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Apr 16th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Lend Me a Hand

Lend Me a Hand

Gabriella Café blends incredible house-made pasta and charcuterie, local organic produce, sustainable fish and pasture-based beef

To mark our return home and the final day of vacation, my husband and I settled into a cozy table at Gabriella Café. It had been some time and a chef ago since our last visit.

We began the evening with a bottle of unfined and unfiltered Sangiovese from Healdsburg's Peterson winery ($34). Gabriella's famous focaccia that night was topped with green and sweet caramelized onions which took the edge off of our appetites.

We then enjoyed long paper-thin shavings of tender asparagus ($11) dressed with flowery Sevillano olive oil and topped with truffled pecorino sheep's milk cheese and bits of red kohlrabi.

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Dining Reviews

Italian Lesson

Italian Lesson

La Posta attracts Seabright neighbors with unique Italian food
Like a foodie foreign language class, the servers at La Posta are kept busy explaining the menu which is riddled with less familiar Italian foodstuffs and regional specialties. Cavolo (cabbage), cacio (cheese), caprino (goat cheese), or farro (spelt) combine to make meals that you don't frequently find.

By 8 p.m. on a Friday night, the tables were all occupied by couples, groups and families. In the softly lit room, alive with conversation, a single tiny flame danced on each table like a firefly.

Being huge fans of bivalves we started with two dozen Mussels alla Triestina ($10), which is named for an Italian town. Large, creamy morsels of seafood were cooked with garlic, chilies, and a fresh bay leaf and topped with fine, crisp breadcrumbs. We soaked up the broth with dark, nutty homemade bread. We also enjoyed Asparagus al forno ($6) with thin spears roasted al dente and served with salty green and black olives.

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Dining Reviews

Witchy Women

Witchy Women

According to Bruce Aidells and Dennis Kelley in the book "Real Beer and Good Eats," beer was brewed by women as part of their kitchen responsibilities. It is said that the image of a witch stirring a bubbling cauldron came from this very activity as her trusty cat kept rodents away from the grain. In colonial America ale was drunk with every meal, and our forefathers, who considered the beverage liquid bread, declined to tax it.

Fast forward to 2010, when the women brewers at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing invited other females to make an organic Belgian-style Wit beer, or "white beer." Owner Emily Thomas along with brewers Kelly Vaillancourt and Nicole Beatie were joined by two community members. The ladies used traditional ingredients coriander and orange peels, although theirs were from fresh blood oranges. Just 155 gallons were brewed.

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Wine Reviews

Gatos Locos Chardonnay 2007

Gatos Locos Chardonnay 2007You’ve just got to love a winery with the name Gatos Locos—meaning Crazy Cats. Even the label—depicting two blue felines out for a good time – makes you want to buy the wine.

Made under the umbrella of Vine Hill Winery, which also produces wine under the Cumbre label, Gatos Locos wines are very reasonably priced. I bought the Gatos Locos Chardonnay 2007 Mokelumne River at New Leaf for about $15, an excellent price for this crisp and delicious nectar.

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Wine Reviews

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2008
I recently wrote that Rosé is fast becoming one of my favorite libations, so I’m now on a quest to find local Rosés. Several wineries in the area make different kinds of Rosé: there’s a Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Rosé of Zinfandel, a Rosé of Syrah—and so on. Their pretty pink hues make them so appealing—varying from the lightest pink to an almost-crimson blush. The strawberry shade of Silver Mountain’s Rosé of Pinot Noir is pretty and vibrant. It all depends, of course, on how long the red grapes are pressed and the juice is in contact with the skins. In the case of this Rosé, the Pinot Noir grapes are de-stemmed and partially crushed before they “bleed” the must. After a small amount of juice is drawn off to ferment alone, it becomes this delicious Rosé with bright floral aromatics and a squirt of summer sun.

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Dining Reviews

Mountain Mama

Mountain Mama

Mama Mia's large portions and colorful sauces give Feltonians a taste of Italy
In the heart of Felton, Mama Mia's has been serving hearty Italian fare for 14 years. The restaurant has been so successful that she now has three younger sisters in Santa Clara County.

Eighteen pasta dishes include spaghetti with homemade meat sauce or marinara ($13.99) and homemade cannelloni and manicotti crêpes ($14.99). For entrées, veal or chicken parmigiana ($17.99) are breaded and baked, as is the rolled chicken breast saltimbocca. The scaloppine is made with eggplant ($13.99) and Osso Buco ($19.99) is served with lamb demi-glaze over risotto. They proclaim their pizzas to be the best in town. On our recent visit, bowls piled high with seafood cioppino were the nightly special ($24.95).

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Dining Reviews

Fast Forward

Fast Forward

When a new restaurant hangs up its shingle, a stream of happy goose bumps runs down my spine. Theoretically, I should allow a newcomer to get its feet firmly on the ground before writing about them, but my palate is just too impatient.

And so it was with Caffe Tazzina which opened in the space recently vacated by Black China Bakery on Soquel Avenue. At the helm is Katelin Brightman, previously of Black China, in partnership with Tim O'Connor. Caffe Tazzina is also a brand of coffee made locally by O'Connor at Pacific Espresso.

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Wine Reviews

Roudon-Smith Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Roudon-Smith Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Now that the warmer weather has descended upon us, it’s time to think about lighter wines. Of course, there’s always an occasion to drink a hearty Pinot Noir or a robust Merlot, but on a warm spring day, then a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc is just the ticket.

Roudon-Smith Winery makes a delightful Sauvignon Blanc. Their 2007 Lake County is crisp and refreshing—and suited to a whole array of food. The label says, “This single-vineyard wine opens with a nose which blends lemon zest, key lime pie and pineapple aromas with undertones of banana.” Now doesn’t that sound perfectly cool and fruity for a summer day’s picnic? The label goes on, “This veritable tropical fruit basket continues with a wave of flavor that zips across the palate and leave you refreshed and wanting more.” And I would agree with that. It’s a light and very drinkable wine that goes down very easily. I would also suggest chilling this wine and serving it as an aperitif before dinner. It perks up the taste buds and makes your mouth water.

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Dining Reviews

Still Divine

Still Divine

Casablanca Restaurant continues to strike a memorable culinary chord
Should Pacific Avenue be closed off to traffic? Was the destruction of the Cooper House a horrible mistake? Where on the Earth is the best place to wear a mankini?

Dear Lord, with these questions floating about our striking ocean-view table, it was going to be a long night at Casablanca Restaurant. Not that the four of us minded. This was Casablanca, after all, the famed Santa Cruz destination right off Main Beach, an establishment that’s been hailed both for its breathtaking scenery and its culinary prowess. Besides, this had to be the first time the subject of mankinis—an odd amalgam of a bikini and Speedo for the testosterone set—came up in a dinner conversation before a meat dish appeared.

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Wine Reviews

Salamandre Cellars

Salamandre Cellars

2006 Newt South Wells, an Aussie-Inspired Red Wine
Newts and salamanders play a big role in winemaker Wells Shoemaker’s life. Not only does his label have a salamander on it, but the cork has one also. Even Shoemaker’s e-mail address has “newt” in it. And the theme continues with his 2006 Newt South Wells (a play on words of Australia’s New South Wales)—a truly gorgeous blend with grapes from Monterey County.

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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

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.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?

 

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.