Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 02nd
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Critics’ Picks

best1_critic_yogamanBest Sweaty Body:
It’s hard not to admire sweaty bodies when you’re a Bikram yoga enthusiast. And, God knows, if you’re going to take yoga, there’s nothing wrong with meditating on the beauty of all the beauty around you. Hey, what can I say? I think people should be thanked for being beautiful. Why, it was just the other year that I picked up the brand new habit of thanking people for their various attributes. “Thank you for having that great haircut,” I once told a young lady texting on the street. A nervous toss of her blond locks later, she shot me a concerned look and continued thumbing her iPhone. “Thank you for having nice biceps,” I recently told a young man on Pacific Avenue. He kept moving, his cocoa-puff brown eyes holding a horrible look of fear. (If he’s going to wear a tight white T-shirt that shows off his biceps, why is he so surprised about the attention he’s getting?) Anyway, it only seemed to further fuel what I now have dubbed “The Gratitude Experiment”—thanking people for things they wouldn’t normally be thanked for. “Thank you for your lovely mole—it’s surprisingly becoming.” “Thank you for your great neckline.” “Thank you for your minty fresh breath.” So, when it comes to smoldering Zen attractiveness—can Zen smolder?—Kalil Moutawakkil stands out, especially when he’s moist. As one of Village Yoga’s savvy, compassionate Bikram Yoga instructors, Kalil instructs with grace. And, when he’s taking class with you, the local simply inspires with his deep dedication to an age-old practice—and, of course, all that perspiration. So, thank you, Kalil … thank you for your sweaty body!  | Charlie Price

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Worst Bureaucratic Delay
The La Bahia Hotel on Beach Street just continues to slowly turn to dust while delay after delay prevents the construction of a much-needed beach-area hotel. The renovation has passed muster with an environmentally conscious city council, but it’s tied up in the courts and with the Coastal Commission by an environmental debate that has nothing really to do with the environment. Environmental questions are nothing more than a smokescreen. The battle, really, is about labor issues. The developer, Barry Swenson Builder, has attempted to confront the issue with some reasonable concessions, but so far, the battle continues to rage. Build it. | Tom Honig

best1_critic_nextBest Political Event
Strictly speaking, this wasn’t a political event at all. But it was significant—the Santa Cruz Nexties, spearheaded by Santa Cruz Next ( Hundreds of Santa Cruz upstarts celebrated on a Saturday in January for what was easily the party of the year. Imagine under-30 types pimped out in cocktail dresses and tuxedos, throwing a party that had music, great food, good booze, dancing and more than a little social significance. The old Wrigley building, now home to the Digital Media Factory, has never looked better. Part of the fun was a quick and energetic salute and awards to some young entrepreneurs who are already making a difference for those in need. It was a declaration of sorts that the old ways are changing in Santa Cruz. To the next generation, there’s not the old division between eco-fanatics and greedy business people. They’re all environmentalists and it just seems to my old eyes that there’s a pro-business, pro-environment, can-do aspect to this town’s next generation. Watch out. The old fights that have characterized Santa Cruz just might be endangered. The next generation is waiting in the wings, and its power at the ballot box will start showing up as the old generation of long-serving officials slowly start to give way. The next generation leaders are people who want environmental protection—but they want jobs, too. They want them right here in town because they don’t want to foul the air with car trips to Silicon Valley. They want to live where their kids go to school. They want to own their homes right here. There’s political change in the air. You could feel it on that Saturday night in January. | TH

Worst Continuance
It’s a bike path people—a friggin’ bike path. Eight-feet wide, less than a mile long. What’s more, it might actually connect where the jobs are (i.e. Santa Cruz) to where the workers live (i.e. Live Oak). Yes, we love the tarplant—great stuff that—but the ceaseless wrangling over the path is downright exhausting. You have to wonder if those backing this painstaking issue recognize how much they resemble Congressional Republicans and their culture of saying no to everything.
| Tammy Patterson

Best Trend
EATING LOCALBestOof2010icon
One bandwagon worth jumping on, eating local is part of a larger “go local” movement gaining steam in Santa Cruz and elsewhere. Lucky for us, Santa Cruz happens to be surrounded by bountiful, healthy, locally grown foods, making it more viable than most places to have a diet made up of food from our own area. Whether you get yours at one of our amazing farmers’ markets, any one of the natural food stores in town (all of which stock lots of local produce and other local goodies) or from the burgeoning website, eating these foods is good for you, the environment, and the local economy.
| Elizabeth Limbach

