Chef Ross McKee lights it up at Hotel Paradox’s new Solaire restaurant.
Welcome to Paradox
Hotel Paradox showed that the house dining room, Solaire, is serious about its modernist ambience, streamlined menu and visuals. It’s a welcome contrast to days gone by at this vintage Ocean Avenue location.
Armed with the excellent house wine—Chalone—in shades of Chardonnay (big, opulent, yet not overly-oaked) and Cabernet Sauvignon (rich, leathery and a bit too warm), we plunged into the sage-green soft, comfortable chairs and began to enjoy appetizers of caprese salad with terrific house-made mozzarella, and another of thin rings of deep-fried calamari, each dish aromatic with fresh basil, olive oil and lemon.
Entrees were quite notable—a wide rectangle of skirt steak, very pink and tender, paired with local broccoli rabe and crisp pommes frites—and another of Arctic char (sensuous and resembling a cross between halibut and salmon) astride a dice of sweet pink beets, potatoes and a tangle of delicious fresh cabbage.
Along with soft francese and little butter balls, we thoroughly enjoyed the chance to explore this lavish, and very smart transformation of the old Holiday Inn into a visual feast. Wood—lots and lots of playful uses of repurposed eucalyptus, gnarled manzanita, and photo-realistic redwoods—is the theme of this very new, streamlined highly modern Hotel Paradox and its excellent dining room, Solaire.
The highly conversational dinner series—make that Literary Salon—continues next week at Gabriella Cafe with the presence of acclaimed biographer and raconteuseCarolyn Burke. Burke is a loquacious and charming salonista who will fill your after-dinner neural circuitry with behind-the-scenes revelations about poet Mina Loy, expatriot photographer Lee Miller and legendary Parisian chanteuseEdith Piaf, all of whom have been brilliantly examined by Burke in much-praised print. Join the never-boring author on Sept, 18, over dinner starting at 7:30pm and then for a few choice readings and discussion starting at 8:30pm over dessert, etc. Gabrilla Cafe, still and always in downtown Santa Cruz—call 831.457.1677 to place your reservation for the Tuesday salon dinner.
Dig in @ Dig!
Dig! is the 4th annual Live Earth Farm Field Wine Dinner. On Sept. 22 join chefs Karen Haralson, Rebecca Mastoris and Jonathan Miller for an elegant four-course sit-down dinner in the heart of the Pajaro Valley. It all happens at Live Earth Farmin Watsonville, where the al fresco feast will follow a round of appetizers and a tour of the organic farm fields with grower Tom Broz. The vibrant foods will be joined by wines from Storrs Winery. This elegant outdoor dining experience benefits the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program, and a Pizza-making, Farm Game children’s program will delight your young ones. Tickets $150 adults, $25 children’s program —hurry, this event is almost sold out! For more, www.liveearthfarm.net/learn.aspx.
Pandol Pinot Noir
After working her way through UCSC’s Agroecology program, Jennifer Pandolgot serious about winemaking. Her artisenal pinot noirs—made from top-flight Santa Cruz Mountains grapes—have come to the attention of wine lovers and media for the past seven years. I just discovered Pandol’s 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains made from Regan Vineyard grapes, this week at New Leaf Market. We sampled the Pandol wine with king salmon one night, and again with coq au vinthe next. And we were impressed. At 14% alcohol this accessible wine (astonishingly priced at only $22) delivers an opulence of cherries, plums, and spicy mint all floating on subtle tannins and a hint of mushroomy forest floor. Among the few women winemakers in our area, here’s one whose technique keeps pace with, well, other fine winemakers.
Look for a November opening date for Bantam, the Westside’s soon-to-be neighborhood pizza parlor, owned and operated by chef/entrepreneur Benjamin Sims and his wife Sarah. Patrice Boyle, owner of Soif and La Posta told me that Sarah will be leaving her post as floor manager of La Posta next month to help open the new Westside pizzeria. . . . And speaking of Soif (nice segue, no?) I couldn’t help but notice a few nights ago that the house salmon tartare crostini went beautifully with a glass of Birichino’s new Pinot Noir. Plenty of pushback from plums and spice in the wine, to match the shallots and olive oil in the salmon tapas.