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May 04th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

Soup's On!

Soup's On!

Chilly temperatures send the stock pots to simmering all around town

On weary winter weekends the lunch table would feature hot soup from familiar red and white cans. Tomato was my favorite (made with water, not milk) with crisp, salty crackers crumbled on top.

Even better however was soup after the holidays when Mom would toss a ham bone into a pot of dry, soaked lima beans. Unaware of the frugality of the meal, I held my face over the bowl, relishing the smoky-smelling steam, and then whistled onto large spoonfuls until the flat beans and thick broth were cool enough to eat.

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Dining Reviews

Mediterranean Madness

Mediterranean Madness

Oh, there are unforgettable feasts at Vasili’s
There are a few people you meet who absolutely love working with, presenting and/or serving food that you can’t help but be impressed by their infectious energy. Julie White is one of those local creatures.

As owner of Vasili’s Greek Restaurant on Santa Cruz’s Westside, White and her staff certainly know how to serve authentic Greek meals—hell, let’s just call them feasts—but what truly stands out is that you really can taste the “love” in all the food here. Four of us soon discovered this during a recent outing at the popular restaurant and the experience only seemed to remove a rather annoying eating inhibition I had imposed on myself earlier in the day. This isn’t the place to eat less. More is better, so … bring it on.

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Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Pinot Noir 2008
A good friend of mine who I don’t see very often—he lives in Philadelphia—came to visit me for the day, along with a friend who he was staying with in San Francisco. This was my golden opportunity to take them around and show them a little of Santa Cruz in the short space of time we had.

I took them straight to a local winery for a tasting—one of the few open on a Wednesday—as I wanted them to try at least a small selection of our superb local wines before they had to head back north.

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Wine Reviews

Pietra Santa Winery

Pietra Santa Winery

Sangiovese 2006

Stephen Hanecak, executive chef at Paradise Beach Grille, really knows his wine. He carefully chooses each wine listed on the menu and really enjoys talking about them. I order a bottle of Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2006 Cienega Valley ($31) for my husband and I to enjoy with our dinner at this excellent restaurant. “Good choice,” says Hanecak, as he sits with us for a while to talk about wine. “I haven’t found a better Sangiovese.” But this is not surprising. Pietra Santa has been in business since 1989 and has built up a fine reputation over its more than two decades of winemaking.

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Dining Reviews

Fanni Goes West

Fanni Goes West

The energetic owner of Caffe Lucio brings Italian specialties to Mamma Lucia's on Mission Street

Just a few signs remain that this restaurant last housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken; the comfortable red booths and the black and red counter. But with a touch of butter-yellow paint, soccer playing on two flat screen televisions, the aroma of tomato sauce and photographs of Mamma Lucia's food, Lucio Fanni of Caffe Lucio and al dente, has turned it into an Italian Cafe. Here, the chicken tortellini soup is made from scratch, the soft loaves of bread with tiny air hole-bubbled interiors are house-made, and doggie treats are sold to patrons' pets.

The menu is written on large blackboards behind the counter where we placed our order before gathering plates and silverware from the neat stacks and finding a table. Since signs on each table reminded us to bus our own tables, I was pleasantly surprised that our order was brought out to us.

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Dining Reviews

Shop, Eat, Repeat

Shop, Eat, Repeat

Barraged by brand names and national chains at the Capitola mall, it's comforting to find sustenance in a local cafe. Whether you're frantically filling Christmas wish lists or surfing end-of-year sales, Cafe Laila by the fountain will warm you up, tide you over, assuage your sweet tooth or fill you up with a freshly made sandwich.

For cold liquid refreshments, Cafe Laila serves various flavors of bubble tea with chewy tapioca pearls, frappuccino, a selection of iced teas and coffees, as well as sodas, Gatorade and energy drinks. Smoothie flavors ($3.95/$4.50) include Matcha Green Tea and banana-pineapple-mango.

There is also a full line of coffees and teas, and this time of the year Cafe Laila steeps holiday special mochas and lattes including gingerbread, peppermint and pumpkin pie. I relaxed with a soothing 12-ounce eggnog mocha ($4) while planning the rest of my day.

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Wine Reviews

Walters

Walters

Pinot Noir 2007 – A Gorgeous Wine for the Holidays

Raking around in Vinocruz, I come across a Walters wine–a label I hadn’t seen before. It’s exciting to find something new and local and then learn about the winemaker and what has propelled them to make wine commercially. Most winemakers start off as novices–making wine in their own backyard for the simple joy of it. But the truly dedicated winemaker, who is making a good enough product to be sold commercially, also has the hard slog of getting to that point. And even when all the bottling, corking and labeling is done, the new winemaker still has to get his name out there and his wine sold.

Certainly a good start is getting your wine into Vinocruz, the Santa Cruz wine shop dedicated to selling and promoting locally made wines. This lovely wine destination is also a great place to sample our local wines and to meet winemakers in our area at special events held in the store.

