Randall Grahm's restaurant on Ingalls Street will close Dec. 31.
Closing: Le Cigare Volant: “A restaurant requires 200 percent of an owner's time,” admitted winemaker Randall Grahm, whose large-scale restaurant will close as of December 31. 'Til then, fans of chef Ryan Shelton's cooking—and his wife Oomi's cosmic pastries—still have a few more days to stop by. Dinner Wed-Sun 5:30-9, 328 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz; reservations @425-6771.
Opening: Lago di Como: A new restaurant and, yes, pizzeria on the site of the former Nuevo Southwestern Grill on East Cliff Drive. Open Tues-Sunday. Check it out!
Sparkling Solutions: Standing in front of three dozen varieties of sparkling wine, John Locke, wine manager of Soif, reminds me that “there is way more variety in champagne than most people know.” To prove it, he singled out a few decidedly non-generic sparklers. In the $54, special occasion ballpark, Pierre Gimonnet & Fils brut is everything a champagne should be. A classic style, mineral-laden, all-chardonnay blanc de blanc, this opulent champagne comes from one of the better-known small producers in France. The poetically named extra brut Résonance, from Marie-Courtin ($57), Locke describes as “sizzling dry.” This energetic $60 creation loaded with peaches and chalky mineral notes is made from single vineyard, all-estate pinot noir grapes. Highly drinkable, fragrant and loaded with depths rarely found in large-scale methode champenoise sparklers. Or you could simply come by the Soif Wine Shop and browse for your own New Year's Eve statement sparkler.
Speaking of Soif: Here is what Chef Santos is thinking about for New Years —$75 per person, with optional wine supplement of $35. After a spate of amuses bouche, there will be choices of Maine lobster soup, or fried pork belly with green papaya, or farmer's market salad with Asian pear and manchego. Intermezzo of Yuzu and basil granita leads to your choice of winter squash ravioli, or tuna belly and veal sweet breads, or Peking duck breast with baby turnips. Desserts to consider include chocolate mousse, goat cheese panna cotta and pineapple upside-down cake with crème fraiche sherbet. Contact the Soif folks at 831/423-2020 for your reservation.
Surf's Up on New Year's : Consider a front-row seat on the ocean as well as the lights of the Boardwalk, all visible from your window seat at Aquarius restaurant and lounge. Chef Brian Drosenos has whipped up a 5-couse, $85 (sans tax & tip) menu along with live music from Grammy-nominated Tammi Brown. Dancing, you bet! The early seating ($65) runs from 5pm to 6:30pm, where wild arugula salad or mushroom velouté starts things off. Main courses include slow-poached lobster, or seared Skuna Bay salmon, or grilled Colorado lamb loin, or toasted farro with butternut squash and fig puree. Dessert includes chocolate cake with toasted pistachios and caramel sauce (oh God), or a pineapple tasting with roasted salsa, frozen yogurt, local honey and black sesame sponge cake. The gala 9pm dinner ($85) expands with an amuse of Yukon gold potato blini, crème fraiche and caviar, as well as a second course of Asian-style tuna poke. If you choose the early seating, you're out in time to head for the big party. If you choose the 9pm seating, you'll already be at the big party. Call Aquarius at 831.460-5000 for reservations.