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Jul 31st
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Gourmet Pique-nique

Gourmet Pique-nique

Hidden at the center of the Seascape Village retail shops, Seascape Foods offers beach gear, basic groceries, local products, and gourmet food to go that can join you at beach or for a round of golf.

In the morning, enjoy a coffee drink with breakfast burritos and omelettes. The fresh house-baked muffins are always delicious. Recently, a sweet surfaced Strawberry Muffin ($2.50) with a crinkled brown crust divulged bubble gum-colored berries from its hearty interior.

A wealth of salads ($7.99 to $10.99 per pound) was displayed in the case at lunchtime including marinated tofu or gigante beans, carrot, and antipasti with roasted tomatoes. Green salads such as Greek and Caesar are also available. Entrées of Tri-tip Lasagna, Baked Mac and Cheese, Vegetarian Lasagna, and fat, sauced enchiladas waited in thick casserole dishes.

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Wine Reviews

Vine Hill Winery

Vine Hill Winery

Vine Hill Chardonnay 2009


Vine Hill Winery happens to be located on one of the oldest grape-growing regions in California – established by brothers John and George Jarvis and others in 1867. It is one of the most gorgeous spots in Santa Cruz County – sitting high on a hill with magnificent views of the Monterey Bay. This particular area is known for the thin sandy loam that carpets the lithic bedrock of the mountains. Add to this the cooling air of the bay and the result is prime grape-growing land.

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Dining Reviews

Oh, Au Midi

Oh, Au MidiAu Midi Restaurant & Bistrot raises the culinary bar

Not long after Muriel and Michel Loubiere opened Au Midi in October 2008, word quickly spread about this delightful French restaurant, and it was soon rated one of the best restaurants in the area. It has continuously maintained this status—thanks in no small part to the culinary talents of chef Muriel Loubiere.

My friend Sandy and I are greeted and seated by Michel in the warmth of the small cozy restaurant. We order a bottle of Soquel Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc ($34), an excellent pairing to go with our main dish of seafood.

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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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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

 

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