Dining Reviews

Momentary Magic

dining fattbreakfast109Pop-Up Breakfast series creates fleeting hubs of artisan food and community-style dining

Breakfast may lay claim to the title of most important meal of the day, but now, thanks to a new Pop-Up Breakfast series in town, it can also boast of being the tastiest.

After a successful pilot event last year, Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets (SCCFM) launched its first Pop-Up Breakfast series with an installment at the Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market on Saturday, June 1, when partakers noshed on a six-course meal whipped up by chef Roland Konicke of Uncie Ro’s and Austin Kaye of Back Porch.

Sixty-five gastrophiles turned up for the second event on Saturday, June 8, where Berenice Garcia of Garcia Comida Mexicana delighted taste buds with cold avocado bisque, squash blossoms and nopales, huevos rancheros with hand-made tortillas and more. The leisurely morning feast finished on a sweet note with Mexican hot chocolate and churros.

Several local specialties play a recurring role in the meals, including baked goods from Companion Bakeshop, Lulu Carpenter’s coffee, and seasonal greens, which SCCFM Director Nesh Dhillon made sure appeared on each menu.

“Greens are grown by almost every farm in this area,” says Nicole Zahm, SCCFM’s education and events manager. “People also associate greens with dinner, but not breakfast, and we want people to use the markets’ ingredients in all of their meals.”

The ingredients are sourced almost entirely from farms that are members of the specific market hosting the breakfast, making it easy to spot the connection between origin and end product.

“While people are sitting and enjoying their meal, they can say ‘this ingredient is from a certain farm whose stall is right over there,’” says Zahm, adding that the emphasis on seasonal stand-outs and items that may not be as well known boosts knowledge of how to eat and cook in season. Each menu is the product of a conversation between the featured chef and SCCFM, which makes suggestions.

“The chefs choose a menu that’s in season,” says Zahm, “and then Nesh [Dhillon] scans what we will have that week, and says, [for example], ‘OK, instead of green onions, how about green garlic? Because that’s an exciting thing that’s in season right now.’”

The third breakfast in the series, on Saturday, July 20—when Konicke returns with el Salchichero’s Chris LaVeque to dish out a spread that includes candied bacon and suckling pig porchetta—sold out weeks in advance, suggesting that the organizers are making headway on the myriad goals behind
the series.

In addition to providing a more affordable take on farm-to-table dinners ($30 compared to upward of $100), Zahm says the culinary gatherings aim to help the Westside and Scotts Valley markets, which alternate hosting the pop-ups, “hit their stride,” while also attracting foodies who may not already be farmers’ market patrons.

“Generally, not more than half [of ticket buyers] say they have been to that market before or are regulars,” says Zahm. “So in that way, it’s a
recruitment strategy.”

Along with the artisan-centered offerings, diners get a helping of education: they hear from farmers whose products are featured in the meal between courses. On June 8, for instance, Fiesta Farm’s Sarah Lopez provided a helpful breakdown of terms like “cage free” and “free range” after huevos rancheros made with her farm’s local eggs were served. dining attbreakfast073
“It’s an opportunity to meet and talk with farmers and chefs who value education and community,” Zahm says. “So far, people have enjoyed the educational aspect of it, but it’s not so overblown that they feel like they’re being lectured.”

The bottom line of the series—as with everything SCCFM does—is to increase support for local farmers. But it also serves as a fundraising tool for SCCFM’s innovative education and outreach program, the FoodShed Project, and provides employment opportunities for local youth who have graduated from FoodWhat!? 

Scallion chevre flan, olive oil French toast and seafood sausage are among what’s in store on Saturday, Aug. 3, the next breakfast that still has tickets available. The series will wrap up with equally mouth-watering meals on Sept. 7 and Oct. 5.

Like the farmers’ markets, themselves, the events are ephemeral, leaving behind only the experience of having enjoyed good food and the community that comes along with it.

“There is something magical about a farmers’ market coming into an urban or semi-urban space, popping up, creating all this fervor, and then it disappears and you don’t ever really know it happened,” says Zahm. “A pop-up breakfast has that spontaneous beauty. It’s like a firework: it pops up, it’s beautiful, and then it dissipates. It’s gone.”  

To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit santacruzfarmersmarket.org.

Photo copyright @ Pascale Wowak Photography. Bottom right: Local FATT chef Kevin Koebel pours homemade raw honey butter over salty-caramel sticky buns at the pilot pop-up breakfast last August. 

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