Dining Reviews

Hop Over to Vim Dining and Desserts for Prix Fixe Easter Brunch

Plus, remembering Odwalla and Califia Farms founder Greg Steltenpohl

Vim on Santa Cruz’s Westside is known for its sophisticated comfort food. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

The restaurant on Mission Street (once a nondescript lunchroom called Michael’s) has blossomed into Vim Dining and Desserts, the home of sophisticated comfort food created by chef Jesikah Stolaroff. The menu is loaded with beautifully designed temptations, and, of course, for many of us it is the desserts that bring us back again and again. 

Vim is offering a special prix fixe Easter Brunch on April 4, 10am-12:30pm for on-site dining (indoors or on the little patio). The $45 brunch offers an array of shareable items including strawberry spinach salad and deviled eggs, plus entrees such as asparagus gruyere tart with fried eggs, or potato waffle with maple Aleppo glazed ham. Sightings of Easter bunnies are compliments of the house. Reservations are necessary—make ’em quick! 

Vim, 2238 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831-515-7033, vimsantacruz.com.

California Dreamer

He was a smart and wily entrepreneur, with the right friends, music and locally grown energy to start up not one but two multi-million dollar companies. Before he was the founder of Califia Farms, Greg Steltenpohl founded Odwalla, the fresh juice company that became a legend of alternative lifestyles, before it became an enormous enterprise and then became embroiled in events that doomed its future. 

Greg died last week of complications from a liver transplant he’d undergone years before. The loss is huge, in terms of his personal sweetness and his incredible gift for conceptualizing innovative outcomes and motivating teams of colleagues. He was a genuine pathbreaker, setting the pace for the current galaxy of artisanal and alternative products that sprang up under his inspiration. 

When Odwalla was new and on the ascent, Greg gave me a tour of the original basecamp of the juice company housed in an old, funky—yes, we’re talking very post-hippie coastal ambiance—brussels sprouts packing house across the highway from Davenport’s beloved Cash Store. He was clearly energized by the entire idea of making incredibly fresh, natural juice drinks, and he had a hand in all aspects, from label design to how the juice would be shipped and marketed. He was as thrilled with his successful young company as he was with the ocean view outside his office. 

Greg Steltenpohl was a true wild west pioneer, thinking outside the box, but also deeply committed to the environment, sustainable practices, and to “the rising tide that floats all boats,” as he liked to say. He wore his generosity gracefully.

Wellness rather than wealth seemed to be his bottom line, although there would be big wealth coming his way, to the tune of  $60 million in sales when I first met him, and close to $200 million when the company was sold to Coca-Cola. A decade later he started up Califia, devoted to nondairy milk alternatives and now among the top producers of bottled coffees and almond milk, valued in the billions. His was a true story of good fortune, good vibes and good timing. At 66 years of age he was much too young to leave us. I’ll bet there was at least one more major company up Greg Steltenpohl’s sleeve.

More Easter Options 

Mentone in Aptos Village is doing Easter Brunch on Sunday, April 4, from noon-4pm on the patio. No reservations. Bring your sweeties and enjoy pizzas of egg and asparagus, prosciutto and arugula, plus the house version of niçoise salad, ratatouille with fried egg, porcini, soft poached egg and chives, gelato of course, and time-honored brunch cocktails such as Bellini, Bloody Mary, and bubbles. 

Mentone, 174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos. 831-708-4000, mentonerestaurant.com.

Many of our county’s new outdoor dining arrangements might just become permanent, even “AC” (after Covid). Exciting! Stay tuned.

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