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Sep 19th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Hoffman’s hands reigns over to Food Network for an extreme makeover

There was suspense and drama, frustration and anticipation, showmanship and emotion. Like Roger Craig at Albertson’s, Lance Armstrong on Beach Street, and James Durbin at Loudon Nelson, this was a Santa Cruz moment. Food Network was in town.

When I read about the filming of Restaurant Impossible at Hoffman’s, I called for reservations along with every other self-professed foodie in town. Upwards of fifty redials and no luck. I felt like the Queen of Sheba on Monday when an associate said there was a seat for me.

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Wine Reviews

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009


Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine is a casual, inexpensive dining spot in Aptos with a focus on Persian and Mediterranean food. It’s an ideal restaurant for seven women friends to have dinner where we can share a good laugh, and not-so-subdued conversation. And food is ordered over the counter so each can pay his own bill.

Zameen owner, Ed Watson, carries a few local wines, but plans to eventually stock a whole lot more. I order a bottle of Francis Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($21)—part of the Diamond Collection – with fruit from various California vineyards. A hearty Cab is just what’s needed to go with robust foods such as falafel, lamb wraps, Mediterranean meatballs and spiced chicken kebab.

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Dining Reviews

Continuity of Community

Continuity of CommunityFrom snacks to hearty dinners and bocci ball to nightly live music, Bocci's Cellar remains an important gathering place

In the first decade of the 17th century, Mission Church planted vineyards in the area of Harvey West Park, ostensibly the first local viticulture. A few Victorian homes built a century later still stand nearby. Angelo Peter Urbani was born in one of these on Encinal Street to Italian immigrants. The family elevated their home to create a cellar underneath in which to age barrels of wine. Of Angelo's sons, Joseph is immortalized on a plaque outside of Bocci's Cellar for adding the bar and dining room that transformed the home into a gathering place for the Italian community.
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Dining Reviews

PIZZA @ burger.

PIZZA @ burger.

Some things just go together; Rum and coke, peanuts and Crackerjacks, pizza and beer. Which brings me to Mission Street's burger., where almost 50 draft beers are joined by even more bottled selections. All those beers, just begging for pizza. And burger. heard their cries.

The new offerings are wood-fired with dough and sauces made daily. The pizzas I enjoyed each had thin, cracker-crisp crusts, a seared edge here and there, and a hint of flavorful cheese.

We ordered burgers and pizzas at the counter, and beers at the bar. The burgers arrived quickly. French fries were dipped in ketchup, sweet potato fries in a vinegared Thousand Island-style tartar sauce. As my compadres took the final bites of their juicy sandwiches, making use of the abundant napkins, the first pizza arrived.

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Wine Reviews

Odonata Wines

Odonata Wines

River Skimmer 2010 and Garden Variety Cheese

Rebecca King is a professional chef, farmer, cheese maker and shepherdess. As we arrive at King’s Monkey Flower Ranch in Royal Oaks, Calif. last month for an open house, her flock of about 100 sheep are busy grazing, and barely look up to greet us. One solitary black goat catches my eye—standing alone in the middle of a flock of his white and woolly ovine friends.

We start by sampling some of King’s fine cheeses, then taking a tour of the property—which includes the milking area and cheese-making facility—before heading to the picnic table for lunch.

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Dining Reviews

Dynamic Dining

Dynamic Dining

With an ever-changing menu, it's like a new restaurant at every visit to Main Street Garden Cafe


I find it impossible to get bored with Main Street Garden Cafe. Under the leadership of Chef Brad Briske, previously of San Francisco's Millennium and Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz, the menu incorporates pasture-raised meats, sustainable fish, house-made pasta, local wines, and local organic produce, some from the restaurant's own garden, and including eggs. It changes weekly to celebrate seasonal specialties which recently included tomatoes, watermelon, summer squash, shelling beans and Padrón peppers.

A parade of local artists display their craft on the walls and local musicians perform regularly on the restaurant's spacious patio.

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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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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

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

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
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Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.