On a concrete island smack in the middle of Santa Cruz's downtown metro center, fragrant sauces simmered in a tiny but well-equipped kitchen where two women were busily rolling burritos. It's a perfect location for good fast food; right on Front Street and at the stop for the heavily ridden Highway 17 Express.
Quesadillas ($3 to $6) include Sea and Land. Surprisingly thick with its edges sealed like a turnover, plump shrimp and steak joined tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and plenty of cheese within the browned tortilla.
New on the menu is Dandy's Synchronizada ($6), which combines chewy pieces of chopped steak with ham, onions, jalapeños and cheese.
El Dandy's tortas ($4.50 to $6) are very transportable—including the Torta Cubana ($6). In an oblong airy bun, thinly sliced ham, steak, chorizo, griddled, sliced hot dogs, tomato and hot pickled jalapeños made a satisfying lunch.
My husband and I often take a trip to the Palm Desert area. Even when it gets mighty hot, we always find plenty to do. The whole area from Palm Springs to La Quinta is growing rapidly and new constructions are springing up like mushrooms. At a water-feature complex in Rancho Mirage called The River, Tulip Hill Winery has an off-site tasting room that is well worth a visit. It’s a cool little enclave in the desert that showcases Tulip Hill’s award-winning boutique wines—and the tasting room also features an olive oil tasting bar and an interesting line of wine accessories, specialty foods and chocolate.
Britannia Arms expands to Capitola with bay views, breakfast and a few surprises
As it does in Aptos, Capitola’s Britannia Arms offers a combination of British, American and pub fare. Although decorated with a series of classic Guiness posters, from the architecture and view exuded a California beachfront aura.
Behind the fully occupied bar, bottles sparkled in impressive wooden shelving. From the elevated cupola room we could watch the Giants game while bright alternative rock from XM radio brightened spirits on a drizzly Tuesday evening.
Gallos means rooster in Spanish and at Taqueria los Gallos, you will find portraits and statues of the colorful fowl. Now with a second Scotts Valley location on Mt. Herman Road, their well-flavored Mexican family specialties including tortas, fajitas and vegetarian preparations are more attainable than ever.
The aroma of chilies and masa swirled from the container holding an Enchilada ($2.50). The 5-inch corn tortilla covered with a classic bright red sauce and a generous amount of melted cheese held finely shredded chicken.
By the time I got home, the cardboard box was greedily absorbing the sauce of an egg-battered Chile Relleno ($4.25). The meaty, sweet, cheese-stuffed fresh poblano chili was topped with a purée of green chilies and fresh tomatoes.
Pinot Noir 2008
The county is abuzz about Geisha's unique commitment to sustainable sushi in Capitola
Geisha Japanese Restaurant and Tea Room features creative combinations of textures and flavors in its makimono as well as a nice selection of teas. And what’s unique is the restaurant's mission to support sustainable fisheries. Unlike most sushi eateries, there is no unagi (freshwater eel), or Tako (octopus) on the menu.
The goals of sustainability include fishing practices that avoid ecosystem damage, maintain or improve target species' populations, and eschew harm of non-target species. Geisha has taken on this difficult pursuit in a complex, global industry which necessitates special relationships with fishmongers.
Although Malabar refers to a region of India along its western coast bordering the Arabian Sea, Santa Cruz's Malabar Restaurant infuses ingredients from around the world into its vegetarian menu. Japanese pumpkins, Anaheim chilies, Greek cheese, Malaysian peanut sauce and Russian Borscht are just some of the flavors that join curries and samosas in its rich list of small plates, soups, salads, pastas and entrées.
We began the meal with exotic beverages. Persian Nights ($4.25) was a sweet, lavender-colored blend of banana, pomegranate and almond milk scented with rosewater. Supertonic ($4.50), a refreshing fusion of ginseng, ginger and allspice, was topped with chewy dried Himalayan goji berries.
Baked Sonoma Goat Cheese Salad ($7.75) with beautiful baby lettuces was lightly dressed with lemon vinaigrette and topped with a soft puff of white cheese. We enjoyed it with an order of Pan ($4), the airy, soft flatbread, which was served with clarified butter ghee, generously laden with minced fresh garlic.
Not that long ago, I was wine tasting with a few friends at some of the wineries over Hecker Pass in the Gilroy area. One of the places where we stopped was Fortino Cellars. They have a lovely tasting room—and our little group was well taken care of and given a tour of the property.
Although we tasted some interesting wines that day, I was really taken with an almond-flavored Champagne they produce—although officially it really should be called sparkling wine. True Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France—and the top dogs such as Taittinger and Bollinger are pretty expensive. Bollinger, as you may remember, was always drunk by the outrageous duo in the British series “Absolutely Fabulous.” They always referred to it as “Bolly” as in “Got any Bolly, darling?”
A repertoire of Mexican sauces and neighborly atmosphere has made Manuel's an enduring Aptos treasure
For more than 45 years the Santanas have shared their family's traditional Mexican recipes with their Aptos neighbors. Recently renovated, the interior is as cheerful as the staff, and the flavorful foods are filling.
We kicked off dinner with crisp, house-fried tortilla chips and Manuel's legendary cooked, puréed salsa; well-spiced with cumin and chilies. It is so good that the kitchen bottles it for sale at the restaurant and markets such as Shopper's Corner.
Manuel's has a surprising local wine selection and glasses ($4.50) and bottles ($17) of house wines also. From the full bar domestic and imported beers ($3.50/$4.25) join glasses and pitchers of margaritas ($5.75/$15.75) plus Mango or Strawberry ritas ($5.95/$15.75).