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Sep 02nd
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

The Nutty Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Santa Cruz couple opens a unique nut bar in downtown Santa Cruz

Most nuts make wonderful, healthy snacks packed with protein, fiber, minerals and healthy oils.

At Santa Cruz's new Nut Kreations, there are plenty of nutty products to pick from.

On my first visit, I was bedazzled and overwhelmed by the selection as I eyed the rows of triangular dishes in the U-shaped glass-fronted display case. Nuts are raw, roasted, spiced or sugared. There are also candied pretzels, chocolate chips and beautiful dried fruit, some of it also seasoned; everything you need to create a signature trail mix or granola. Attractive wall cabinets hold nut roasters, butters, oils, flours, syrups, sauces, extracts, teas, coffees and cookbooks.

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Dining Reviews

Out of the Office

Out of the Office

Working as I do all over the county, I'm constantly seeking little places with reasonably priced eats where I can get some work done. It seems the food writing muse is more apt to appear in the presence of sustenance. Additionally, the regulars at each of these establishments tend to represent a different slice of Santa Cruz that is equally nourishing.

One such place is The Coffee House, off the beaten path amidst the light industrial and medical businesses that line Commercial Way. A few months ago it became part of the Live Oak Cafe and Bakery family which is owned by Kathleen Rawson. Her easygoing husband Bill, a boisterous barista, makes everyone feel welcome.

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Wine Reviews

Storrs Winery

Storrs Winery

Zinfandel 2007

Judges at last year’s California State Fair named Storrs Winery’s 2007 Central Coast Zinfandel Best Zinfandel of Region. This fabulous Zin was also awarded a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition of 2010.

It goes without saying, then, that winemaker Stephen Storrs, with many years of experience now under his belt, is turning out some impressive wines. His 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay also won Best Wine of Region, Best Chardonnay of Region, and a gold medal as well.

The grapes for this Zinfandel were grown in the coastal foothills of California’s Central Coast, where the maritime climate allows the grapes to slowly ripen. The end result is a luscious fruit-forward wine with dense aromas of blackberry and cherry.

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Dining Reviews

Variety is the Spice

Variety is the Spice

At Guang Zho, fresh ingredients are infused with flavors from Peking, Hunan and Singapore

For five years now Guang Zho has been filling Live Oak neighbors with Chinese food from its restaurant on Portola Road. The menu boasts more than 150 dishes, some more familiar than others. And for vegetarians, they are happy to substitute a high quality textured vegetable protein in almost any dish.

The funky brick building is reminiscent of an old burger joint drive-in, but inside, soothing pastel colors of pink, mint and forest green set the stage for a relaxing meal.

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Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Viognier 2010

The grapes for this delightful wine come from the Gimelli Vineyard in Cienega Valley, San Benito County—a great area for producing Viognier. Only recently becoming popular in the United States, it’s a rich white wine that you won’t find on the shelves of every supermarket. Although it’s a bit difficult to partner with food because of its low acid and high alcohol, it’s robust and full-bodied—and actually one of my favorites. I think it’s a terrific wine to pop open when you have a couple of friends over and you just want to drink something other than Chardonnay. Viognier thrives in warm climates and grows well in California’s hot Central Coast areas.

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Dining Reviews

Good Morning, Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam

Tran Noodle Restaurant brings healthy Southeast Asian cuisine to Watsonville

According to Vatcharin Bhumichitr in his book “Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia,” more salads are consumed in Vietnam than in any of its neighboring countries, and fresh herbs seem to be a focal point of the meal rather than a stand-alone course. We've had little opportunity in our county to explore this delicious cuisine until recently, and although pasta is featured in the name of Andy Tran's new Tran Noodle Restaurant, it's the fresh fruits and greens, seasonings, and attention to details that steal the show.

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Dining Reviews

More than Mexican

More than Mexican

Tuesdays are great days to visit Watsonville. That's when the new La Buena Taqueria and More serves $1 tacos all day. And while the menu brochure lists just four popular fillings, a poster on the counter offers almost four times as many, and the taqueria uses local, seasonal ingredients in its family recipes

I opted for my favorite, Carne Asada. Two soft four-inch corn tortillas were topped with minced beef, piquant white onions, tomatoes and cilantro with a spoonful of bright, nicely fiery salsa. I added a bit more salsa fresca from the salsa bar for a very satisfying snack.

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Wine Reviews

Coastview Vineyard

Coastview Vineyard

Chardonnay 2008


Soif wine bar on Walnut Avenue in the heart of Santa Cruz is well worth a visit if you haven’t been there. When it comes to wine, they don’t pussyfoot around—preferring instead to carry a selection of wines of note and interest. This is where I tasted Coastview Vineyard’s Chardonnay 2008, Terraces—a pale yellow beauty made by winemaker Ian Brand. Awash with luscious fruit, this is a bold Chardonnay for sure—with amazing flavors of lemon, golden apple and a touch of pear. The wine was fermented with native yeast—and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

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Dining Reviews

Family Night

Family Night

Traditional Japanese fare and energetic sushi masters keep Rumble Fish packed to the gills

I certainly have my own list of favorite Japanese dishes, but I task myself to experience new ones as well. Such was the case during a recent dinner at Scotts Valley's Rumble Fish.

For starters, the Goa-Ae ($4.95) was a hillock of wilted spinach flavored with a generous amount of coarse, nutty sesame seed paste. A thin slice of tender beef with the flavor of skirt steak was rolled around a spear of asparagus, thin julienne of carrots and red cabbage, and cut sushi roll style.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Foodie File: Beer Thirty

Cups runneth over at Soquel’s new beer garden

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.