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Sep 18th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

For the Birds

For the Birds

Little Caricias Café offers healthy alternatives to fast food on Beach Hill
Caricias Café sits on the small patio in front of Boca Del Cielas, a mauve Victorian bed and breakfast just up the First Street hill from the Boardwalk Bowl. Tico, the resident scarlet macaw, shimmied up the pole to her perch and surprised us with a loud squawk. The immense parrot then climbed down the backside of the wrought iron fence behind my daughter's chair, nibbled playfully on her sweatshirt, and gently grasped her elbow with zygodactyl feet.

On the whiteboard which describes the menu, I was surprised to see a fruit Pico de Gallo ($3). Spears of pineapple, honeydew melon, mango and cucumber were served with Tajin Clasico, a brand of slightly tart seasoning that includes powdered chilies and salt. I learned that dried chilies are enjoyed on everything in Mexico, especially fruit. Even better than Tajin was the spicier house-made version based on toasted, dried Japanese red chilies.

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Dining Reviews

Spot o' Tea?

Spot o' Tea?

Scones bring to mind tea time, crumpets and treacle. Since 1999, John and Yvette Bilanko have been selling mixes for these sweet breads to retail customers and restaurants alike. Now they return to their roots with a cafe, showcasing not only their baked goods, but savory fare as well.

Family photos line a wall of the cafe and store. Yvette, a first generation American, is shown on a Vespa outside of her Grandfather's Tuscan home. Raised in Chicago, the Bilankos married, had children and careers, and in 1991 opened an espresso bar and cafe. They used a scone mix, developed and sold by a group of graduate food science students, which was easily made with just heavy cream instead of butter and eggs. The resulting moist breads were hugely successful. Eventually the Bilankos bought the mix company and moved to Santa Cruz. Three weeks ago they were finally able to open the cafe.

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Wine Reviews

River Run Vintners Viognier 2008 & Wine events

River Run Vintners Viognier 2008 & Wine events

One of my friends had a group of women over for dinner. Since she always makes the most fabulous healthy dishes, I took along a bottle of wine that I hoped would match up with her cuisine – a Viognier 2008 from River Run Vintners, even though Viognier is not always the most food-friendly wine. Most white wine drinkers love Chardonnay, but it makes a nice change to try something els

Sure enough, my friend produces a splendid main course of curried chicken salad—delightful in its simplicity and packed with flavor. I open up the Viognier for the six of us, already wishing I had brought more. This golden-hued beauty has an intriguing heady bouquet of peaches and flowers. Thanks to the warm climate of the Tanimura-Antle Vineyard where the grapes are grown, the fruit ripens perfectly in October—producing this marvelous white wine with a weighty mouthfeel.

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Dining Reviews

North Coast Ghost

North Coast Ghost

Whether it's fine dining or a snack, at Moss Beach Distillery marvelous ocean views are on the house
During Prohibition, under the cover of darkness and fog, Canadian rum runners landed just north of Half Moon Bay at Moss Beach to unload their contraband. While most of their cargo was destined for San Francisco speakeasies, some of it made its way up the cliff to Frank's Roadhouse, a restaurant frequented by well-heeled celebrities and civic leaders. Today, the white building is home to Moss Beach Distillery and perhaps also to the charming but ghostly Blue Lady.

It was a pleasant stroll to the restaurant from the Seal Cove Inn, where our overnight package included a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant. Above the bar, which serves nice Bloody Marys, is a stamped tin ceiling. The overstuffed swiveling barstools, each with its own footrest, are fixed to the floor.

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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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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
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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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.