Dining Reviews

Turning Point

diningNew revolving restaurant on the wharf, plus Cafe Ivéta and the last great Jack cheese

Three years ago Germaine Akin—owner of Red Restaurant and Bar, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Swan/Heavenly Goose—and her closest companions decided to make a splash in the oft-clichéd world of waterfront dining. Having taken over Carniglia’s for about a year before shutting the doors, Akin wanted to completely revamp the old wharf landmark. “I wanted a place that would offer food that I could recommend to my friends, rather than simply cater to tourists. I wanted it to offer food that I’m proud of.” Which meant a place that would be approachable enough to entice sunbathers, and yet sophisticated enough to meet the standards of local foodies. So when the latest dining room from this very successful restaurateur debuts—“before the end of the year”—it will serve New American comfort food, but with some lively differences. “I wanted a sense of fun,” Akin told me over a flight of reds at Red. “And I knew that everybody who goes to the wharf wants to sit at a window. So I considered how to make every seat a seat with a view.” Here’s how: Akin and her partners decided to make the dining room revolve around a central bar. Literally. The main seating area is a platform 32-feet in diameter that will slowly revolve, allowing diners a view of the ocean no matter what table they sit at. Executive chef for the upcoming Santa Cruz Wharf restaurant will be current 515 chef Caleb Hanscom. And the name will be—Splash! Stay tuned.

They Know Jack

My pal Traci knew what she was talking about. Not only does the Schoch family make a memorable Monterey Jack cheese, they are in point of fact the only Monterey farmstead making Monterey Jack cheese. Hence, the “last true Monterey Jack” was what I bought at the Westside Farmers Market last week, and between Jack (the one at my house) and my mom (visiting from San Diego) there was scarcely a bite left for me to sample. This aged cheese was so good it defied the expectation of, well, the fairly simple, amiable cheesiness I tend to know as Monterey Jack. Produced from the milk of a tiny herd of farm-raised, grass-fed cows by the second generation of dairymen whose fathers came from Switzerland to settle in the Salinas Valley, this was cheese to linger over. Armed with a glass of Tempranillo, I sampled the complex, golden-hued creation, admiring its cheddar-like, slightly crumbly texture—not the smooth, plasticine aspect of more mundane Jack cheeses. Moderately bold, with a rich, nutty earthiness, this cheese had significant body and enough presence to partner the Tempranillo in style. Somehow restraint arrived, and we stopped “sampling” two thirds of the way through a half-pound of Schoch Monterey Jack.  I found my true Monterey Jack at the Fiesta Farm booth, but you can look for it at the Aptos Farmers Market under the “Schoch” logo. It will reward your next visit to the farmer’ market. And you can pick some up at the Felton New Leaf market as well.

Breakfast at Lulu’s

Now on Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., you can sit down and savor a full-on breakfast at the “old Lulu’s” on Pacific Avenue—omelettes, eggs, bacon, and glorious waffles loaded with bacon and berries.

Cafe Fare

Cafe Ivéta’s scene is trending vigorously. At lunch last week we were impressed with a beautiful caprese sandwich filled with creamy sliced mozzarella, tomatoes and basil on a chewy ciabatta bun. Stop by for some exceptional coffee, pastries, or one of the bountiful house salads. And don’t miss the flash-fried Brussels sprouts “popcorn” at Red, thanks to chef Herb Kettelson.

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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