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Aug 27th
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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Washington Wines Two Rosés

Washington Wines Two Rosés

On a recent trip to Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria, we visit a friend in Vancouver. She whips up a quick lunch for us, and pops open a bottle of Canadian wine. Having just moved there from the Santa Cruz area, she is still trying out the far north wines and tells us how much she misses all the good wineries we have in our area.

We really don’t have enough time to go wine tasting in the land of all things maple, but stopping off in Seattle to stay with relatives on the way back home, we not only have time, but we also have a designated driver, my son-in-law.

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Dining Reviews

Food for all Reasons

Food for all Reasons

Seafood, tequila and merriment are specialties of El Palomar
Whether you're looking for a romantic dinner, a cheap late night snack, or a lively cantina atmosphere, downtown's El Palomar has got you covered. And with upward of 70 tequilas, you're bound to find something you like.

The cantina was brightly lit by the midday sun through translucent corrugated ceiling panels. Lively Latin music and numerous plants, including an agave, gave the space a tropical feel. The thick, warm tortilla chips crunched lightly, laden with smooth and spicy salsa interspersed with minced cilantro and onions. On weekdays you'll find a special lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Two-item combinations ($6.95) include a tostada with beans and shredded lightly seasoned chicken on a crisp corn tortilla topped with cabbage, salsa fresca and sour cream. The Sope is similar, except the ingredients were stuffed inside a puffed-up house-made corn tortilla.

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Dining Reviews

A+ Pho

A+ Pho

Can't decide between Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese food? At Capitola's new Asian Express you can enjoy all three. As an added bonus, they make an exceptional bowl of pho (which approximately rhymes with duhhh), a Vietnamese noodle soup.

At Asian Express, nestled between Starbucks and Togo's in the Ross building of the Capitola Mall, various appetizers, entrées and side dishes wait in warming trays at the counter. Choose from a single entrée and side ($4.50), two entrées ($5.49), or three ($6.39).

The chow mein noodles were mixed with vegetables and pieces of omelet. Rice was fried with peas, carrots and eggs. Chili-flecked beef and carrots in a dark sauce were topped with roasted potatoes, and lollipop chicken drumettes were coated with a sweet, caramelized sauce. Two long Fresh Spring Rolls ($2.95) were stuffed with parsley, mint leaves, lettuce, green onions, noodles and a couple of big shrimps.

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Wine Reviews

Poetic Cellars & Wine Events

Poetic Cellars & Wine Events

Eggs Benedict and Red Wine
Do ham and eggs and red wine go together? Well, why not! On a recent Sunday, my husband and I decide to go out for brunch. It’s already 2 p.m. when we leave home, so we head to the Red Apple Café in Aptos—knowing they serve breakfast and brunch until 4 p.m. and I have a yearning for eggs Benedict. I take along a bottle of Poetic Cellars’ Mantra 2007—a wonderful blend of 45 percent Syrah, 45 percent Mourvedre and 10 percent Sangiovese—because in my book, it’s all right to drink wine any time after 11 a.m.—be it with breakfast, brunch or lunch.

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Dining Reviews

Nibble, Savor and Indulge

Nibble, Savor and Indulge

Fresh, flavorful ingredients bring color to the menu at Cafe Limelight
Whatever your appetite, the simple but inventive menu at Cafe Limelight meets numerous needs. A loveseat and plump upholstered chairs surround a coffee table, creating an ideal ambiance for an after-work wind-down with nibbles and a beverage. Local Bargetto Rosso ($6) paired nicely with a Single-cheese Plate ($5.95) and Salami ($4.50). French Comté, called the Gruyère of France, is a classic, hard, flexible cheese with nutty undertones. The earthy, dry Molinari salami was flecked with black peppercorns. The plate included dried cranberries, large kalamata olives, points of crisp, griddle-toasted bread, and glazed cashews encrusted with tiny sesame seeds.

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Dining Reviews

Same, Yet Different

Same, Yet Different

Kickback Coffee House and Eatery slid into the Seabright neighborhood offering free wi-fi, organic coffee, and a mostly familiar menu. A bit of renovation created a comfortable space, where local art is for sale on the cleanly painted walls.

You'll recognize the long list of breakfast burritos from Kickback's predecessor Chill Out Cafe (which still operates its store on 41st Avenue) including numerous vegetarian offerings.

The hefty No.18 Spicy Bird ($7.05) is swaddled in a large, supple flour tortilla. Real cubes of flavorful roasted turkey are combined with scrambled eggs, grated potatoes, tomatoes, tart green chilies, mashed avocado and Swiss cheese with their signature spicy sauce.

