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Jul 23rd
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Carefree Highway

Carefree HighwayBen Lomond’s little Spanky’s Café offers unique breakfast specialties | by Karen Petersen
Before a day of scenic hiking in Big Basin, there are numerous eateries along Highway 9 to fuel the journey. One is tiny Spanky’s Cafe in Ben Lomond, where scalable breakfasts won’t break the bank.
The little wood-wainscoted dining room accommodates just over 30 diners with another five patio picnic tables filled on busy days.
The entire menu is available from opening until close. Choose from sandwiches ($6.25 to $7.50) and one-third pound burgers ($6.75 to $7.25) all served with either potato, macaroni or green salad.
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Dining Reviews

Tiki Got Your Tongue?

Tiki Got Your Tongue?After work, I enjoy an occasional Happy Hour with friends, co-workers or my spouse. It’s a time for transition, when the day’s important issues are discussed and then left behind as we sashay into the dinner hour. On Tuesdays at Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room, Happy Hour lasts all night, and with its multi-faceted pupu menu the appetizers can easily become dinner.
I began with a $5 happy hour Painkiller, no, really, served in a stout Mai Tai glass.
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Wine Reviews

Pietra Santa Winery

Pietra Santa WineryZinfandel 2007

One of my husband’s favorite wines is Zinfandel. He’s always happy with a glass of bold and lusty red in his hand, especially a full-throttled Zin. We had a lunchtime function to go to in Hollister – so we headed out to Pietra Santa’s extensive piece of property after. Here was a golden opportunity, whilst in the area, to taste some of their interesting wines, the Zinfandel amongst them. This bold and earthy Zin tastes of ripe cherries and plums with complements of tasty oak—with a delightful finish of black pepper and sage. Coming from vines that are 50 years old on a block of the estate that was planted in 1905, it’s a “sinful Zinful” to be sure.
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Dining Reviews

Just Do It!

Just Do It!

From fried appetizers to fresh salads and giant burgers, Rocco's 503 is fresh

I have great respect for restaurateurs. It's a time-consuming profession, and in Santa Cruz, includes a seasonal risk. The odds of surviving a year in this business are small, but for Peter Rinaldi, owner of Rocco's 503, it was time to take the leap.

Rinaldi's Italian grandfather, and then his father, grew Brussels sprouts on the north coast. All of his cousins and their children still farm throughout the county.

"It just wasn't for me," Rinaldi says, "I always wanted to do something a little more social. I wanted to make my own path."

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Dining Reviews

Bringing Home the Bacon

Bringing Home the Bacon

On our last visit to France my teenagers and I left familiar Paris to explore the country's interior. We quickly learned that lunch was served only at lunch time. Fortunately the café-bars offered baguettes spread with rillettes, a pâté of sorts. Traditionally, tough cuts of meat were tenderized by simmering in lard, after which they were pounded to a paste, loaded into ramekins and preserved with a topping of melted fat. Now they are typically made from various cuts of pork, although goose and fish find their way into these creamy hors d'oeuvres.

Chef Chris LaVeque brings such old world handcrafted charcuterie, made from pasture-raised animals, to Santa Cruz at el Salchichero. Charcuterie is an ancient craft creating all things pork, from butchering to finished products, including cooked and cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, ham, and pâté.

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Wine Reviews

Hess Collection

Hess Collection

Chardonnay 2008


A group of friends gathered recently at the Hollins House for dinner. As usual, food and service were excellent in this lovely restaurant. The extensive bar is a good spot to go for a cocktail – and you can always get some appetizers if a hunger pang or two kicks in.

I order a Hess Select Chardonnay 2008 Monterey to sip on before dinner (bottle $30, glass $8) and am delighted by this crisp and refreshing wine. Its vibrant tropical fruit flavors of pineapple, green apple and melon burst out of the glass.

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Dining Reviews

When the Point is Breakfast

When the Point is Breakfast

The multifaceted morning menu at The Point Chophouse and Lounge starts the weekend out right

Known for steaks and happy hours, The Point Chophouse opens its doors early for weekend breakfast and lunch where a diverse clientele clusters in the lounge's semicircular overstuffed booths. This room, once dark with light-consuming wood-covered walls, is now painted white with framed pen- and-ink drawings of local scenes adding to its luminescence.

Pints of Bloody Marys ($4) were accessorized with celery, olives, and pepperoncini. An ideal venue for armchair athletes, we gathered up close to the large flat screen to watch the March Madness basketball championship.

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Dining Reviews

Late, Great Pizza

Late, Great Pizza

People flock to San Francisco's South Beach to watch Giants games. You'll find top notch clubs in South Beach, Florida. But at South Beach Pizza Co. in Santa Cruz, I encountered a cheerful server, accommodating kitchen, and pizza just the way I like it. And they're open daily until 11 p.m.

From a tall-stemmed, tulip-shaped glass I enjoyed peppery Liberty Cabernet watching palm trees over the Main Beach volleyball courts oscillating rhythmically with the wind. The old-school CD juke box is free, and tunes from Nirvana, the late Nate Dogg, Lady Gaga and Blink-182 shared airplay.

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Wine Reviews

Muns Vineyard

Muns Vineyard

Syrah 2008


Local winemaker Ed Muns, along with his business partner Mary Lindsay, was pouring his excellent wines at a recent event – which is when I tasted his Syrah 2008, Santa Cruz Mountains and immediately bought a bottle to write about. Here’s an estate-grown Syrah ($25) that is rich, complex, well balanced, and bursting with beautiful fruit. It’s a dynamic wine that drinks well now, but will also bottle-age nicely for years to come. Syrah, with its peppery flavor and smoky aroma, pairs very well with meat, but it’s a bit too robust for fish or anything light.

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Dining Reviews

Foodie Road Trip

Foodie Road Trip

The Ferry Building Farmers Market is a community celebration

San Francisco's Ferry Building Farmers Market is considered one of the best in the country for its diversity of produce and the uniqueness of artisinal foodstuffs. Each week, its three markets attract 25,000 visitors, the largest one on Saturdays.

In the spirit of sustainability I gathered canvas bags, a trio of reusable mesh produce bags ($7.50 Bed Bath & Beyond) and stepped onto Metro's 17 Express bus just before 7 a.m. to catch Caltrain at San Jose's Diridon Station. From an upstairs seat overlooking homes and fruit-laden citrus trees I pondered the juxtaposition of graffiti-tagged warehouses and backyard tennis courts.

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Roger That

The late film critic Robert Ebert profiled in lively doc, ‘Life Itself’

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.