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Apr 23rd
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Shop, Eat, Repeat

Shop, Eat, Repeat

Barraged by brand names and national chains at the Capitola mall, it's comforting to find sustenance in a local cafe. Whether you're frantically filling Christmas wish lists or surfing end-of-year sales, Cafe Laila by the fountain will warm you up, tide you over, assuage your sweet tooth or fill you up with a freshly made sandwich.

For cold liquid refreshments, Cafe Laila serves various flavors of bubble tea with chewy tapioca pearls, frappuccino, a selection of iced teas and coffees, as well as sodas, Gatorade and energy drinks. Smoothie flavors ($3.95/$4.50) include Matcha Green Tea and banana-pineapple-mango.

There is also a full line of coffees and teas, and this time of the year Cafe Laila steeps holiday special mochas and lattes including gingerbread, peppermint and pumpkin pie. I relaxed with a soothing 12-ounce eggnog mocha ($4) while planning the rest of my day.

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Wine Reviews

Walters

Walters

Pinot Noir 2007 – A Gorgeous Wine for the Holidays

Raking around in Vinocruz, I come across a Walters wine–a label I hadn’t seen before. It’s exciting to find something new and local and then learn about the winemaker and what has propelled them to make wine commercially. Most winemakers start off as novices–making wine in their own backyard for the simple joy of it. But the truly dedicated winemaker, who is making a good enough product to be sold commercially, also has the hard slog of getting to that point. And even when all the bottling, corking and labeling is done, the new winemaker still has to get his name out there and his wine sold.

Certainly a good start is getting your wine into Vinocruz, the Santa Cruz wine shop dedicated to selling and promoting locally made wines. This lovely wine destination is also a great place to sample our local wines and to meet winemakers in our area at special events held in the store.

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Dining Reviews

Comfort Food

Comfort Food

With cozy booths, professional service and an ever-evolving seasonal menu, a visit to Vida was delightful

We often enjoy appetizers at Vida Lounge and Grill, but it had been some time since we sat down for dinner. In the meantime, Noah Thorwaldson had become the Executive Chef and the new menu was inviting. I was pleased to encounter the same level of service that I had in the past. We were greeted warmly at the door and ushered to a softly-lit booth where our server was extremely knowledgeable with respect to the ingredients, and very thoughtful.

Vida is also known for its creative cocktails, as was evidenced by full attendance in the bar area on a Saturday evening. The legendary Mojito ($7) includes Myer's rum, fresh mint and lime and sparkles with a splash of soda. Slices of cucumber and the pulp of freshly squeezed lemon juice floated on top of the Cucumber Martini ($9), made with smooth Hendrick's Scottish gin and French St~Germain elderflower liqueur. The vodka Ginger Rodgers ($7) with muddled mint and fresh lemon was seasoned with spicy pieces of fresh ginger.

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Dining Reviews

Desperately Seeking Spumoni

Desperately Seeking Spumoni

Where I grew up, pistachios were red and arrived in Christmas gift baskets. My sisters and I would finish off the bag with split thumbnails and pink fingers to show for it.

Later, I found pistachio ice cream in France as ubiquitous as chocolate. Although I wondered silently why it was green and found its flavor odd, surprisingly enough it was familiar, reminding me of spumoni.

As a child, the occasional trip to San Francisco with my grandparents typically included an Italian dinner, most often in the Doll Room at Veneto's. The meals would invariably begin with a Shirley Temple and end with spumoni. It's not that I ever craved this frozen finale, but it was part of our ritual and a rare opportunity for dessert was not to be dismissed. Swirls of chocolate, pink and alien green ice creams contained nameless bits of things found in holiday fruitcakes, but it was cold and very sweet.

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Wine Reviews

Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards

Three Valleys 2008
When seven women go out for dinner, it’s not necessarily guaranteed that the noise level will be kept to a minimum. We decided to dine at Center Street Grill because we could have our own cozy corner in the spacious restaurant and a few decibels of heated conversation would not disturb other diners.

Center Street Grill now has a full bar, so it’s a good spot to go for that after-work glass of wine or gin and tonic. They carry some Santa Cruz Mountains wines, too, a fact which always gains high marks in my book.

Ridge Vineyards has long been a member of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) and is a very well known and prestigious winery. I was pleased to see Ridge on the wine menu at Center Street Grill and I ordered a bottle of Three Valleys ($30) for us all to share.

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Dining Reviews

Sizzling Satiation

Sizzling Satiation

Chef Liu in Scotts Valley offers a wide selection of Hunan, Cantonese and Szechuan specialties, including an incredible Hot Pot.

I had high hopes for lunch when I encountered a practically packed parking lot at Chef Liu. Opening the back door, I slid into a warm and decidedly fragrant room.

Although previously known as Mei Garden, the restaurant has not been related to its namesake on Ocean Street for more than a decade. Last year, to avoid confusion, the owners gave it a new and eponymous name.

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Dining Reviews

Mushroom Surprise

Mushroom Surprise

By night it's billed as "Capitola's funnest bar and grille" with Thursday Karaoke, live bands on Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday Pro Jams. But when the morning sun filters through its front doors, the Esplanade's Fog Bank morphs into a family-friendly breakfast nook.

From the beautifully crafted bar draped with fishing nets, came a Bloody Mary ($5.25), heartily flecked with black pepper and horseradish in a slender Collins glass, complete with a spiced green bean and pimiento-stuffed olive. The morning brew was served with class in pedestaled glass Irish Coffee cups.

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Wine Reviews

Roudon-Smith

Roudon-Smith

Pinot Noir 2008

Roudon-Smith is one of the better-known wineries in the area. Their wines are to be found in good wine stores and on the menu of many local restaurants. If you haven’t visited the winery’s tasting room down the long and winding Bean Creek Road in Scotts Valley, then you’re in for a treat. Hidden away under a redwood canopy, it’s in a beautiful bucolic setting. And some good wines await you when you get there.

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Dining Reviews

Beachfront Brunch

Beachfront Brunch

Bluewater's weekend brunch mixes steak house favorites with farm fresh eggs

Certainly one of the most wonderful blessings we have in Santa Cruz is oceanfront dining. The bay changes faces with the seasons; sometimes shrouded in mystery by fog, sometimes tossing sparkling diamonds, or like last weekend, dimpled and grey as we enjoyed brunch at the Bluewater Steakhouse.

Bluewater is a cozy little place with sofas and tall tables on one side, and dining tables around the bar which are lit by a wall of windows facing the water. We took a seat in the corner nook on comfortable bench seats. From this up-some-steps vantage point I could keep my eye on a football game unfolding on the large screen. The bright interior is much improved over its predecessor in the 1980s, where a server named David at Mac's Patio treated my grandmother like a movie star.

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Dining Reviews

A Taste of Portugal

A Taste of Portugal

Is it linguiça or chouriço? This debate apparently persists in Portugal and in America's Portuguese communities alike. These sausages are essential to Brazilian feijoada black bean stew and Portuguese caldo verde, a potato soup made green with fresh, thinly sliced kale. The sausages are smoked, and very different from the finely ground raw offal version we know locally as chorizo.

According to David Leite, a renowned food writer who grew up in a Portuguese neighborhood in Fall River, Mass., (as did Emeril Lagasse), what you call it depends on where you grew up. There are a wide variety of styles from lean to fatty, and mild to spicy named either way. The only agreement Leite mentions, is that linguiça is more slender.

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Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management