Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Get S’mac

dining_RedroomThe Red’s mac ’n’ cheese (and beer pairing) is downright irresistible

The last time I really truly indulged in macaroni and cheese I was 7 years old. I was living in Chicago at the time. My friend Nancy used to invite me over to her house, down the block, and together, we’d concoct a fairly lovely batch of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, pile it high on our plates and then pour a river of ketchup all over it. Delicious. I gained 10 pounds that year. I feared cheese-and-carb combos ever since.

So, fighting back the flashback from my youth, I decided to be brave and experience the Red’s S’mac Pairing Dinner in Downtown Santa Cruz. It sounded like the most curious food and beverage marriage since my Polish family insisted vodka was a good chaser for Polish sausage. Four courses with four different beer brews—four different and unique experiences for the palate.

Four of us gathered in the Red’s plush upstairs dining room on a Monday evening. Knowing that we were about to be offered a bevy of beer samplings didn’t sway us away from ordering a bottle of wine anyway—the Folie á Deux 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay. (A passionate light yellow wonder with attractive tropical hints. Consider it on your next dining outing.) We toasted then conversed about life, mood swings, surprising new lovers and some of the possibilities that lie ahead in 2010. Frothy (and deep) for a Monday night, but what the heck …

And then came the first course of Truffled S’Mac, paired with a Scottish brew dubbed Ala Dubh. The handsome ale, matured in whisky casks, was a smart, friendly introduction to the evening’s culinary road trip—just the right balance of potency. But let’s talk S’mac. Resting before us was, actually, a marvelous little orecchio treasure, crispy on top, and lathered in a perfect amount of hickory smoked cheddar. “Truffle-essence,” somebody at our table mused. True. Chef Scott Case’s (pictured above) choice of orechhio, which, in Italian, translates to “little ears,” manages to hold in the unique flavors offered here. Truthfully, the taste surprised me and I think I may have blurted out that it was so good, “I could swim in it!” (Yes. In fact, I really did say that.)

Course Two. I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the name: “Ditch Dog With Chorizo S’Mac.” Translation: Basically a chorizo climbs into the welcoming bear hug of a festive bun and lies there loving how well it’s blanketed by robust pasta shells loaded with thick cheese. In a word: Orgasmic. The texture here is noteworthy. Once inside the mouth, it tends to linger there before it practically melts after a few bites. (Try to eat it slow, I dare you.) As for the  beer (“Lil Sumptin Extra”), it’s a Lagunitas Brewery baby at about 8.74 percent ABV. This one has a bit of a bite, not to mention a fine head. The combination—S’mac and beer—is impressive.

Course Three. Admittedly, the culinary offering here is one of the more adventurous unions. In fact, this “Jalepeno Popper S’Mac” is really fun to dive into. A large red bell pepper comes filled with a robust blending of cheese and pasta—a bit thicker than the others. The jalepenos here seem more like “hints of jalepeno” and never overpower. Liquid therapy came in the form of a Stone Russian Imperial Stout, with a slightly higher ABV percentage—10.5 percent. Masculine but it certainly goes down well. This third course is superior. Not everyone will swoon over red bell peppers, but given the ingredients involved here, it appears that the chef and his crew have mastered how to balance just the right amount of texture and moisture needed to avoid a real disappointment.

Bellies already full, we nearly had to pick our jaws up from the table when the Berry Lasagna Napoleon arrived. Yes. Berries and lasagna apparently dance well together. The fried lasagna noodles were a fine nest for the berries. And this, too, came with a beer—La Fin Du Monde. Initially, the four-year aged Belgian Ale may taste a bit strong, but as a whole, all the flavors offered compliment each other.

Take note: While The Red’s S’mac pairing dinners may be offered in special promotions occasionally—meaning they aren’t available together all of the time— the individual S’macs are. You can nab them at Happy Hour or for dinner. The Truffled and Jalepeno Popper S’mac run $5–$8; the Chorizo S’mac about $2 more.

At the end of the meal, as we sat there satiated, I found myself realizing I may have become a Born Again S’macker. It takes a lot for me to gush about something—OK, not “a lot”—but this meal, these wondrous little S’macs, were a refreshing surprise; a bold, inspired communion of attractive flavors that play well together and can live on in your memory.

You can’t say that about every meal.

Red Restaurant & Bar. 200 Locust St., Santa Cruz, 425-1913. Visit
This is the first in a series of monthly communal “editor’s dinners.” Send your thoughts to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location