.Marini’s on the Westside, Restaurants Changing Hands, and Dried Cherry Tomatoes

Marini’s has long been a delicious fixture on the Santa Cruz Wharf, offering golly-gee peeks at how saltwater taffy is mixed and stretched, pulled and cut into those bite-sized, chewy, melting morsels of seaside memories. How long? Well, 101 years long, which means my grandparents and parents did some time behind these luscious, traditional candies, all of which are manifestations of founder Victor A. Marini’s original recipe.

And of course, there’s Marini’s downtown, too. And for about a year now, there’s been a jewel box Marini’s tucked into the Westside Ingalls Street complex, between wineries, New Leaf, and the Bonny Doon Vineyard winemaking headquarters. When I was a kid, living far away from Santa Cruz, I always asked my cousins to send me a box of saltwater taffy for special occasions. I adored those watercolor pastel hues, the striped peppermints, the earthy peanut butter flavors. Today Marini’s is famous for a lot more than just very chewy salt water taffy. Chocolate sea salt caramels are one of the top sellers at the Westside store, where every day except Tuesday you can watch the candy-makers working their magic. Turtles! Chocolate, nuts, and caramel—divine. Irresistible caramel apples, homemade fudge and gazillions of truffles line the gleaming glass display cases. What I hadn’t realized was that Marini’s has another wall of colorful little candies from all over (the wall opposite the enormously popular ice cream bins). The kids can take their little Marini’s bags and fill them with whatever candies appeal to them most—licorice, gummies, house-made caramel corn, lollipops. Adults may be content with beer and wine-tasting around the corner. But for the young ones, there’s ice cream cones and fudge, plus the miniature revolving Ferris wheel. For everybody—especially those far from their Santa Cruz home who crave something coastal to chew on—there’s salt water taffy. A bright green 1-pound box of mixed salt water taffies will run you $15. Not bad for a whole lot of oral satisfaction. Marini’s Westside, 332 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz. mariniscandies.com.

Established Changes

Longtime foodies Ashley and Adam Bernardi will be taking over the former Stockton Bridge Grille, following the retirement of veteran Capitola restaurateur Lee Walters.  The Bernardis, who plan to specialize in farm-to-table California cuisine, have brought in chef Anthony Kresge (Mustards Grill and Miramonte), to take over the kitchen at their new restaurant Sotola Bar & Grill. Look for a mid-October opening of Sotola.

And by now you know that Brad Briske (Gabriella, La Balena, Main St. Garden Cafe) is returning to the Santa Cruz area to the helm of his own restaurant. Briske will be back at the landmark Main Street Garden and Cafe site (3110 N. Main St., Soquel), creating handmade items showcasing fresh produce from the restaurant’s garden. Rumor has it there will be special tasting menus featuring Briske’s adventurous cookery. Anticipate an October opening, with lunch and dinner offerings Tuesday through Saturday.

Shepherd Those Tomatoes

Up to your eyeballs in cherry tomatoes? In her latest newsletter, seed queen Renee Shepherd tempts me to try drying cherry tomatoes (of which you doubtless have many this time of year). Slice them in half, put on oven racks at very low temperature, 140-160 degrees, (or in a food dehydrator), for as many hours as it takes to achieve a leathery texture. Shepherd says to store them in jars or ziplock bags in the refrigerator. Eat them as snacks all year ’round, or—this sounds good—rehydrate them in warm water, wine, or broth for about 10 minutes until they plump back up. Then you can pop them into pastas or salads or whatever you want. Cool, huh? reneesgarden.com.

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