Worst Trend
At 15 percent, Santa Cruz County’s jobless rate is higher than both the state and national averages. Here’s to hoping it gets better—and quick. | EL

Best Renovation
I can’t say for sure about the ladies’ room, but the men’s bathroom at The Catalyst has undergone a pretty amazing transformation recently: It isn’t scary anymore. The once-ragged walls have been given a stylish makeover, the smell is far more welcoming, and best of all, the urinal troughs have been replaced with honest-to-goodness personal urinals. Not that there’s anything wrong with standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your concert-going neighbors as you collectively whiz into a metal box—we are animals, after all, and from time to time, we all benefit from humbling reminders that these opposable thumbs and jumbo neocortexes of ours don’t make us any better than the pig or the cow. But there’s no denying that it’s much easier to enjoy a night of live music without having to brave the Chamber of Horrors after the beer finishes its brief tour of your body. In fact, the new, vastly more user-friendly bathrooms at Santa Cruz’s favorite nightclub are downright—dare I say it?—classy. Good call, Catalyst peeps. | JDR

best1_critic_parkWorst Decision
Beginning now, downtown employees need to start boycotting the new paid lots. It’s ridiculous and insulting. I’m a longtime downtown Santa Cruz employee whom the town is screwing by implementing parking fees into the majority of lots. So what if there are a few free lots. You can’t ever find a parking spot in them. And so what if the city thinks I should ride my bike. I live in Scotts Valley. Really? I should ride my bike? I need my car for my job. Which means that I have to fork over quarters for meters, or buy a park card—repeatedly. Marlin Granlund, parking programs manager, said in the recent GT article “Pay to Park,” that the new parking fees “will go to the parking district and will be replaced back into parking district services.” That includes the maintenance of public restrooms, streetlights and sidewalks, plus to parking garages and, of course, the lots themselves. Interesting to note: some of the profit will pay for an additional patrol officer. Totally annual funds this idea is expected to cash in: $100,000. Regardless, I won’t park in the paid lots, and I hope others will join me in boycotting this absurd decision.  | Christa Martin

best1_critic_kumbuBest Local Libation
Say “so long” to corn-syrupy sodas, other artificially sweetened drinks and overly caffeinated habits. The brand’s Chief Kombuchero, Adam Goodman, began the business, which is run out of Santa Cruz’s Westside, in 2005, causing a boom in the popularity of this age-old tonic of cultured probiotics, active enzymes and organic acids. The drink also uses all organic and fair-trade ingredients. But the biggest reason Kombucha Botanica is putting Santa Cruz on the map may be its coveted “kombucha on tap” endeavor, which was pioneered last year. Friends of mine visiting from San Francisco insist on getting “buch” on tap while visiting Santa Cruz, and claim it is a widely talked about myth in the city’s health food circuit. Tasting is believing. Sold by the ounce, it’s cheaper, and more sustainable (you can bring in your own container to fill), and is available at both local Whole Foods locations, the 41st and Pacific Avenue New Leaf locations, Staff of Life, Dharma’s restaurant, Cypress Lounge, and Village Yoga. (visit: | EL

Worst Testosterone on Wheels
There’s a popular, useful (and some might say legally enforceable) saying you may have read on a street sign near you: Share the Road. This isn’t referring to car-on-car action. As one can see from the cleverly drawn stick figure on a bicycle, it refers to bicycles (and let’s face it, in Santa Cruz this must also expand to include skateboards). One might assume this sign is a reminder to drivers of vehicles to share their journey in life and across town with the vulnerable little buddies of the non-mechanized wheel variety. I’m beginning to think it’s the cyclists and boarders who are not keeping up with their close reading. Share implies a give and take, not an entitlement to make like a mosquito on the road and expect drivers to take the brunt of the care. Share the road, share the rules, and share some mutual respect, will ya? And to the four dudes who love East Cliff Drive hill on weekends? Your fluorescent board shorts and sideways baseball hats do not fool us: we know you’re not a car, and we’re pretty much over your thrill-seeking antics, so get the hell out of the middle of the road.
| Kim Luke

