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Jul 30th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Touched by the Seafood

Touched by the Seafood

From Monterey Bay Calamari to New York Steak and portobello ravioli, Rocco's 503 has something for everyone
Some restaurant spaces sit vacant, seemingly forever, while we anxiously anticipate the unveiling of a menu which will guide us on new culinary adventures. But in the case of Rocco's 503, it seemed to appear overnight.

A bright neon sign, a fresh coat of sienna and celery-green paint, a tasteful arrangement of simple wall decor and Rocco's was open for business. They even built a window into the adjacent Callahan's to enable food service to the bar's patrons. Arriving for lunch I recognized the blue and orange bread plates of the previous establishment, now set on cloth-free tables.

Rocco's appetizers are a composite of standards and novelties. Fries and onion rings, chicken strips and buffalo wings are flanked by Callahan's nachos, made with steak fries instead of tortilla chips, and fried ravioli with marinara.

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Dining Reviews

Happy Afternoons

Happy Afternoons

Happy hours are appreciated for their budget-friendly snacks and beverages, but what if you tend to work too late to enjoy them?  Happy hour at Hawgs Seafood lasts until 6 p.m. every day, and, uniquely, on Friday and Saturday it begins at 11:30 a.m., and Sundays at noon.

On a Saturday afternoon, folks at the bar were enjoying football on two big screen TVs. On the covered patio, diners at tall tables basked in rays of the sun from its lower autumnal trajectory. We took a warm window seat in the dining room where we could enjoy the large, colorful underwater photographs of marine life.

Sipping refreshing house 'Ritas ($6) we perused the starters menu, where two to four dollars had been shaved off the price of each appetizer.

Each of the half dozen Oysters Asiago ($10) was topped with a bit of sautéed spinach and garlic and then Asiago cheese, which melted in the oven to form a rich, salty shell.

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Wine Reviews

Beauregard Vineyards

Beauregard VineyardsChardonnay 2007—Gold Medal Winner and Best Santa Cruz Mountains White
Beauregard Vineyards has been around for a long time. The Beauregard family has been farming vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains since 1940–on vineyards that span more than 90 acres over these very mountains.

It all began when Amos Beauregard purchased a piece of land in 1949 and started growing grapes. Next followed Emmett Beauregard, who acquired Shopper’s Corner in 1939; followed by Jim Beauregard, who ran the Felton Empire Winery (now Hallcrest Vineyards) in the ’70s and ’80s. And, following in his ancestors’ footsteps, Ryan Beauregard came on board in 1998.
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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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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.