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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

Lighten Up

Lighten Up

In my columns I focus on the best edibles our local cooks and chefs have to offer, and avoid chain restaurants, especially national ones. I rarely eat fast food, anyway.

But, there are extenuating circumstances, like when the kitchen was being remodeled and I needed a quick breakfast for the school kids, or when the "low on iron" buzzer signals a Whopper Junior emergency. Now you've met the skeletons in my closet.

On one clandestine visit to McDonald's, I was intrigued by the ads for smoothies, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal. I scoffed, recalling the introduction of Caramel Frappe and its 450 calories, for 12-ounces! Could McDonald's actually smaller-size me?

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Wine Reviews

Bartolo

Bartolo

Grenache 2009
About a year ago, I wrote about Barry Jackson’s Cioppino Rosso, a blend of different wines that winemaker Jackson laughingly calls Cioppino because he “throws all the leftovers in a pot.” He’s referring, of course, to his vivacious blend of several wines—just as the cioppino fish stew is a mixture of fish and shellfish thrown into a pot.

Now, on a somewhat more serious note, it’s time to write about Jackson’s Grenache. A majority of Grenache grapes (there is only 4 percent Syrah added), this wine has the typical enticing aromas of earth and stewed fruits.

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Dining Reviews

Down in the Valley

Down in the Valley

Charming old-school service, fresh ingredients, and a bucolic drive make Scopazzi's a longtime favorite

In 1915 the original Scopazzi's Restaurant building was erected as a hotel by the Locatelli family, housing lumber men and, later, movie stars. The paneled Redwood Dining Room with open-beam ceiling was built in 1924, and the lounge added after the property was sold to the Scopazzis in 1955. There still remain china cabinets and a beautiful marble-topped buffet. And there still remains that old-school San Francisco Italian professionalism; from word-of-mouth orders to the kitchen, to table-side preparation of flaming specialties and dishes like Veal Scaloppine and Chicken Cacciatore.

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Dining Reviews

Salmon and Salad

Salmon and Salad

We headed over to the harbor to experience the Johnny's Harborside Winter Wednesday Cioppino night. As an e-club member, I also had a coupon for two-for-one starters or salads. While "Fresh Catch Your Way" is still a mainstay of the menu, Chef Scott Delk, who arrived at Johnny's after the closing of Theo's, has added his own touch to the fresh and flavorful presentations.

Although Taco and Tequila nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays and house special margaritas are just $7, the combinations were too unique to ignore.

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Dining Reviews

Brew Ha-Ha

Brew Ha-Ha

San Francisco Beer Week hits Santa Cruz

With the holiday season behind us, and St. Patrick’s Day still weeks away, you may find that the prevalence of socially acceptable excuses to enjoy large quantities of beer fall flat this time of year. Never fear, for San Francisco Beer Week lets your cup runneth over with more than 300 Northern California events from Feb. 11–20. Locally, food and beer pairings, beer tastings, educational classes and opportunities to talk with brewers ensure it won’t be hard to find a great stout shindig, ale adventure or porter party.

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Wine Reviews

Birichino

Birichino

Malvasia Bianca 2009

“You can’t be too rich, too beautiful or too birichino”–or so says John Locke, wine director at Soif wine bar in downtown Santa Cruz. Locke is also the winemaker of this lovely crisp white wine, and, along with business partner Alex Krause, have bottled something frisky and very drinkable. I thought it the ideal libation to try with some of Soif’s imaginative cuisine.

Meeting up with some friends on a Monday evening at Soif is a delicious way to start the week. Mondays can be a bit flat, but not at Soif. With soft “Gypsy jazz” from Hot Club Pacific playing in the background and plates of scrumptious oysters begging to be devoured, we toasted good times (and Good Times!) with a bottle of Birichino.

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Dining Reviews

Three Squares and a Snack

Three Squares and a Snack

No matter which meal you prefer, Severino's prepares them all with flair and fresh ingredients

Many hotels lack kitchens while others offer the most basic sustenance. Neither is the case at the Seacliff Inn, where Severino's fuels patrons throughout the day with ambitious wake-ups like Eggs Benedict, a casual lounge menu and filling dinner entrées of Salmon Dijon and rack of lamb.

Severino's serves breakfast daily including omelets, Huevos Rancheros, and lox and bagels. On weekends breakfast is followed by brunch. A nice list of salads ($10.99 to $12.99) includes seared Ahi with roasted red pepper vinaigrette.

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Dining Reviews

Pumpkin Pie Chai

Pumpkin Pie Chai

I awoke recently to the seasonally uncommon sight of dry streets and a cloudless blue sky. Energized, I headed for the redwoods and Jenna Sue's Cafe. With the heater on, the sunroof wide open, and my old-school CD changer recently silenced by a pothole, I drove leisurely up Highway 9 hearing only the occasional swoosh of a passing car, the squawk of a jay, or the gurgling of a hidden waterfall.

Opening in the wee hours of the morning, Jenna Sue's is a commuter's best friend. Five pumper pots of coffee were lined up on a shelf, while breakfast sandwiches waited in the cold case. From the Bagel Bar, they stuff a plain bagel with a number of fast-breaking fillings including hummus, sprouts, cucumber and pesto cream cheese.

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Wine Reviews

Fernwood Cellars

Fernwood Cellars

Chardonnay 2008

Who doesn’t love a good Chardonnay? It’s one of those wines that if you don’t know what to order, then Chardonnay is a pretty good bet. It’s a wine that’s on every restaurant’s white wine list—and, from the many inferior Chardonnays out there, when you get a good one, it stands out in a crowd.

Fernwood Cellars’ 2008 estate-grown Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Vanumanutagi (try saying that when you’ve had a few glasses!) Vineyard, sells for $30 a bottle, but it’s worth every penny. Swirl the wine around the glass and inhale the distinct floral aromas of this beautiful wine.

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Dining Reviews

Suds and Spuds

Suds and Spuds

From Irish specialties to burgers, organic salads, and house-made desserts, at Rosie McCann's every day is St. Patrick's Day

Rosie McCann's has been a downtown fixture for a decade and a half, balancing the fine line between restaurant and disco. At each of my three recent visits the wait staff made me feel welcome and cared for, and I found comfort in the food of my ancestors.

For lunch Rosie's offers Irish Classics ($8 to $13), entrées ($13 to $15), burgers ($6.95), salads and house-made soups ($4 to $7).

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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.”