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May 23rd
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

A Harbor Fall

A Harbor Fall

The new fall menu at Johnny’s Harborside offers fresh and comforting fare

I was craving a pleasant, tasty, and leisurely brunch with an exquisite view, so, under a cloudless sky, we headed to Johnny’s Harborside at the small craft harbor. Soft butter melted gently into warm, itty bitty cinnamon-scented muffins which tasted of chocolate with autumn walnuts while we reviewed the new fall menu.

Chef Brian Woods’ new creations include a number of starters such as grilled shrimp cocktail with avocado ($13), grilled romaine salad ($7) with smoked tomatoes and citrus Caesar vinaigrette, warm spinach salad ($9) with bacon vinaigrette, caramelized onions and goat cheese, and vegetarian spring rolls ($7) with sesame vinaigrette.

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Dining Reviews

Hot from the Oven

Hot from the Oven

Roland Konicke, a transplanted New Yorker, worked in and around local farmers markets for years. He missed the Big Apple's pizzas, and set out to let Californians taste the difference, using local, organic ingredients. Even the meat products, from Santa Cruz's El Salchichero, are from local pasture-raised animals.

Konicke sells his Uncle Ro's take & bake pizzas at Santa Cruz farmers markets. Shoppers can snack on a warm slice, or take one home to bake. Local ingredients lead to seasonal combinations, and August's Padrón pepper pies made the local top-ten list.

Temporarily mobility-impaired, (oh, I miss the farmers market), I followed a hint that someone had spied the pies at Whole Foods in Santa Cruz. Right next to the store’s in-house creations were four varieties of Uncle Ro’s ($10.99).

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Wine Reviews

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard

Pinot Noir 2009


Ever since Café Rio opened its doors recently – with brand new owners at the helm – this lovely ocean-view restaurant has done extraordinarily well. Restaurant news spreads quickly in the Santa Cruz area, and the word is that Café Rio has regained its reputation of old and is serving up some excellent food, including their famous and much-loved sand dabs.

Dying to check the new vibe, I finally get there with a friend for a light dinner from the bar menu  – knowing ahead of time that I would order of one of my favorites – seared ahi tuna. We also order some delicious smoked salmon and tender deep-fried calamari.

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Dining Reviews

Nest Eggs

Nest Eggs

Crow’s Nest launches daily breakfast

Stand-up paddle boarders, scullers, kayakers and a back-pedaling otter floated down the channel followed by Team O'Neill with a boat load of school children. Two sets of twin toddlers pranced happily in the sand while a runner and dog-walker made their way down the levee toward the lighthouse. It is the familiar view from the comfortable Crow's Nest, and now it's available at breakfast.

With all those healthy people exercising outside, I assuaged my guilt with a reminder that breakfast is the most important meal, and, coincidentally, that's the way it was treated by the Crow's Nest kitchen.

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Dining Reviews

Bread as Art

Bread as Art

From the ceiling of the little market and bakery hang piñatas of all shapes and sizes, but the bakery cases were practically empty at nine in the morning. We were quickly greeted by co-owner Jorge Hernandez who sent us into the kitchen where we selected eight just-baked pastries ($10.60) from the six-foot tall racks of colorful, sweet and savory breads in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

Although El Rosal has a huge selection, Hernandez said his bakery makes far fewer than the 500 or more varieties in Mexico's repertoire.

The Spaniards first brought wheat to the New World, and for a short time in the 1860s the French brought expert pâtissiers. Hernandez says that each of the Mayan tribes in the south and the Aztecs farther north added their own touch to these foreign influences, creating the wonderful diversity.

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Wine Reviews

Beauregard Vineyards

Beauregard VineyardsThe Lost Weekend–2009 California Red Blend

At Gourmet Grazing on the Green last month—the cancer benefit held annually in Aptos Village Park—one of the wineries pouring was Beauregard Vineyards. Ryan Beauregard and his wife Rachel are always ready to donate to the community, and they had brought along a selection of their fine wines that day.
One of their wines that caught my interest was a snappy little California red blend called The Lost Weekend—which could come true if one should happen to imbibe too much!
Very reasonably priced at $18, this new release of The Lost Weekend STB (Super Tuscan-style Blend) 2009 is a blend of 80 percent Sangiovese, 16 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 4 percent Durif—and inspired by Beauregard’s admiration for the wines from Northern Italy.
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Dining Reviews

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Hoffman’s hands reigns over to Food Network for an extreme makeover

There was suspense and drama, frustration and anticipation, showmanship and emotion. Like Roger Craig at Albertson’s, Lance Armstrong on Beach Street, and James Durbin at Loudon Nelson, this was a Santa Cruz moment. Food Network was in town.

When I read about the filming of Restaurant Impossible at Hoffman’s, I called for reservations along with every other self-professed foodie in town. Upwards of fifty redials and no luck. I felt like the Queen of Sheba on Monday when an associate said there was a seat for me.

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Wine Reviews

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009


Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine is a casual, inexpensive dining spot in Aptos with a focus on Persian and Mediterranean food. It’s an ideal restaurant for seven women friends to have dinner where we can share a good laugh, and not-so-subdued conversation. And food is ordered over the counter so each can pay his own bill.

Zameen owner, Ed Watson, carries a few local wines, but plans to eventually stock a whole lot more. I order a bottle of Francis Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($21)—part of the Diamond Collection – with fruit from various California vineyards. A hearty Cab is just what’s needed to go with robust foods such as falafel, lamb wraps, Mediterranean meatballs and spiced chicken kebab.

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Dining Reviews

Continuity of Community

Continuity of CommunityFrom snacks to hearty dinners and bocci ball to nightly live music, Bocci's Cellar remains an important gathering place

In the first decade of the 17th century, Mission Church planted vineyards in the area of Harvey West Park, ostensibly the first local viticulture. A few Victorian homes built a century later still stand nearby. Angelo Peter Urbani was born in one of these on Encinal Street to Italian immigrants. The family elevated their home to create a cellar underneath in which to age barrels of wine. Of Angelo's sons, Joseph is immortalized on a plaque outside of Bocci's Cellar for adding the bar and dining room that transformed the home into a gathering place for the Italian community.
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Dining Reviews

PIZZA @ burger.

PIZZA @ burger.

Some things just go together; Rum and coke, peanuts and Crackerjacks, pizza and beer. Which brings me to Mission Street's burger., where almost 50 draft beers are joined by even more bottled selections. All those beers, just begging for pizza. And burger. heard their cries.

The new offerings are wood-fired with dough and sauces made daily. The pizzas I enjoyed each had thin, cracker-crisp crusts, a seared edge here and there, and a hint of flavorful cheese.

We ordered burgers and pizzas at the counter, and beers at the bar. The burgers arrived quickly. French fries were dipped in ketchup, sweet potato fries in a vinegared Thousand Island-style tartar sauce. As my compadres took the final bites of their juicy sandwiches, making use of the abundant napkins, the first pizza arrived.

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Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
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Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival