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Mar 28th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

The Spice is Right

The Spice is Right

Although Malabar refers to a region of India along its western coast bordering the Arabian Sea, Santa Cruz's Malabar Restaurant infuses ingredients from around the world into its vegetarian menu. Japanese pumpkins, Anaheim chilies, Greek cheese, Malaysian peanut sauce and Russian Borscht are just some of the flavors that join curries and samosas in its rich list of small plates, soups, salads, pastas and entrées.

We began the meal with exotic beverages. Persian Nights ($4.25) was a sweet, lavender-colored blend of banana, pomegranate and almond milk scented with rosewater.  Supertonic ($4.50), a refreshing fusion of ginseng, ginger and allspice, was topped with chewy dried Himalayan goji berries.

Baked Sonoma Goat Cheese Salad ($7.75) with beautiful baby lettuces was lightly dressed with lemon vinaigrette and topped with a soft puff of white cheese. We enjoyed it with an order of Pan ($4), the airy, soft flatbread, which was served with clarified butter ghee, generously laden with minced fresh garlic.

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Wine Reviews

Fortino Cellars

Fortino Cellars

Almond-Flavored Champagne

Not that long ago, I was wine tasting with a few friends at some of the wineries over Hecker Pass in the Gilroy area. One of the places where we stopped was Fortino Cellars. They have a lovely tasting room—and our little group was well taken care of and given a tour of the property.

Although we tasted some interesting wines that day, I was really taken with an almond-flavored Champagne they produce—although officially it really should be called sparkling wine. True Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France—and the top dogs such as Taittinger and Bollinger are pretty expensive. Bollinger, as you may remember, was always drunk by the outrageous duo in the British series “Absolutely Fabulous.” They always referred to it as “Bolly” as in “Got any Bolly, darling?”

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Dining Reviews

Full Plate

Full Plate

A repertoire of Mexican sauces and neighborly atmosphere has made Manuel's an enduring Aptos treasure

For more than 45 years the Santanas have shared their family's traditional Mexican recipes with their Aptos neighbors. Recently renovated, the interior is as cheerful as the staff, and the flavorful foods are filling.

We kicked off dinner with crisp, house-fried tortilla chips and Manuel's legendary cooked, puréed salsa; well-spiced with cumin and chilies. It is so good that the kitchen bottles it for sale at the restaurant and markets such as Shopper's Corner.

Manuel's has a surprising local wine selection and glasses ($4.50) and bottles ($17) of house wines also. From the full bar domestic and imported beers ($3.50/$4.25) join glasses and pitchers of margaritas ($5.75/$15.75) plus Mango or Strawberry ritas ($5.95/$15.75).

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Dining Reviews

Steer Right for Brunch

Steer Right for Brunch

If T-bone steak and eggs are your idea of a perfect breakfast, head to the Hindquarter for their new Sunday Brunch. The restaurant, known for their smoked and grilled meats, has a fine morning menu.

We took a table in the bar by the televisions to witness a 22-year old from Northern Ireland shatter golf records at the U.S Open. Loud music from the likes of Rod Stewart, The Byrds, Beatles, and Moody Blues created a lively atmosphere.

The familiar lunch menu included salads, burgers, pasta, sandwiches and Hindquarter's signature meats, while the brunch menu offered corned beef hash, buttermilk biscuits, and Salmon Salad Niçoise.

The small Brunch Bloody Mary ($4) was nicely spiced with pepper and horseradish and garnished with green olives and slices of citrus.

