Dining Reviews

Summer Produce in Santa Cruz

Favorite sushi delights at Totoro, plus UCSC rolls out its produce cart for summer

Freshly made rolls—Tekka Maki (back), featuring tuna with shiso leaf, Futomaki (center), and the Youngster (front), which features spicy tuna with crushed macadamia nuts—at Sushi Totoro on Mission Street. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Yes, sushi and reggae are a marriage made in sensory heaven, as the fusion sushi chefs of Sushi Totoro know full well.

Listening to Bob Marley last week, we found ourselves infused with sinus-clearing horseradish-intensive dishes. Our favorite dinner at Totoro invariably runs like this: always the Tekka Maki with shiso leaf (the latter is graced with a peppery clean flavor that contrasts nicely with the rich, sweet tuna). Then we might add a member of the nigiri family. I have recently moved past the maguro into the celestial domain of hamachi nigiri—sticky rice delivering satiny yellowtail. A reason to live. Then my companion likes to add one of Totoro’s important rolls. Perhaps the “Youngster,” filled with spicy tuna and crunchy macadamia. Or, my favorite, the Futomaki loaded with pickled daikon and carrot, mushroom, egg and cucumber. “One World” rocks us through the entire meal. Sushi Totoro is on our permanent summertime menu. 1701 Mission St., Santa Cruz.

 

Garden’s Ready

The UCSC Farm and Garden’s organic produce market cart is a welcome sight at the foot of the campus, open every Tuesday and Friday afternoons all summer long. From noon until 6 p.m., the shaded cart offers an array of freshly picked fruits and vegetables grown just up the hill at the UCSC Farm and Garden. This week the cart seduced me into buying a pint of outstanding blueberries, a bag of mixed baby lettuces and two exceptionally pretty Meyer lemons. Right now is a great time to try onions, strawberries, kale and chard, plus those gorgeous mixed flower bouquets. Young growers from the famed agroecology program staff the cart twice a week, and the harvests change as the season deepens. I stop by every week just to see what’s fresh from the garden. Do thou likewise.

 

Notes from the Gluten-free Trail

I admit that it can be a challenge to do without bread, at least for a while. But once we got the hang of going gluten-free we found that we had lost “that stubborn belly fat,” as the commercials say, and experienced absolutely no indigestion—no matter what else we ate. So we’ve made the quest for tasty gluten-free bread substitutes something of a game.

Our latest favorites are two crackers that make perfect companions for cheeses. One is the just-plain-delicious hexagonal Multi-Seed Crackers from Crunchmaster. For around $4 a bag, we plow through bagfuls of these crunchy creations of sesame, quinoa, flax and amaranth seeds. A great snack, it’s also a respectable companion for dips, spreads and any other topping on the planet. The newest member in our gluten-free arsenal is the organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan (whew), very crunchy cracker from the charmingly named Mary’s Gone Crackers. For around $5 a box these babies look sophisticated and taste delicious. The recipe of brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and tamari is as delicious as it is hyper-crisp. An interactive oral encounter is delivered by this feisty bread substitute which, if you’re counting, weighs in at roughly 10 calories per cracker. Available at New Leaf, Shopper’s Corner, Whole Foods, etc.

 

Appetizer of the Week

At an Assembly birthday dinner for painter Noah Buchanan last week, we wrapped our mouths around one of the sensory wonders of the local culinary world: the Scotch olive ($7).  The word “flavor” just isn’t good enough for the explosion of tart, salty crunch, and toothsome texture delivered by these breaded, deep-fried Castelvetrano olives. Garlic sausage and cheese is also embedded somewhere in this magical finger food. I chased mine with a glass of gossamer, intricate Spanish Godello by A Coroa 2014, from Assembly’s inventive libation list.

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