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Sep 30th
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Dig Deep amid the Gathering Bloom

Dig Deep amid the Gathering Bloom

For a couple of years I've announced Love Apple Farm's spring tomato seedling sale. Last year we made the trek to Boulder Creek to see what heirloom tomatoes were all about, and came home with six varieties. This year, Love Apple will not be selling at their farm, but, closer to many of us, in Scotts Valley.

My thumb is anything but green. I like perennials and flowers that reseed themselves. Occasionally I grow hard-to-find ingredients like Thai chilies fresh curry paste and tiny cucumber cornichons. My previous experiences with hardware store tomatoes, after applying all the TLC I could muster, produced tasteless offerings.

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Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi

Vino Tabi

Pinot Noir 2008

Pinot Noir is a sexy wine. With its full-bodied earthy nuances and creamy texture, it’s a perfect wine to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

With this in mind, I take a bottle of Vino Tabi’s gorgeous 2008 Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards, to a special Valentine’s dinner at Center Street Grill—the first in a series of dinners prepared by local chef Jake Gandolfo of Fox TV’s MasterChef cooking show—featuring the controversial Gordon Ramsay.

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Dining Reviews

Made from Scratch

Made from Scratch

Homemade goodness delights diners at Scotts Valley's Heavenly Cafe

he building on Mt. Hermon Road reminds me of an old western general store. I almost expect to find Ma Barker dishing up simple, made-from-scratch, rib-sticking grub. But here at Heavenly Cafe, I found that the simple adjective does not apply, and grub is a total misnomer. Turkey burgers with feta cheese and yogurt tzatziki sauce, smoked salmon salad with salsa fresca, and walnut waffles with fresh bananas are just a sample of Heavenly's interesting offerings.

For breakfast, which is served all day, choose from omelets, Belgian waffles, buttermilk pancakes and French toast or a few Mexican specialties.

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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”