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Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi

Vino TabiCabernet Franc 2008

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Surf City Vintners complex tasting wine at Vino Tabi. It was a fundraiser for the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program and winery owner Katie Fox was donating a percentage of sales that evening to this worthy cause. The turnout was great and everybody had a good time, especially listening to the beautiful guitar playing of Jay Alvarez.
Fox had her usual excellent wines lined up for customers to enjoy, but then she pulled out her latest Cabernet Franc and asked me to try it. So newly bottled it didn’t even have a label on it, I was completely bowled over with this dark beauty. Chock full of rich flavors and deliciously seductive, this 2008 Cab Franc, Mannstead Vineyard, Gilroy ($22), is a really impressive. It’s quite the best Cab Franc I have tasted in some time—full of ripe plums and rich cherries, and with a gorgeous aroma of peppery spice.
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Dining Reviews

The Gathering

The Gathering

Westside Coffee Company offers an amiable environment and tasty food with their array of Java and tea

Espresso used to be so simple. A quick stop at a Parisian Café yielded a dark, hot, aromatic beverage served in a tiny, white demitasse cup with a cube of sugar. In minutes we were back

on the sidewalk attending to remaining errands.

At Westside Coffee Company the coffee beverages are worth lingering over with neighbors or Wi-Fi-enabled laptops. The store has been in business for more than 15 years, but now has a brand new owner and friendly, efficient baristas.

Pastries ($2.25) are baked in-house every day. The one-inch thick slice of moist, nutty banana bread was dense and crumbly and not too sweet.

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Dining Reviews

A Hot Tip

A Hot Tip

I try to avoid grocery shopping when hungry, but just driving into the parking lot at Scotts Valley Market when smoke is drifting upwards from the outdoor grill makes me ready for another meal.

Every day they fire up wood chunks to cook meats for their deli. Today spice-rubbed tri-tip, large racks of ribs, and chicken legs lent their aroma to the smoke.

The market is the sister of Ben Lomond Market, and locally owned by a family which has been in the grocery business since 1946. The merchandising is sharp and orderly with products supported by stainless Metro-style wire shelving. The produce is locally grown when available and 40 percent of it is organic.

My destination on this visit was the deli, with a case full of prepared salads from pasta to tuna and Chinese Chicken. There's a fresh fruit bar and a two-sided salad bar with a great selection of greens and toppings.

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Wine Reviews

Quinta Cruz

Quinta Cruz

Verdelho 2009

Jeff Emery has always turned out some wonderful wines under his Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard label—they are much appreciated by local wine lovers and have always sold well. And now the same can be said for his Quinta Cruz label—where Emery concentrates his talents on producing Iberian style wines such as Verdelho ($20). The grapes for this tangy medium-sweet wine were first cultivated in Portugal around 1400 and used in the making of Madeira. Emery’s Verdelho, Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyard, is a dry, crisp aromatic wine that will knock your socks off. Aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, honeydew melons, citrus and floral notes make this unusual wine so enjoyable. I simply love it.

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Dining Reviews

First Resort

First Resort

The coastal cuisine at Sanderlings, with fresh, local ingredients, is as nice as the view

At Sanderlings in Aptos, creative food is available 16 hours a day. Even the all-day menu is enticing with spicy Garlic Wings as a snack or a Grilled New York Sandwich for something more substantial. On my visits, each of the experienced staff members were punctual and polite.
At breakfast, porcelain vases of fragrant pastel sweet pea flowers adorned white tablecloths. Smooth jazz played in the north-facing dining room, which looks out over manicured shrubs and wooden patio seating toward spindly cypress trees, Monterey Bay and the cliffs of Santa Cruz. Sand-colored Spanish-style townhouses of the resort hug the cliff, framed by a eucalyptus forest.
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Dining Reviews

Oh, Fudge

Oh, Fudge

I typically view fudge as a Christmas necessity, but mid-way through the year it’s National Fudge Day. I have made fudge in the traditional manner of boiling sugar, butter and milk to the soft ball stage temperature, then stirring in unsweetened chocolate squares until melted and fully integrated. When I got a microwave oven and discovered Marshmallow Cream, it substantially simplified the process. I also learned that no matter how tiny the pieces I shaved from the soft block of chocolate sugar, eating most of a batch results in substantial weight gain.

Now I look to the experts when it comes to fudge, who offer manageable quarter-pound slices. Split four ways, each serving is only 120 calories.

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Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
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Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals