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Apr 23rd
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Last Chance for Decadence

Last Chance for Decadence

Before New Year’s resolutions take hold, ’tis the season to indulge

Each year-end brings reflection and subsequent goal-setting. For  those of us who resolve to eat healthier, lose weight, or both, Jan. 2 is a day of reckoning. We have but one week to engage in what many would-be dieters fondly refer to as their last supper; when we indulge on favorite foods without remorse.

When skinless chicken breasts become de rigueur, I crave wicked protein. I treated myself to a large Togo’s #9, relatively unchanged  from the one I enjoyed at their first store in a rustic cabin-like structure near San Jose State. Warm, finely shaved, seasoned pastrami, its edges rimmed with thin strips of peppered fat, was stuffed into a large white roll with pickles, tomatoes, whole pepperoncini peppers, crisp shredded lettuce and red onion.

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Dining Reviews

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary

I’ve often made a mental note when traveling Mt. Hermon Road to stop at Auntie Mame’s. I’m sorry it took me so long.

It’s bright inside this corner storefront in an aging retail building, where a long, shiny wooden lunch counter was immaculate. The walls held historic photographs, one of which sparked memories of reindeer-drawn sleigh rides at Santa’s Village amusement park.

You’ll find all of your morning favorites on the extensive breakfast menu, which is served all day. Creative specials were listed on the white board, which included Huevos Potatoes ($7.50); home fries layered with eggs, cheese, salsa and green onions.

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Wine Reviews

Chaucer’s Cellars Raspberry Wine

Chaucer’s Cellars Raspberry Wine

Searching for a bottle of local wine in Deer Park Wine & Spirits in Aptos, I came across a raspberry wine made by Chaucer’s Cellars ($13 for 500 ml.). Chaucer’s dessert-style fruit wines are absolutely delicious because they’re all made from 100 percent pure fruit without any artificial flavorings. As the holidays are coming up, this is just the kind of wine to crack open after dinner to enjoy with dessert—or even if friends come over and you just want to offer something different. It’s a sweet wine, of course, so it can actually be served instead of dessert. Chaucer’s suggests serving it with soda, champagne or over the rocks, with ice cream or cheesecake or in a cobbler. Personally, I like to pour a little glass of it and enjoy it as you would a liqueur.

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Dining Reviews

Sushi Safari

Sushi Safari

On 41st Avenue, Pink Godzilla and Miyako each offer unique Japanese specialties

Capitola's 41st Avenue is home to numerous sushi restaurants. Miyako, across from the mall, is a full-service Japanese Restaurant. During a weekday lunch hour, the buffet ($9.95) was popular, stocked with tempura asparagus, seaweed and red bell pepper relish, fried tofu, chicken drumsticks, and glass noodle sauté.

But I was surfing for sushi. On the helpful laminated placemats, photographs of sashimi were identified by both their Japanese and English names. I ordered Lunch Special #3 ($12.95), with seven pieces of nigiri sushi chosen by the chef.

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Dining Reviews

Viva la Sopa

Viva la Sopa

Just before the days begin to lengthen, and the air is frigid as if snow-kissed, all I can think about is a bowl of homemade soup.

I heard good words about the Carne en su Jugo beef soup ($6) at Taqueria Santa Cruz, and as it turns out, it's the restaurant's signature dish. After placing my order at the counter, I picked a sunny plump booth by the window. Spanish-language ESPN2 was recounting the weekend's events on two flat screen televisions at either end of the long dining room.

Soon, a large bowl was delivered to my table with a foil package of steaming, aromatic corn tortillas. In the clear broth, which was sprinkled with finely minced cilantro and white onions, floated large pieces of green avocado. I squeezed wedges of lime into the soup, and crumbled the crisply fried dried red peppers onto its surface.

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Wine Reviews

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Syrah

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Syrah

Twin brothers Peter and Paul Bargetto own and operate Soquel Vineyards with their partner Jon Morgan. Although the Bargetto brothers are related to the Bargettos of Bargetto Winery fame in Soquel, they are a separate entity when it comes to their winery. But winemaking most definitely runs in the family – with a little bit of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel coursing through the Bargetto family’s veins. Peter and Paul’s grandfather actually started Bargetto Winery in 1933, so winemaking is very much a family tradition.

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Dining Reviews

In-and-Out

In-and-Out

Backstage Lounge quickly dishes up lusciously flavored organic Asian-fusion specialties

Culinary integrity in the midtown-Seabright neighborhood just keeps getting better. And newcomer Backstage Lounge continues the trend, serving Asian-inspired dinners nightly by the Rio Theatre.

Many inexperienced restaurateurs have come and gone at this location since the charming Bea and her Koffee Kup retired. Although the Lounge may be new to the neighborhood, the proprietor, David Jackman, is no neophyte. He has owned Chocolate at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a decade, and before that, So Say We.

Tablecloths with shiny copper-colored brocades of Asian motifs shimmered in the small room where lights with faceted glass shades hung from the ceiling. Bright blue walls added excitement, and an array of jazzy music like you might hear in a 1940s supper club supported the classy ambiance.

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Dining Reviews

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Like most liquor stores, neon signs which announce the availability of beer shine through plate glass windows. But at Garden Liquors and Deli, a majority of customers come for the food.

During a recent lunch hour, a steady stream of large and small salads ($2.75 to $5.95) was pulled from the self-serve deli case. The wide variety included Chicken Caesar, Chef, Spinach, and Tuna Salad. Also available for a quick getaway was a selection of Saran-wrapped sandwiches, fresh fall apples, and numerous desserts— including squares of Tiramisu and wedges of multicolored cheesecake.

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Wine Reviews

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

Pelican Ranch Winery makes a good Chardonnay. After all, the owner and winemaker, Phil Crews, is a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Cruz, so he certainly knows a thing or two about blending and fermenting—be it wine or chemicals.

This particular Chardonnay, a 2008 Los Carneros Napa Valley, Mitsuko’s Vineyard—is really luscious. Phil professes he made it to be “bold and delicious”—and he’s succeeded. Some Chardonnays are crisp and light, but this one is more complex with heavy fruit, toasty oak, vanilla and butterscotch from the full malolactic secondary fermentation. Notes of ripe pear and apple are in there also, with a hint of vanilla. All in all, it’s a lovely Chardonnay, which would pair well with almost anything. Certainly the “toasty oak” in the wine is not overwhelming, which can really detract from the refreshing flavors of a good Chardonnay.

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Dining Reviews

Raising the Bar

Raising the BarInside and out, the bar menu at Verve Lounge sets the standard

lthough the building has housed numerous dark and rustic watering holes, the renovation undertaken by Verve Lounge in Aptos has created a light and lively club. A stage and large dance floor feature music nightly and flavorful bar food quells the appetite.
Large windows now light the decidedly upscale interior where tall tables with black high-backed chairs make perfect conversation spots. The long, shiny bar is lined with soda fountain-style chrome stools with chic red upholstery.
On a Saturday afternoon, owner Deb Schottgen was stocking the bar for the crowd that would later enjoy the music of local band Extra Large. It was happy hour, when well drinks and draft beers are just $3.
The bar menu includes pulled pork or burger sliders, Panini, hot links and wings ($7). From 5 to 8 p.m., larger plates ($7 to $10) include side salads and chips. And recently, crab cakes were added to the Friday menu.
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Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).
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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?