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Oct 02nd
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Lend Me a Hand

Lend Me a Hand

Gabriella Café blends incredible house-made pasta and charcuterie, local organic produce, sustainable fish and pasture-based beef

To mark our return home and the final day of vacation, my husband and I settled into a cozy table at Gabriella Café. It had been some time and a chef ago since our last visit.

We began the evening with a bottle of unfined and unfiltered Sangiovese from Healdsburg's Peterson winery ($34). Gabriella's famous focaccia that night was topped with green and sweet caramelized onions which took the edge off of our appetites.

We then enjoyed long paper-thin shavings of tender asparagus ($11) dressed with flowery Sevillano olive oil and topped with truffled pecorino sheep's milk cheese and bits of red kohlrabi.

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On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”