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Sep 14th
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Dining

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

Dining Reviews

Still Divine

Still Divine

Casablanca Restaurant continues to strike a memorable culinary chord
Should Pacific Avenue be closed off to traffic? Was the destruction of the Cooper House a horrible mistake? Where on the Earth is the best place to wear a mankini?

Dear Lord, with these questions floating about our striking ocean-view table, it was going to be a long night at Casablanca Restaurant. Not that the four of us minded. This was Casablanca, after all, the famed Santa Cruz destination right off Main Beach, an establishment that’s been hailed both for its breathtaking scenery and its culinary prowess. Besides, this had to be the first time the subject of mankinis—an odd amalgam of a bikini and Speedo for the testosterone set—came up in a dinner conversation before a meat dish appeared.

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Wine Reviews

Salamandre Cellars

Salamandre Cellars

2006 Newt South Wells, an Aussie-Inspired Red Wine
Newts and salamanders play a big role in winemaker Wells Shoemaker’s life. Not only does his label have a salamander on it, but the cork has one also. Even Shoemaker’s e-mail address has “newt” in it. And the theme continues with his 2006 Newt South Wells (a play on words of Australia’s New South Wales)—a truly gorgeous blend with grapes from Monterey County.

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Dining Reviews

The Real Thing

The Real Thing

Homemade recipes draw raves at Real Thai Kitchen
Hidden behind a Blockbuster store in the Seabright neighborhood, Real Thai Kitchen carefully prepares nearly one hundred dishes from the tropical paradise of Thailand.

The popular weekday lunch buffet ($8.95) included coconut milk soup, rice, salad, Old-fashioned Pad Thai, tempura, and a selection of curries and sautéed dishes with meat and/or vegetables. We ordered from the menu, feeling more like having leftovers than over-eating.

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Dining Reviews

Rising to the Occasion

Rising to the Occasion

I've enjoyed Raisin Fugasa French Toast at Aldo's Harbor Restaurant for as long as I can remember. But when I tasted their extra-tart sourdough bread at the Dream Inn's Aquarius, I knew I had to visit Aldo's Soquel Bakery.

I headed south, armed with a late morning appetite, and was surprised by what I found in this little store. In the back, as I expected, carts of bread were being readied for wholesale delivery. But the front held much more than bread.

The bakery case included large lemon bars ($1.25), scones ($1.75), éclairs ($2.75), muffins ($1.50), brownies ($1.50) and assorted cookies such as old-fashioned snickerdoodles ($1).  Breakfast Burritos ($3) or Ham and Egg Croissants ($4.75) make great traveling companions. I fell hard for the Raisin Danish ($1.50), coiled like a snake and drizzled with sugary glaze, it was as light and airy as a croissant.

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Wine Reviews

Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery 2008 Pinot Noir

Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery 2008 Pinot Noir

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
In celebration of Pinot Paradise coming up this weekend, a not-to-be-missed event for all Pinot lovers, I selected a newly released Pinot Noir from Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery to write about—a 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains estate which sells for about $30.

I remember going to the opening day of this winery—some 10 years ago. Owners Christine and Vann Slatter did a fine job with their first varietals, but now, with much more experience under their belts, their wines are just getting better and better. Their 2007 estate Pinot won a bronze medal—with 84 points—in the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association commercial wine competition, and I would imagine this new release will be a winner, too.

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Dining Reviews

Spring Flower

Spring Flower

Yan Flower dishes up a fresh assortment of unique Chinese delicacies at the southern end of Pacific Avenue

I don't often find myself in the South of Laurel section of Pacific Avenue, but when a friend described Hong Kong Noodles at Yan Flower I just had to try them. After all, the man is of Korean and Chinese heritage, and speaks with a New York accent.

In the back of the restaurant the owners converse in Cantonese. Yan Flower's well-kept yellow and green tiled building is roomy, clean, and simply decorated. Comfortable orange booths surround glass-topped tables, the windows are treated with pretty flowered valances, and the walls are papered with tasteful, contemporary swooshes in soft earth tones.

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Dining Reviews

A Dimpled Diet

A Dimpled Diet

Discovering that today is National Waffle Day triggered a memory of my mother, who treated us to waffles on leisurely Sunday mornings.

Standing at her white-tiled kitchen counter, she whipped the egg whites until stiff before gently folding them into the flour, yolk, and baking powder batter to guarantee an airy waffle. Then she added chopped walnuts, which brought crunch and texture to the bread. For the grand finale, after brushing the checkered griddle halves with Crisco oil, she laid out two soft strips of cooked bacon which sizzled on the hot metal before she poured the batter over them. We stood by hungrily waiting for steam rising from the iron to subside. It took seven or eight rounds to satisfy the five of us with these nutty, crisp, airy, smoky, maple syrupy cakes.

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Dining Reviews

Bus Stop Sandwich Shop

Bus Stop Sandwich Shop

A small triangular kitchen looks out upon the bus lanes at Santa Cruz's Metro Center. Here at Café Lena you'll find breakfast and lunch plus smoothies, coffee drinks and candy.

Morning bus commuters enjoy a variety of toasted bagels with cream cheese ($2), turkey ($5) or spreads such as pesto and sun-dried tomato along with a 20-ounce cappuccino ($2.75) or smoothie ($3.75). I ordered a plain bagel with buttery hummus ($2.75) which was both filling and flavorful. (Don't forget the napkins!)

For lunch, the list of sandwiches ($5) includes roast turkey and veggie pine nut pesto. Fresh salads ($5.75) such as Greek, Oriental Chicken, Caesar, and Chef bring the best of springtime to the workday.

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Wine Reviews

Naumann Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay

Naumann Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay

One of the most diverse wine events to kick off the year is much-anticipated Ultimate Winemakers dinner – held at Shadowbrook Restaurant every February. Starting with wineries showcasing their wines with a general tasting in the Rock Room Lounge, guests then enter one of the dining rooms to have dinner with their chosen winemaker. Because the event is put on by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA), attendees of the event know to go to their website to select a winery of their choice.

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Dining Reviews

Get Fresh with Me

Get Fresh with Me

Fresh Monterey Bay fish steal the show at Moss Landing's Sea Harvest

This week winter will finally hand the weather back to spring, and we will have more evening hours to work up an appetite in the arms of Mother Nature. It's again time to enjoy biking, hiking and kayaking.

In Moss Landing, just south of Monterey Bay Kayaks, Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant is nestled in the corner of an immense parking lot. Inside, tables lined up along large windows shared views of the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, where two dozen sea otters feasted and frolicked in the choppy water.

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Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way

 

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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

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.