Dining Reviews

Restaurants Adjust as Santa Cruz County Moves to Red Tier

Soif reopens for outdoor dining; Avanti opens indoor dining at 25% capacity

Alexis Carr pours a sparkling rosé from France at the outdoor seating area of Soif. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Cautiously surfing the point of evolving dining protocols, Soif in downtown Santa Cruz has reopened for outdoor dining once again Wednesday through Saturday. This is great news for those craving the irreplaceable experience of face-to-face dining with careful family and friends. No need to make reservations; seating is first come, first served. 

And because Soif’s ongoing takeout service has been so welcome, we enjoyed a terrific meal last week, made in the Soif kitchen but enjoyed by candlelight at our own dining table. Our dinner began with a luscious avocado and citrus salad ($12), a colorful collage of green avocado and blood oranges, tangerines and grapefruit slices all bathed in a feisty lime cumin vinaigrette. 

My main dish was a mega-comforting (and large!) portion of tagliatelle infused with generous chunks of fresh crab, tiny red chiles, toasted breadcrumbs and gremolata ($27). Delicious that night as well as for lunch the next day. Our other entree was another standout creation of grilled quail ($24), resting on a cushion of polenta with braised fennel in salsa verde. I could eat this dinner four nights a week. And you can too! 

Kudos to Avanti on Mission Street, where hard-working owners Jonathan and Tatiana Glass have kept the kitchen going throughout this pandemic. Now, in addition to takeout and outdoor patio dining, Avanti is open for indoor dining at 25% capacity. I picked up a dinner a few days ago and observed many happy diners, indoors and out, enjoying the restaurant’s finely-tuned menu.

Silver Mountain Tasting

Starting this month, Silver Mountain Vineyards winery and tasting room will be open noon-5pm every weekend for tastings. Founder Jerold O’Brien tells me that the Westside tasting room has four tables under awnings on the patio. Soon the tasting room itself will be open for tastings and sales. 

Home of outstanding Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, Silver Mountain tastings are memorable. The Santa Cruz location is at 328 D Ingalls St., around the corner from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, next to Marini’s Candies. The winery is located 10 breathtaking miles up Old San Jose Road, overlooking Monterey Bay. Email [email protected] for reservations at either location. 

Salute to Shopper’s

Keeping up its standards—fine produce and butcher counter, specialty foods as well as staples, plus a heroic wine and liquor inventory—Shopper’s Corner made it possible for its loyal customers to shop without paranoia during this year of pandemic. My thanks to all those masked checkers who helped carry, bag and respond to the needs of patrons while maintaining distance. Those red arrows on the floor helped us navigate during stressful mornings. And a cheery attendant greeted us at the door, handing us a freshly cleaned and sanitized shopping cart, letting in only a fixed amount of shoppers at a time. 

Jim Beauregard and company helped take some of the sting out of this past year of very careful grocery shopping, especially during the seemingly endless purple tier. Now retail stores are open at 50% occupancy, and grocery stores are at full capacity. Masks and social distancing are still in effect, of course!

St. Patrick’s Day

If you’re reading this on March 17, I hope you’re wearing green. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and that means corned beef and cabbage. Pubs will tempt you with special ales, and bakeries will have at least one cupcake with green frosting. Gayle’s at 504 Bay Ave. in Capitola has iced shamrock cookies and individual Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecakes. Irish soda bread too! Get over there now! Find more info at gaylesbakery.com.

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