best1_critic_derbyBest Estrogen on Wheels
If you haven’t been out to see full contact women’s flat track roller derby in Santa Cruz, you must be living in a hole (or maybe you haven’t been able to score a ticket to the consistently sold-out events at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium). The only thing that rivals the fierce competition and passion of these girls-next-door athletes is the vocal and colorful dedication of their fans. Where else can a diverse slice of Santa Cruz County come together on a Saturday night with banners, foam fingers, and even a painted belly or two, to cheer on Santa Cruz’s only home team? You’d be surprised who’s sitting next to you in the stands—and even more surprised at who’s on the track in a uniform! And the beauty is, those positions keep changing, as fans become participants. Not only are the events family-friendly (the family that cheers together, um, conquers adversity together?), there’s even a Junior Derby program training the next generation of ass-kicking role models. Roller derby in Santa Cruz. Best estrogen on wheels. | KL

Worst Comeback
Truth is, the E.C. Rittenhouse Building, perched majestically on the corner of Church and Pacific in Downtown Santa Cruz, solved one problem. It finally made use of an empty lot that sat undeveloped for nearly two decades after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake gutted downtown. The problem? The building remains empty. Sure, we can chalk it up to economic downturn—hey, at least we’re not struggling to the extent Alvarado Street is in Monterey—but I’d venture to guess that behind-the-scenes challenges factor into the mix. If, say, the building’s owner were—imagine this concept—more open-minded, who knows, the space could have already proven to be financially fruitful. How much longer can we wait for a cartload of economic apples to arrive to help sweeten a sour scene? Pass it up once, the blame’s on you. Pass it up twice, SHAME on you! | GA

Best Comeback
EL NIñO BestOof2010icon
Just call it a comeback. Sure, there was a lot of talk highlighting the return of an impressive Cold Water Classic contest at the Lane in November, and then there was the headline-making Mavericks Surf Contest reawakening at Half Moon Bay in February—but I thought it better to give the nod to El Niño itself. Let’s face it, without the little guy the big waves wouldn’t have rolled through in mammoth form. Clobbering us with the much-needed rain, surf and snow that’s been giving adventure junkies a lot to talk about lately, as well as keeping us burning through our Netflix queues, this year’s El Niño climate pattern continues to keep things wet, wild and interesting.
| Linda Koffman

Worst Ubiquitous Phrase
The whole country watched the economy go haywire, but California, deep in a $20 billion deficit, may have had it worse. And, here in Santa Cruz, we witnessed budget cuts left and right as the state slashed funding to priceless resources, such as state parks, social services, and public education, and the city and county of Santa Cruz struggled to balance their own gap-filled checkbooks. | EL

best1_critic_vapaBest Arrival / Best Use of Stage
Talk about showstopping! After more than 10 years and several bond measures, the Visual and Performing Arts Complex at Cabrillo College made a headturning debut last October.  Taking center stage, of course, was The Crocker Theater, with its lush, modern architecture. VAPA is one of the most impressive ventures to come out Cabrillo—period. The $80 million facility consists of five buildings totaling 122,300 square feet—this includes the 581-seat Crocker Theater (wonder where that extra “one” seat is?)—a 369-seat music recital hall and classroom, a building dedicated to—get this!—two-dimensional art and a building for three-dimensional art. There’s another structure for general instruction and offices. The complex also boasts 15 music practice rooms for students, four music rehearsal spaces, five drawing and design studios, and recording studios, an acting studio, and a classroom space for experimental theatre (dubbed the Black Box).  Better still, was last December’s ambitious production of “Scrooge” at The Crocker. (Hats off to actor Joseph Ribeiro—such a creative beast—for making that a splash.) Bravo Cabrillo. And … encore!  Parting thought: In an area that has long needed a quality, professional performance space—sorry, Santa Cruz Civic, you just don’t cut it—and educational space, VAPA is a refreshing burst of vitality and promise. (Visit | Greg Archer

best1_critic_artistBest innovative Artist
TOBIN KELLERBestOof2010icon
In 2004, the Santa Cruz Art League awarded Keller the Distinguished Artist of the Year award, but since then he’s continued to capture our interest. In late 2008, and early last year, his "Six Decades of Men and Other Portraits" made its mark the Central Coast, generating winning reviews. The imaginative work featured large and small portraits on glass and acrylic sheets. One untitled piece, pictured above, comes  from the series "The Family Question." "It's kind of like looking into the layers of one's consciousness," Keller says of that particular creation. Based in the rolling hills just outside of Watsonville, Keller, who also instructs art at Cabrillo, works out of a large studio in his home. His various exhibitions have been seen in numerous galleries in California, including the Monterey Museum of Art, Napa Valley Museum, MichaelAngelo Gallery, and the MAH in Santa Cruz. His passion and ability to act as a vessel for the “work” to come through is particularly impressive. More please! Visit to experience the man’s work. | CP

