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Alderwood Celebrates First Anniversary

Santa Cruz is finally adding some much-needed culinary gravitas as it ups its gastronomic game. Alderwood is the latest foodie hotspot, anchored by a well-priced happy hour with select oysters at $1.25 apiece. Miller High Life and a burger for $10? Wow. But this is no burger joint. With gratitude for the warm embrace of the Santa Cruz community and support from loyal patrons during its inaugural year, Alderwood Santa Cruz invites you come in and celebrate with them as they begin another chapter in their culinary adventure.

The contemporary interior and open kitchen of Alderwood (photo: Andrew Thomas Lee)

What a difference a year makes, especially if it’s your first year in business as a fine dining-meets-neighborhood restaurant. For Alderwood, it is an especially poignant moment in the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant scene; an adventure they could not embark upon without an excited group of supporters.

A great meal at Alderwood should start with the raw bar. Staples include oysters, uni, Maine lobster and caviar. Oysters and bubbles are certainly encouraged, so Alderwood has you covered with selections like Equinox Monterey rosé, Kathryn Kennedy’s Cuvée Twenty-Seven and Gruet Sauvage blanc de blancs — all reasonably priced by the glass. Beer lovers will rejoice at the vast selection of local brews, and they’ve got local ciders, too. A truly excellent selection of wines by the glass awaits, including local stars like Armitage, Big Basin Vineyards, Birichino and Bottle Jack.

Alderwood serves its unique take on coastal, wood-fired cuisine, inspired by the bounty of the world-renowned farms of our incomparable Central Coast. Chef Jeffrey Wall, who most recently helmed the award-winning farm-to-table Kimball House restaurant just outside Atlanta, Georgia, is taking to his new surroundings like a fish to water. He offers a five-course tasting menu nightly for $120, with wine pairings for $55, that might include items like items like house-made pasta, grilled Maine lobster with Brussels sprouts and caviar sauce, and dry-aged New York strip with black trumpet mushrooms and sauce bordelaise.

Raw Bar (photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum)

Carve into one of Alderwood’s 60-day-aged steaks, and you might think you’ve inadvertently been Ubered (or Lyfted) to San Francisco. Cooked in the hearth, this meat has been aged in-house and has an impressive provenance: USDA prime meats, domestic wagyu from Nakagawa Ranch and Japanese wagyu from Foods in Season, as well as offerings from Allen Brothers and Flannery beef —all trusted sources. Plus, you get to choose from a selection of sauces and butters, like smoked pecan butter and blue cheese butter. Heaven.

Vegetarians, though, can rejoice, as chef Wall’s vegetable dishes can be the centerpiece of a table. He understands how to creatively elevate vegetables to a pinnacle of mouth-watering goodness. He also brings his creative take on hand-made pastas, including the chestnut and squash tortellini with salsify and mushroom bordelaise. Says Wall, “Vegetables write the menu. That’s how you know what time of year it is.” And it’s winter, so how does roasted Hen of the Woods mushrooms with celery root and maple gastrique sound? Or stir-fried greens with aji pear, ginger broth and an optional fried egg?

Pescatarians will revel in the pan roasted ling cod with savoy cabbage, shishito peppers and trout roe-champagne sauce, or the lobster risotto with fennel and fenugreek meunière. 

And don’t forget to save room for dessert. How could you say no to Apple Pie Profiterole with spiced caramel and brown butter streusel?

Housemade Squid Ink Pasta at Alderwood (photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum)

A list of crave-able craft cocktails make this gourmet haven a place to linger, and to bring your mates. With the juices squeezed fresh daily, be sure to try their signature drink, The Alderwood, a perfectly balanced combination of gin, Cocchi Americano, fino sherry and Alderwood bitters, or the New Tokyo, with scotch, pine & pear brandy, ginger, yuzu and lime. They have also just added four new classic cocktails to their list, so there is always something for everyone.

To encourage conviviality, Alderwood is hosting its beloved happy hour menu all night, through the end of January. This means that the happy hour menu is now available from 4 pm to closing daily, except Mondays and Tuesdays when the restaurant is closed. In effect until the end of 2019, Happy Hour items include a cheeseburger and beer combo ($10), oysters ($1.25—$4) and shrimp cocktail ($15). Drinks include $9 classic cocktails, $8 select wines and $7 select beers. 

Wintry Hen of the Woods Mushrooms (photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum)

Being attentive to the needs of one’s clientele is key to making any dance requiring a partner a long-term success, so the Alderwood folks are keen to engage and learn what resonates with you, the all-important customer. So, new developments are afoot, including some fun new snacks, and you’ll only discover them if you set foot in the door. You can also follow them on social media at @alderwoodsantacruz (Instagram and Facebook) or @cruzalderwood (Twitter).

What can you expect when you enter this convivial space? You’ll instantly feel the kind of warmth that can only come from a team that understands how to make each guest feel like a treasured friend. Here, you can dine like royalty in the beautiful dining room, yet still dress casually and not feel out of place. But dress up if you like, because this is just the place to celebrate special occasions.

The Drawing Board is one of Alderwood’s new cocktails (photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum)

As we enter the holidays, we can each remember that we already have enough stuff in our lives: it’s the experiences that really count.

As chef Wall wisely notes, “A meal is much more than a transaction of money for food. It’s an experience; an exchange of energy. It’s a chance for our culinary team to express ourselves in a different way and a chance for you to be our guest in a new way. A chance to get lost in the moment.” 

May those moments be many and your life all the richer, for time spent at with friends around a table sharing beautiful plates, cocktails, and holiday cheer.

Read more about Alderwood: https://www.alderwoodsantacruz.com/who-we-are

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.