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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

Gourmet Grazing

Gourmet GrazingLast week I attended Gourmet Grazing on the Green, an annual cancer benefit put on by the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group held in Aptos Village Park. The event was hugely successful this year with a grand turnout of vendors—63 in all.
Some of the vendors were new on the scene, so it was exciting to taste their wares and get to know them. Here are two of them who participated:
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Wine Reviews

Loma Prieta Winery

Loma Prieta Winery

Pinotage 2009


If you want to taste something totally smooth and sexy that’s going to knock your socks off, then try Loma Prieta’s Pinotage. The 2009 Amorosa Vineyard ($45) is so impressive that you just keep coming back for more. It’s not surprising, then, that this gorgeous wine, aged in the finest oak, has won numerous gold medal awards—two of the most notable being a double gold at the 2011 Indy International Wine Competition, and Best of Class at the 2011 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

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Dining Reviews

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure Pizza's East Side Eatery pairs local produce with pasta, salads, sandwiches, and an array of house-made sauces

For 35 years, Pleasure Pizza has been satisfying hunger pangs of neighbors and surfers from its 41st Avenue corner. The new owner, Derek Rupp, who previously was executive chef at Google, has expanded the business across the street, where, in addition to pizza, his Eastside Eatery serves a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner specialties.

During the fall and winter, breakfast is served only on weekends. Savory House Specials include soft polenta with sausage, eggs and roasted vegetables ($8.99) and Nasi Goreng ($7.99), an Indonesian fried brown rice with onions, chili, garlic, spices, and the sweet Indonesian soy sauce kecap manis.

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Dining Reviews

Galician Treasure

Galician Treasure

At the Everett Family Farm's farmers market booth, a sign read "el famoso Padrón.” The wrinkled appearance of these small Galician peppers reminded me of pepperoncini.

Galicia is an autonomous region of Spain which is bordered on the south by Portugal and on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean. Its economy is driven by fishing, manufacturing and agriculture. From one of its municipalities come these pementos de Padrón, only relatively recently available stateside.

Generally a sweet pepper, but occasionally one with an overabundance of capsaicin sneaks in amongst its mellow brethren, earning these capsicums the nickname Russian Roulette. A Galician saying warns, "Peppers of Padrón, some of them hot, and others not." Apparently, if left to mature to a deep red, they are quite spicy.

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Wine Reviews

Lucia Highlands

Lucia Highlands

Pinot Noir 2008

The story goes that the Spanish explorers named the area Lucia when they came to the area around the time of the feast day of St. Lucia, celebrated in December. And now we have something else to celebrate—Lucia Highlands’ wine.

I came across Lucia Highlands’ Pinot Noir at Seascape Sports Club at the Comerica Challenger tennis tournament in July in Aptos. Local winery owners Carol and Bret Sisney had donated a couple of cases for a function at the tournament—one of Pinot Noir and another of Chardonnay—the two wines they are making right now.

The Sisneys, with their partner Gary Filizetti, purchased the vineyard in 2001, and the first bottling that same year produced 120 cases of Chardonnay. Now, with the assistance of consulting winemaker Steve Passagno, the 2009 bottling produced 400 cases of Chardonnay and 600 cases of Pinot.

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Dining Reviews

North and South

North and South

Capitola Diner serves breakfast all day and mixes it up with Mexican specialties


The family-owned Capitola Diner aims to create a relaxed beach house atmosphere, and boasts a large menu that combines American diner standards with Mexican-influenced dishes and seafood specials.

For brunch, I enjoyed a tasty Santa Fe Skillet ($8.99) served in a long-handled casserole. Softly scrambled eggs with melting cheese, tender pieces of bacon, and cubes of creamy avocado were topped with a gentle house-made salsa, a touch of sour cream, and plenty of sliced green onions. Underneath were nicely cooked, but mildly seasoned red-skinned potatoes; nothing a little Tapatio hot sauce couldn’t remedy. Breakfasts are served with a choice of toast, biscuits or pancakes. The latter were thick, chewy and filling.

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Dining Reviews

The Buzz on Bees

The Buzz on Bees

A redwood-lined country road off of Freedom Boulevard climbs to the top of a hill where Dana and Ed Mumm, Sr. sell the goods of their hard-working bees. From hand-gathered and strained raw honey, to sweet-smelling handmade candles, the Mumms’ mission is one of love.

I met with Dana at their sunny gift store. Wildflower honey is gathered locally in the spring, its taste varying each year depending on what's in bloom. It's a dark honey in which I tasted a bit of caramel, and immediately craved a warm batch of cornbread.

Lighter in color and more viscous is the earthy sweetness of sage honey, made when the hives are brought to the Carmel area.

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Wine Reviews

Naumann Vineyards

Naumann VineyardsChardonnay 2008

Don Naumann makes an impressive Chardonnay. His 2008 vintage is a smooth refreshing wine that is aged for 18 months in oak barrels—made of half French and half American oak—and the end result is an “appley-grassy flavor with a light oak, light buttery finish.” Made from grapes grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, both the 2008 and 2009 vintages are available for $18 a bottle.
I opened up this lovely Chardonnay to have with a light dinner of fresh salmon, a few thinly sliced potatoes cooked in olive oil and some mixed baby greens and tomatoes. Olive oil, lemon juice and a touch of balsamic vinegar is the way to go on salads because it’s healthier and lighter than most dressings. And after living in Greece for 13 years, I gravitate toward olive oil as a base for just about everything. This wine is the perfect partner to go with most fish and poultry.
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Dining Reviews

On a Roll

On a Roll

At Takara Japanese Restaurant, colorful presentations augment fresh flavors

I hadn’t visited Takara Japanese Restaurant since they moved from a tiny mid-town location to the expansive Red Lobster site in Capitola. We were met with glasses of ice water and warm damp towels to prepare our hands for the possibility of finger eating. Bowls of warm miso soup ($2.50) were soothing and salty with soft seaweed and tofu.

The restaurant's beautifully appointed interior is rich and multi-textured with warm wood, bamboo, mats woven from organic materials, and silk weavings.

The Sweet Mussel appetizer ($5.50) included three bivalve half shells stuffed with chopped mollusks in a sweet, garlicky mayonnaise-type sauce, which were baked until golden and heaped with sparkling orange tobiko flying fish roe.

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Dining Reviews

Good and Grilled

Good and Grilled

I arrived at Brown's Ranch Marketplace as a batch of chicken was pulled off the mesquite charcoal-fired grill. I expected good things from Crown Café, owned by Scotts Valley Market, with an Executive Chef who studied in Paris at le Cordon Bleu under Julia Child. A friend says it’s the only good sandwich place in town.

A cold case was stocked with olives, juices, fruit and meal-sized salads. The Traditional Cobb ($6.95) with mixed greens was topped with blue cheese, tomatoes, bacon and hard-boiled egg. Made-to-order hot ($5.99 to $8) and cold ($6.99 to $7.99) sandwiches, wraps ($4.99) and Panini ($6.49), along with more salads are made to order behind the counter.

My first happy encounter was with the Smoke Stack ($6.99). The smoky flavor of Boar’s Head turkey breast was evident in this warm sandwich served on a Francese roll with crunchy bacon, crisp lettuce, cheddar cheese, and pesto mayonnaise.

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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.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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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.