Edible Monterey Bay

EDIBLE NOTABLES: EARTHBELLY

Finely prepared organic fare for the 99%

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Partners in conscious cuisine: above, Chad Greer, Tammy Ogletree and Sarah Davis.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB FISHER

After spending more than 25 years cooking in the fine dining world, Tammy Ogletree and Chad Greer, the wife and husband chef team behind Earthbelly, a new casual eatery in Santa Cruz, are proud to be making sophisticated yet affordable, organic, non-GMO food for a more inclusive community.

“As chefs we’ve always wanted to do something that’s aligned with our morals,” Ogletree says. “We wanted to do something for the greater good that could really help people in a sustainable way.”

Ogletree and Greer met in a kitchen in San Francisco and later moved together to New York City, where they spent several years working the fine dining circuit. In 2004, they opened their own farm-to-table, upscale bistro in New York’s Hudson Valley—a chef’s dream of organic farms and pasture-raised meats.

That restaurant, Beso, was a huge success. But Ogletree says that not long after it opened, she and Greer began meditating on the inequality in the world and dreaming of doing something about it by starting a place that, like Earthbelly, would be more accessible.

Meantime, when the financial crisis hit in 2008, the couple introduced a Recession Menu at Beso. Where filet mignon would be on the main menu, the Recession menu would feature worka hanger steak for half the price. Their innovative, conscious cuisine earned the restaurant a write-up in the Wall Street Journal.

After closing Beso in 2011, the couple began planning to return west. They eventually settled on the Central Coast in 2013, a few weeks before their son, Maxx, was born. Greer took a job as executive chef at LB Steak on Santana Row in San Jose while they looked for potential spots in Santa Cruz where they could open a restaurant to put their philosophy into practice.

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Knowing that it is important for them to maintain balance between family life and their restaurant duties, the couple felt it was auspicious when in 2015 they met Sarah Davis, who is now their business partner and general manager, at a park where their children were playing.

“It was a very organic start to a relationship,” Ogletree says of the instant connection, “and our sons both loved dumptrucks!” Earthbelly opened its doors in late July and has managed to stand out even in the Santa Cruz food scene, which has long been an organic, farm-fresh mecca.

To help keep prices down, Earthbelly uses a no-fuss dining setup with counter service and unbreakable, stylish tin plates. Yet the restaurant, which is an open and airy space, decorated with repurposed wood and planters mounted to the walls, still maintains a feeling of elegance not so common at casual restaurants.

The menu is broad—it ranges from soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and burgers to chicken and seafood entrées—and the culinary talent of Greer and Ogletree can be found in the details of each dish. Greer’s New England Clam Chowder ($4.50/$7.25) is light in body but rich in flavor with whole savory clams bursting open. The Chili & Cornbread ($9.95) has the added depth of smoked flank steak and the cornbread, moist yet gritty with whole kernels of fresh, summer corn, is perfect either dipped in the soup or slathered with the accompanying honey lavender butter. Housemade ricotta provides dishes like the summer squash and eggplant Veggie Pizza ($14.95) with a creamy, tangy kick.

To prepare these dishes, Earthbelly sources ingredients from many local family farms, including Route 1 Farms, Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce, Happy Boy Farms and New Natives.

Those with cookie cravings will be pleased to see that Ogletree, a pastry chef, bakes a seriously chocolatey chocolate chip cookie and an enormous and soft peanut butter and jelly thumbprint. Other bakery offerings include focaccia with a perfect, airy crumb, and Ogletree’s specialty, carrot cake. Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan menu options are available. An organic beer and wine list helps round out the dining experience Ultimately, Ogletree and Greer hope Earthbelly, which they very consciously call a “food stop and meeting place” on the eatery’s website, will help make both their customers and the planet healthier.

“People are constantly on the run, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put things in your body that are bad for you and the earth,” Ogletree says. To fulfill your on-the-go needs, there are display cases full of prepared foods, baked goods and juices. Delivery service is also available.

“We want to be that place people can count on. There’s a lot of integrity behind our food and we are here to serve the community.” Rosie Parker, a native New Englander, likes to complain of missing home while living the Santa Cruz highlife—surfing, hiking, writing and working for a delicious craft brewery.

Earthbelly
381 Soquel Ave.
831.621.2248
www.eatearthbelly.com

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