Chef Damani Thomas continues to elevate Oswald’s menu

When was the last time you sighed over an appetizer of fried squid? Maybe the last time you had dinner at Oswald. Sparkling and surrounded by tangy aioli sauces, salsa verde and ketchup, these cloud-light squid chunks ($ 17) kicked off a terrific alfresco dinner last Thursday at the downtown landmark. Diners filled the interior as Melanie and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the street from an outdoor table, warmed by heat lamps, as we chose wines from one of the most popular glass by the glass lists. most interesting of the city. We asked to try some of the wines and were brought in to taste. A light ($ 14) Tornatore Etna Bianco from Sicily, carrying a lyrical cargo of volcanic undertones. A nice big AR Guentota Malbec ($ 12) made perfect sense with Mélanie’s choice of lamb, and a Domaine Olivier Hillaire complex Cotes du Rhone perfectly combined its Grenache and Syrah ingredients ($ 12). I knew this would make a good partner for the pork dish I was about to order.

The Tanuki Cider Braised Pork Belly was surrounded by mashed cannellini beans and shiny roasted purple cabbage, the perfect flavor partners of the creamy and irresistible slice of tender pork ($ 35). Tender, rich fork with its own cushion of surrounding fat, this is a dish that I love and chef Damani thomas does it perfectly. I bet some people hear the words “pork belly” and imagine something that’s mostly big. They would be wrong. The tender shreds of inner meat were isolated by the white fat during cooking, much like a confit. The result is incomparably succulent flesh, which is removed from the padding layer before consumption.

Mélanie chose a lovely large bowl of curried braised lamb ($ 35) over a bed of creamy polenta – a brilliant accord – and sprinkled with chunks of lemon and garlic gremolata for even more flavor power. We feasted on baguette and butter. Why not?

At the end of the meal, we shared a deeply heartwarming yet sophisticated dessert of almond cream pie ($ 14), in which a creamy and addicting almond interior was wrapped in a buttery dough crust turban and then topped. vanilla ice cream and a dispersion of toasted almonds. A small bowl of coffee reduction accompanied the almond creation, which Mélanie added to each of her bites. My fork kept attacking the almondy interior of the pie, which tasted like a master class of marzipan – only lighter and creamier. Well done! Oswald, 121 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz. Open Wed-Sat from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., until 9 p.m. on Fri. and Sat.

High pie

I entered the new very chic 11th hour coffee last week — a completely transformed Kelly — and enjoyed a double manual macchiato. But not all alone, because there was in the window a new slice of pumpkin pie, done by Kelly’s, call my name. Nothing beats pie and coffee on a foggy morning, and the tour gave me time to admire the sparkling, handcrafted interior of 11th Hour, filled with wood and stone benches and counters, as well as plants. medicinal products, including a fig tree up to the ceiling in the center of the café. But seriously, the pie! Still one of the best pumpkin pies, the one in Kelly’s kitchen was fabulous. Creamy, rich, with balanced spices and a tender rind, it is the Pumpkin Pie You Want and Deserve ($ 4). Go get some immediately. Go there more than once. It is the pie that gives the pie its street credit.

Laili update!Laili emailed to tell me the downtown Mediterranean favorite has reopened after its long hiatus, for take out and delivery only, Wed-Sat 4 pm-8pm. The restaurant’s dining room and patio will reopen for seating in a few weeks. We have missed Laili’s splendid cuisine and we welcome them. Orders can be placed on the website at

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