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Jul 28th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

From Peru to You

From Peru to You

With a remodeled kitchen, a compact healthful menu and Internet access, La Moraqueza Espresso Café has opened its doors in the historic Camp Capitola Superintendent’s office.

The café was one of the stops on this month’s First Friday tour, and still features the art of Heejin Lee and Robert Ernest Quihuis III. However, owner Washington del Aguila proudly pointed out photographs from his Peruvian home town.

Soft ’70s and ’80s rock included ballads by Air Supply, REO Speedwagon and Phil Collins as we sat in what was possibly a parlor in this State Historic Monument.

Breakfast choices ($3.50 to $5) include bagels and toast with eggs. The crusty warm Lox Bagel ($4.50) included thin slices of cured salmon, capers, red onions and mixed greens. The tartar sauce spread gave it a tasty, tangy bite.

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Wine Reviews

Villa Del Monte

Villa Del Monte

Chardonnay 2010

As most people like Chardonnay, this is a good wine to have around over the Thanksgiving holidays. Most white wine drinkers can’t always handle red, but you can count on red wine drinkers being able to drink white. It’s good to have a variety of wine in stock to give people choices, but Chardonnay is a safe bet for most.

Villa Del Monte Winery’s 2010 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Vineyard ($25), is a wonderful wine to open up when guests first arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. With its crisp tropical fruit flavors and buttery finish, this lightly oaked Chardonnay goes well with cheese, fruit, nuts—and other hors d’oeuvres set out for people to munch on before the main meal. And it would, of course, go perfectly well with turkey and all the trimmings.

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Dining Reviews

Delightfully Corny

Delightfully Corny

Chelito's Pupuseria offers an introduction to the Salvadorian kitchen

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, present day El Salvador was home to numerous indigenous populations including the Maya, Lenca and Pipil peoples. Today's Salvadorian menu has roots in these various cultures when corn, peppers, fruit, and cacao were local staples—and the menu at Chelito’s Pupuseria is no different.

We enjoyed a basket of unique tortilla chips which were thin and crisp with well-bubbled surfaces. We helped ourselves to smoky red salsa, tart tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo loaded with green chilies at the condiment bar.

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Dining Reviews

Daily Bread

Daily BreadJust across the Stockton Avenue Bridge at the portal to the Esplanade sits Capitola Coffee Roasting Company and Pâtisserie. Michaella (Mika) Olavarri is at the helm, popping warm pastries out of the oven and mixing up hot and iced coffee drinks.
There aren't many bags of beans on the shelves, as Olavarri prefers to roast in small batches for the freshest flavor. And with each bag or tall ceramic mug purchased, comes a free cup of coffee.
Rays of the morning sun brightened and warmed the small café as one of my favorite French chanteurs serenaded softly through the speakers. Two large tables and stools at a bar along the wall provide seating, and power strips support WiFi use.
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Wine Reviews

Muccigrosso Vineyards

Muccigrosso Vineyards

Pinot Noir 2008


Dozens of bottles of wine had been generously donated by Muccigrosso Vineyards for silent auction at a fundraiser I attended recently. The event was for a friend’s brother whose house needs remodeling—as he’s now wheelchair bound after brain surgery. Held at Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery—whose owners had donated their beautiful location and gallons of wine—the turnout was amazing and several thousand dollars were raised. I find the wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains to be extraordinarily generous in supporting the community. Hunter Hill and Muccigrosso wineries are but two of the many in the area who step up to the plate to give a helping hand when needed.

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Dining Reviews

A Harbor Fall

A Harbor Fall

The new fall menu at Johnny’s Harborside offers fresh and comforting fare

I was craving a pleasant, tasty, and leisurely brunch with an exquisite view, so, under a cloudless sky, we headed to Johnny’s Harborside at the small craft harbor. Soft butter melted gently into warm, itty bitty cinnamon-scented muffins which tasted of chocolate with autumn walnuts while we reviewed the new fall menu.

Chef Brian Woods’ new creations include a number of starters such as grilled shrimp cocktail with avocado ($13), grilled romaine salad ($7) with smoked tomatoes and citrus Caesar vinaigrette, warm spinach salad ($9) with bacon vinaigrette, caramelized onions and goat cheese, and vegetarian spring rolls ($7) with sesame vinaigrette.

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Dining Reviews

Hot from the Oven

Hot from the Oven

Roland Konicke, a transplanted New Yorker, worked in and around local farmers markets for years. He missed the Big Apple's pizzas, and set out to let Californians taste the difference, using local, organic ingredients. Even the meat products, from Santa Cruz's El Salchichero, are from local pasture-raised animals.

Konicke sells his Uncle Ro's take & bake pizzas at Santa Cruz farmers markets. Shoppers can snack on a warm slice, or take one home to bake. Local ingredients lead to seasonal combinations, and August's Padrón pepper pies made the local top-ten list.

Temporarily mobility-impaired, (oh, I miss the farmers market), I followed a hint that someone had spied the pies at Whole Foods in Santa Cruz. Right next to the store’s in-house creations were four varieties of Uncle Ro’s ($10.99).

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Wine Reviews

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard

Pinot Noir 2009


Ever since Café Rio opened its doors recently – with brand new owners at the helm – this lovely ocean-view restaurant has done extraordinarily well. Restaurant news spreads quickly in the Santa Cruz area, and the word is that Café Rio has regained its reputation of old and is serving up some excellent food, including their famous and much-loved sand dabs.

Dying to check the new vibe, I finally get there with a friend for a light dinner from the bar menu  – knowing ahead of time that I would order of one of my favorites – seared ahi tuna. We also order some delicious smoked salmon and tender deep-fried calamari.

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Dining Reviews

Nest Eggs

Nest Eggs

Crow’s Nest launches daily breakfast

Stand-up paddle boarders, scullers, kayakers and a back-pedaling otter floated down the channel followed by Team O'Neill with a boat load of school children. Two sets of twin toddlers pranced happily in the sand while a runner and dog-walker made their way down the levee toward the lighthouse. It is the familiar view from the comfortable Crow's Nest, and now it's available at breakfast.

With all those healthy people exercising outside, I assuaged my guilt with a reminder that breakfast is the most important meal, and, coincidentally, that's the way it was treated by the Crow's Nest kitchen.

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Dining Reviews

Bread as Art

Bread as Art

From the ceiling of the little market and bakery hang piñatas of all shapes and sizes, but the bakery cases were practically empty at nine in the morning. We were quickly greeted by co-owner Jorge Hernandez who sent us into the kitchen where we selected eight just-baked pastries ($10.60) from the six-foot tall racks of colorful, sweet and savory breads in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

Although El Rosal has a huge selection, Hernandez said his bakery makes far fewer than the 500 or more varieties in Mexico's repertoire.

The Spaniards first brought wheat to the New World, and for a short time in the 1860s the French brought expert pâtissiers. Hernandez says that each of the Mayan tribes in the south and the Aztecs farther north added their own touch to these foreign influences, creating the wonderful diversity.

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.