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Apr 23rd
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Top o' the Mornin'

Top o' the Mornin'

Breakfast has returned to the little restaurant at the tip of the Seabright neighborhood where Bea's Koffee Kup once thrived. Today, Backstage Lounge, which now prepares dinner only for private parties, serves a unique array of breakfast and brunch specialties daily.

The stunning Crème Brûlée French Toast ($8.50) was an incredible treat. On two fat slices of golden brown bread with the airy texture of challah, custard was poured and drizzled with a swirl of dark molasses. Joining the main course was a pretty piped cone of butter, the texture of whipped cream, and a mix of bright berries, bananas and pineapple. The side of bacon ($3) was extra crisp.

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Wine Reviews

Soquel Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008

Soquel Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008

Soquel Vineyards is one of the primo wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Owners Peter and Paul Bargetto, along with their partner Jon Morgan, deserve many congratulations for recent awards. The Partners’ Reserve 2008 Pinot (Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyard) won a gold medal at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, as did their 2007 and 2006 Pinots. Check the website for Soquel Vineyards’ full range of wines and awards. They have won a multitude of gold and silver medals at various competitions.

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Dining Reviews

On a Roll

On a Roll

Sam's Chowder House brings New England-style seafood to Half Moon Bay
Perched on a cliff just south of Pillar Point Harbor, eco-friendly Sam's Chowder House offers sensational views and a respect for seafood that allows its flavors to shine. Voted Best Waterfront Dining last year by SF Gate's readership, its award-winning Executive Chef and partner Lewis Rossman seeks sustainable and local ingredients for his seasonal menus.

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Dining Reviews

Turf and Surf

Turf and Surf

Fragrant smoke rises from the grill where teriyaki-marinated pork baby back ribs ($6.99/lb.) cook slowly over indirect heat. I was surprised to find this delicacy at Soquel's Fish Lady.

Finally noticing the lettering that announced the availability of smoked fish, I wandered into the store where I found smoked ahi, trout, scallops, and of course wild salmon ($1.25/oz.). This moist pink fish with a mild smoky-sweet teriyaki flavor was topped with a coarse black pepper glaze. Although soft, it is dense enough to remain chunky when tossed with pasta. This fish lady will also smoke the fish you catch.

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Wine Reviews

Bargetto Winery La Vita 2006 Plus Upcoming Wine Events

Bargetto Winery La Vita 2006 Plus Upcoming Wine Events

For all those fortunate people attending the release party of Bargetto Winery’s La Vita 2006 in May, it was a perfect day of wine, food and ambiance.

In the winery’s beautiful Creek Side Courtyard overlooking Soquel Creek, hors d’oeuvres are passed, luscious wines are tasted, music is played—and a buzz of excitement is in the air before the unveiling of La Vita 2006.

This is no ordinary wine. It’s produced from a unique blend of northern Italian varietals grown in Bargetto’s estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Made up of 58 percent Dolcetto, 24 percent Refosco and 18 percent Nebbiolo, this handcrafted wine is aged for two and a half years in oak barrels, and then aged for an additional 18 months in the bottle.

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Dining Reviews

Coastal Hideaway

Coastal Hideaway

At Costanoa's Cascade Bar and Grille, KOA melds magnificently with sustainable haute cuisine
I had been looking forward to our anniversary get-away weekend. In addition to the obvious, it held the opportunity to experience a trio of recommended restaurants. Driving north on Highway 1 on a Saturday morning, with bucolic farms on one side and flocks of parasurfers hovering over whitecaps on the other, cares quickly vanished.

Just two miles north of Año Nuevo State Reserve, we turned right onto tree-lined Rossi Road towards our first stop, Costanoa. We checked into our Douglas fir cabin and reviewed the day's extensive activity list. Sandwiched between face painting and burger BBQs was wine tasting at Cascade Bar and Grille.

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Dining Reviews

Packed with Peanuts

Packed with Peanuts

With June 12 rapidly approaching, I decided to prepare for National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. These snacks formed the basis of my first cooking lesson; placing balls of dough on a cookie sheet and smashing them with the tines of a fork to form the characteristic matrix on top. My mom only allowed cookies that we made from scratch, so needless to say I was frequenting the kitchen by the time of my seventh birthday.

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Wine Reviews

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines is one of the most known wineries in the Bay Area and elsewhere. It’s also one of the largest. Started by Jerry Lohr in the ’70s in San Jose—when he planted his first 280 acres of varietal grapes—the business has grown to include more than 900 acres of cool-climate estate vineyards in Monterey County, producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Valdiguie and Pinot Noir, to around 2,000 acres in Paso Robles focusing on Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other red varietals. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are grown on another 33 acres in Napa.

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Dining Reviews

A Sweet Finish

A Sweet Finish

El Jardín brings its friendly staff, unique sauces and gorgeous desserts to Santa Cruz
Since 1985 the Delgados have run what is now a family of Fine Mexican restaurants in historic California towns such as Columbia and Murphys. They've traveled quite a way to bring their specialties to the comfortable restaurant that most recently housed Sestri.

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Dining Reviews

Pressed for Time

Pressed for Time

The Italian word panino, which means little bread, also refers to a sandwich assembled with such bread. In Italy, the sandwiches are served regular and pressed. The plural of panino is panini, which stateside, has become synonymous with a flat sandwich, heated in a clamshell-like griddle with a weighted top.

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Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.
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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.