Dining Reviews

Spring Provençal

A new menu for springtime at Au Midi, plus UCSC’s annual spring plant sale and a bargain bottle of local Grenache

Bouillabaisse Provençal from Chef Muriel Loubiere of Aptos’ Au Midi. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

The new spring menu at Au Midi in Aptos is knocking me out. Braised halibut with lemongrass and ginger emulsion served on a potato cloud. A potato cloud. Doesn’t your mouth want a bite of that?

Chef Muriel Loubiere has pulled out all the Gallic stops in honor of le printemps. Lamb tenderloin with cream of garlic and tarragon sounds outrageous, but the piece de resistence has to be bouillabaisse Provençal. Lobster in saffron broth with baby fennel, potatoes, spicy aioli, and toasts. All of the aromatic and toothsome food groups in a single, luscious dish. Carnivores need to check out the Loubiere touch on classics like Daube Provençal, duck breast with rosemary sauce, and filet mignon with morels and Madeira sauce. I cannot remember a more mouthwatering menu at this charming bistro. It reads like a visit to the sunny South of France. aumidi.com.

Spring into the Garden

It’s that time again. UCSC’s giant Farm & Garden Spring Plant Sale will once again unfurl its botanical smorgasbord up at the intersection of Bay and High streets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, and 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Vegetable growers will be tempted by the sale’s enormous selection of tomatoes and peppers (of all kinds), as well as lettuces, herbs, squashes, pumpkins, kale, cucumbers, and more. Let’s stay with tomatoes for a minute. Almost nothing is as memorable as a bite of a sun-warmed, ripe tomato tasted right on the spot in your own garden. Tomatoes reward growers with fresh salad ingredients as well as the ingredients for a year’s worth of pasta sauces. The collection for sale this year features pomodori specially chosen for their adaptation to our coastal microclimate. The Marvel Striped, Yellow Pear, Camp Joy Cherry, Rainbow’s End, Brandywine, and dozens more await your purchase. And the flower possibilities are endless. casfs.ucsc.edu.

Envirotokenism

You’ve got your favorites, I’ve got mine. Those little slots by the exit at New Leaf Community Markets, where you choose the nonprofit you want your token (for bringing in your own shopping bag) to benefit. These little 10-cent tokens offer a chance to put New Leaf’s money where your conscience desires—Native Animal Rescue, the Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, Friends of the Sea Otter, and Seymour Marine Discovery Center, have all received donations during the past year. Well, now New Leaf customers can vote on which environmentally friendly local nonprofits will be the recipients of Envirotoken donations for the coming year. And these donations do add up. Last year New Leaf donated more than $56,000 to 22 different local organizations. You can help decide where the money will go next. Online voting happens until May 31 at newleaf.com/community/envirotokens. Don’t forget to bring your bag.

Eco Products of the Week

The drought responsibility project at Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. strikes us as a great idea. The new Prickly Purple Heart Jam is a prime example of a tasty jam made from fruits that need no additional water to grow and ripen. The use of organic dry-farmed ingredients like tomatoes and figs helps cut down on water waste. And the artisanal group has partnered with the Homeless Garden Project for harvests of organic Padron peppers. Not only are the peppers dry-farmed but they are cultivated by trainees learning valuable employment skills. Check out the friendincheeses.com/blog for updates about this sensitive new direction for the Tabitha Stroup kitchen. And look for the Blue Label!

Wine of the Week

The ambidextrous Clos de Gilroy Grenache made by the house of Doon (Bonny Doon Vineyard). Red currants, berries and white pepper, driven by Monterey County grapes. Unbeatable for $14.99 (Shopper’s Corner).

 

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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