OK. I think this whole gluten-free thing has officially jumped the shark….
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the deli/cafe at Santa Cruz Ale Works is one of the city’s best hidden gems.
The brewery opened a cozy little restaurant at their digs in the Harvey West area about a year and a half ago, and it’s not to be missed. There’s also a tasting room, natch.
There’s a full menu of gourmet sandwiches made with house-made smoked meats, krauts, pickles and sauces. There are also salads, soups and sides, all made with high-end ingredients.
Of course, for someone who has been on a strict gluten-free diet for a decade (not by choice,) the appeal of beer and sandwiches is usually lost on me.
Imagine my surprise at finding out that Ale Works actually bakes their own gluten-free bread and offers hard cider.
A recent trip for lunch had me salivating over the Reuben Time on GF bread, made with house-cured corned beef, Swiss cheese, homemade sauerkraut and 1000 island dressing. Add a homemade pickle on the side and I was one happy camper.
My gluten-eating compatriot went for the Buena Vista Cubano, made with oasted pork loin, smoked ham, homemade pickles, Swiss cheese, spicy giardiniera, and Dijon-cilantro aioli. If you’re daring, ask for their specialty “death paste,” but be warned, the name is no euphemism — it’s seriously hot.
As a bonus, these sandwiches are also a pretty good deal at about $8 a pop.
The spot is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Santa Cruz Ale Works is located at 150 Dubois St. in Santa Cruz.
I completely forgot to post for Thanksgiving this year.
It’s funny – when I started this blog, gluten-free was still not that well-known. And now it’s seeming to be everywhere. Maybe that’s part of why my posting has fallen to the wayside. Lately, it just doesn’t seem as necessary.
Anyways, this year I celebrated Thanksgiving with my roommate and his family. His sister hosted, and she was sweet enough to make a GF pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing for me. I brought what has quickly become my new favorite quinoa pilaf – one that combines the hearty grain with pomegranate arils, butternut squash and pistachios.
I brought the same pilaf to a friend’s Fakesgiving party held the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Autumn is probably the only thing I truly miss about the east coast. I miss the visits to apple orchards, drinking hot cider, pumpkin patches, cider donuts (OK, those don’t do much for me anymore) and all of that other fun stuff I associated with an east coast fall.
Still, though it’s quite warm and sunny here, that doesn’t mean northern California is immune to the proliferation of pumpkin-flavored food stuffs that tends to be something an arbiter of fall. Today I passed an advertisement for pumpkin bagels with a “shmear” of pumpkin cream cheese. That might have been one of the few times I didn’t feel too bummed about the lack of gluten in my life — a pumpkin bagel sounds gross to me.
Pumpkin beers are one of the pumpkin-flavored items I seem to see the most of. So when I spotted the pumpkin hard cider from Ace Ciders at Whole Foods, I was intrigued. Ace is based not too far from here in Sebastopol, and while their ciders aren’t my absolute favorites, I’ve really enjoyed the pear variety in the past.
So I bought a six-pack. And drank it. But I’m still undecided. At first it seemed a little too candy-sweet for my liking, and perhaps a bit too much allspice flavor. By the second one though, I was digging it. I don’t normally feel so “meh” about things but this seems to be one. I just can’t decide if I like it or not. I kind of wanted a little more overt pumpkin flavor and not just the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg flavors. I’m probably going to need to try it again to really make up my mind. I suppose there are worse realities.
Last month I hit the big 3-0.
So long twenties, hello thirties.
I celebrated with dinner at Caffe Lucio, a funny Italian joint on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. I’d heard it was quite the place. The owner looks like Einstein and embraces the resemblance with aplomb, even going so far as to name several of his cocktails in Einsteinian fashion, i.e. the E=MC 2. Not only that, but Lucio likes to rock the dance music and get the disco lights going. The enthusiastic restauranteur soon brought out silly masks — a unicorn, a rooster and Hilary Clinton – for my guests to wear, and he was cutting a rug on the dance floor most of the night. It was pretty much everything I could have hoped for on my 30th birthday, a night on which I’d declared my intention to have as David Lynchian experience as possible.
My original plan for a “bathrobes and ballgowns birthday bowling bash” went kaput thanks to someone else booking the entire bowling alley up for the night of my birthday. Slightly defeated, I saw the sign on Caffe Lucio advertising “gluten-free pizza and pasta available” and decided to give it a shot. I’m definitely glad I did. I plan to go back!
Courtesy of the Awl, I bring you a new dating site for celiacs – or as the Awl so succinctly put it: “a new website for people who think not eating gluten is why no one will fuck them.”
“Attempting to live life without gluten comes with many annoyances. There’s the near-impossible feat of ordering in restaurants, the jacked-up prices for gluten-free goods, and worst of all, dealing with people who interrogate you every time you turn down a slice of cake or pizza, then roll their eyes when you tell them you can’t eat gluten.
Finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, though, is probably like 23rd on the list of things that bother people with gluten intolerance. It just isn’t really an issue.
But if you simply insist on finding a mate who has the same highly specific allergy as you do (or is willing to date someone with celiac), there’s a new website called GlutenfreeSingles.”
Check out GlutenFreeSingles if you’re interested.
I was having a craving for fried food like nobody’s business recently. It’s funny – I don’t recall every really craving fried food back before I went gluten-free. Its absence, however, seems to make me desperately want it.
