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Sep 01st
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

11 Sexy Foods

11 Sexy Foods

Burrata
Fresh Asparagus
Crab
Maguro Sashimi
Scallops
Sandwiches
Chocolate soufflé
Meyer Lemon Lavender Truffle
Fresh strawberries

1 Raw oysters

(from booth at Saturday morning Cabrillo Farmers Market) An oyster’s texture, unmistakably sensual, can make your tongue dance—and who knows what will follow. Treat yourself to some oysters with lemon and Tabasco after shopping for fresh, organic produce on a sun-filled day at the Farmers Market with your sweetheart.
Cabrillo Farmers Market, Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, montereybayfarmers.org/aptos.html.

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Wine Reviews

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

Plus Upcoming Wine Events

Rose is fast becoming one of my new favorite wines. And when you find a good one such as Muns Vineyard’s Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2008 Central Coast ($18), then one’s wine-drinking life is most certainly elevated.

I first tasted the Muns Rosé at a food and wine event at Café Cruz in Soquel.  Mary Lindsay, who, along with winemaker Ed Muns, plays a major role in production, public relations, tasting events, and everything else that’s involved with running a successful winery, was pouring that day. She invited me to try the Rosé and I immediately bought a bottle to take home. I often have friends over for wine and cheese get-togethers, and it makes a change to offer Rosé—along with the Merlots and Chardonnays of this world.

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Dining Reviews

Casual Fare

Casual Fare

The reincarnation of Carniglia's offers a relaxing view, friendly service, and excellent seafood
The news of Carniglia's closing was still reverberating through the community when the cherished wharf restaurant re-opened on February 13. In just 29 long-hour days, new owners and management created a menu and re-staffed in time for Valentine's Day. The partnership of local restaurateurs Germaine Grangerakin and Martin Drobac makes Carniglia's a half sister of Riva Fish House, 515 Kitchen, and Red Restaurant.

On my first visit, proficient, casually attired servers were in awe of their new work environment; the blue bay reflecting warm sun through the expanse of wraparound picture windows. Crayons waited on every paper-covered table with an amazingly functional rock salt and pepper grinder. Silverware was rolled in napkins the color of my spicy Gladiator house Merlot ($5), which was robust for this varietal and bore the appetizing scent of bacon.

 

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Dining Reviews

Sizzling Hot

Sizzling Hot

At Mexican restaurants it is common to hear, and then smell, the fajitas passing by, sputtering and smoking in their cast iron pan. Who invented these meaty morsels may be in dispute, but from humble beginnings the dish has evolved into numerous delicious entrées.

It is said that vaqueros conceived the recipe in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. These Mexican cowboys would be partially paid with less desirable cuts of meat, including skirt steak, or faja which translates as "belt". These tough little belts were tenderized at length in acids such as lime juice, and cooked over a camp fire. In northern Mexico, a similar dish is called arracheras.

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Wine Reviews

Ahlgren Vineyard Syrah 2004

Ahlgren Vineyard Syrah 2004

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
Most red wine drinkers love Syrah. It’s bold, meaty, smoky and peppery—a robust brew that pairs extremely well with meat.

The 2004 Syrah, Ventana Vineyards, Monterey—made by Ahlgren Vineyard – is a pretty good wine for around $9 (from Deer Park Wine & Spirits). Winemaker Dexter Ahlgren, who, with his wife Valerie, has operated his vineyard in Boulder Creek for more than three decades, has made a wine here that’s big and bold—and, in this case, unfined and unfiltered. The winemaker’s comments on the label say “Deep and dark, classic Syrah bouquet with bright, spicy flavors.” It’s also rich, complex, a downright bargain—and the perfect wine to take to SmoQe BBQ & Wood Fired Pizza.

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Dining Reviews

Make Yourself at Home

Make Yourself at Home

The service at Felton's Rockys Cafe is sure to put a smile on your face

In the rear of a vintage mountain home, neighbors enjoyed breakfast and lunch just steps from Highway 9. Relaxing at Rockys in Felton reminded me of cozy roadside meals eaten after a day of Sierra skiing. The lone server, with impeccably manicured nails, wore a smile that could brighten the grayest of mornings.

The restaurant is mostly windowed, with views of young redwoods. On the rustic recycled wood walls hang framed portraits of smiling pooches. The yard may not be as idyllic as it could be, but we came for the food and the service.

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Dining Reviews

Far from Plastic

Far from Plastic

In the mood for Japanese food, I sauntered into the little Totoro Sushi on Mission Street. Presented with both a lunch and special sushi menu, I knew immediately what I wanted. Something I had first seen, but made of plastic.

In Japan it is common to see plastic food samples in an eatery's windows. The idea for these replica foods materialized in the 1920s when a young entrepreneur made wax molds to help restaurants show customers how new western dishes appeared. Faux food has since grown into a huge industry. Each dish is custom made, based on photographs and sketches of a chef's dish. A silicon mold is taken of the actual food, and expert artists make plastic sauces, condiments and garnishes. Sometimes, the replica appears more appetizing than the original.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.