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Sep 22nd
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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Quinta Cruz 2008 Verdelho

Quinta Cruz 2008 VerdelhoThere’s an old British song that goes: “Have some Madeira, m’dear. You really have nothing to fear.”

This song came to mind when I bought a bottle of Quinta Cruz Verdelho. The Verdelho grape, like the famous Madeira, both come from Portugal. Verdelho has been cultivated since about the 1400s in a region of Portugal that makes dry wine—and is also one of the grapes used in the making of Madeira.

It takes somebody like Jeff Emery, a master winemaker better known with his other label – Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard—to want to make something really different. He most certainly likes the challenge of steering away from the usual – preferring to make a wine that’s a step or two from the mainstream—and he started the Quinta Cruz label with this goal in mind.

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Dining Reviews

Critic's Picks

Critic's Picks

No matter your mood, there's a local restaurant to thrill you

I'm often asked to name my favorite local restaurant, which is an impossible task because it depends on what I need. Is it spice, greens, romance, comfort, or camaraderie? I love the pizza at five places, and if I crave a fast food burger, does that make it the best in town?

So I've looked back at the 100-plus restaurants I've written about this year, and come up with my most memorable culinary experiences.

I love to try new foods, and this year we welcomed back Vasili Karagiannopoulos at his The Greek in downtown Santa Cruz. Imam Bayaldi, a baked eggplant dish stuffed with tomatoes, pine nuts and feta, was one of the most flavorful vegetarian dishes I have experienced.

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Dining Reviews

Herbal Essence

Herbal Essence

Black China Bakery Café has added dinner time to its repertoire three nights a week. Initially sharing the patio and back room of an interior design studio, the café now occupies the entire building.

A Cheese Plate ($12.50) was listed on the specials board, so I chose a bottle of Valcantera old-vine Spanish Grenache ($19); a bit spicy, smooth, and with a dry finish. Three cheeses were sprinkled with fresh rosemary needles. A medium-hard, sharp, Petit Basque sheep's milk cheese, semi-ripe Brie, and a semi-soft wine-soaked cheese were joined by large, plump, soft dates, colossal green olives, and skinned almonds, and served with rustic bread. Hunger pangs subsided as we nibbled through the textures and flavors; sweet, crunchy, earthy, briny, and creamy.

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Wine Reviews

Equinox Blanc De Blanc 1997

Equinox Blanc De Blanc 1997 What do you need most when there’s a celebratory occasion? Why, champagne, of course. How can you make a toast to the bride and groom, or mark the festive time of New Year’s Eve, without a glass of bubbly.
We are blessed to have Santa Cruz local Barry Jackson, winemaker extraordinaire, to turn to for some of the best champagne-style wine around. Because it’s not allowed to be called “champagne” unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, then “sparkling wine” is the accepted lingua franca.
But Jackson’s sparkling wine, made in the methode champenoise style, is equal to anything you would find that’s made by our Gallic friends. A taste of his 1997 Blanc De Blanc ($50) is the proof of the pudding.
I was recently in Europe for a month sampling wines in the South of France and regions of Spain. One of the highlights was visiting Codorniu just outside of Barcelona. This famous champagne maker is a huge business, but I find it just as much fun to visit Jackson’s small operation.
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Dining Reviews

Last Chance for Decadence

Last Chance for Decadence

Before New Year’s resolutions take hold, ’tis the season to indulge

Each year-end brings reflection and subsequent goal-setting. For  those of us who resolve to eat healthier, lose weight, or both, Jan. 2 is a day of reckoning. We have but one week to engage in what many would-be dieters fondly refer to as their last supper; when we indulge on favorite foods without remorse.

When skinless chicken breasts become de rigueur, I crave wicked protein. I treated myself to a large Togo’s #9, relatively unchanged  from the one I enjoyed at their first store in a rustic cabin-like structure near San Jose State. Warm, finely shaved, seasoned pastrami, its edges rimmed with thin strips of peppered fat, was stuffed into a large white roll with pickles, tomatoes, whole pepperoncini peppers, crisp shredded lettuce and red onion.

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Dining Reviews

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary

I’ve often made a mental note when traveling Mt. Hermon Road to stop at Auntie Mame’s. I’m sorry it took me so long.

It’s bright inside this corner storefront in an aging retail building, where a long, shiny wooden lunch counter was immaculate. The walls held historic photographs, one of which sparked memories of reindeer-drawn sleigh rides at Santa’s Village amusement park.

You’ll find all of your morning favorites on the extensive breakfast menu, which is served all day. Creative specials were listed on the white board, which included Huevos Potatoes ($7.50); home fries layered with eggs, cheese, salsa and green onions.

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Wine Reviews

Chaucer’s Cellars Raspberry Wine

Chaucer’s Cellars Raspberry Wine

Searching for a bottle of local wine in Deer Park Wine & Spirits in Aptos, I came across a raspberry wine made by Chaucer’s Cellars ($13 for 500 ml.). Chaucer’s dessert-style fruit wines are absolutely delicious because they’re all made from 100 percent pure fruit without any artificial flavorings. As the holidays are coming up, this is just the kind of wine to crack open after dinner to enjoy with dessert—or even if friends come over and you just want to offer something different. It’s a sweet wine, of course, so it can actually be served instead of dessert. Chaucer’s suggests serving it with soda, champagne or over the rocks, with ice cream or cheesecake or in a cobbler. Personally, I like to pour a little glass of it and enjoy it as you would a liqueur.

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Dining Reviews

Sushi Safari

Sushi Safari

On 41st Avenue, Pink Godzilla and Miyako each offer unique Japanese specialties

Capitola's 41st Avenue is home to numerous sushi restaurants. Miyako, across from the mall, is a full-service Japanese Restaurant. During a weekday lunch hour, the buffet ($9.95) was popular, stocked with tempura asparagus, seaweed and red bell pepper relish, fried tofu, chicken drumsticks, and glass noodle sauté.

But I was surfing for sushi. On the helpful laminated placemats, photographs of sashimi were identified by both their Japanese and English names. I ordered Lunch Special #3 ($12.95), with seven pieces of nigiri sushi chosen by the chef.

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Dining Reviews

Viva la Sopa

Viva la Sopa

Just before the days begin to lengthen, and the air is frigid as if snow-kissed, all I can think about is a bowl of homemade soup.

I heard good words about the Carne en su Jugo beef soup ($6) at Taqueria Santa Cruz, and as it turns out, it's the restaurant's signature dish. After placing my order at the counter, I picked a sunny plump booth by the window. Spanish-language ESPN2 was recounting the weekend's events on two flat screen televisions at either end of the long dining room.

Soon, a large bowl was delivered to my table with a foil package of steaming, aromatic corn tortillas. In the clear broth, which was sprinkled with finely minced cilantro and white onions, floated large pieces of green avocado. I squeezed wedges of lime into the soup, and crumbled the crisply fried dried red peppers onto its surface.

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Wine Reviews

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Syrah

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Syrah

Twin brothers Peter and Paul Bargetto own and operate Soquel Vineyards with their partner Jon Morgan. Although the Bargetto brothers are related to the Bargettos of Bargetto Winery fame in Soquel, they are a separate entity when it comes to their winery. But winemaking most definitely runs in the family – with a little bit of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel coursing through the Bargetto family’s veins. Peter and Paul’s grandfather actually started Bargetto Winery in 1933, so winemaking is very much a family tradition.

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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Watch List

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

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
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Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.