After three months it was finally time to visit with my longtime film companion, author and movie critic Lisa Jensen. And that meant a pit-stop first at The Buttery for two lattés and two enormous croissants, a chocolate and an almond ($4 each).
This place has its act together. Only four people are allowed inside at a time, so I felt confident stepping up to the masked attendant, placing my order, inserting my credit card and picking up the pastries and coffees. A temporary challenge was adding sugar to my coffee, but I used one of those cardboard bands used to pick up hot drinks, placed it around the sugar container and poured without touching the actual sugar jar. The rest—endless gabbing at a six foot distance, gossip, literary encouragement, and the swift inhaling of the Buttery’s excellent pastries—is history.
The Buttery, 702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Open daily 8am-5pm. 831-458-3020, butterybakery.com.
Hula’s and Lupulo have expanded into half of Cathcart Street for outdoor seating as downtown continues to dip its toes into the next phase of restaurant opening. Abbott Square has opened most of its Market food shops for dine-in enjoyment, and hopefully by the time you read this the Cat and Cloud concession will also be open for dining on the spacious Abbott Square patio. The sit-down dining at Gabriella Cafe is “building slowly,” says proprietor Paul Cocking, and takeout is going strong.
Wine tasting is opening up too. At Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery in Corralitos, wine lovers can now make Saturday tasting appointments from noon to 5pm. Sit overlooking the rolling vineyards to taste, purchase, and sip wines in groups of up to six people. I’m betting you’ll be charmed by Alfaro’s tangy estate Gruner Veltliner, or the house Syrahs and Pinot Noirs. Retrofitting the winery’s tasting facilities wasn’t a hassle.
“The changeover wasn’t too bad for us,” says winemaker Richard Alfaro. “We have the luxury of a lot of outside space, so we’re able to have 8-12 feet between tables.”
But every change comes at a price. “We did have to spend close to $5,000 for sanitation stations, Plexiglas barriers, flight carafes, dishwasher racks, and carts, etc.,” the winemaker admits. “Just the cost of doing business.”
If you haven’t enjoyed the spectacular view from the vineyard terrace, Saturdays are your chance to get away and discover some fine wine. Call 831-728-5172 to reserve your spot overlooking the Alfaro vines.
Home Away Market
The house where chef Brad Briske cooks, Home restaurant in Soquel is not only open for in-house and garden dining, but it is now offering its wares at our local Farmers Markets—Downtown, Live Oak and Westside. Home Away Market offers lots of temptation, from ricotta gnocchi and big jars of bolognese sauces to castelvetrano olives, fresh sausages, and more. Sounds like pasta fixings to me.
Odds and Ends
Plan ahead! Remember the infamous power shut-offs of last year? A gentle reminder: don’t overstock your freezer this summer unless you have a backup generator. Now is the time to thaw out that container of chile verde you made at Easter. Use up the frozen pasta sauce from time to time. You don’t want to watch $300 worth of steaks and stews head for the garbage bin if (I shudder) there’s an inconvenient outage.
Pantry check: When the virus hit, I loaded up my pantry. At last count I still had four jars of mayo, three of grey poupon, three jars of Hot Mango Chutney, a dozen cans each of tuna, sardines, and ranchero beans, and enough emergency sea salt flakes to infuse all the butter in Bad Animal.