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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Local flavors abound at The Picnic Basket in Santa Cruz

Take all of the things I love about The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, translate them into a food restaurant, and you have its sister stop: The Picnic Basket. Visit and you'll find fresh and tasty food made from local ingredients by a local small business supporting other local small businesses. What's not to love about that?

I'd been wanting to visit The Picnic Basket after hearing about it, then saw where it was one evening when hubby and I decided to take some night pictures in Santa Cruz.

It's on Beach Street right across from the Ideal Bar & Grill.

And if you know this mural you know where the Picnic Basket is because it's in the same building the mural is painted on, just a few doors down.

Inside is one u-shaped booth and counter space in two areas with two types of seating. One counter runs along the front windows with picnic benches. The rest wraps around the open kitchen on two sides with low, red diner stools. The basket weave detail along the wall creates a casual ambiance and the silver disc light fixtures around the kitchen were super cute with bent forks and spoons as embellishments.

They matched the small fork and spoon chandelier above the order counter.

I'd read their sandwiches are good so I tried the Beet Panini. It came with a slice of pickled carrot. The portion was so generous I couldn't finish the entire sandwich. Those cellophane tipped toothpicks were there for a reason, this was one stacked sandwich!

It was filled beets, greens, lemon chick pea hummus, some bits of toasted nuts, a bit of sauce, and I'm not sure what else. It was fantastic. The only drawback was that it was as messy as it was delicious, but that was a small price to pay for such a great sandwich. Just make sure you grab a fork to rein in any rogue beets and have a napkin at the ready.

I know The PIcnic Basket purchases some of their produce from Happy Boy Farms, one of my favorite vendors at my weekly farmers market. And that afternoon hubby had a hot dog from el Salchichero, a local charcuterie.

It seemed appropriate to choose the Santa Cruz Organic Lemon LIme Soda while dining in its namesake.

After lunch we walked across the street to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Hubby wanted to try out some new photography gear and I decided to play with my new Sony NEX-5R camera a bit. This is a shot of the famous boardwalk taken with the "Toy" setting which adds the vignetting around the edges as you shoot the picture.

And this is a cropped close up. Except for all of the clothes (instead of swimsuits) it could have been summertime.

Back on the wharf we saw and heard the resident sea lions and sea gulls.

But then I broke out my Lumix GF2 with its 300mm telephoto lens to take pictures of the barnacles and shellfish clustered on the pier's pilings right along the water line.

That day I spotted two large red violet colored starfish clinging to one of the pilings. The lower one looked like it was probably at least a foot in diameter.

And surprise! I do believe I saw a sea cucumber.

There were plenty of gulls but we also saw three Western Grebes.

With it's snowy white, swan-like neck and shocking red eyes it is a very striking bird. Note how the black feathers on its head extend below its eye. A year ago I photographed the very similar Clark's Grebe at the Baylands Nature Preserve. The Clark's Grebe has a more shallow black head area with the black ending above white feathers that surround its eyes.

After shooting from the wharf we headed back to The Picnic Basket for dessert.

I sampled the Cayenne Apricot but it was a little too spicy for me so I ordered the Fresh Mint Chip made with local mint from Route 1 Farms. Hubby had a scoop of Seabright's Verve Coffee with Chocolate Almond Praline.

Oh, and don't expect The Penny Ice Creamery mint chip to be green. The mint is all in the flavor and all of the flavors are fresh and natural so there aren't any artificial colors anywhere. The ice cream was light with a smooth texture. Their vanilla based flavors are the only ice cream anywhere where I can really taste the fresh, organic milk used to make it. This was a kid's sized scoop in a small waffle cone.

It was the perfect ending to a fun afternoon hanging out near Santa Cruz's famous Beach Boardwalk.

The Picnic Basket - on Facebook
125 Beach St - Ste B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 427-9946

A is The Picnic Basket, B is the Boardwalk: View Larger Map

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