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Sep 17th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Kindler, Gentler Burritos

Kindler, Gentler BurritosVivas' taqueria menu employs local, organic produce

Offering a different twist on Mexican food, Vivas uses organic produce and beans in their south-of-the-border specialties. Adjacent to the Rio Theatre, it's a convenient place for takeout before securing a spot in the theatre's queue.

Tiles are used extensively in the décor, from the Spanish-style stone floor, to the rustic tabletops and wall— mounted boxes in which grow leafy plants. The bench seating is attractively upholstered, and the corner location allows plenty of sunlight throughout the day, while a small fountain delivers soothing sound.
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Dining Reviews

2011: Diversity was the Word

2011: Diversity was the WordThe 2011 year in Santa Cruz food landscape had a number of notable excitement/changes.

I appreciated experiencing the increased diversity brought to life by some new entrepreneurial families. Tran Noodle House introduced Vietnamese pho to Watsonville. This relatively simple soup of noodles and meat cooked in a well-made broth and embellished with crisp mung bean sprouts and fresh basil leaves is savory, centering, and meant to be slurped.

Pupusas with strongly fermented cheese, the national dish of El Salvador, along with pastelitos empanadas and Salvadorian tamales were introduced by Chelito's on Ocean Street bringing an array of new flavors to town.
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Wine Reviews

Equinox Wine

Equinox WineSparkling Wine for New Year’s Eve

The countdown to the end of 2011 has begun. As we plan our New Year’s Eve festivities, most of us have Champagne on our shopping list. After all, there’s nothing that compares to a fine glass of bubbly to celebrate going into a brand new year. And it doesn’t have to be French. An excellent Champagne (or sparkling wine as it has to be called if it’s made outside of the Champagne region of France) is made right here in town by expert winemaker Barry Jackson of Equinox Wine.
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Dining Reviews

Side by Side

Side by Side

Chinese Village and Bamboo Garden add different twists to favorite dishes

For some time I’ve marveled at the coexistence of two adjacent Chinese restaurants on Capitola Road. The atmosphere in each is distinct, from the decor to the seating, and although the three quarters of the two menus are similar, I found the preparation styles, ingredients, and flavors very different. The lightly cooked fresh vegetables at both establishments were excellent.

In the Chinese Village parking lot, median strips were planted with Asian herbs. Inside, owner Sally Wong, still wearing her apron, was enjoying her mid-day meal at the counter. Her experience in the kitchen spans many decades. The restaurant, which opened in 1976, has been at its current location for about15 years.

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Wine Reviews

Nicholson Vineyards

Nicholson Vineyards

Chardonnay 2008

A few weeks ago, some friends who live close by invited me over to their house for a light lunch to meet some British folks they do a house exchange with periodically. Since I hail from England myself, they thought it would be nice for me to meet them—and it was.

I had just bought a bottle of Nicholson’s 2008 Estate Chardonnay ($24), Santa Cruz Mountains, and so this would be the perfect libation to have with a variety of cheeses, salad, salami and pickles.

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Dining Reviews

Fuel Stop

Fuel Stop

Moss Landing's Lighthouse Harbor Grille offers tasty entrées

After kayaking, or on the way to Laguna Seca or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing is a convenient stop for breakfast or lunch. Sandwiched between The Whole Enchilada restaurant and a huge fruit stand sits a shack-like structure which houses Lighthouse Harbor Grille.

The brightly painted interior is decorated with nautical kitsch right down to the vinyl tablecloths and curtains with lacy lighthouses. Each table held Tapatio and three flavors of Tabasco, stirring in me a craving for something spicy.

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Dining Reviews

Hot from Your Oven

Hot from Your Oven

Fresh Prep Kitchens returns to a retail storefront, this time in Capitola's King's Plaza Shopping Center next to Baskin Robbins. To ensure that your favorites are waiting when you arrive, it's best to order through the website. However, I was at OSH and stopped in to see what was available.

The kitchen was abuzz as employees prepared and packaged ready-to-cook meals. From the refrigerator I selected Dijon-Herb Crispy Chicken Bake ($14.95) with mashed potatoes. I then heard a call from the kitchen that the Chicken Pot Pie ($15.95) was ready. Each comes with a side of vegetables or greens.

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Wine Reviews

Nonno’s Italian Café & Wine

Nonno’s Italian Café & Wine

Vino di Nonno – California Red Wine

Nonno’s Italian Cafe is one of the most unpretentious little places on the map of California. It’s also a treasure trove of wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Situated atop a hill in the beautiful Redwood Estates, it’s an easy drive from Santa Cruz, threading one’s way through majestic redwood trees to Nonno’s bucolic setting. Restaurant owner Ralph di Tullio is passionate about wine, so much so that as well as running his very busy restaurant, he even makes his own wine—Vino di Nonno, a California red wine which sells for $12 at his restaurant. “I buy the components from different Santa Cruz Mountains wineries and we make our own blend,” he says. “This particular one is 65 percent Tempranillo, 33 percent Petite Sirah and 2 percent Viognier. It’s a non-vintage blend of several years,” he adds.

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Dining Reviews

Curry My Favor

Curry My Favor

The new Real Thai Kitchen still offers a huge selection of fresh, house-made and delectable dishes

When Real Thai Kitchen changed hands, I was understandably concerned. This was a kitchen that made curry pastes from scratch, which didn't hold back on traditional ingredients, and which knew that if you asked for "Thai Spicy" you understood the consequences. With some attractive decor changes, the addition of Sunday dinner, and a beautiful color photo menu, I still recognize some faces, including the chef's. Thai Kitchen's weekday lunch buffet ($8.95) offers a quick and flavorful midday repast. It typically includes Tom Kha coconut-based soup with cabbage and tofu, a crisp green salad with peanut dressing, fruit, white and brown rice, and eight hot dishes, of which the curries tend to be the spiciest. Still, if you'd like more heat, ask for a condiment tray which includes ground chilies and chili paste.

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Dining Reviews

Fore The View

Fore The View

Pasatiempo, which means "a relaxed pastime" is a golf course designed by internationally acclaimed Dr. Alister MacKenzie and local Marion Hollins. It is fitting then that the bar and grill that bears his name is perched on a hill overlooking the 9th fairway with a view of Santa Cruz and the bay beyond. Golfers can enjoy an early breakfast, order lunch from the kiosk at the 9th tee or enjoy post round meal and beverages, and the public is welcome. Breakfast ($7 to $10.50) served all day, includes eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, omelets, burritos, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruit and Grand Marnier French toast.

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A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
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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

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

 

Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way