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Sep 21st
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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Hillcrest Terrace Winery

Hillcrest Terrace Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Hillcrest Terrace Winery is one of the newest tasting rooms to open up in the Surf City Vintners complex on Ingalls Street, and is now part of a group of 12 wineries and tasting rooms forming the collective.

Hillcrest’s Sauvignon Blanc, Cedar Lane Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, is a bargain at $15–with a clean citrus aroma and crisp flavors of pears and melon. The grapes for the Sauvignon Blanc were picked at three levels of ripeness–the final picking at a high sugar level to add lots of fruit in the wine.

Joe Miller, a former professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, is the owner and winemaker at Hillcrest Terrace. He has been in the wine business for almost 40 years, and taught courses in wine appreciation at UC Santa Cruz for more than 30 years. He has a great deal of experience in winemaking, and over the years has regularly made small batches of wine for grape growers so they could see the results.

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Dining Reviews

Tread Lightly and Carry a Big Appetite

Tread Lightly and Carry a Big Appetite

At Lightfoot Cafe and Catering, a celebrity chef and energetic teens bring something truly unique to your table

The banquet room was arranged typically for a fundraising dinner. We were welcomed first by a wine- tasting booth, beyond which a sea of white tablecloths set with sparkling water glasses encircled the dance floor. More tables were loaded with silent auction temptations. Upon closer inspection, I noticed subtle surprises. Pieces of twine tied herb stems to natural fiber unhemmed napkins. And there was nothing ordinary about the activity in the kitchen. For this was a presentation by Lightfoot Industries, a vocational training program for at-risk youth which will host three suppers in December at its new cafe.

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Dining Reviews

Custom Vinaigrette

Custom Vinaigrette

It's been barely three weeks since the ribbon-cutting at The True Olive Connection, and on a sunny Sunday, curious gourmets were sampling liquids from tiny plastic cups.

Shelves line the walls bearing stainless steel barrels of more than 40 flavors of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Adjacent to each is a bottle from which tastes are poured. Mike Pappas, who opened the store with his wife Susan, suggested I first warm the cup with my hands to release aromas from the oils.

After I selected my favorites, Pappas filled bottles of oil or vinegar from the barrels. Each of them was corked and their shrink-wrap tops heated to ensure freshness.

The Pappas' distributor comes from a long line of Italian olive people. Her olives are cold-pressed at an unusually low temperature, which reduces the yield but results in a more flavorful product. Pappas is convinced that he has the freshest oil around.

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Wine Reviews

Odonata

Odonata

Malbec 2008

I first met Denis Hoey, winemaker and owner of Odonata, several years ago when he was just starting out with his own label. At that time it was called Dragonfly, but, due to a trademark issue, the named had to be changed. Continuing with the dragonfly theme, Hoey decided to call his wines Odonata–after an order of insects encompassing the dragonfly and the damselfly. And, it almost goes without saying, the very attractive labels on bottles of Odonata wines have a beautiful dragonfly image.

When I bought a bottle of Malbec, Alta Mesa Vineyard, ($28) from Hoey last month at the tasting room he shares with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Winery–both wineries are part of the Surf City Vintners collective–he was knee-deep in harvest, and all the hard work that it involves. Working as production manager for Emery’s winery as well as making his own wines keeps very Hoey busy, but this garnered experience over the years really shows in his wines, which only get better and better.

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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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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
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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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.