Dining Reviews

Learning to Love Dessert Again Thanks to Vim Dining and Desserts

Vim serves up terrific take-home dinners and memorable desserts

Chef Jesikah Stolaroff prepares takeout orders at Vim Dining and Desserts. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

I always appreciated the dining side of Vim Dining and Desserts. But last week I fell in love with the dessert side of this busy little Westside restaurant. Now with its patio dining in full swing, plus indoor tables hosting happy diners, Vim is cooking full steam—enough so that it served us a terrific little take-home dinner with a memorable dessert. 

Let me start at the top. Chef Jesikah Stolaroff likes to make things look as good as they taste, even when neatly packed into surprisingly well-insulated carryout containers. When I got home with our dinner items, they were still hot and easy to unpack and dish out in a reasonably appetizing manner.

With dinner we opened a bottle of 2015 Tempranillo Pierce Ranch from winemaker Jeff Emery’s Quinta Cruz label ($19.99 at Shopper’s Corner). Candles were lit as I organized our plates. We YouTubed some mellow Paris jazz to go with an order of Moroccan spiced pork tenderloin ($27). Sliced into four generous portions, the rare pork had been glazed with harissa-infused pluot jam and arrived on a soft cushion of mashed butter beans. The glaze and beans were tossed with a dice of rich cured pork guanciale that heightened the spicing of red peppers, coriander, and a hint of cumin—it even might have been even more aggressively spiced for my taste. On the side were braised stems of broccolini. Perfection with the berry and bay leaf tones of the wine. 

Another entree—also a very generous portion—was a triumph of sophisticated comfort food. A caprese of chicken breast, juicy and tender, arrived topped with basil, onion tomato jam, and mozzarella, on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and sided by delicious green beans (both entrees $27). Big flavors, big satisfaction. Each dish was terrific, but the caprese alone would have justified the visit to Vim. It looked colorful and preserved the best attitudes of old school Italian-American cooking. Again, the Tempranillo made a great partner. Both dishes were easy to serve, nothing tiny and precious to slide around in the carryout containers or to mess up while serving.

Full disclosure: I do not fantasize about desserts. Give me a cheese plate any day. But. Opening a container of multi-layered tiramisu—yes, I said tiramisu—I found myself surrendering. Huge fresh raspberries adorned this classic creation of mascarpone, soft tea-soaked sponge cake, and unsweetened cocoa powder ($12). Here was a barely sweet adult creation that looked like a child’s birthday party on New Year’s Eve. My companion pronounced the tiramisu the ideal conclusion to our flavor-intensive dinner as he slid his fork through all the layers into the fragrant, moist cake at the bottom. 

Remember when no restaurant dared offer a dessert menu without tiramisu? It was everywhere, and at some point I must have eaten my fill because I know I hadn’t tasted it in many years. How nice, given its former cliché status that Vim’s version was given real respect. The tiramisu was dreamy, elegant, and frankly perfect. I saved enough to consume with a cup of strong black tea the next day for lunch. It was my entire lunch. Guilty pleasure? You bet. 

2238 Mission St., Santa Cruz. Wednesday-Saturday, 5-8pm; Sunday, 10am-1pm. vimsantacruz.com.

Good News Department

Even in the midst of harvest, Alfaro Family Vineyards is open on Saturdays for weekend outdoor by-the-glass tasting, noon to 5pm. Call 831-728-5172 for your reservation.

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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