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Jun 30th
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Food & Drink

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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Wine Reviews

Fleming Jenkins

Fleming Jenkins

Victories Rosé 2010 – Rosé for Research

I well remember the first time I met Peggy Fleming,  the world-famous ice skater and Olympic gold medal winner. It was at Testarossa Vineyards in Los Gatos. Fleming and her husband Greg Jenkins were just getting going with their winery, and were holding some of their events at Testarossa. It was only in 1999 that they planted their first vineyard of Chardonnay grapes, and they didn’t have a tasting room at that point in time. But that’s all changed as their winery has progressed. They now have a lovely tasting room in downtown Los Gatos that is available for private, corporate or nonprofit events for groups of 10 to 40 people.

The second time I met Fleming, at an event in Los Gatos, we chatted about everything under the sun, and I was left with a lasting impression of her down-to-earth personality.

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I Was a Teenage Deadhead

Memories of life on tour, plus the truth about that legendary Santa Cruz Acid Test

 

I Build a Lighted House and Therein Dwell

Wednesday, June 24, Chiron turns stationary retrograde (we turn inward) at 21.33 degrees Pisces. We usually speak of “retrograde” when referring to Mercury. But all planets retrograde. Next month in July, Venus retrogrades. What is Chiron retrograde? Chiron represents the wound within all of us. Wounds have purpose. They sensitize us; make us aware of pain and suffering. Through our wounds we develop compassion. Through compassion we become whole (holy) again. Chiron helps develop these states of consciousness. Everyone carries a wound. Everyone carries family wounds (family astrology tracks the astrological “DNA” through generations). Chiron wounds are deep within. We’re often not aware of them until Chiron retrogrades. Then the wounds (through pain, hurt, sadness, suffering) become apparent. They seem to break us open emotionally, psychologically. Painful events from the past are remembered. They are brought to the present for healing. Through experiencing, talking about and deeply feeling what is hurting us, healing takes place. We begin to understand and bring healing to others. All week, Jupiter and Venus move closer together in the sky. They meet in Leo at the full moon, Cancer solar festival, on Wednesday, July 1. The Cancer keynote is, “I build a lighted house and therein dwell.” The soul’s light has finally penetrated the “womb” of matter. The New Group of World Servers is to radiate this light. At the end of each sign are keywords to use and remember during the Chiron retrograde.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of June 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Kickin' Chicken

Local kitchen alchemist Justin Williams is fast becoming a cult flavor master. His late-night wizardry, which began last fall delivering mainly to starving UCSC students, is catching on with taste buds beyond campus. Kickin’ Chicken delivers its spicy-sweet fried chicken and waffles to Westside residents between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. nightly. Or you can catch him and his brother and sister, Candice and Danny Mendoza, serving it up at their “Sunday Mass” at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge at 1001 Center St. in Santa Cruz. Using sous vide, a French method of cooking chicken in a water bath at a tightly controlled temperature, they then flash fry it for an amazingly crispy coat. Candice Mendoza spoke to GT about Kickin’ Chicken’s rise.

 

What’s a creative new approach to addressing summer beach litter?

Robotic dogs, with duct tape on their paws, that walk around picking up litter wherever they go. Joaquin Heinz, Santa Cruz, Barista

 

Pelican Ranch Winery

The most popular red wines found on store shelves are also those most commonly known, such as Pinot, Zinfandel and Merlot. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Pelican Ranch Winery’s Cinsault ($19), it opens up a whole new world. Cinsault is a grape that can tolerate heat, so it is found in countries with warmer climes such as Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, and France. It’s rare in California but grows well in places like Lodi—Silvaspoons Vineyard in this particular case—where it’s hot and dry. Often used as a blending grape, the silky Cinsault is just fine on its own.

 

Open Wide

Soif’s soft reboot leads to expanded menu, plus the ‘thinking woman’s ketchup’