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Apr 16th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Holy Calzone

Holy Calzone

Freshly made dough is featured at Michael's Pizza and Pasta

he Gurga family, hailing initially from Italy, and then Georgia and New York where they operated successful Italian eateries, previously owned Michael's Pizza in Aptos. A year ago, Michael's returned, this time in Capitola.

At this casual eatery, order at the counter, grab some plastic cutlery and pick a table. Sodas are self-serve, as is iced tea ($1.65/$1.95), which was strong and refreshing.

The Greek Salad ($6.50), served on a large oval platter, included hearts of romaine, wedges of Roma tomato, chunks of red onion, kalamata olives, strongly flavored feta cheese, and a delicious balsamic Italian dressing.

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Dining Reviews

Soft and Succulent

Soft and Succulent

According to Seafood Watch, farmed oysters, which constitute 95 percent of the world's harvest, are considered a "Best Choice" in terms of sustainability. Nutritionally, a trio of these bivalves has only 30 calories and provides more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of zinc and B-12 and a third of the iron requirement. Purists can guiltlessly slurp away on these open-faced mollusks raw or heated over coals until bubbles just begin to appear in their natural juices.

As a child, I first encountered an oyster hidden in a combination basket of Gilda's deep-fried Fisherman's Catch ($12.75). Its soft center contrasted favorably to the flaky cod and crisp calamari tentacles.

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Wine Reviews

Bargetto Winery

Bargetto Winery

Chardonnay 2008

A friend was treating me to dinner at Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine, so the least I could do was buy the wine. I plumped for a Bargetto Chardonnay 2008 Central Coast ($19:50 a bottle/$6 by the glass). I knew this very drinkable wine would go with Zameen’s delicious food—with its strong Persian and Mediterranean influences.

We picked a cozy table in a corner and Zameen’s owner, Ed Watson, rushed over with the nicely chilled wine and opened it up. Although this place is casual dining—food is ordered over-the-counter–the service doesn’t reflect that. Food is always delivered to the table and service is prompt and courteous. Zameen knows how to pack a flavor punch into its offerings—and prices are very reasonable, and portions plentiful.

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Dining Reviews

From Field to Able

From Field to Able

The Youth Crew at Food, What?! mixes farming-based curriculums with personal, business, community and networking skills

Since 1979 Santa Cruz’s nonprofit Life Lab organization has built a fine boutique of garden-based curriculums. Children around the country learn hands-on science in the fresh air of their school gardens. At the Garden Classroom at UC Santa Cruz, kids learn about nature, weather, and decomposition, while teacher-training classes offer graduate credits. And three years ago Food, What?! was born as a high school youth empowerment program.

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Wine Reviews

Via Vega Vineyard & Winery

Via Vega Vineyard & Winery

2005 Red Wine
I could not resist buying this wine in time for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. The label depicts a skeleton wearing a sombrero and holding a bunch of red grapes. He even has a flower tucked behind his ear.

This amusing artwork by Keith Puccinelli is part of the October series by Via Vega, and is a tribute and celebration of the harvest season. It says on the label “Growers, winemakers, and you with your glass, share the lovely October glow of the harvest moon. So enjoy our wines as you taste these vines.” At $15 a bottle, this is a fun and drinkable wine to enjoy—especially for a Halloween party if you’re looking for something killer eye-catching.

Although the vineyard and tasting room are located in Paso Robles, the local connection is Paul Furman, who is general sales manager of both Via Vega and California Pajarosa Floral—one of California’s major rose growers. Furman was pouring at a local cancer benefit when I tasted the donated Via Vega wine.
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Dining Reviews

Join the Club

Join the ClubThe Clubhouse Kitchen brings weekend breakfast to Seabright along with tasty sandwiches and fresh salads

During two separate incidents, friends raved about The Clubhouse Kitchen, whose mission is to serve “comfort and quality all on one plate.” Having just opened its doors three days before, it is the fourth restaurant in this location in as many years. But its predecessors didn't serve weekend breakfasts, and in the Seabright neighborhood, morning meals are extremely popular.

We arrived during the first official Saturday shift prepared for the occasional glitch, which fortunately failed to materialize. The French Toast ($8.99), thick slices of soft-crusted baguette soaked in a cinnamon batter, was cooked to a golden brown with custard-like centers. The bacon was just what I craved: smoky and fully cooked but still soft and chewy.
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Dining Reviews

Barista Island

Barista IslandYears ago it occurred to me that thoroughfares leading to freeways should have drive-up coffee stations. I could get my first fix of caffeine safely sitting in the parking lot that was otherwise known as Hwy 101, and be primed to leap into the workday.
We have a few such establishments in Santa Cruz, and when the tiny shack in the Whole Foods parking lot was torn down, I appreciated the sign that hinted at a bigger and better replacement.

And so was born Midtown Lulu's where you can obtain a handmade cup of joe from the comfort of your car, and the attractive olive-colored island now includes walk-up service as well.
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Wine Reviews

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

Santa Cruz Mountain VineyardDurif 2007—Gold Medal Winner

The Petite Sirah grape is known in France as Durif. In the 1880s Dr. François Durif created a hybrid by cross-pollinating Peloursin and Syrah—and named it after himself. Both of these grape varieties are native to the Rhône Valley in France, and both produce high-octane, dark, inky wines—resulting in big, full-bodied reds that are not for weak-kneed wine drinkers. Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s winemaker extraordinaire, Jeff Emery, prefers to call his Petit Sirah by its “real” name—Durif—and not the name that was given to the Durif grape—Petit Sirah—when it was shipped over to California from France. “There is no such thing as Petit Sirah in France,” says Emery. “We are just strange and iconoclastic enough to insist on calling this grape by its real name.”
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Dining Reviews

Last Call

Last CallEnd-of-the-season vegetables join fall produce on the seasonal menu at Oswald
s we creep deeper into fall, sunflowers mature, the last of tomatoes hang on the vines, squash ripens, and roots are harvested. There is something    about autumn that alters my appetite. Something, I wonder, that might reside in my DNA.

Birds build nests without the benefit of parental instruction. Do they hear voices whispering, “Build it!” as did Noah, and Ray Kinsella?
It is perhaps this same phenomenon that creates a craving for vegetables at this time of year unlike that of any other. Perhaps it is my ancestors, who lived before the advent of supermarkets, reminding me that fresh produce will soon become scarce.
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Dining Reviews

Lost in Translation

Lost in TranslationI was craving egg rolls, or maybe wonderfully hot Chinese mustard, so I stopped by Kong's Market which is nestled on a residential street near Pleasure Point. Stocking a small selection of household staples, it also houses a deli counter with sandwiches and pocket-like burritos to-go.

I chose Pork Egg Rolls ($1.40) over the vegetarian version and was quite surprised by their appearance. The crisply fried, long rectangles of dough stuffed with lightly seasoned ground pork were bumpy and blistered. The wrapper was thicker than that of any egg roll I had previously eaten. I asked for some sauce, and was presented with four bottles of condiments.
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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

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.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

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

 

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

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.