Dining Reviews

Lunch is Packed

DiningPicnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

Your Place—yes, the one on Mission Street next to Coffeetopia. Now owners Rachel and Arthur (the chef) Russell are featuring summer picnic baskets ready to take to your favorite outdoor concert, Santa Cruz Shakespeare performance, Boardwalk Friday Night Band, or romantic day at the beach. Packed into pretty woven baskets, starting at $35, these lunches for two run the gamut from assorted cheeses with half a sourdough loaf, fruit, potato salad, slaw and cherry pie, to a lavish picnic of cold fried chicken and biscuits, pickles, potato salad, slaw, fruit and house-made carrot cake for $65. Most of these half dozen basket combos include the sandwich of your choice, selected from the humongous Your Place sandwich menu, with additions of piquant salads like curried chicken salad, Greek salad, pesto pasta salad, and lots of other delightful extras. The chef tells me that all you need to do is check out the Basket Menu on Your Place’s website, yourplacesc.com, and then call two hours in advance of pick-up time. What a great idea. They put together the food, you take it out on your summer adventure. Your Place, 1719 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831 426-3564.

Pepper Push

Fire Tongue Farm is eight acres of chili peppers started by UCSC Farm & Garden grad Ryan Silsbee and Levon Minassian. It’s in Hollister, where the growers have visions of converting an old shack on the property into a smokehouse. They will smoke their exotic varieties of peppers and we can taste them at farmers markets all over the Bay Area.  The Fire Tongue farmers use apple and pear wood harvested from local orchards to add flavor nuance to their smoked products. You can help them actualize this homegrown dream by contributing to their Barnraiser crowdsource campaign. Find out how by visiting barnraiser.us.

High Tea in Capitola

Housed in the beloved old tea room on Capitola Avenue, Camellia Tea House has new owners and an ambitious new roster of international tea events. Proprietor and pastry chef Jenny Rashe, a longtime devotée of tea ceremonies and rituals, took over the longtime tea room a mere three weeks ago, and will be ready with special presentations starting July 11. Rashe, a specialist in tea etiquette, has big plans, including live flamenco guitar and tapas on Saturday nights starting July 11.  On Saturday, July 18 the Camellia will host a Japanese Tea Ceremony, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., presented by tea master Matsui Sensee. Children’s Tea service, Reina Sofia Light Tea, and Romeo and Juliet Full Tea are only some of the possibilities. Eats include freshly made soups, seasonal salads, scones, small finger sandwiches, various savories—and of course desserts! Such relaxing old-fashioned enjoyment is the entire idea of afternoon tea. Treat yourself and welcome the new owners. Camellia Tea House is at 911 Capitola Ave., Capitola 831 477-1798, camilliateahouse.net.

Wine Notes

Stephen Coquillette Champagne, Brut ($40)—filled with bubbles, crisp complexity and a nose of rose geranium—was one of several I enjoyed last week at the gala Champagne Tasting and movie sponsored by Deer Park Wine & Spirits at the Del Mar Theater.  Killer bubbly bargain from a distinguished house. Betcha this one’s worth the price tag: the July 11 Devine Ranch, Aptos, Farm to Table dinner. Wine cocktails and apps begin at 4 p.m., followed by 5 p.m. dinner in the field presented by Heidi Schlect and Amy Padilla, whose Route One Farms dinner last August was one of the highlights of my year. Wild king salmon highlights the multi, multi-course event benefiting the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. $175 per person, devineranch.com/a-devine-farm-to-table.

PHOTO: Rachel Russell, owner of Mission Street’s comfort-food mecca Your Place, with one of their new picnic basket lunches. CHIP SCHEUER

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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