vineyard that launched the very idea of Santa Cruz mountains wines! The action up at the panoramic estate will continue throughout the summer, but it all starts this coming Memorial Day weekend. Two days of action 10am-6:30pm May 29-30 to include many groups performing live music, local foods and lots of luscious Hallcrest wines. Think of it as “a socially distanced, picnic-style, limited-capacity event.” Hallcrest Vineyards is located on the hillside overlooking town at 379 Felton Empire Road. For tickets ($89/$160) and more information, visit eventbrite.com.

Big Basin Vineyards’ new tasting room, with spacious outdoor patio seating, will be opening this summer at 525 Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz. Founding winemaker Bradley Brown is looking forward to the expanded space, with indoor and outdoor tasting areas that will offer some fresh culinary ideas to pair with the winery’s bold varietals. 

“We are still working on putting in place our various relationships with farmers and artisan providers of foods. We are seeking out locals and will be curating European culinary options partnering with a local chef,” says Brown, adding there will be more details closer to the opening, “probably sometime in July.” Following recent toe surgery, I pampered myself with a gorgeous pot of chicken soup from Gayle’s. Comforting and authentic, the beautiful broth was filled with luscious bits of chicken, carrots, celery, onions and noodles. Light yet rich. Just what the doctor ordered! $8.95/pint. You know where Gayle’s is: Bay and Capitola avenues in Capitola. gaylesbakery.com.

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