.Chef Katherine Stern Hits New Heights at La Posta

We used our January birthdays as an excuse to enjoy a long-overdue dinner at La Posta, culinary star of the Seabright. Warm service, great neighborhood vibes, and that astonishing housemade bread helped build a memorable dining experience. The setting is always a crucial element in restaurant dining, but in this case the food itself went supernova. Simply put: I would gladly consume the very same dinner created by chef Katherine Stern sitting in the parking lot of a truck stop. It was the most satisfying meal we’ve ever had at this never-better landmark.

The bread (my favorite is the dark walnuty variety, while Jack prefers the sourdough) with a reckless slathering of butter kept us company throughout. The Mt. Lassen trout ($28) with braised chard was quickly claimed by my companion, and I—hungry for pasta—ordered the pappardelle with milk-braised pork ($21). We bypassed appetizers, which took tons of restraint, because we wanted to share a dessert.

Our wines reminded us of the whole point of this Italianate menu. Frank’s La Ca’Nova Langhe Nebbiolo ($11.25), proved both supple and spicy, opening continuously throughout our meal. My Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d’Alba ($10.50), with hints of black cherries and toasted violets, was a terrific partner for the pasta to come (both wines, Piemonte 2015). Along with the house Sangiovese, these wines display the skill and taste given to every wine selection at La Posta.

The trout—the word “tumescent” comes to mind—was exceptional with its accompanying chard, celery root, and preserved yuzu relish. A cross between a potato and a turnip, flavorwise, the root was a brilliant flavor contrast with the tang of the preserved citrus, and the sweet flesh of the trout, succulent and fresh. The al dente pappardelle (not easy to finesse) were entwined liberally with fork-tender shreds of braised pork. Dusted with a froth of grated parmesan, this luscious dish blew me away. Flecks of dark green kale threaded through the pasta, and the cheese obligingly melted into each bite. I cannot recall encountering a finer pasta creation, here or in Italy. I could have eaten another plate of it right there and then! Our uncomplicated dessert of almond cake arrived sided with a pool of orange curd. Delicate rings of candied mandarins and slices of toasted almonds adorned the top of the soft, sensuous cake ($9). Here was a dessert worth bypassing the cheese platter for, and then some. Kudos to the chef, her team, and to the flawless servers of La Posta.

La Posta is at 538 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. lapostarestaurant.com.

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Goodbye to all that

On Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, Hoffman’s has finally called it a day. After many years, and a variety of transformations, the family-run establishment has closed its doors. Rising costs of doing business downtown, competition, and many other factors no doubt led to this fork in the road. Ditto Oasis Tasting Room and Kitchen, not even a year in business, and suddenly closed last week. The River Street partnership of Chris LaVeque, the genius behind El Salchichero artisanal butcher shop, and Alec Stefansky of Uncommon Brewers seemed never to quite achieve traction. In both cases, my take is that patrons don’t respond well to mixed messages, however sexy it may seem to mix it up as far as styles and strategies. Hoffman’s made its name by its fine European-style pastries. But with its full restaurant, the message was not always clear. With Oasis, again, too much information—massive space!—and lack of focus. Good luck to all involved with ventures ahead!


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