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Apr 18th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Voracious Valentines

Voracious Valentines

Ashby Confections gives locals a taste of love

Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like chocolate. Whether you’re head over heels in love or single and ready to mingle, few can resist sneaking a sweet treat—or five—particularly at this time of year.

Luckily for locals, Ashby Confections has recently opened up shop in Scotts Valley, and is armed and ready to satisfy every sweet tooth.

At the helm of the operation, which specializes in artisan confections that are just as delectable as they are pieces of art, is Jennifer Ashby.

A lifelong baker, Ashby discovered her passion for chocolate while attending the Culinary Institute of America after graduating from UC Santa Cruz.

“It was new and very challenging, and that appealed to me,” Ashby recalls of her first introduction to making chocolate. “I love how versatile chocolate is. You can mold it, shape it, and even add a pattern to it. It can be savory or sweet. Little chocolates and confections are like jewels. For me, it was part artistry, part science, and part magic.”

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Dining Reviews

The Making of Maharaja

The Making of Maharaja

New Indian dining portal shows promise | By Josie Cowden

India is a fascinating country. It’s an overload of sights, sounds and smells that pervade the senses. I am very glad I experienced it, and that includes the pleasure of eating incredible dishes packed with exotic spices of all kinds. In England, where I grew up, Indian food is now so popular that chicken tikka masala has taken over from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as the Brits’ most favorite dish.

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Wine Reviews

Poetic Cellars Merlot 2008

Poetic Cellars Merlot 2008

Poetic Cellars is a wonderful winery to visit over Valentine’s weekend. With its romantic overtones and interesting wines, not the least of which is the Merlot 2008, a bottle of Poetic Cellars wine would make a great gift—or to open up over a special dinner with your Valentine.

The 2008 Merlot is very aromatic with lots of plum, blackberry and currant flavors. Flavors of cherry, strawberry, plum and a hint of chocolate make this an all-round voluptuous experience on the palate. It’s available at the winery or at Vinocruz for about $30.

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Dining Reviews

Downtown Turnaround

Downtown Turnaround

Assembly hits Santa Cruz with a promising menu and a delicious event tie-in to boot

A much-anticipated restaurant on the Santa Cruz dining scene is soon to appear on Pacific Avenue in the space that was formerly Aqua Bleu. Named Assembly by co-owners Kendra Baker and Zach Davis, who rose to fame after opening The Penny Ice Creamery and then The Picnic Basket in Santa Cruz, it promises to be the new go-to hot-spot.

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Wine Reviews

Figge Cellars Syrah 2007

Figge Cellars Syrah 2007

My husband and I spent a weekend in Carmel recently at the Bavarian-style boutique hotel, the Hofsas House. We particularly love this place because of their warm hospitality and its close proximity to Carmel village center. Our room, complete with ocean view and fireplace, was cozy and warm on a chill winter’s night—and a continental breakfast of fresh pastries, fruit and hot coffee is served in the lobby area or can be taken back to the room.

Owned and operated by the Theis family, the Hofsas House is within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including shops, the beach and wine-tasting venues.

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Dining Reviews

Surprises in Scotts Valley

Surprises in Scotts Valley

Stonehouse Bar & Grill’s new chef adds creative flair to the menu

As a busy hotel serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley Hilton caters to business people, travelers, tourists, wedding groups, private parties—you name it. But for locals, too, of course, the hotel’s casual dining room and bar are regular stops.

The Stonehouse Bar & Grill’s informal restaurant has Formica-topped tables and an inviting cozy fireplace that’s welcoming to all, and the friendly full bar is an informal gathering spot to enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine or two.  When my husband and I stopped by the Stonehouse recently for dinner, we were impressed by the quality of service we received, especially from our server Michael Beck.

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Wine Reviews

Hunter Hill

Hunter Hill

Hunter’s Blend 2012

A private wine-tasting trip to Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery with about 20 people turned out to be a great deal of fun.  Christine Slatter, owner of Hunter Hill with her winemaker husband Vann Slatter, provided copious amounts of cheese, crackers, fruit and other munchies for guests to enjoy, and everybody had a good time tasting flights of Hunter Hill’s wonderful wines.

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Dining Reviews

All in the Family

All in the Family

Home-delivered baked goods are all the rage, thanks to I Rise Bakery

If you were to drive by Redwood Pizzeria in Felton during the middle of the night, you might be surprised to see a person loitering in the empty restaurant. The sheriff certainly was, when he and some of his fellow officers recently confronted the mystery man who appeared to be robbing the business.

But instead of a thief, they found one Gardner Lund, covered up to his elbows in dough.

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Wine Reviews

McHenry Vineyard & Wine Events

McHenry Vineyard & Wine Events

Pinot Noir 2010

The Friends of Hospice Oktoberfest is held on the first Sunday of October every year—a wonderful event that raises much-needed funds for Hospice of Santa Cruz County. As well as a silent auction, displaying all kinds of goods to bid on, there is also an outstanding live auction which includes trips, chefs’ dinners and more. Part of the silent auction includes a huge amount of wine, with hundreds of bottles to bid on and plenty of bargains to be had. Local wineries and others from farther afield are more than generous in donating.

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Dining Reviews

A Foray into Foraging

A Foray into Foraging

Indulge in a taste of the wild side at the second annual Big Sur Foragers Festival
Web extra: Chanterelle, Honey and Lavender Ice Cream recipe

Big Sur, with its world-famous beauty and rugged wilderness, is no stranger to disaster. In the words of Sharen Carey, locals know “it’s not a matter of if, but when” the next calamity will cause road closures or, worse, evacuations. Case in point: the recent Pfeiffer Fire, which ignited on Dec. 15 and consumed more than 900 acres in Big Sur’s Los Padres National Forest.

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Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.