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Wine Reviews

Chaminade’s Farm to Table Dinner, Vine Hill Winery

Chaminade’s Farm to Table Dinner, Vine Hill Winery

It is easy to enjoy the exceptional food served at Chaminade when paired with wonderful wines. In this case, Vine Hill is the participating winery at one of the series of Farm to Table dinners I attended recently with my husband. These lovely events typically feature local organic farmers and one of our wonderful local wineries. Seating is outdoors (with heaters for the chilly evenings!), dinners are served family style at one long table, and the whole idea is to enjoy the experience of sharing food and wine together in a beautiful setting with a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay. With this in mind, hubby and I head to Chaminade early (the events starts at 5:30 p.m.)—totally prepared to catch maximum rays and a good glass of wine before dinner.

Hors d’oeuvres are already being passed, and Vine Hill is pouring whatever wine you prefer from their selection of chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel—and so on. Vine Hill also makes wines under other labels—Cumbre and Gatos Locos—so they cover a broad spectrum.

We immediately run into four friends and thoroughly enjoy spending the evening with them. We are all impressed with the participating farms – Surfside Chicken and A.C.E. Organics, and the excellent cuisine of executive chef Beverlie Terra, who periodically comes out to talk about the food and to check that we’re all having a good time.

Vine Hill Winery owner Nick Guerrero and vineyard manager Rachel Ormes are sitting opposite, so wine talk is flowing like champagne. I finish with a superb pinot noir—and, as the sun sets in a stunning golden glow over the ocean, I heave a sigh of total satisfaction. Food, wine and good conversation have all come together in perfect unison.

Vine Hill Winery, 2300 Jarvis Road, Santa Cruz, 427-0436. vinehillwinery.com. Chaminade Resort & Spa, One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, 475-5600. chaminade.com. The next Farm to Table dinner is on Friday, July 23 and features the wines of Poetic Cellars. Tickets are $65 per person. Call Chaminade for reservations. The last two are on Aug. 20 and Sept. 24.

 


Wine Events
The Aptos History Museum presents A Night to Rally at Seascape Sports Club on Friday, July 16 from 6-8:30 p.m. This fundraising event takes place around the pool and showcases fine local wines and restaurants. Tickets are $40 in advance, which also allows you to see the quarterfinals feature tennis match of the Comerica Bank Challenger. Call for tickets 688-1467.
Seascape Sports Club, 1505 Seascape Blvd., Aptos, 688-1993. seascapesportsclub.com. The Comerica Bank Challenger tennis tournament, with world-ranked players, begins on July 12 and runs until July 18. Call Seascape Sports Club for tickets: 688-1993.
Dining Reviews

Piece of Cake

Piece of Cake

Freedom's Wooden Nickel Bar and Grill serves up huge plates of fresh, flavorful comfort food
It had been a decade since I last met friends at the Wooden Nickel Bar and Grill. The place had been described to me as a dive bar. But this 30-year old establishment is bright, with natural light from real windows. And from the boisterous laughter spilling into the adjacent restaurant as we waited for dinner, I could tell it was a welcoming neighborhood bar, the kind where everybody knows your name.

The restaurant seemed to be an addition, as rough-hewn timbers supported weathered bricks forming an open doorway from the bar. The decor was rather Pacific Northwest mountain cabin-style with moose wallpaper borders, carved wooden totems, and a mounted pair of antlers. On each table was a full complement of condiments including three styles of Beaver brand Oregonian mustard and A.1. Steak Sauce. Under the glass that protected the tablecloth, I was surprised to see a full-page wine list.

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Dining Reviews

A Handful — Period

A Handful — Period

The small parking lot on the corner of Mission and Bay streets was surprisingly full for a midweek lunch, and inside the new restaurant named burger followed by a period, (there are no capital letters anywhere on the menu), tables were filled with people enjoying World Cup Soccer on two large flatscreens.

Behind the counter (located at the Bay Street entrance) multi-colored chalk lettering describes the menu. Humboldt grass-fed beef from small, free-range, northern Californian farms is featured, but the house-made black bean-based veggie burger ($6.75) is popular.

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Wine Reviews

DaVine Cellars & Wine Events

DaVine Cellars & Wine Events

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
A delectable wine and the mystical music of Indian sitar turn out to be a perfect partnership at Don Quixote’s in Felton – a well-known international music venue. My husband and I had gone there to listen to Ashwin Batish – a master sitar player who happens to be a local resident as well. I want a wine that matches the complexity of a raga – something sensuous with lots of body and dark fruit – so I take along a bottle of 2006 DaVine Cab.

I had sampled this interesting wine at MJA Vineyards (DaVine Cellars is an offshoot of MJA Vineyards) tasting room just a couple of weeks before – and bought a bottle ($30) to drink another time. Blackcurrant, tobacco and coffee aromas leap out immediately – plus hints of ripe plums and vanilla. Swirl this wine around the glass for a while and you’ll get a fabulous olfactory fix before you even take a sip. And when you do take a sip, all those fruit-forward flavors come together in one splendid inky mouthful. Here’s a Cab with a nutty, earthy quality that is pure pleasure.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.