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Dining

Restaurant dining and wine reviews for Santa Cruz County >
Menu Guide for Santa Cruz area.

Dining Reviews

Smooth Thai Landing at Main Beach

Smooth Thai Landing at Main Beach

Soquel’s Sawasdee earns great views at Casablanca Inn

I was looking forward to a Thai lunch, and an almost waterfront table overlooking the Main Beach surf on a pleasant day made this midweek jaunt even more tantalizing.

Walking a block down the Main Street hill from the designated free parking lot, the breeze bore the familiar summer scents of salt, sea and seaweed. Gulls closely followed dive-bombing pelicans in hopes of a catch, while a lone stand-up paddler glided atop the ocean’s smooth surface.

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Dining Reviews

Have Your Cake

Have Your Cake

It occurred to me that my children may have grown up deprived. I prepared thousands of cooked-from-scratch meals, albeit with some barely edible experiments in the mix. Focaccia, pizza and even a pair of baguettes made their way to the table (mea culpa; not so difficult with a bread machine), but I don’t recall ever making them a proper strawberry shortcake.

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Dining Reviews

Hot Plates Abound

Hot Plates Abound

Timeless and authentic, Tortilla Flats continues to impress in its 35th anniversary year

There are probably not many restaurants in Santa Cruz County that can attest to being in business for several decades, but Tortilla Flats has just logged 35 years—with owner-chef Cheryl Marquez at the helm.

Service is consistently good at Tortilla Flats. From the minute we enter the restaurant, servers buzz around making sure we have everything we need. A fresh bowl of chips and salsa appears on our table, the piquant salsa nicely presented in a little pouring jar. This place runs like a well-oiled machine.

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Wine Reviews

Burrell School Vineyards

Burrell School Vineyards

Cabernet Franc 2008

Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite wines, and Burrell School makes a good one. The 2008 Cab Franc ($30) is a beautiful wine—made from estate grapes grown in Pichon Vineyard located on Mount Umunhum above Lexington Reservoir. With its aromas of green tea, tobacco and raspberry and lots of big fruit flavors in the mouth, this smooth wine takes Cab Franc to another level.

Along with his wife Anne, winemaker Dave Moulton started in the wine business back in the ’70s, so to say he has a ton of experience under his belt would be an understatement. I see him often at wine events—always cutting a notable figure in brightly colored pants and snazzy jackets. He’s an ebullient, forthright character—and his personality reflects in his wine, too. He makes big bold wines that are not for the weak-kneed.

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Dining Reviews

Edible Art

Edible Art

Local chef Wendy Brodie encourages us to play with our food

For Wendy Brodie, cooking goes far beyond a recipe—it’s an art form. The Carmel-based chef believes that color, texture and presentation are just as important as the food itself.

Locals will have the opportunity to experience some of Brodie’s culinary masterpieces first-hand on Aug. 29, when she is the featured chef at one of the Annieglass Platemaker Dinners. The series offers participants a market-fresh feast with paired wine by renowned chefs and vintners, hosted by local artist Annie Morhauser. Each four-course meal is served on Morhauser’s award-winning, handcrafted glassware in her production studio, and benefits the Annieglass Scholarships at local high schools, as well as the California College of the Arts, Morhauser’s alma mater.

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Wine Reviews

Rexford Winery Pinot Gris 2010

Rexford Winery Pinot Gris 2010

There’s nothing like killing two birds with one stone. I had been meaning to write about Rexford Winery for some time, and the opportunity arose after a tasting at Kuumbwa Jazz one evening.

My friends and I arrived early at Kuumbwa for a concert of Zimbabwean music with renowned musician Oliver Mtukudzi. Kuumbwa’s events often include diverse ethnic music concerts—with everything from Spanish flamenco to the Tuareg people of Morocco to Pakistani qawwali singers. The setting is cozy and intimate, and there is always plenty to eat and drink throughout every concert. 

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Dining Reviews

Sid’s is Smokin’

Sid’s is Smokin’

The inventive team behind Sid’s Smokehouse gets a (delicious) GT grilling

Barbecue is an all-time popular food—think Fourth of July, family get-togethers, casual corporate events, back-yard birthday celebrations—and most people love a tasty piece of meat. Sid’s cooks up all the favorite meats—pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, burgers and turkey—and has just added salmon to the menu as well. Fixin’s include Sid’s Slaw, Smokehouse beans, Smokehouse greens, garlic fries, garlic mashed, beer-battered onion rings, and sweet potato fries.

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Wine Reviews

Vine & Dine Summer Hot List

Vine & Dine Summer Hot List

In between wining and dining, I wanted to shed light on five local businesses that have hit my radar this summer.
Chardonnay II Winemaker Sails
Annieglass Platemaker Dinner
Redwood Canopy Tours
Peachy Kleen Chem-Dry
The Buttery
Pelican Ranch Winery

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Dining Reviews

The Craft

The Craft

Find these local breweries at the annual California Beer Festival

Beer enthusiasts rejoice: for one afternoon this week, on Saturday, Aug. 10, more than 40 craft breweries will land at Aptos Village Park with upward of 70 beers on tap. The lines for another sample may be lengthy, but you’ll have food, live music and a bevy of other beer lovers to keep you entertained while you sniff out the hoppiest IPA, the creamiest stout or the most traditional English ale. 

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Wine Reviews

Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery

Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Although Windy Oaks is known mostly for its outstanding red wines, they are now producing some excellent whites as well.  Their new release of Sauvignon Blanc sells for a mere $15 around town, but has been spotted at Deluxe Foods of Aptos for only $11.99. If you need a mouthful of something bright and zingy for summer, then this is your answer.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.