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Jan 27th
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Food & Drink

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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Force of Nature

Santa Cruz’s Carlie Statsky brings her love of the natural world to the hyper-personal art of wedding photography

 

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

The magical time of Mercury’s retrograde cycle is here once again, until Feb. 11, and then some. The Mercury retro cycle actually lasts eight weeks when we consider its retrograde shadow, giving us six months a year for review. We know the rules of Mercury retro: Be careful with everything; cars, driving, money, resources, friends, friendships, groups, interactions, thinking, talking, communications. Avoid big purchases, important meetings and important repairs. Mercury retrograde times are for review, reassessment and rest. Our minds are overloaded from the last Mercury retro. Our minds need to assess what we’ve done since October—eliminating what is not needed, keeping what’s important, preparing for new information in the next three months (till mid-May). Mercury in Aquarius retrograde … we reinvent ourselves, seek the unusual, we don’t hide, we’re just careful. We live in two worlds; outer appearances and inner reckonings, with both sides of our brain activated. Yet, like the light of the Gemini twins, one light waxes (inner world), the other (outer realities) wanes. Like Virgo, we see what’s been overlooked—assessing, ordering and organizing information. It’s an entirely inner process. When speaking we may utter only half of the sentence. We’re in the underworld, closer to Spirit, eyes unseeing, senses alerted, re-doing things over and over till we sometimes collapse. Because we’re in other realms, we’re wobbly, make mistakes, and don’t really know what we want. It’s not a time for decisions. Not yet. It’s a time of review. And completing things. Mercury retro: integration, slowing down, resolution, rapprochement.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of January 23

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Bye Bye Benten!

Benten closing, plus Award-winning gin, a massive burrito and chocolate review

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Scanning the shelves of Deluxe Foods of Aptos, which carries an impressive selection of local and imported wines, I picked up a bottle of Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, described as “a local favorite” by the busy market.

 

Cremer House

What’s old is cutting-edge again in Felton

 

How are you going to make a tangible difference in your community this year?

Spread more kindness and compassion.