Dining Reviews

Lupulo: Doing It Right

diningBeer worship, great food and a secret weapon at new hops spot

Kayla McIntyre at Lupulo is exactly the kind of pro-active front counter personality you want in your store. When we came in and started asking questions about the menu in this newish craft beer house, McIntyre had plenty of answers. She not only explained the various styles of beers we were looking at, she also poured us samples to illustrate her point. She walked us through the menu, took our orders and made us feel welcome—all without missing a beat, or neglecting other patrons in the process. 

Given the smart, can-do quality of our welcome, we were inclined to love Lupulo (Spanish for “hops”) even before the first bite. From the hefty selection of beers on tap we chose 5 oz. pours of a Belgian blonde-style Evil Twin Joey Pepper, and a Sante Adairius 1903 lager. Our orders were as solid as McIntyre promised. Spiced tacos of slow-roasted pork pibil-style, slathered with anchiote sauce and purple cabbage for Jack; and a sensuous, gooey, Oaxaqueño-style version of a grilled cheese sandwich for me. My pressed sandwich contained oozing layers of pesto, queso Oaxaca, chèvre, plus arugula and avocado. Crisp toasted bread provided the crunchy contrast. Total yum, as was the trio of pork tacos. On the side was the house secret weapon—pickled veggies, including an incendiary salsa of onions and habañero with the tacos. I adored—no, really—my pickled zucchini and carrots. Even more because these spicy, zippy flavors were perfectly tuned to the rounded flavors of the beers. Next time I’ll try the omelette with potatoes and harissa aioli! The savvy kitchen has created a menu that flatters—adores—beer. So go and sip for yourself. There are over 15 on tap at any given time. At $9, each these items is geared toward a twenty-to-thirtysomething after-work crowd of young professionals who love beer but insist on something non-boring to go with their brew.

Small Bites

Pork belly, crisp on top and bottom, lusciously fatty and flavorful in the middle. Presented with a fluff to something in the key of frisée, plus topnotes of Kalamata, capers and intensely flavored tomatoes. This recent appetizer at Soif ($14) was both substantial and deliciously worth every penny. Nice to have chef Mark Denham asserting his style. God I love this place, especially with a minerally glass of Hungarian Furmint Sec in my non-fork-holding hand … The kitchen at Ristorante Avanti has noticeable sparkle. Lunch last week of local sea bass on a garlic-intensive bed of zesty shell and pole beans made me smile all day.

Harvest Update

Richard Alfaro and his crew are “picking like mad,” right now. “We started harvesting last Wednesday for sparkling wine,” Alfaro told me. “This week, we picked our first Pinot, and now it’s every day.” And that was a week ago! The winemaker echoed what others are saying: “This is the earliest we have ever picked—and it all looks very good.” Fingers crossed!

Wine of the Week

That would be the crisp, refreshing orange wine (aka skin-crushed Pinot Gris) from Beauregard Vineyards. This baby saw less than a year in neutral oak—barrels that have been much-used and hence are not as likely to overlay the wine’s crisp tannic quality with a cushion of butter or vanilla. The result is tart and instantly likeable. At 11 percent alcohol, it is indeed an easy-sipping “breakfast wine” that adores oysters, green olives, cheeses and warm summer afternoons. $30ish. I’d say to run on up to the redwood-draped tasting room at Pine Flat Road and pick up a bottle while you’re tasting the handiwork of winemaker Ryan Beauregard.

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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