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Feb 10th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

Oh, Au Midi

Oh, Au MidiAu Midi Restaurant & Bistrot raises the culinary bar

Not long after Muriel and Michel Loubiere opened Au Midi in October 2008, word quickly spread about this delightful French restaurant, and it was soon rated one of the best restaurants in the area. It has continuously maintained this status—thanks in no small part to the culinary talents of chef Muriel Loubiere.

My friend Sandy and I are greeted and seated by Michel in the warmth of the small cozy restaurant. We order a bottle of Soquel Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc ($34), an excellent pairing to go with our main dish of seafood.

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Dining Reviews

Gourmet Grazing

Gourmet GrazingLast week I attended Gourmet Grazing on the Green, an annual cancer benefit put on by the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group held in Aptos Village Park. The event was hugely successful this year with a grand turnout of vendors—63 in all.
Some of the vendors were new on the scene, so it was exciting to taste their wares and get to know them. Here are two of them who participated:
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Wine Reviews

Loma Prieta Winery

Loma Prieta Winery

Pinotage 2009


If you want to taste something totally smooth and sexy that’s going to knock your socks off, then try Loma Prieta’s Pinotage. The 2009 Amorosa Vineyard ($45) is so impressive that you just keep coming back for more. It’s not surprising, then, that this gorgeous wine, aged in the finest oak, has won numerous gold medal awards—two of the most notable being a double gold at the 2011 Indy International Wine Competition, and Best of Class at the 2011 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

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Dining Reviews

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure Pizza's East Side Eatery pairs local produce with pasta, salads, sandwiches, and an array of house-made sauces

For 35 years, Pleasure Pizza has been satisfying hunger pangs of neighbors and surfers from its 41st Avenue corner. The new owner, Derek Rupp, who previously was executive chef at Google, has expanded the business across the street, where, in addition to pizza, his Eastside Eatery serves a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner specialties.

During the fall and winter, breakfast is served only on weekends. Savory House Specials include soft polenta with sausage, eggs and roasted vegetables ($8.99) and Nasi Goreng ($7.99), an Indonesian fried brown rice with onions, chili, garlic, spices, and the sweet Indonesian soy sauce kecap manis.

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Dining Reviews

Galician Treasure

Galician Treasure

At the Everett Family Farm's farmers market booth, a sign read "el famoso Padrón.” The wrinkled appearance of these small Galician peppers reminded me of pepperoncini.

Galicia is an autonomous region of Spain which is bordered on the south by Portugal and on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean. Its economy is driven by fishing, manufacturing and agriculture. From one of its municipalities come these pementos de Padrón, only relatively recently available stateside.

Generally a sweet pepper, but occasionally one with an overabundance of capsaicin sneaks in amongst its mellow brethren, earning these capsicums the nickname Russian Roulette. A Galician saying warns, "Peppers of Padrón, some of them hot, and others not." Apparently, if left to mature to a deep red, they are quite spicy.

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Wine Reviews

Lucia Highlands

Lucia Highlands

Pinot Noir 2008

The story goes that the Spanish explorers named the area Lucia when they came to the area around the time of the feast day of St. Lucia, celebrated in December. And now we have something else to celebrate—Lucia Highlands’ wine.

I came across Lucia Highlands’ Pinot Noir at Seascape Sports Club at the Comerica Challenger tennis tournament in July in Aptos. Local winery owners Carol and Bret Sisney had donated a couple of cases for a function at the tournament—one of Pinot Noir and another of Chardonnay—the two wines they are making right now.

The Sisneys, with their partner Gary Filizetti, purchased the vineyard in 2001, and the first bottling that same year produced 120 cases of Chardonnay. Now, with the assistance of consulting winemaker Steve Passagno, the 2009 bottling produced 400 cases of Chardonnay and 600 cases of Pinot.

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Dining Reviews

North and South

North and South

Capitola Diner serves breakfast all day and mixes it up with Mexican specialties


The family-owned Capitola Diner aims to create a relaxed beach house atmosphere, and boasts a large menu that combines American diner standards with Mexican-influenced dishes and seafood specials.

For brunch, I enjoyed a tasty Santa Fe Skillet ($8.99) served in a long-handled casserole. Softly scrambled eggs with melting cheese, tender pieces of bacon, and cubes of creamy avocado were topped with a gentle house-made salsa, a touch of sour cream, and plenty of sliced green onions. Underneath were nicely cooked, but mildly seasoned red-skinned potatoes; nothing a little Tapatio hot sauce couldn’t remedy. Breakfasts are served with a choice of toast, biscuits or pancakes. The latter were thick, chewy and filling.

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Dining Reviews

The Buzz on Bees

The Buzz on Bees

A redwood-lined country road off of Freedom Boulevard climbs to the top of a hill where Dana and Ed Mumm, Sr. sell the goods of their hard-working bees. From hand-gathered and strained raw honey, to sweet-smelling handmade candles, the Mumms’ mission is one of love.

I met with Dana at their sunny gift store. Wildflower honey is gathered locally in the spring, its taste varying each year depending on what's in bloom. It's a dark honey in which I tasted a bit of caramel, and immediately craved a warm batch of cornbread.

Lighter in color and more viscous is the earthy sweetness of sage honey, made when the hives are brought to the Carmel area.

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Wine Reviews

Naumann Vineyards

Naumann VineyardsChardonnay 2008

Don Naumann makes an impressive Chardonnay. His 2008 vintage is a smooth refreshing wine that is aged for 18 months in oak barrels—made of half French and half American oak—and the end result is an “appley-grassy flavor with a light oak, light buttery finish.” Made from grapes grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, both the 2008 and 2009 vintages are available for $18 a bottle.
I opened up this lovely Chardonnay to have with a light dinner of fresh salmon, a few thinly sliced potatoes cooked in olive oil and some mixed baby greens and tomatoes. Olive oil, lemon juice and a touch of balsamic vinegar is the way to go on salads because it’s healthier and lighter than most dressings. And after living in Greece for 13 years, I gravitate toward olive oil as a base for just about everything. This wine is the perfect partner to go with most fish and poultry.
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Dining Reviews

On a Roll

On a Roll

At Takara Japanese Restaurant, colorful presentations augment fresh flavors

I hadn’t visited Takara Japanese Restaurant since they moved from a tiny mid-town location to the expansive Red Lobster site in Capitola. We were met with glasses of ice water and warm damp towels to prepare our hands for the possibility of finger eating. Bowls of warm miso soup ($2.50) were soothing and salty with soft seaweed and tofu.

The restaurant's beautifully appointed interior is rich and multi-textured with warm wood, bamboo, mats woven from organic materials, and silk weavings.

The Sweet Mussel appetizer ($5.50) included three bivalve half shells stuffed with chopped mollusks in a sweet, garlicky mayonnaise-type sauce, which were baked until golden and heaped with sparkling orange tobiko flying fish roe.

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Walking With a Ghost

How ‘ghosting’ has become a dating norm and why it needs to stop

 

Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Pub Watch

Mega gastro pub-in-progress at the Old Sash Mill, plus the best pasta dish downtown

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster

 

Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty

 

Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street