The object of our road trip (besides drinking a lot of good beer, obviously) was to spend a few days with family in Santa Cruz.
We had to have at least one breakfast at Kelly’s, of course.
Their pastries, poached eggs on polenta, and bagels with capers and lox would all be good any time, but eaten at an outdoor table as the Santa Cruz morning fog dissipates in the sun, everything tastes better.
We also went to breakfast at Hoffman’s in downtown Santa Cruz, a favorite of my brother-in-law’s.
The service was a touch flaky (note to waitstaff: when an allergic customer asks you what kinds of nuts are in something, don’t just say “I dunno” and wander off) but the food was excellent. Jon got a very fine crab and avocado eggs benedict, and I fell for the chilaquiles. The waffles with strawberries looked like they had a quart of berries on top. The basket of scones that arrived with our coffee was a nice touch, too. Nice place, I wouldn’t mind trying them for dinner some time.
For lunch one day we took advantage of the arrangement between Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and Kelly’s Bakery. As with several other businesses in the Swift Street Courtyard business park, you can get a pint of beer at the taproom counter, then order from Kelly’s menu and have your food carried over by someone from the bakery.
Jon got their hamburger, which was surprisingly good.
I had fish tacos, which were fantastic: the fish was deep-fried and very crispy, and served in soft corn tortillas with lots of cabbage and cilantro aioli, plus a big salad.
We also had to visit a few wineries, of course. Vine Hill was a new addition to the building, so we stopped in to pet their dog and taste their wines. They had a nice chardonnay.
We always have to stop at Sones. When we went into the tasting room this visit, it was full of people who had just discovered the winery for the first time and were excitedly buying one of everything. We pretty much do the same thing whenever we go – you just can’t help yourselves. I don’t know of any Zinfandel I like better than theirs.
We also stopped into Quinta Cruz/Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, and had a nice discussion with the server about how awesome Rock of Ages was. They make really lovely Old World-style wines, but unfortunately not everything is available for tasting. We’ve never gone wrong with any of their wines, though.
On Saturday we walked to the nearby farmer’s market. It was another beautiful day and everything looked wonderful.
We wanted to cook one dinner at my brother-in-law’s apartment, and when we found the pasta booth I knew what I wanted to do. We bought several tubs of the goat cheese-green onion ravioli, plus a container of basil-walnut pesto. Then we picked up a gorgeous bag of salad mix full of edible flowers, and some pink fingerling potatoes. Dinner was taken care of (along with a Sones Sauvignon Blanc and a pie that was brought from Emily’s Bakery).
Finally, our big splurge dinner for the trip was at Le Cigare Volant, the Bonny Doon winery restaurant.
The whole menu is done as small plates, so for four people we needed to order nearly one of everything. We started with a bread plate…
…and an adorable little container of grilled octopus.
When we ordered the ceviche, we didn’t really expect it to come looking like this…
…but the coconut milk dome just needed to be broken apart, at which point it began to melt over the seafood.
This unlikely-looking plate was a lovely, fresh cherry tomato salad with basil foam.
And this was an avocado corn dog, which I’m still not really sure about.
The waitress absolutely insisted that we get the fingerling potatoes, and she was not wrong. Crisp, seasoned wedges in a cute little pot, they were perfect potatoes – but what you don’t see is the big wodge of cream in the bottom of the pot. Yum.
I’m afraid this looks absolutely disgusting, but I’m told it was very good. Squash blossoms stuffed with hummus, served with couscous and harissa foam.
And I think this was arctic char with cornbread, but I have only the vaguest memory of tasting it.
I was a little distracted by my duck with snap peas and a lettuce roll. This was beautiful.
Jon was the only one who felt up to dessert, and got this cute creme brulee with lots of berries.
On the whole, it was lots of fun, but I thought much of the food wasn’t quite delicious enough to hold up to the level of fussiness. Very amusing presentations, though.
On Monday morning, as the fog burned off, we headed back north on the final leg of our trip.