In particular this one night all I wanted were mozzarella sticks, which I hadn’t had in about 10 years. Fortunately for me, my gluten-free guru Elizabeth Barbone has an easy recipe that makes for some great mozz sticks. Using string cheese makes it so simple!
New York City friends –
This is awesome.
Serious Eats is reporting that Manhattan’s Del Posto restaurant claims to have perfected their gluten-free pastas.
The restaurant now offers all of their dishes in a gluten-free version. Even better, the Serious Eats guys are pleasantly surprised by how good it is.
I’m especially intrigued by the luna piena with castelmagno and white truffle butter, described as:
“The dish is sort of a free-form raviolo, really, with a thin, thin layer of mild, creamy Castelmagno cheese sandwiched between two full-moons of pasta coated with a truffle butter emulsion, and insanely delicious (It had better be, for the $20 supplement on top of the fixed price menu).
I plowed into mine, lost in the aroma of truffles, feeling the slight bite of the pasta between my teeth, and noting the way the sauce clung to its microscopically pitted surface.”
A couple of weeks ago my friend Andrea and I hosted a food swap at the commercial kitchen space she shares on Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, despite the number of people who RSVP’d, turnout was rather low. I’m going to blame it on the fact that it turned out to be such a lovely day. Maybe an evening would be better than an afternoon. Still, it was a fine first outing and I’d love to hold another one later in the summer when people have lots of great garden bounty.
We ended up with a nice assortment of items: eggs, lemons and lime, bundles of fresh herbs, my limoncello and orangecello, spiced chocolate ganache by Andrea, French chicken soup also by Andrea, red onion jam, marmalade, dried wild mushrooms, sauerkraut and kimchee, chive blossom vinegar, coconut chips, a variety of pickled veggies, membrillo (quince paste) and persimmon chutney. I might be missing something.
Meet Rose Calucchia.
The Brooklyn transplant runs her own gluten-free baking company, works as a personal trainer and also practices Chinese acrobatics and aerial arts.
Sounds like a perfect fit for Santa Cruz, no?
Calucchia started Sweet Cheeks Bake Shop back in 2009 while she was living in Brooklyn. Though never formally tested for celiac disease, the Ohio native has been eating a gluten-free diet for about 12 years after she began suffering numerous health issues. Eventually, through process of elimination, she realized gluten was the culprit.
At first, Sweet Cheeks produced both gluten-containing and gluten-free items.
“I really liked baking and was always trying to figure things out,” Calucchia says of her reasons for starting the business.
She started out small, baking for friends, relying on word of mouth and eventually getting gigs at weddings and places like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
She relocated to Santa Cruz about a year ago after 10 years in New York City and decided to forgo the gluten all together. Still, she says, she doesn’t like to make a big deal out of being gluten-free. She wants to make delicious items that just happen to be gluten-free.
“I don’t want people to have preconceived notions about it,” she says.
So far, it seems to be working.
After tasting her wares at events, people will often tell her afterwards “Wow, that was gluten-free? I couldn’t tell!”
She’s catered a recent wine release party for Beauregard Vineyards in Bonny Doon, had her baked goods incorporated in an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art and has provided the goodies for a number of weddings. She’s also hoping to be able to start selling her baked goods to local stores soon.
Her stuff is not vegan, however, as many have asked.
“I really like using butter and eggs,” she says. “I make the real deal – just without the gluten.”
Currently she shares a commercial kitchen space in Capitola with other small food producers, including Friend in Cheeses and Family Famous Food, a which specializes in kiwi salsas. Sharing the space with other producers has led to some fun collaborations, such as finding ways to incorporate Friend in Cheeses jams and preserves into her baking, Colucchia says. For a recent winery event, she cooked up a batch of chocolate cream cheese thumbprint cookies with Friend in Cheeses’ strawberry tarragon jam to pair with a merlot.
Being in Santa Cruz allows her the opportunity to work with so many wonderful local ingredients, and she says the local citrus has been playing a big role in her baking – she’s been making dozens of lemon bars, for instance. She also loves the friendly nature of Santa Cruz, and the numerous opportunities for collaboration.
When not busy whipping up delicious cookies, cupcakes and pastries, Calucchia is a personal trainer at Equinox Gym in Palo Alto. She’s also looking to get more involved with Chinese acrobatics locally, a passion she was actively involved in back east. (She also was a dance major at Sarah Lawrence College.) Though she hasn’t found much of a scene for this locally, she has begun working with folks in San Francisco and Oakland.
And while it might seem contradictory for a personal trainer to also run a baking company, Calucchia says she believes she’s reached a happy medium with the two. While sweets aren’t always the healthiest snack, she strives to produce good, old-fashioned “real” foods that can be enjoyed without reservation — in moderation, of course. Maybe you shouldn’t hoover the entire plate of cookies… (Eds. note: I wanted to. Badly. The chocolate chip cookies are as close to Tollhouse style as I can remember since going gluten-free.)
Oh, and if you wondered, the silhouette of a woman doing a handstand in the Sweet Cheeks logo? Yep, it’s based on a photo of Calucchia – a nod to her love of dancing and acrobatics.
“I spent days and days in New York, drawing pictures and coming up with words,” she says of the design and her company name.
A friend suggested the name and it stuck. It was cute, kitschy but not too twee.
“It wouldn’t be me if it was too twee,” she says.
Interested in ordering some baked goods for your next event? Contact Sweet Cheeks here.