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Apr 18th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

Sharing the Beans

Sharing the Beans

A Taste of Puerto Rico brings Caribbean cooking and culture into your kitchen

It was a home-cooked, multi-course meal in another couple's home, prepared by a guest chef. There were flavors and textures I had never experienced thanks to Ishmael Huggins who owns A Taste of Puerto Rico with his wife Lori Williams. Williams sets the stage with music and a festive table while Huggins heads to the kitchen to prepare dishes from his homeland. He is best known as a singer of Caribbean-Latin music for the band Broken English.

First to the table was an attractive platter of Serenata de Bacalao which merges the culinary cultures of Africa, Spain and Italy. Dried salt cod, soaked in water to remove most of its briny taste was mixed with chunks of potato, tomatoes and pimiento-stuffed olives and dressed with olive oil and oregano. On top were sliced hard-boiled eggs and slivers of ripe avocado.

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Dining Reviews

Short Order

Short Order

It's an itty bitty kitchen, but the staff at Jack's Hamburgers keeps the piping hot orders streaming through the door. A sheet pan of assembled lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle stacks await to be popped onto sandwiches at the last second, as hungry patrons wait for their names to be called.

I added chunky red onions to a warming cup of Chili ($2.25) which featured two varieties of soft beans and finely minced peppers in a thick, mildly spiced soup. This hearty stew is also available on french fries ($2.75/$3.25) as well as burgers.

Monterey Ranch Chicken Sandwich ($5.85) from the list of daily specials was spectacular. Layered between halves of a large, toasty French roll, was smoky grilled chicken breast, bright lettuce and thick slices of tomato, the same as a regular Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($4.60), with the addition of flavorful ranch dressing and melted Monterey Jack cheese.

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Wine Reviews

Naumann Vineyards

Naumann Vineyards

Late Harvest Merlot 2007


Although I have written about Naumann Vineyards’ Merlot in a previous article, this Merlot is very different because it’s a semi-sweet dessert wine. It’s a wine to enjoy with your strawberries and cream after dinner, or just to drink on its own when you feel like imbibing on something that’s sweeter than usual.

Owner and winemaker Don Naumann founded his winery in 2001. He purchased the property in 1987 and planted the vineyard in 1994. Its prime location – complete with warm days and cool mountain nights – produces the finest variety of wines, and the Late Harvest Merlot is one of them.

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Dining Reviews

The Nutty Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Santa Cruz couple opens a unique nut bar in downtown Santa Cruz

Most nuts make wonderful, healthy snacks packed with protein, fiber, minerals and healthy oils.

At Santa Cruz's new Nut Kreations, there are plenty of nutty products to pick from.

On my first visit, I was bedazzled and overwhelmed by the selection as I eyed the rows of triangular dishes in the U-shaped glass-fronted display case. Nuts are raw, roasted, spiced or sugared. There are also candied pretzels, chocolate chips and beautiful dried fruit, some of it also seasoned; everything you need to create a signature trail mix or granola. Attractive wall cabinets hold nut roasters, butters, oils, flours, syrups, sauces, extracts, teas, coffees and cookbooks.

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Dining Reviews

Out of the Office

Out of the Office

Working as I do all over the county, I'm constantly seeking little places with reasonably priced eats where I can get some work done. It seems the food writing muse is more apt to appear in the presence of sustenance. Additionally, the regulars at each of these establishments tend to represent a different slice of Santa Cruz that is equally nourishing.

One such place is The Coffee House, off the beaten path amidst the light industrial and medical businesses that line Commercial Way. A few months ago it became part of the Live Oak Cafe and Bakery family which is owned by Kathleen Rawson. Her easygoing husband Bill, a boisterous barista, makes everyone feel welcome.

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Wine Reviews

Storrs Winery

Storrs Winery

Zinfandel 2007

Judges at last year’s California State Fair named Storrs Winery’s 2007 Central Coast Zinfandel Best Zinfandel of Region. This fabulous Zin was also awarded a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition of 2010.

It goes without saying, then, that winemaker Stephen Storrs, with many years of experience now under his belt, is turning out some impressive wines. His 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay also won Best Wine of Region, Best Chardonnay of Region, and a gold medal as well.

The grapes for this Zinfandel were grown in the coastal foothills of California’s Central Coast, where the maritime climate allows the grapes to slowly ripen. The end result is a luscious fruit-forward wine with dense aromas of blackberry and cherry.

