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Sep 02nd
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Packed with Peanuts

Packed with Peanuts

With June 12 rapidly approaching, I decided to prepare for National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. These snacks formed the basis of my first cooking lesson; placing balls of dough on a cookie sheet and smashing them with the tines of a fork to form the characteristic matrix on top. My mom only allowed cookies that we made from scratch, so needless to say I was frequenting the kitchen by the time of my seventh birthday.

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Wine Reviews

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines is one of the most known wineries in the Bay Area and elsewhere. It’s also one of the largest. Started by Jerry Lohr in the ’70s in San Jose—when he planted his first 280 acres of varietal grapes—the business has grown to include more than 900 acres of cool-climate estate vineyards in Monterey County, producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Valdiguie and Pinot Noir, to around 2,000 acres in Paso Robles focusing on Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other red varietals. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are grown on another 33 acres in Napa.

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Dining Reviews

A Sweet Finish

A Sweet Finish

El Jardín brings its friendly staff, unique sauces and gorgeous desserts to Santa Cruz
Since 1985 the Delgados have run what is now a family of Fine Mexican restaurants in historic California towns such as Columbia and Murphys. They've traveled quite a way to bring their specialties to the comfortable restaurant that most recently housed Sestri.

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Dining Reviews

Pressed for Time

Pressed for Time

The Italian word panino, which means little bread, also refers to a sandwich assembled with such bread. In Italy, the sandwiches are served regular and pressed. The plural of panino is panini, which stateside, has become synonymous with a flat sandwich, heated in a clamshell-like griddle with a weighted top.

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Wine Reviews

Sones Cellars Zinfandel 2007 Plus Upcoming Wine Events

Sones Cellars Zinfandel 2007 Plus Upcoming Wine Events

What goes really well with meat and zesty barbecue? The answer is Zinfandel. This spicy, jammy wine is a fine match with just about anything barbecued or grilled and it’s also fabulous with pizza.

As my husband and I head over to Aptos St. BBQ one Saturday night, we grab a bottle of Sones Cellars Zinfandel, Central Coast ($26 from DeLuxe Foods of Aptos). Friends kept telling me how good the barbecue place is, so we had to try it. Being very familiar with Sones Cellars’ wines, I knew we would have no problem enjoying the Zin. Thanks to the expertise of winemaker Michael Sones, it’s a sure thing that the full-throttle flavor of a good Zin will be captured in every bottle.

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Dining Reviews

Burl-esque

Burl-esque

Felton's Oak Tree Ristorante merrily applies local ingredients to its Italian masterpieces
An ancient oak stands not far from a redwood forest. Its namesake, Oak Tree Ristorante, was recently visited by Danny Glover, or so I am told. I just missed his visit by days, but found celebrity just the same, on the white plates at this lively Felton restaurant.

Under the arms of this tree, where La Bruschetta once existed, a colorful border of roses and camellias shields a large patio from Highway 9. Protruding from the front door is a redwood sculpture of a shapely woman meditating cross-legged in the lotus position. I pulled on the burl girl's arm, splitting her in half as the door opened into the bright restaurant where more beautiful burl had been made into countertops. The bright-eyed staff, conversing in Italian, was enjoying morning espresso from demitasse cups.

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Dining Reviews

Good Morning, Sunshine

Good Morning, Sunshine

It's interesting how the scent of morning coffee can transform the ambiance of a popular seafood restaurant into that of a cozy coffee shop. This was my experience last week as we sampled the new weekend breakfast at Stagnaro's on the wharf.

The Marine Mary ($8) was a sight to behold. A pint glass of Bloody Mary was decoratively embellished with a skewered pair of prawns and two pimiento-stuffed green olives. Two red straws were cradled in the channel of crisp celery, and a large wedge of bright-skinned lime hugged the rim. I tasted both Tabasco and a hint of horseradish in this Sunday-perfect eye-opener.

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Wine Reviews

La Honda Winery

La Honda Winery

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
La Honda Winery specializes in producing small lots of distinctive wines from carefully managed vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and throughout California. Winemaker Ken Wornick is truly dedicated to his craft – working hard to produce his award-winning wines. The 2006 Cabernet/Sangiovese is a blend of 57 percent Cab and 43 percent Sagiovese—all from grapes grown in the La Honda vineyard on the “stunning” Modica family ranch. When you open up a bottle of this superb wine, you’ll get a touch of spice mixed with coastal fog. At only 12.5 percent alcohol, it’s a very food-friendly wine for taking on picnics or to drink on a summer’s day.

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Dining Reviews

Judge Not by Size Alone

Judge Not by Size Alone

The Hole in the Wall restaurant combines international flavors to start the day out right
When I travel, it's not uncommon to search for little hole-in-the-wall restaurants where meals are surprisingly good. Such is the case in Aptos where just eight tables inside and six more outside comprise the capacity of The Hole in the Wall restaurant, sandwiched between Manuel's Mexican Restaurant and the Mediterranean.

Breakfast, which is served all day, includes Belgian waffles, pancakes and French toast with fruit, biscuits and gravy, Benedicts and even a Brazilian açai bowl with granola, fruit, yogurt, and bee pollen.

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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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Foodie File: Beer Thirty

Cups runneth over at Soquel’s new beer garden

 

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.