.Mo’s Dumpling is a Welcome Addition to Santa Cruz’s Westside

The new Asian fusion spot boasts an extensive menu from fried wings to noodle dishes

For my initial visit to Mo’s Dumpling on Mission, I dove right past the dumplings and opted for a combo plate of Ma Po tofu with shrimp, and a side of garlic fried noodles ($13.50). My mouth is still happily haunted with garlic and sesame oil from the huge expanse of soft succulent tofu bathed in spicy bean paste sauce.

The Chinese noodles themselves were addictive, as were the thick slices of wok’d baby bok choy. Custom cooked to order, the lunch was more than enough to satisfy a hungry woman (me), and still take some home.

The Mo’s menu is extensive, from dumplings to noodles to soups to fried rice, spicy sichuan string beans and myriad fried wing specialties. Gonna have to work my way through this menu, too.

The Westside is booming right now, between exceptional cocktails at Vim and Bantam to enlightened appetizers at Venus and Avanti, and the new Namaste.

Mo’s Dumpling, 2301 Mission St., Santa Cruz. Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30am-9pm. Closed Monday. Online orders for pickup. mosdumpling.com.

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Bad Animal, Good Company

Always a treat to stop by Bad Animal, and not just for books. Rita and I took an early dinner in her favorite corner banquette—it’s everybody’s favorite spot at this chic literary salon.

I always love trying something from the eclectic wine menu, and my glass of Catalonian unfiltered orange wine from Raimones ($15) hit the spot on a warm evening. Piquant notes of salt and spice made it a memorable partner to the meal. Rita enjoyed her bronze-hued Sicilian blood orange soda from Tomarchio ($5), another refreshing choice. The evening starter of fig toast ($16) turned out to be an opulent plate of two toasted slices of sourdough, beautifully topped with layers of olive oil, warm fresh figs, tangles of paper-thin prosciutto and shavings of fennel. Each flavor romanced every other one, in one of those alliances that chef Katherine Stern does so well.

We both ordered bowls of tagliatelle ($23); Stern is the queen of pasta, and this one was no exception. The perfectly cooked pasta arrived laced with bits of bacon, tiny pale green shavings of summer squash and a lavish dusting of pecorino. This is pasta worth finding a parking spot for. A wonderful and 100% satisfying pasta creation. We ate every bite.

A dessert of lemon verbena panna cotta ($10) looked lovely, although the quivering square of custard proved very light in the lemon verbena department. A raspberry compote on the side was heavenly, and we also scarfed down the exceptional cornmeal cookies as quickly as was decent.

Keep on Truckin’

Scotts Valley’s Skypark—yes, there once was a small airport and runway where my dad used to fly single engine planes—hosts monthly outdoor gatherings starring your favorite food trucks.

Food Truck Friday is coming up on August 26, and that means KPIG’s Michael Gaither and Friends will perform the live soundtrack to incredibly spiced and seasoned freshly-made foods from Saucey’z, Taquizas Gabriel, Kuki’s Bowls, Scrumptious Fish and Chips, Aunt LaLi’s and Cracked Cookies. It’s happening on Friday, Aug. 26 from 5-8pm at Skypark, 361 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley. Bring a lawn chair, there are picnic tables and easy parking. Free.

Gayle’s Forever!

I couldn’t resist picking up an emergency dinner from Gayle’s last week—pistachio-crusted salmon, with sides of thin haricots verts with basil and perfect herb roasted Yukon Gold potatoes ($23.95). It was easy to heat up, and fed us both, plus a lunch the next day.

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