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Sep 20th
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Dining

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

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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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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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

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

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.