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Aug 27th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Chilies; Hooray, No?

Chilies; Hooray, No?

Errand day typically involves lunch on the run, and since we were in Scotts Valley, we stepped into Maya Mexican Restaurant on the corner of Scotts Valley Drive and Mt. Herman Road. The front room felt like a fiesta with living trees, strings of tiny multi-colored lights, sponge-painted orange walls and Mexican music.

Maya is known for its selection of almost 50 tequilas, some of which were aged up to five years in oak barrels. The large bar area includes a couple of televisions and sofas, and makes many of its premium margaritas with Gran Gala, an Italian triple-orange liqueur blended with VSOP brandy.

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Wine Reviews

Le P’Tit Paysan

Le P’Tit Paysan

2006 Syrah

Practically all the wines that Vinocruz sells are local, so I often go in there for a browse around. Owner J-P Correa urges me to try this, that and the other—and he’s always so enthusiastic and informative, especially when he’s discovered some little gem.

Such was the case when Correa asked me to try Le P’Tit Paysan’s 2006 Syrah ($19), Windsor Oaks Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The nose is rich with blueberry, boysenberry and raspberry, and these dense berry flavors add immense depth. Peppery overtones add an interesting spiciness to this Syrah.

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Dining Reviews

Soup's On!

Soup's On!

Chilly temperatures send the stock pots to simmering all around town

On weary winter weekends the lunch table would feature hot soup from familiar red and white cans. Tomato was my favorite (made with water, not milk) with crisp, salty crackers crumbled on top.

Even better however was soup after the holidays when Mom would toss a ham bone into a pot of dry, soaked lima beans. Unaware of the frugality of the meal, I held my face over the bowl, relishing the smoky-smelling steam, and then whistled onto large spoonfuls until the flat beans and thick broth were cool enough to eat.

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Dining Reviews

Mediterranean Madness

Mediterranean Madness

Oh, there are unforgettable feasts at Vasili’s
There are a few people you meet who absolutely love working with, presenting and/or serving food that you can’t help but be impressed by their infectious energy. Julie White is one of those local creatures.

As owner of Vasili’s Greek Restaurant on Santa Cruz’s Westside, White and her staff certainly know how to serve authentic Greek meals—hell, let’s just call them feasts—but what truly stands out is that you really can taste the “love” in all the food here. Four of us soon discovered this during a recent outing at the popular restaurant and the experience only seemed to remove a rather annoying eating inhibition I had imposed on myself earlier in the day. This isn’t the place to eat less. More is better, so … bring it on.

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Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Pinot Noir 2008
A good friend of mine who I don’t see very often—he lives in Philadelphia—came to visit me for the day, along with a friend who he was staying with in San Francisco. This was my golden opportunity to take them around and show them a little of Santa Cruz in the short space of time we had.

I took them straight to a local winery for a tasting—one of the few open on a Wednesday—as I wanted them to try at least a small selection of our superb local wines before they had to head back north.

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Wine Reviews

Pietra Santa Winery

Pietra Santa Winery

Sangiovese 2006

Stephen Hanecak, executive chef at Paradise Beach Grille, really knows his wine. He carefully chooses each wine listed on the menu and really enjoys talking about them. I order a bottle of Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2006 Cienega Valley ($31) for my husband and I to enjoy with our dinner at this excellent restaurant. “Good choice,” says Hanecak, as he sits with us for a while to talk about wine. “I haven’t found a better Sangiovese.” But this is not surprising. Pietra Santa has been in business since 1989 and has built up a fine reputation over its more than two decades of winemaking.

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Dining Reviews

Fanni Goes West

Fanni Goes West

The energetic owner of Caffe Lucio brings Italian specialties to Mamma Lucia's on Mission Street

Just a few signs remain that this restaurant last housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken; the comfortable red booths and the black and red counter. But with a touch of butter-yellow paint, soccer playing on two flat screen televisions, the aroma of tomato sauce and photographs of Mamma Lucia's food, Lucio Fanni of Caffe Lucio and al dente, has turned it into an Italian Cafe. Here, the chicken tortellini soup is made from scratch, the soft loaves of bread with tiny air hole-bubbled interiors are house-made, and doggie treats are sold to patrons' pets.

The menu is written on large blackboards behind the counter where we placed our order before gathering plates and silverware from the neat stacks and finding a table. Since signs on each table reminded us to bus our own tables, I was pleasantly surprised that our order was brought out to us.

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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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Entering Virgo

Sun entering Virgo brings a sign and element change, from Leo’s fire to Virgo’s practical earth. Food, health, grains, service and small animals are in the news and on our minds. It’s one month till autumn. Pumpkins and persimmons are ripening. Venus is in Leo. We radiate warmth; we’re generous, playful and affectionate. Everyone shows off in an ardent, passionate, warm-hearted, romantic and over-dramatic way, reflecting Leo’s fiery nature. Think of life as Shakespeare wrote: life is a play, we are its actors on the same stage together.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 22

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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How should Santa Cruz develop downtown around the San Lorenzo River?

Santa Cruz | Artist/Show Promoter

 

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

 

Clowning Around With Armitage Chardonnay

Four of us headed to Brandon Armitage’s new tasting room in Aptos Village recently to try his well-made wines.

 

Locavores Only

Farm dinners at Route 1 Farms and the Homeless Garden Project expand the revolution