Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, the celebration of romance which also commemorates the martyrdom of two ancient truth-seekers, both named Valentine. These days, we usually toast the day with a bit of bubbly. Mountain Mike’s Pizza does things a little bit wilder, with a sense of play and a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes. Yes, for all of you who’ve been holding your breath for this long-awaited treat, the heart-shaped pizza is back! And it’s available at our very own depot of pizza heaven, Mountain Mike’s on 3715 Portola Drive. This heart-shaped baby is available for the same price as a large, one-topping pizza, $21.99—the MM people tend to favor a slathering of crispy curly pepperoni, but you’re free to select the topping that strikes your romantic fancy. Order your V-Day pizza for cozy enjoyment on your own couch, terrace, dinner table, bed, as you like it. Add the appropriate beverage of your choice—Birichino Rosé comes to mind—and let the games begin! mountainmikespizza.com.
Two more Valentine’s ideas are special dining at Gabriella Cafe and Mentone. At Gabriella, romantic every day of the year, the $75 prix fixe dinner includes choices of rack of lamb, New York steak, chanterelle risotto, swordfish or duck breast preceded by oysters, dungeness crab cakes and the usual other suspects. Five courses, $75/person on Monday, February 14. Gabriella is also open for Sunday dinner for the a la carte crowd.
At Mentone, where weekend lunch service just began (noon-2:30pm), your Valentine’s Day reservation ($90/person) involves Beau Soleil Oysters, Caviar with Manresa brioche ($130 supplement), Roasted Brassicas Caesar followed by a choice of Gnocchi with truffle cream or Beef Short Rib with parsnips. Dessert choices are Chocolate Pot de Creme and pistachio crumble with chantilly cream. Hurry for reservations! FYI: Mentone will be closed Sun Feb. 13th for normal service, but will be offering a special to-go menu for the Super Bowl for pick-ups between 12-3pm. Pan pizza slices, fried chicken, wood-fired pizzas and caesar salad (plus to-go spritz cocktails).
Tastes of the Week
At Bantam, we were knocked out by a surprising dish of trumpet royale mushrooms with yellow eye beans, chard and herb yogurt ($22), the beans and mushrooms trading earth flavors in their luscious creamy sauce. And it was perfect with the excellent house Negroni ($12) and that addictive slab of housemade bread with salted butter ($5). And from Barceloneta, we were transported by a dish of roasted brussels sprouts ($12). The humble winter veggie was transformed by flash fried capers, pickled currants, Meyer lemon and romesco sauce. Unbelievable combination of flavors, but that’s what I always expect from this lively downtown dining room. Don’t miss this dish, ditto the brilliant and tart house pickled veggies, especially the deep pink radish. Sexy flavors for a mere $4.
The Humble Sea team is about to open its second Santa Cruz County taproom in the historic Cremer House in Felton—Humble Sea Tavern. Lee DeGraw, Humble Sea’s head of marketing says to expect a full menu of “elevated comfort food,” plus artisanal craft cocktails. Brews will still be brewed at the Swift Street taproom, home of the outrageous Secret Garden, and the team will bring many rotating taps up to the new Tavern. The oldest surviving structure in Felton, Cremer House was built in 1876 as a lodging for loggers during the big redwood boom of the late 19th century. Bootleg booze, gambling and available women haunted the premises back then. Fast forward through various general stores, beauty salons and finally restaurants, and now Humble Sea Tavern. Stay tuned!