EATERS DIGEST: Superlative seafood, Venus Beachside opens and can the Perg come back up?
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Everyone who works in the restaurant industry is gearing up for a busy weekend, and the rest of us are looking forward to a few days off. If you’re hoping to unwind with a great meal, I’ve got a few seafood-focused recommendations, including Crab Toast at The Farm Bakery & Café in Aptos, Silky Ahi Tuna Carpaccio at Trestles in Capitola, and Bienville Oysters. at the new Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside. There more than one impressed dish – be sure to look at my story on its southern-inspired opening menu, upcoming renovations and what this second restaurant location for Venus Spirits means for sleepy Rio Del Mar.
Also, the Perg is for sale, and I think it would make a great restaurant in good hands. Are you the right person for the job? Plus, two events for craft beer lovers this Saturday.
Read on and have a safe and happy Independence Day.
Does anyone have an interest in reviving a piece of old Santa Cruz? If you do, the historic building that housed Café Pergolesi for 28 years — it closed in August 2017 — is up for sale and can be yours for just under $3 million. Apparently the current owners have been overwhelmed with renovations to the historic home, which includes a three-bedroom apartment above the restaurant space and a 1,050 square foot basement.
I would love to see someone with a lot of vision – and money, it’s definitely a must – create a unique dining experience. The space has an unusual amount of outdoor seating, which is a prime feature in our post-pandemic culinary landscape. This person could host exclusive parties and speakeasy in the basement, and live above the restaurant or create a luxury apartment. The south end of downtown Santa Cruz will see many renovations over the next few years, including the Hotel Cruz and Pacific Station South, which are expected to bring new life and customers to the area. This iron is hot; who will knock?
Tis the season for hanging out on the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. I make at least an annual pilgrimage this time of year to ride the Giant Dipper, spend way too much money wasting money on arcade games, and enjoy one of my beloved corn dogs. Yes, your food and drink reporter loves a corn dog slathered in French mustard in the summer. And now through the end of October, if you buy four Corn Dogs from Surf City Grill — located at Entrance 3, near the Speed Bumps ride — you get a free order of fries. I don’t recommend eating four corn dogs on your own, even for free fries. This year, you can wash it all down with a can of Boardwalk Dreamin’, a limited-edition West Coast IPA created by Humble Sea Brewing Co. for the Boardwalk.
Recently, my closest girlfriends and I celebrated a special anniversary at Trestles Restaurant in Capitola. I haven’t been back since last fall, and I was thrilled that we managed to hang the outdoor table around the fire pit. We zealously ordered what looked like half the menu, and two dishes in particular stood out. In the ahi tuna carpaccio, crisp chunks of avocado tempura and slivers of fresh radish and jalapeño lent a welcome textural contrast and flavor to the rich, silky raw tuna. We considered ordering a second one, but then the next wave of dishes hit the table, including a memorable asparagus Caesar salad. No romaine lettuce here – just long, dark green sprouts of tender asparagus, peppery dandelion greens, salty egg yolk, and crunchy, bitter, earthy, creamy, umami-filled pistachios. Asparagus is nearing the end of its season, so visit soon. More info on Trestlesrestaurant.com.
I have to admit that while I love raw oysters, I usually don’t like them cooked. It’s too easy to overcook them, resulting in an unappetizing metallic taste. But at Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside, I tried my luck on the Bienville Oysters and was thrilled. Beneath the crispy shrimp, morel mushrooms and bacon filling was a freshly caught oyster that was still creamy and brackish. It was one of the many memorable dishes I enjoyed at the newly opened restaurant in Rio Del Mar. Learn about my experience and what it means for the burgeoning Aptos food scene.
husband and wife team Meg and Rolo Igno took over The Farm Bakery, Café & Gifts from Aptos in early 2020, and I’m impressed with the new menu. I’m quickly going through their entire sandwich board and will soon have to move on to brunch items, then the bakery…someone, send some help. Last Sunday, the crab toast hit the mark. The open sandwich was prepared on a thick, chewy slice of Texan toast, piled high with a sweet crab salad, dill and pickled onions. Simple, but just perfect – I have no notes. Discover the new menu of The Farm on thefarmbakerycafe.com.
Free Day, Discretion Brewing’s annual Independence Day celebration, will be held Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. at the Soquel Brewery. “Free” refers to “Freedom”, not free beer, unfortunately. In keeping with its annual tradition, Discretion will release a West Coast-style Free Day IPA on tap and in cans. New this year, proceeds from the event will support Keep Our Clinics, a national campaign that supports independent community reproductive health clinics. Owner Rob Genco says Discretion will donate after the event, but liquor control prevents the brewery from saying how much, as it might encourage people to drink – God forbid! Enjoy your pints while listening to music all day, playing beer garden games and browsing a local artist maker’s market. More info on discretionbrewing.com.
Other Brother Beer Co. is making a trip from Seaside for a Saturday pop-up at Soif Wine Bar in Santa Cruz. In addition to Soif’s elegant wines, the brewery team will be serving a special beer flight and whipping up drive-in style smashburgers and fries. Check it out on Walnut Avenue and find more information on soifwine.com.
Have you ever visited the UC Santa Cruz farm? Here’s a great chance – on Sunday, enjoy a free guided tour of the 30-acre organic farm, including greenhouses, orchards, flower beds and row crops, all overlooking Monterey Bay. Visitors will also learn about the history of the site and the techniques of organic farming and gardening. More information at calendar.ucsc.edu.