The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif
Those of us living in and around Santa Cruz know just how lucky we are to have a treasure trove of distinctive and unusual wines—Soif—in our midst. Turns out, so do the folks at OpenTable, who, for the third year in a row, voted Soif Wine Bar onto its Top 100 Wine Lists. Considering the size of our burg-by-the-sea, that’s quite an honor. “It’s always nice to be recognized for doing a good deed,” says Soif owner Patrice Boyle. “Especially to be recognized by our most important critics, our customers who are both demanding and loving.” Giving credit to her resident wine experts John Locke and Alyssa Twelker, Boyle added that one of the benefits of OpenTable is that it opens up Soif and its sister restaurant La Posta, “to a wide spectrum of diners who are adventurous eaters and drinkers.” Wine shop specialist Twelker notes that Soif’s savvy staff aims to provide a place for patrons to try wines that are outside of their previous experiences, “and maybe even a little out of their comfort zone.” Well, you can count me as one of those wine lovers who has enjoyed the journey of discovery afforded by Soif.
Just last week at Soif, I discovered yet more wonderful wines that make complete sense during the mercurial transition from summer to fall. Let me start with a piquant white wine made from the Spanish Godello grape, a member of the Verdelho family. From the wine house of Abad dom Bueno this lively wine arrived along with a tapas plate of delicate, melt-in-your-mouth arancini. (Race over to Soif and try this wine!)
Chef Mark Denham has hit his stride and is applying a signature spin to the seasonally evolving menu. The crispy little stuffed rice and cheese balls were feather-light and exceptional, especially with the Godello—with a lilting and mineral-driven bit of complexity, salty opening and a float of peaches and pepper at the finish. Refreshing to the max, this wine carried itself beautifully through a salad course of butter lettuces tossed with thin apple slices, walnuts and crème fraiche. The supple lettuces were generously dressed and by the last forkfuls the combination of juice from the apples and the tangy crème fraîche mimicked a sophisticated buttermilk dressing. Buttermilk on butter lettuce. But there was more. For mains, Angela and I split an order of a pork schnitzel entrée. The platter arrived with two thin, utterly crisp pork cutlets atop a gorgeous slaw of cabbages, apples, and perhaps fennel doused with Everett Family Farm apple cider. A brilliant combination of flavors and ideas that worked together, the dish also offered a few mounds of puréed parsnip—OK, not the first vegetable I might have worked with in my own kitchen but then that’s precisely why I go to creative dining rooms like Soif. The parsnip with its earthy sweetness played against the salty crunch of the schnitzel’s paper-thin golden crust.
To accompany the last bites of the deliciously tender pork, I ordered a 2 oz. pour of my new-best-friend red wine from the Vaucluse region of southern France; a 2010 Domaine des Tours Rhônish creation of mostly Grenache laced with some Syrah, Cinsault, and Counoise (a grape I had not previously known about), that was instantly appealing. Rounded yet tough, tannic and romantic, it was the ideal bouquet of contrasts that make wines of the Vaucluse such charming rogues. And it loved the pork schnitzel! Two new wines, a great dinner—seriously, a seamless flow of flavors from start to finish—and another award in the well-deserved Soif collection. Autumn is getting off to a delicious start! Now on to Restaurant Week!
This Just In
Germaine “Red” Akin called to let me know that her long-awaited “Splash” on the Santa Cruz Wharf is on the verge of finally opening. Check back next week for full details. PHOTO: The pork dish looks positively quest-worthy at Soif. CHIP SCHEUER