Dishcrawl Santa Cruz has had two events this year, each of them a fun outing to four different restaurants. The debut event was in January (read my recap article) and the second event—held last week, on Feb. 26—was also great fun. Both evenings offered the chance to meet new people, try new foods and/or restaurants, and participate in a unique community event.
The Feb. 26 event had about 15 diners, as opposed to the 40 who attended the first one. I don’t think the number of people made it better or worse, just different. January was a more lively experience and February was a more intimate one.
The basic premise of a Dishcrawl? You visit four restaurants within walking distance of each other, spending about 30-40 minutes in each venue. The company also operates events called “Neighborfood” and the first Santa Cruz one is April 14 (note: this is a change from the March 14 date announced in my last article). Buy tickets online for $40. With Neighborfood, you visit 8 restaurants on a Sunday afternoon. Instead of traveling with a large group, you go at your own pace – it’s a self-guided tour.
Last week, we began at El Palomar at 7pm, where we sat down and were immediately given tasty chips and salsa. A short time later, servers brought each of us a large plate overflowing with food: ceviche, chicken, carne asada, and beans. My favorite elements were the tender carne asada and the flavorful beans with Mexican cheese sprinkled on top.
Next, we visited Café Gratitude. It appeared that besides our host (Dishcrawl Santa Cruz ambassador Wes Katayama), I was the only person in the group who had ever dined at this vegan restaurant. We were quickly served platters of food, and the selections were quite tasty and fresh. We dined on vegan sushi rolls, organic potatoes with “cashew nacho cheese” sauce (the dish is called “I am grounded” if you look for it on the menu), and polenta topped with mushroom ragout. It was a trio of dishes that worked well as a sampling of Café Gratitude’s offerings, and it seemed like Gratitude gained some new fans! I’m very happy about that, especially after hearing that Café Gratitude has announced that “in appreciation of…service and safety provided to our community,” it’s offering free meals to all Santa Cruz Police Department officers for the rest of 2013. This business truly deserves our gratitude, for such a wonderful gesture. Feb. 26, the day of the Dishcrawl, was actually the day Santa Cruz lost two police offers and I am glad that I had the opportunity to interact with various folks in the community that evening.
Our third stop was Laili. Again, we received great service and great food, and I always enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of this restaurant. I was already quite full, but once I took the first bite, I had to keep going. We tasted small portions of three dishes: Pumpkin Boranee (a dip), the Silk Road Plate (hummus, babaghanoush, tabbouleh, cucumber yogurt), and Pomegranate Eggplant.
Last but not least, we visited Penny Ice Creamery for dessert. Co-owner Zach Davis presented us with special treats: a chocolate hazelnut napoleon (included cookies and mousse) in a bowl with blood oranges, a scoop of burnt
cinnamon ice cream, and organic whipped cream. Sounds yummy, right? It was even creamier and better than it sounds! In addition to the sweet treat, Davis gave an engaging speech about Penny's history, practices (using local farms, etc.) and values. Because they have a state-regulated pasteurization facility and are licensed pasteurizers, they make their own ice cream base instead of buying a pre-mixed base (which can be 95-99% of the finished ice cream product).
I followed up with Davis a few days after the event, to get more details: “We uses only organic evaporated cane juice, organic free range eggs, and organic cream and milk, sourcing each ingredient individually,” says Davis. “We craft each complete recipe to optimize the flavor profile. Making our own base also allows us to use less sugar than many other ice creams. We do this because we like our flavors to emerge over the course of eating an entire scoop, and for this to happen the ice cream can't be overly sweet.”
At the Dishcrawl, Davis briefly but sincerely reflected on the afternoon’s violent tragedy and thanked the attendees for participating in this kind of community event where people are walking the streets, engaging in the community, and connecting with each other. The next day, I noticed on Facebook that Davis had posted a very eloquent and touching piece regarding community. I want to share it here, with his permission. See below if you are interested.
Hope to see you at future Dishcrawl events, and other food- and community-related happenings in Santa Cruz. Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie. Stay in the loop for future Dishcrawl Santa Cruz events by “liking” its Facebook page.
The Penny Ice Creamery’s status update, posted on Facebook Feb. 27:
“Yesterday Kendra and I attended the afternoon Santa Cruz City Council meeting in support of the future of Santa Cruz Open Streets, a wonderful event that builds community around health, art, education, music, and sustainability. Not long after Open Streets Director Saskia Lucas had given her presentation, we heard an unusual amount of sirens around city hall, and I could feel the energy in the room begin to change. Within minutes a recess was called, the council left the room, and then returned, visibly shaken, some in tears.
Later in the evening I was at the Penny to welcome and host a group of folks for the final course of Dishcrawl, a progressive dining event. At 9pm at night they had just walked over from Laili on Cooper Street, and piled into the shop excited and flushed from the cool night air.
As I greeted them I reflected on how much I love Santa Cruz. We are blessed with a beautiful setting yes, but we are also blessed with amazing people. People who put on events like Open Streets that bring thousands of us together to celebrate community. People who bring positive activity to our streets at night; their walking, talking, and breathing life into our downtown makes it so vibrant. And people who keep us safe; who wake up each morning with the mission of keeping Santa Cruz peaceful and secure.
Today I mourn the loss of two of those people. I cannot begin to understand the actions that would take them from us. What I can understand is that, in as much as I have the power, I will not let the actions of those few individuals that would do harm define me or my city. I will try to follow the lead of so many exceptional people around me, and do anything and everything I can to make Santa Cruz a wonderful place. In doing so I hope I can honor the ultimate sacrifice of those who worked so hard towards the same goal.
With respects and prayers to Sgt. Baker, Det. Butler, their families, and the SCPD.
Owner, The Penny Ice Creamery”