Worst Loss of Stage

It’s R.I.P. for two more beloved stages in town as music fans (and performers) continue to mourn the loss of the Cayuga Vault and the Vets Hall. Having just hit its 10-year anniversary, the Vault shut its doors in December, and the mid-size venue’s history of warm and classy shows and events that cater to the culturally- and spiritually minded sadly came to an end. Across town on Front Street, the Vets Hall’s historic building was forced to stop hosting affairs in January due to structural damage and deterioration. It’s been a prime spot for concerts, comedy and classes—as well as yearly free feasts for the public during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and yet another curtain closing has been a community loss. From punk shows to yoga classes, the Vets Hall has seen it all. Let’s hope we see it open again.
| Linda Koffman

Best Way to Blow your Last $15
Financially strapped Santa Cruzans, beware—once you’ve had a taste of these little wheels of splendor, you’ll be pushing your way through the line at Mobo Sushi, clamoring to shell out the very last of your dollars for another sushi fix. So you think freshwater eel sounds like a gross thing to eat? Abandon all preconceptions and experience the awesome, mind-opening delights of the MacRandy Roll: unagi (eel), sake (smoked salmon), cream cheese and macadamia nuts. Purists, say what you like about the blasphemy of cream cheese in sushi—you can have your traditions, and I’ll have another bite of sheer gastronomic magic. Then there’s The Corruptor: unagi, basil, garlic and macadamia nuts. Delicate yet powerful, sophisticated yet simple, it’s a culinary creation every bit as cunningly seductive as its name suggests. Similar enough to complement each other perfectly, but different enough to keep the eater’s palate in a constant state of arousal, these two savory rolls sit together as harmoniously as the two fish in the symbol for the astrological sign of Pisces. Together they form an unstoppable juggernaut of flavor that could charm even some of sushi’s sworn enemies. Forget about your wallet’s ongoing weight loss. Celebrate life. Embrace the wonder. Surrender to the corruption. It is your destiny. | JDR

Best Gamble by a Local Government Agency
RTC’s RAILROADBestOof2010icon
The Regional Transportation Commission wants to buy its own railroad. The studies have been done, the funding has been nailed down and all that remains, it seems, is to sign the final papers. It seems to me that this move will prove to either be the best thing local government has done, or a complete disaster. Time will tell.
Train service in small communities like Santa Cruz generally lose money. Big money. Then again, the purchase price for the right-of-way amounts to more than $19 million—about $5 million of that to upgrade the system. In 2010 dollars, that may seen as a bargain someday. However: there must be a good reason that Union Pacific wants to sell. And they’re the ones who know the most about operating a rail line. If there was money to be made here, wouldn’t Union Pacific want to hold on? Here’s the clincher. RTC Executive Director George Dondero says, “The only way for the community to more effectively use the Branch Line for transportation is through pubic ownership.” If he’s right, I’ll forgive him for his split infinitive. | TH

Worst in Government
This is in the “it ain’t our fault” department: The worst in government doesn’t come out of Santa Cruz. It’s all in Sacramento. The state government is so desperate that they’ve taken to stealing money from local governments. The problem there is that local government works a whole lot better than either the state or federal government. One can argue that local government responds to local concerns. Remember, it’s local government that ensures that fire trucks get to your house when it bursts into flames. The waste in Sacramento is so bad that even if you’re willing to pay more taxes there’s no guarantee that the money will be used well. Both political parties should be ashamed—they’ve drawn the districts in a way that guarantees that the Legislature is ruled by far-left Democrats and far-right Republicans. They don’t agree on anything and they’d rather bicker than find a way out of the mess they’ve created. Their performance is reminiscent of an old Fred Allen line: “They’re a group of people who can’t do anything individually, so they get together and decide that nothing can be done.” | TH