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Dining Reviews

Variety is the Spice

Variety is the Spice

At Guang Zho, fresh ingredients are infused with flavors from Peking, Hunan and Singapore

For five years now Guang Zho has been filling Live Oak neighbors with Chinese food from its restaurant on Portola Road. The menu boasts more than 150 dishes, some more familiar than others. And for vegetarians, they are happy to substitute a high quality textured vegetable protein in almost any dish.

The funky brick building is reminiscent of an old burger joint drive-in, but inside, soothing pastel colors of pink, mint and forest green set the stage for a relaxing meal.

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Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Viognier 2010

The grapes for this delightful wine come from the Gimelli Vineyard in Cienega Valley, San Benito County—a great area for producing Viognier. Only recently becoming popular in the United States, it’s a rich white wine that you won’t find on the shelves of every supermarket. Although it’s a bit difficult to partner with food because of its low acid and high alcohol, it’s robust and full-bodied—and actually one of my favorites. I think it’s a terrific wine to pop open when you have a couple of friends over and you just want to drink something other than Chardonnay. Viognier thrives in warm climates and grows well in California’s hot Central Coast areas.

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Dining Reviews

Good Morning, Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam

Tran Noodle Restaurant brings healthy Southeast Asian cuisine to Watsonville

According to Vatcharin Bhumichitr in his book “Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia,” more salads are consumed in Vietnam than in any of its neighboring countries, and fresh herbs seem to be a focal point of the meal rather than a stand-alone course. We've had little opportunity in our county to explore this delicious cuisine until recently, and although pasta is featured in the name of Andy Tran's new Tran Noodle Restaurant, it's the fresh fruits and greens, seasonings, and attention to details that steal the show.

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Dining Reviews

More than Mexican

More than Mexican

Tuesdays are great days to visit Watsonville. That's when the new La Buena Taqueria and More serves $1 tacos all day. And while the menu brochure lists just four popular fillings, a poster on the counter offers almost four times as many, and the taqueria uses local, seasonal ingredients in its family recipes

I opted for my favorite, Carne Asada. Two soft four-inch corn tortillas were topped with minced beef, piquant white onions, tomatoes and cilantro with a spoonful of bright, nicely fiery salsa. I added a bit more salsa fresca from the salsa bar for a very satisfying snack.

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Smells Like Team Spirit

The organizers of TEDx Santa Cruz don’t just talk about this year’s theme, ‘radical collaboration’—they live it

 

Pluto Retrograde, Aries New Moon, Lyrid Meteor Showers

As the Lyrid meteors, radiating from the star Vega in the Harp constellation, begin showering heaven and earth with light, Pluto, planet of transformation (or die) turns stationary retrograde (Thursday, April 16), 15 degrees Capricorn. Retrogrades have purpose, allowing humanity time to review, reassess, research and reinvent while returning to previous situations. Retrogrades are times of inner activity, seeds sown in bio-dynamically prepared soil. Pluto retrograde is the most serious and resolute of retrogrades—a pure tincture, or, as in homeopathy, a “constitutional” touching the essences of all that matters. Pluto offers deep insight into confusion or puzzlement and areas where transformation is still incomplete. It’s valuable to have one’s astrology chart to follow what area of life the major planets— especially Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto—are influencing. These outer planets have long-term and lasting effects on our psyche, inner/outer life events, how people see us and how we see and process our world. Pluto, retrograde for five months (until Sept. 24) offers deep earthquakes of change, awakens humanity to the task of building (Capricorn) the new culture and civilization, flailing our inner world about, deepening us until we transform and do things differently. Pluto is an unrelenting teacher. New moon (29 Aries) is Saturday, April 18. With the personality-building keynote, “Let form again be sought.” Mars anchors the new creative fires of Aries into our world. The New Group of World Servers participates together in the new moon festival, while also preparing for the Taurus Wesak, Buddha Full Moon Festival (May 3). Join us everyone.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Latest Comments

 

Mighty Leaf

Radicchio from Dirty Girl Produce, wine etiquette fail, and a treat from Gayle’s

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

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37th Parallel Wines

I visited the Capitola Mall recently to check out the newly launched Third Fridays Walking Art Tour, and was surprised to find an impressive assortment of artwork from local artists.

 

New Bohemian Brewery

New Santa Cruz brewery focuses on European style lagers