From fried appetizers to fresh salads and giant burgers, Rocco's 503 is fresh
I have great respect for restaurateurs. It's a time-consuming profession, and in Santa Cruz, includes a seasonal risk. The odds of surviving a year in this business are small, but for Peter Rinaldi, owner of Rocco's 503, it was time to take the leap.
Rinaldi's Italian grandfather, and then his father, grew Brussels sprouts on the north coast. All of his cousins and their children still farm throughout the county.
"It just wasn't for me," Rinaldi says, "I always wanted to do something a little more social. I wanted to make my own path."
On our last visit to France my teenagers and I left familiar Paris to explore the country's interior. We quickly learned that lunch was served only at lunch time. Fortunately the café-bars offered baguettes spread with rillettes, a pâté of sorts. Traditionally, tough cuts of meat were tenderized by simmering in lard, after which they were pounded to a paste, loaded into ramekins and preserved with a topping of melted fat. Now they are typically made from various cuts of pork, although goose and fish find their way into these creamy hors d'oeuvres.
Chef Chris LaVeque brings such old world handcrafted charcuterie, made from pasture-raised animals, to Santa Cruz at el Salchichero. Charcuterie is an ancient craft creating all things pork, from butchering to finished products, including cooked and cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, ham, and pâté.
A group of friends gathered recently at the Hollins House for dinner. As usual, food and service were excellent in this lovely restaurant. The extensive bar is a good spot to go for a cocktail – and you can always get some appetizers if a hunger pang or two kicks in.
I order a Hess Select Chardonnay 2008 Monterey to sip on before dinner (bottle $30, glass $8) and am delighted by this crisp and refreshing wine. Its vibrant tropical fruit flavors of pineapple, green apple and melon burst out of the glass.
The multifaceted morning menu at The Point Chophouse and Lounge starts the weekend out right
Known for steaks and happy hours, The Point Chophouse opens its doors early for weekend breakfast and lunch where a diverse clientele clusters in the lounge's semicircular overstuffed booths. This room, once dark with light-consuming wood-covered walls, is now painted white with framed pen- and-ink drawings of local scenes adding to its luminescence.
Pints of Bloody Marys ($4) were accessorized with celery, olives, and pepperoncini. An ideal venue for armchair athletes, we gathered up close to the large flat screen to watch the March Madness basketball championship.
People flock to San Francisco's South Beach to watch Giants games. You'll find top notch clubs in South Beach, Florida. But at South Beach Pizza Co. in Santa Cruz, I encountered a cheerful server, accommodating kitchen, and pizza just the way I like it. And they're open daily until 11 p.m.
From a tall-stemmed, tulip-shaped glass I enjoyed peppery Liberty Cabernet watching palm trees over the Main Beach volleyball courts oscillating rhythmically with the wind. The old-school CD juke box is free, and tunes from Nirvana, the late Nate Dogg, Lady Gaga and Blink-182 shared airplay.
The Ferry Building Farmers Market is a community celebration
San Francisco's Ferry Building Farmers Market is considered one of the best in the country for its diversity of produce and the uniqueness of artisinal foodstuffs. Each week, its three markets attract 25,000 visitors, the largest one on Saturdays.
In the spirit of sustainability I gathered canvas bags, a trio of reusable mesh produce bags ($7.50 Bed Bath & Beyond) and stepped onto Metro's 17 Express bus just before 7 a.m. to catch Caltrain at San Jose's Diridon Station. From an upstairs seat overlooking homes and fruit-laden citrus trees I pondered the juxtaposition of graffiti-tagged warehouses and backyard tennis courts.
For a couple of years I've announced Love Apple Farm's spring tomato seedling sale. Last year we made the trek to Boulder Creek to see what heirloom tomatoes were all about, and came home with six varieties. This year, Love Apple will not be selling at their farm, but, closer to many of us, in Scotts Valley.My thumb is anything but green. I like perennials and flowers that reseed themselves. Occasionally I grow hard-to-find ingredients like Thai chilies fresh curry paste and tiny cucumber cornichons. My previous experiences with hardware store tomatoes, after applying all the TLC I could muster, produced tasteless offerings.
Pinot Noir 2008
Pinot Noir is a sexy wine. With its full-bodied earthy nuances and creamy texture, it’s a perfect wine to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
With this in mind, I take a bottle of Vino Tabi’s gorgeous 2008 Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards, to a special Valentine’s dinner at Center Street Grill—the first in a series of dinners prepared by local chef Jake Gandolfo of Fox TV’s MasterChef cooking show—featuring the controversial Gordon Ramsay.