Best Cupcakes
Opening up in June, 2008 in Capitola (1420 41st Ave., Suite B),  Starz has been a successful venture for Lisa Brighton and her business partner, daughter Connie Brighton.  Lisa is very picky about all the ingredients that go into her cupcakes. She makes sure that she gets the very best of everything, right down to the cupcake wrappers. It took a great deal of research to find exactly the right colors she wanted. Although Starz has more than 100 different cupcakes to choose from, about 15 varieties are offered each day. There’s even one that comes with an umbrella—just like a cocktail. It’s called Tropical Fusion, a marvelous mélange of mango, peach, coconut and pineapple. “Customers say they bite into a Hawaiian sunset,” Lisa notes. But the icing on the cake has to be the pupcakes, each one decorated with faces of dogs. There’s even a cupcake made that your dog can eat, too. All in all, there’s something for everybody. Starz Cupcakes, More at | Josie Cowden

Best Creative Reuse of an Architectural Monstrosity
Ah the Sentinel building … it’s such a brutal reminder of a particularly tasteless era of American architecture. All aggregate and concrete, it has all the charm of a box of generic Cheerios. But local giants, Cruzio and Ecology Action are moving in. They’re hard at work pulling in fiber, planting trees and punching out walls so that this building on Church Street in Downtown Santa Cruz will no longer be a cathedral dedicated to postmodern ugliness. Rather, it’s likely to be the new home for several inspiring local entities. | TP

best1_critic_chocoBest Newly Discovered Chocolatier

Decadent. Mouth watering. Art. These words describe the divine chocolates made by Jennifer Ashby of Ashby Confections, an Aptos chocolatier. GT stumbled upon a box of the confections when Ashby smartly dropped off some samples for us to try. Let’s just say that the nine-piece box of chocolates was gone in a matter of minutes. Enclosed were a Mexican Vanilla Truffle, a Milk Chocolate Truffle, Fresh Banana Truffle, Himalayan Pink Salt Caramel and others. Ashby sells her chocolates out of a Heather’s Patisserie as well as at other local retailers including Deluxe Foods of Aptos, Aptos Coffee Roasting Company, Aptos Natural Foods, and online at Sink your teeth into that. Visit 
| CM

Worst Local Makeout Spot

Some people might argue that the city dump is worse, but I beg to differ: The Fishhook is far and away the worst place in Santa Cruz for a heated lip-lock session. The Fishhook, for those who don’t know, is an interchange where Highway 17 ends, spilling into Highway 1. It’s infamous for its 270-degree hairpin turn, which has been the site of many an ugly car wreck. As the black streaks across the guardrail will attest, when the signs tell you to slow to 40 mph and then to 20, you can take that to the bank. Immediately after that turn is another perilous stretch where the driver merges onto Highway 1. While making this maneuver, the driver must have all of his/her awareness about him and have no obstructions to his/her vision, lest he/she crash into other cars as they merge. All of which is to say that if the person sitting in your passenger seat turns out to be a raving lunatic with a death wish, and he or she chooses to pounce on you and start making out with you while you’re making the turn, and if this continues in spite of your struggling as you try to merge into traffic, you’d better hope someone up there is looking out for you. Yes, this did happen to the present writer, and yes, he’s happy to still be around to give you this stern warning: Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you kiss anyone at The Fishhook. | JDR

Worst Economic Development
Even if Santa Cruz’s economic future looks bright, the present is, well, a challenge. There are too many empty stores on Pacific Avenue, and the Rittenhouse Building stands in mute testimony to a stagnant local economy. Unemployment hovers around 12 percent—and it would be higher if people didn’t drive elsewhere to make a living. Cemex, one of the few remaining old-time employers shuttered its plant in Davenport, leaving the economic health of Davenport in question. Five years ago, real estate and related businesses employed a good portion of young people. That picture has changed, and the once thriving industry of real estate and mortgage lending has gone away. So what are the electeds doing about it? Not much—but then again, there’s not much that they can do. Government doesn’t create jobs, private business does. But what elected officials could do is to actively encourage jobs— and not throw roadblocks in front of entrepreneurs with endless regulation and complex planning rules. | TH

best1_critic_rallyBest APP to Find Your Friends
RALLY UPBestOof2010icon
The brainchildren of the (Sol and Will Lipman and others) gathered their pals together and gave birth to another social media baby—The Rally App, now called Rally Up. The app allows “real friends”—that would be the cool peeps you really hang out with, not your Facebook posse—to know your location. It also allows you to check in to the places you go and every time you check in, your real friends are notified. No word yet on how this will effect the agorophobics out there. (Learn more at  | GA

