Chef Jessica Yarr knows how to cook up a good time.
Santa Cruzers familiar with her Chicken Foot pop-up downtown have known this for a while. Now the gentle people of Felton, where she came of age at her parents’ Bigfoot Discovery Museum and recently opened The Grove Cafe + Bakery, are learning that in full-flavored ways.
As of late last week, national audiences got their own serving.
Last Thursday and Friday, Yarr appeared on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.” After she took down fellow chef Matthew Zafrir in a qualifying cookoff—surprise ingredient: white asparagus—she picked the food item she wanted to outcook Flay on: pierogies, a nod to both her grandmothers’ heritage.
Before Yarr v. Flay, show co-host/celeb chef Anne Burrell—an alum of Pebble Beach Food & Wine, which returns in 2024 after several years dark—yelled something like, Be warned! adding, “Flay is short for flavor!”
Yarr didn’t flinch. “Yarr is short for Y’are going down!”
While I didn’t taste their creations, it’s hard to believe the judges got it right in voting Flay victorious, especially if authenticity matters. (Flay’s take looked more empanada than anything.)
Meanwhile, Yarr featured pierogies as a special in Felton last weekend, where fresh pop-up events, expanded hours, local wine and craft beer represent new updates.
New hours are 8am-4pm Tuesday-Thursday, 8am-6pm Friday-Saturday (with 3-5 pm happy hour) and 8am-3pm Sunday brunch. Nov. 10, a four-course vegan tasting menu featuring Goldmine Adaptogens arrives, and feels like a winner.
One kitchen door closes, another opens: Reef Dog Deli is done in Capitola, but a promising new occupant opens this month. La Marea Café (marea meaning “tide” in Italian) will star Detroit-style pizzas, salads and seasonal specials from Westside Farmers Market darling Jayne Dough (aka Jayne Droese), plus fresh coffee from Syllable Coffee, sourdough bagels and other breakfast goodies. jaynedoughpizza.com
Sunday, Nov. 12, Downtown Wine Walk’s fall edition drops tasting stations at an archipelago of retailers. Given the roster of participating wineries—including Big Basin Vineyard, Raffaelli Vineyards, Doon To Earth, Random Ridge, Lago Lomita Vineyards, Inversion Wines, Roudon-Smith Winery, Bargetto Winery, Birichino, Stirm Wine Co., Rexford Winery and Windy Oaks Estate—the $45 passport presents sturdy value. downtownsantacruz.com
KEEP IT COMING
Turbo news nibbles: 1) Santa Cruz’s own Cruz Foam—the crew behind a Styrofoam alternative crafted from shrimp shells that’s handy for food handling—just earned a nod as one of Time Magazine‘s Best Inventions of 2023 for Cruz Cool, a proprietary cooler made from the same stuff; 2) Big Sur Food & Wine takes flight (and pours flights) this weekend, Nov. 2-4, bigsurfoodandwine.org; 3) Winemaker Mark Bright’s bespoke Saison Cellar & Wine Bar is officially open in Scotts Valley, saisoncellar.com.