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Sep 23rd
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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi

Vino TabiCabernet Franc 2008

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Surf City Vintners complex tasting wine at Vino Tabi. It was a fundraiser for the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program and winery owner Katie Fox was donating a percentage of sales that evening to this worthy cause. The turnout was great and everybody had a good time, especially listening to the beautiful guitar playing of Jay Alvarez.
Fox had her usual excellent wines lined up for customers to enjoy, but then she pulled out her latest Cabernet Franc and asked me to try it. So newly bottled it didn’t even have a label on it, I was completely bowled over with this dark beauty. Chock full of rich flavors and deliciously seductive, this 2008 Cab Franc, Mannstead Vineyard, Gilroy ($22), is a really impressive. It’s quite the best Cab Franc I have tasted in some time—full of ripe plums and rich cherries, and with a gorgeous aroma of peppery spice.
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Dining Reviews

The Gathering

The Gathering

Westside Coffee Company offers an amiable environment and tasty food with their array of Java and tea

Espresso used to be so simple. A quick stop at a Parisian Café yielded a dark, hot, aromatic beverage served in a tiny, white demitasse cup with a cube of sugar. In minutes we were back

on the sidewalk attending to remaining errands.

At Westside Coffee Company the coffee beverages are worth lingering over with neighbors or Wi-Fi-enabled laptops. The store has been in business for more than 15 years, but now has a brand new owner and friendly, efficient baristas.

Pastries ($2.25) are baked in-house every day. The one-inch thick slice of moist, nutty banana bread was dense and crumbly and not too sweet.

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Dining Reviews

A Hot Tip

A Hot Tip

I try to avoid grocery shopping when hungry, but just driving into the parking lot at Scotts Valley Market when smoke is drifting upwards from the outdoor grill makes me ready for another meal.

Every day they fire up wood chunks to cook meats for their deli. Today spice-rubbed tri-tip, large racks of ribs, and chicken legs lent their aroma to the smoke.

The market is the sister of Ben Lomond Market, and locally owned by a family which has been in the grocery business since 1946. The merchandising is sharp and orderly with products supported by stainless Metro-style wire shelving. The produce is locally grown when available and 40 percent of it is organic.

My destination on this visit was the deli, with a case full of prepared salads from pasta to tuna and Chinese Chicken. There's a fresh fruit bar and a two-sided salad bar with a great selection of greens and toppings.

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Wine Reviews

Quinta Cruz

Quinta Cruz

Verdelho 2009

Jeff Emery has always turned out some wonderful wines under his Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard label—they are much appreciated by local wine lovers and have always sold well. And now the same can be said for his Quinta Cruz label—where Emery concentrates his talents on producing Iberian style wines such as Verdelho ($20). The grapes for this tangy medium-sweet wine were first cultivated in Portugal around 1400 and used in the making of Madeira. Emery’s Verdelho, Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyard, is a dry, crisp aromatic wine that will knock your socks off. Aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, honeydew melons, citrus and floral notes make this unusual wine so enjoyable. I simply love it.

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Dining Reviews

First Resort

First Resort

The coastal cuisine at Sanderlings, with fresh, local ingredients, is as nice as the view

At Sanderlings in Aptos, creative food is available 16 hours a day. Even the all-day menu is enticing with spicy Garlic Wings as a snack or a Grilled New York Sandwich for something more substantial. On my visits, each of the experienced staff members were punctual and polite.
At breakfast, porcelain vases of fragrant pastel sweet pea flowers adorned white tablecloths. Smooth jazz played in the north-facing dining room, which looks out over manicured shrubs and wooden patio seating toward spindly cypress trees, Monterey Bay and the cliffs of Santa Cruz. Sand-colored Spanish-style townhouses of the resort hug the cliff, framed by a eucalyptus forest.
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Dining Reviews

Oh, Fudge

Oh, Fudge

I typically view fudge as a Christmas necessity, but mid-way through the year it’s National Fudge Day. I have made fudge in the traditional manner of boiling sugar, butter and milk to the soft ball stage temperature, then stirring in unsweetened chocolate squares until melted and fully integrated. When I got a microwave oven and discovered Marshmallow Cream, it substantially simplified the process. I also learned that no matter how tiny the pieces I shaved from the soft block of chocolate sugar, eating most of a batch results in substantial weight gain.

Now I look to the experts when it comes to fudge, who offer manageable quarter-pound slices. Split four ways, each serving is only 120 calories.

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Wine Reviews

Fleming Jenkins

Fleming Jenkins

Victories Rosé 2010 – Rosé for Research

I well remember the first time I met Peggy Fleming,  the world-famous ice skater and Olympic gold medal winner. It was at Testarossa Vineyards in Los Gatos. Fleming and her husband Greg Jenkins were just getting going with their winery, and were holding some of their events at Testarossa. It was only in 1999 that they planted their first vineyard of Chardonnay grapes, and they didn’t have a tasting room at that point in time. But that’s all changed as their winery has progressed. They now have a lovely tasting room in downtown Los Gatos that is available for private, corporate or nonprofit events for groups of 10 to 40 people.

The second time I met Fleming, at an event in Los Gatos, we chatted about everything under the sun, and I was left with a lasting impression of her down-to-earth personality.

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Dining Reviews

Sharing the Beans

Sharing the Beans

A Taste of Puerto Rico brings Caribbean cooking and culture into your kitchen

It was a home-cooked, multi-course meal in another couple's home, prepared by a guest chef. There were flavors and textures I had never experienced thanks to Ishmael Huggins who owns A Taste of Puerto Rico with his wife Lori Williams. Williams sets the stage with music and a festive table while Huggins heads to the kitchen to prepare dishes from his homeland. He is best known as a singer of Caribbean-Latin music for the band Broken English.

First to the table was an attractive platter of Serenata de Bacalao which merges the culinary cultures of Africa, Spain and Italy. Dried salt cod, soaked in water to remove most of its briny taste was mixed with chunks of potato, tomatoes and pimiento-stuffed olives and dressed with olive oil and oregano. On top were sliced hard-boiled eggs and slivers of ripe avocado.

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Dining Reviews

Short Order

Short Order

It's an itty bitty kitchen, but the staff at Jack's Hamburgers keeps the piping hot orders streaming through the door. A sheet pan of assembled lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle stacks await to be popped onto sandwiches at the last second, as hungry patrons wait for their names to be called.

I added chunky red onions to a warming cup of Chili ($2.25) which featured two varieties of soft beans and finely minced peppers in a thick, mildly spiced soup. This hearty stew is also available on french fries ($2.75/$3.25) as well as burgers.

Monterey Ranch Chicken Sandwich ($5.85) from the list of daily specials was spectacular. Layered between halves of a large, toasty French roll, was smoky grilled chicken breast, bright lettuce and thick slices of tomato, the same as a regular Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($4.60), with the addition of flavorful ranch dressing and melted Monterey Jack cheese.

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Wine Reviews

Naumann Vineyards

Naumann Vineyards

Late Harvest Merlot 2007


Although I have written about Naumann Vineyards’ Merlot in a previous article, this Merlot is very different because it’s a semi-sweet dessert wine. It’s a wine to enjoy with your strawberries and cream after dinner, or just to drink on its own when you feel like imbibing on something that’s sweeter than usual.

Owner and winemaker Don Naumann founded his winery in 2001. He purchased the property in 1987 and planted the vineyard in 1994. Its prime location – complete with warm days and cool mountain nights – produces the finest variety of wines, and the Late Harvest Merlot is one of them.

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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

 

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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.