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Sep 30th
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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Roudon-Smith Winery Cabernet Franc 2006

Roudon-Smith Winery Cabernet Franc 2006

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
Although I had a huge dose of jet lag, having been back home from a month in Europe for a matter of hours, I hightailed it out to Roudon-Smith Winery on a cold and rainy Saturday in December. After all, it was their annual holiday event of wine and chocolate tasting, and—chocoholic that I am—I did not want to miss out on some delicious chocolaty samplings with some of my favorite wines.

My husband was already at the winery when I arrived—going straight there from a meeting—and standing under the redwoods to save me a parking space. Roudon-Smith is in a bucolic setting a couple of miles down Bean Creek Road in Scotts Valley. It’s owned and operated by Annette and David Hunt and their partner Al Drewke. All of them were there to greet us and chat about wine— and the inclement weather.

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Dining Reviews

Little House on Main Street

Little House on Main Street

Main Street Garden Cafe offers an array of fresh and organic fare for carnivores and vegetarians alike | by Karen Petersen

The dining room looks bigger in daylight, and as Main Street Garden Cafe serves brunch and dinner in the charming home that once housed Theo's Restaurant, the owners have big shoes to fill.

Light from a French door and numerous windows bounce off the glass-topped tables and shiny hardwood floors. Colorful lilies in stainless steel vases adorned each table. Comfortable armed captains chairs were upholstered in muted tan and teal.

The brunch menu includes homemade granola, Belgian waffles, salads, panini, pizza, lasagna, eggplant parmesan and pasta.

We walked around to the backyard, where a mesh-covered eating area dotted with propane heaters looks out over a healthy green lawn to the large herb and vegetable garden beyond. Co-owner Evan Borthwick (proprietor of Felton's Redwood Pizzeria) was tending to pizzas in the outdoor wood-fired oven.

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Dining Reviews

Fine Fast Food

Fine Fast Food

Next door to the renowned Bittersweet Bistro sits Bittersweet Express. More than a deli, this smaller sister caters to people on the go with an array of prepared and made-to-order specialties.

The long list of steaming beverages includes cappuccino, mocha chai, and white hot chocolate. In the mornings, breakfast burritos grilled like panini are filled with eggs, cheese, potatoes, onions and choice of meat.

At lunch, the handful of tightly packed tables inside were occupied, so we took a seat on the spacious front patio. Encircled by potted shrubs, healthy Peruvian lilies bloomed brightly, and numerous water bowls were filled for canine companions.

An Artichoke-Swiss Bacon Melt ($8), hot and crisp from the panini press, featured three smoky strips of bacon, their chewy ends extending beyond the long Cuban roll.  A hearty slice of melted cheese, sweet caramelized onions and herby artichoke pesto completed this satisfying sandwich.

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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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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

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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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

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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.”