shopper's corner
Dining Reviews

Shopper’s Corner’s Holiday Secret Weapon

Plus a menu preview from soon-to-be-open Alderwood

An all-star team of female checkers helps Shopper's Corner weather the winter rush. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

At 7:05 in the morning, when I swing by after the gym, they’re already there, smiling, laughing, chattering away with each other before the crowds come in. Helpful even before the sun’s up, the team of can-do women who staff the check-out counters at Shopper’s Corner know how to be quick, strong and even how to suffer fools sweetly. Or at least those of us who can’t seem to insert our plastic correctly.

Always in motion, except during the rare lag times when they cluster and compare notes, the always reliable, always patient, always helpful check-out gals of Shopper’s make sure your holiday grocery shopping goes smoothly. (All-year-round shopping, too.) While the butchers work the back of the house, the checkers meet, greet, and work the front of the house. Scanning, packing, loading, and offering whatever help you might need, from slinging bundles of firewood into carts to snagging a bottle of Fernet sitting up high at the top of the liquor shelves. And of course helping patrons who might need strong arms to carry groceries into cars.

We love Shopper’s because of its vintage vibes and comprehensive inventory—all of the best plus many seasonal surprises. But it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the all-star team of female checkers is the secret weapon of this local institution. Kudos gals!

Beefed Up Menu

The new Alderwood—opening soon—is nothing if not ambitious, from an oyster bar to late-night craft cocktails. In concept, it’s daring, betting that even a stronghold of vegetarianism such as Santa Cruz is ready for sophisticated meaty alternatives.

To that end, executive chef Jeffrey Wall plans to tempt even the most resistant vegans with not simply a great steak, but many meat specialties, including USDA Angus and Wagyu, Bay Area grass-fed aged beef and Japanese meats. The wood-fired cuisine at Alderwood will be available early, often and late,  from happy hour, starting at 4 p.m., all the way to midnight, Tuesday through Sunday.

Alderwood is located in the former Erik’s Deli building at 155 Walnut Ave. in downtown Santa Cruz. Stay tuned.

Positive Addictions

I have now officially caved for flat pretzels. Snack Factory’s Pretzel Crisps (especially the organic ones in the big bag). Cannot get enough of them. Safeway has ’em. Ditto the hot trend for roasted seaweed snacks, those paper-thin, weightless and crunchy slices of pressed seaweed that taste like nori lite and make exceptional cocktail snacks. I grabbed a package of Cadia brand teriyaki-flavored roasted seaweed (on sale for $1.39) at New Leaf and ate half of them before I got home. I admit I’m a salt freak, so the quick hit of tamari and spices immediately got my attention.

Even better, IMHO, is GimMe brand’s toasted sesame seaweed ($1.99). More delicate in flavor, with a gentle topnote of sesame, these feather-light sheets of pressed roasted organic seaweed are free of anything except sesame oil, seaweed and sea salt. Tastes a bit like hamachi collar. The guy stocking shelves at New Leaf says the wasabi flavor is even better. Both these products come from South Korea. Toasted seaweed could be the potato chip of the 21st century. Calorie count is minimal—50-60 calories per package. However, these will not feed a hungry Kevin Durant. Whatever. Find your own favorite.

Reasons Why We Live Here

Still picking the most outrageous, sweetest, ripest cherry tomatoes on Dec. 1. The paper whites are already popping up through soggy soil. You cannot buy a bad cappuccino anywhere within a 50 mile radius. And, Companion Bakeshop.

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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