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Dining Reviews

Comfort Food

Comfort Food

With cozy booths, professional service and an ever-evolving seasonal menu, a visit to Vida was delightful

We often enjoy appetizers at Vida Lounge and Grill, but it had been some time since we sat down for dinner. In the meantime, Noah Thorwaldson had become the Executive Chef and the new menu was inviting. I was pleased to encounter the same level of service that I had in the past. We were greeted warmly at the door and ushered to a softly-lit booth where our server was extremely knowledgeable with respect to the ingredients, and very thoughtful.

Vida is also known for its creative cocktails, as was evidenced by full attendance in the bar area on a Saturday evening. The legendary Mojito ($7) includes Myer's rum, fresh mint and lime and sparkles with a splash of soda. Slices of cucumber and the pulp of freshly squeezed lemon juice floated on top of the Cucumber Martini ($9), made with smooth Hendrick's Scottish gin and French St~Germain elderflower liqueur. The vodka Ginger Rodgers ($7) with muddled mint and fresh lemon was seasoned with spicy pieces of fresh ginger.

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Dining Reviews

Desperately Seeking Spumoni

Desperately Seeking Spumoni

Where I grew up, pistachios were red and arrived in Christmas gift baskets. My sisters and I would finish off the bag with split thumbnails and pink fingers to show for it.

Later, I found pistachio ice cream in France as ubiquitous as chocolate. Although I wondered silently why it was green and found its flavor odd, surprisingly enough it was familiar, reminding me of spumoni.

As a child, the occasional trip to San Francisco with my grandparents typically included an Italian dinner, most often in the Doll Room at Veneto's. The meals would invariably begin with a Shirley Temple and end with spumoni. It's not that I ever craved this frozen finale, but it was part of our ritual and a rare opportunity for dessert was not to be dismissed. Swirls of chocolate, pink and alien green ice creams contained nameless bits of things found in holiday fruitcakes, but it was cold and very sweet.

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Wine Reviews

Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards

Three Valleys 2008
When seven women go out for dinner, it’s not necessarily guaranteed that the noise level will be kept to a minimum. We decided to dine at Center Street Grill because we could have our own cozy corner in the spacious restaurant and a few decibels of heated conversation would not disturb other diners.

Center Street Grill now has a full bar, so it’s a good spot to go for that after-work glass of wine or gin and tonic. They carry some Santa Cruz Mountains wines, too, a fact which always gains high marks in my book.

Ridge Vineyards has long been a member of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) and is a very well known and prestigious winery. I was pleased to see Ridge on the wine menu at Center Street Grill and I ordered a bottle of Three Valleys ($30) for us all to share.

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Mountain Mystic

When Cora Evans died in Boulder Creek in 1957, her thousands of pages of religious writings hadn’t yet been published. More than a half a century later, Evans’ fiery visions and spiritual devotion have inspired a crusade within Catholicism to make her the Santa Cruz Mountains’ first saint

 

Wesak (Water) Taurus Solar Festival, Buddha Blesses the Earth

A most important celebration occurs Sunday, May 3—the Wesak Taurus Buddha Solar Festival/full moon. At the moment of the full moon the Buddha’s presence enters the Earth plane for eight minutes. He brings the Will-to-Good from the Father, which, when reaching humanity becomes goodwill (Mother Principle). Held yearly in a valley hidden deep within the Himalayas, the Wesak festival is prepared for for months in advance (beginning at Winter Solstice). On festival day, amidst pilgrims, disciples and Holy Ones gathered in the valley, the Buddha is invoked through movement, symbols and mantrams. At the moment of the full moon, hearing the words, “We are ready, Buddha, come,” the Lord of Illumination (brother of the Christ) appears in the clouds above the altar to emanate forth the will and purpose of God to earth. The blessing of the father is then held in safekeeping for distribution at the June full moon Goodwill Festival. The day of Wesak (May 3, 8:42 p.m. West Coast) all disciples (east and west) place crystal vessels filled with pure water outside (in gardens, on rooftops, porches and steps) under the heavens. As the Buddha blesses the world, all waters, including waters within our bodies, are blessed. The Buddha is accompanied by the Forces of Enlightenment to illuminate humanity’s minds. Humanity then begins to express new constructive, productive and beneficial ways of the Art of Livingness. Wesak covers five days—two days (before) of dedicated preparation, the actual festival “Day of Safeguarding,” and two days (after) distributing goodwill (the NGWS to humanity). Join us in the Valley by reciting the Great Invocation, mantra of direction for humanity.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 1

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Hole in the Wall

Popular Aptos spot opens for dinner

 

How do you connect with the natural world?

My connection to the natural world is through my art. I totally feel it there very physically in nature and even right here on the street. Jonathan Rosen, Felton, Pastor

 

Hess Collection Winery

My friend Emma from London came to visit for a few days in early March, so I took her wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a rare treat for her, as there aren’t too many vineyards in the middle of London. Her visit reminded me how fortunate we are to live in this paradise of ultra-fresh produce, with grapes growing in wild profusion.

 

Springtime Walkabout

May Day Flower Festival, free tours of the UCSC Farm, and a nondairy chocolate indulgence