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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A fellow Brit and good friend, Emma, was in Santa Cruz recently, visiting from London, and it’s always a pleasure to show visitors our wonderful area. Having been to this neck of the woods before, Emma particularly loves Capitola Village, so we headed there for a stroll around and then to Paradise Beach Grille for a glass or two of wine.
Paradise Beach Grille carries quite a few of our local wines and, of course, I always choose local when it’s available. On this particularly warm afternoon, a Clos LaChance Chardonnay is just the ticket. It’s an upbeat refreshing wine, full of tropical fruit, apples and pear flavors with a flinty mineral finish.
Peachwood's arranges happy marriages between local produce, Kansas City beef and Omaha pork
On Sunday mornings at brunch you may find David Smith, chef-proprietor of Peachwood's Steakhouse, manning the carving station dressed regally in whites and a tall, pleated toque. Once a Midwest college chemistry professor, Smith owned a Kansas City-style steakhouse and in 1991 brought his recipes and relationships with family ranchers to Santa Cruz.