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Aug 21st
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Shopping for Crépes

Shopping for Crépes

Although I occasionally crave a particular Junior burger for a buck, I gravitate toward locally owned eateries and the unique specialties created by their owners. Which is why I was happy to hear of Cafe Laila on my trip to the Capitola Mall.

At this corner cafe with a view of the fountain, the former owner of Capitola's Misk offers a variety of beverages, sandwiches and crépes.

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Dining Reviews

Behold: Shadowbrook

Behold: Shadowbrook

Capitola’s culinary hobbit continues to thrive with style and excellence
Available men, unavailable men, women’s lib 2010 and Bernese Mountain Dogs became the hot topics of conversation recently as four of us revisted Shadowbrook Restaurant for what would be become a wicked Wednesday night. Wicked because we hardworking folk—try shoving commas, apostrophes and periods together in the minivan of literature and see how tricky it can be—never shy away from wine, so Shadowbrook’s Winemaker Wednesdays stand out.

So there we were, in the well-known restaurant’s Rock Room Lounge, about to be detoured from reality by Mount Eden Vineyards, when one of us confessed of several crushes they had formed on several men that were, well, not on the market. “Move on,” we quickly advised. “You’re the prize—and if that person cannot see that, then your answer is: “NEXT!”

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Wine Reviews

Ghost Tree Wines Merlot 2007 + Wine Events

Ghost Tree Wines Merlot 2007 + Wine Events

Birthdays are always an occasion to dine out. Five of my women friends and I headed to The Greek restaurant on Front Street to celebrate a friend’s birthday. One friend in our group, who is Greek, knows the owner, Vasili Karagiannopoulos, so as soon as we were seated he started plying us with typical little appetizers – in true Greek hospitality style. Meantime, we had all ordered an entrée, so in less time than it takes to say yassou (hello in Greek), our table was weighted down with all kinds of good Greek food.

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Dining Reviews

One Fish, Two Fish, Green Fish

One Fish, Two Fish, Green Fish

Three years ago I interviewed Dave Greenberger, owner of Dave's Gourmet Albacore in the Harvey West neighborhood, where he cans flash-frozen, line-caught fish. Recently I noticed they've added a large deli complete with tables, as well as numerous canned products.

Dave's albacore has so much flavor that it can be enjoyed undressed. Each piece of prime fish is cut by hand, individually canned, and then cooked, retaining all of its flavorful and healthy juices. The Tuna Bagel Melt ($8) showcased this mildly flavored white fish with tomatoes on two bagel halves, topped with thin slices of cheese and broiled. Salty, smoky albacore was pulled from the case to fill another tender bagel with cream cheese and capers ($8).

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Dining Reviews

Sushi Surpise

Sushi Surpise

Capitola's Sushi Garden combines the best of traditional Japanese cuisine with creative fusion rolls
At Japanese restaurants I find it difficult to choose between traditional dishes, old school sushi, and the gustatory surprises that may be hidden in a fusion roll. And so it was at Capitola's Sushi Garden where all of the above are offered. Japanese ingredients like shiso herb leaves and burdock root gobo join jalapeños and macadamia nuts integrating cultures.

At lunch, when most entrées cost $9.50 or less, choose from noodle soups, teriyaki, and donburi rice bowls. Two- and three-item Bento Box combos ($9.50/$12.50) include a small selection of main dishes, potstickers, sushi, sashimi or a California Roll. At dinner, expect to add about $7.

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Wine Reviews

The Best Wineries to Visit

The Best Wineries to Visit

Many wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains are in the most idyllic spots. There are too many of them to list in this issue, but here are a few that Bacchus has blessed us with. They are all well worth a visit, for their location as well as their wine.

Five of our delightful local wineries have banded together and formed a group called Summit to Sea. Each of these has its own distinct charm, and each sits on a prime piece of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Trending Now

Whether you live by the Vogue bible or choose to go into your day wearing what you slept in, odds are you wear clothes.

 

The Thought Form of Solution

It’s our last week of Leo before the sun enters Virgo (next Friday/Saturday). The planets this week make complex patterns and relationships (vibrational cadences and rhythms) with the outer planets, mainly Neptune—the planet that veils, obscures, protects and finally refines us. Neptune offers us entrance into a deeply spiritual sense of comfort and solace. Neptune is the personality ruler of Pisces (saviors of the world) and soul ruler of Cancer (world mother). “The fish goddesses who leapt from earth (Virgo) to water (Pisces) unitedly give birth to the Fish God (Christ, the Soul) who introduces the waters of life  (Neptune & Aquarius) into the ocean of substance (matter, mother bringing light to the world. Thus does Neptune work.” (Esoteric Astrology).

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Cultures Collide

No surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’
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Foodie File: Kauboi

Japanese-Western themed unites sushi with whiskey and beefgrill

 

How should Santa Cruz develop downtown around the San Lorenzo River?

Santa Cruz | Artist/Show Promoter

 

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

 

Have Mercy!

Looking for a frisky summer wine at a reasonable price? Look no further than Mercy Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Richly textured “with an exotic flavor profile,” the wine reveals aromas of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, with anise appearing as a star attraction. Smidgeons of pineapple and honeycomb add a touch of sexiness to this well-balanced, easy-drinking wine, which pairs well with a variety of cuisine —especially ceviche, calamari and other not-too-heavy foods.