Best New Musician’s Friend

When you want to rock out but not get kicked out (of your home, garage, neighborhood), and you actually want to clearly hear every component of your band’s new song (instruments and vocals), it helps to have a sweet practice space with a sweet sound set-up. Enter the spankin’ new Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios. One answer to the city’s sound ordinances (or your mom’s curfew for bombastic steely shreddage), the studio’s four spacious rehearsal rooms opened to the public in January, bringing a professional touch to the Santa Cruz underground. Open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until midnight, SCRS is owned and operated by Paul and Jennifer Gallacher—a powerhouse couple in the music loop. With Paul’s expertise as a former luthier at Santa Cruz Guitar Company (not to mention his days in L.A. playing guitar in a power trio) adding a nice touch to the counter, SCRS makes musicians feel right at home. Bands like Archer, the Luxury Sweets, and Moon Cadillac have already uncovered this gem near Harvey West Park, and it’s helping them stay in top gigging form. Offering high-end gear and fully soundproofed studios at an affordable rate (they even serve up free snacks and drinks for starving musicians!), SCRS brings the panache of the big city music scene without the attitude or price tag. And, yes, even the bathroom is pristine. Ready to kick out the jams? Now you know where to go. ( | LK

best1_kyleBest Inspiration
“Most 19-year-olds don’t think they have the power to change the world, so they say, ‘Why bother?’ People think things are impossible because they just don’t believe. I think the most important thing is to believe it is possible.” Hard to argue with that. So, when young Kyle hit our radar, we were certainly intrigued. The local surfer, and budding philanthropist/entrepreneur has boldly taken on the banks—a gutsy move in this economy. More specifically, he’s spearheaded a national campaign that encourages locals to bank locally. The main issue? That money kept in multinational banks is leveraged to launch projects that aren’t environmentally sound or moral for that matter—a proposed coal-fired plant in Chile immediately comes to mind. “All our money has an effect whether we know it or not,” Thiermann notes. “If you have a bank account, you’re an activist whether you know it or not.” Learn more about the man and the money at | GA

Worst Local Mode of Speech
Now, there’s nothing wrong with saying things in the nicest way possible. It’s much better to call someone “full-figured” than “hefty,” and when your promiscuous next-door neighbor comes up in conversation, “free spirit” or “liberated soul” has a far more pleasant ring to it than, say, “bed tourist.” Likewise, we all know how handy the word “interesting” can be when you’re looking for a gracious way to say something sucks (“That’s a very …  interesting name, Mr. Buttram”; “Your dog has an interesting way of saying hello. Sheesh, whatever happened to foreplay?”). But let’s not kid ourselves: Here in Santa Cruz, folks can be a little too kind with their use of language. New and increasingly diplomatic phrases are being introduced all the time, only to become “incorrect” before people have even had a chance to learn them. “Full-figured” gives way to “volumetrically challenged,” “mature” is replaced by “chronologically advanced,” and “disabled” is substituted with “differently abled.” One can only guess where things will go next: “‘Not conventionally beautiful’ sounds so harsh. I prefer to think of myself as inversely sexy.” “How dare you call me big-boned? I’m cholesterol-wealthy.” “Did I just hear you use that Stone Age term ‘drinking problem’? Well, I’ll have you know that I’m sobriety-intolerant. No—that term is no longer acceptable. I’m on a booze fast.” | JDR

best1_chip_jefWorst Reason to be Kicked Off Facebook
The nerve! Imagine my surprise when, in a bit of social networking fun, I stumble upon a GT photo from a shoot for our 2008 film issue. In it, we spotlighted publicity hogs/stars of the award-hungry community TV show, SoWat TV, Chip and Jeff Dinnell. Naïve as I am, I posted the inventive redux of that classic Annie Leibovitz shot of John and Yoko—yes, I do think the idea was brilliant and I thank me very much—on FB, only to later get my account deactivated. All those “Friends”—gone. Oy! The withdrawls. But a few lessons were learned. For starters, it’s not a bad thing to rebuild, adding mostly friends and colleagues that you just really need to have.  Secondly, and this was news, Jeff Dinnell’s ass really could be that offensive on a social networking spectrum. Who knew?  Well, now we all do. | GA



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Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX


Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”