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Dec 26th
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Food & Drink

Wine Reviews

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2008
I recently wrote that Rosé is fast becoming one of my favorite libations, so I’m now on a quest to find local Rosés. Several wineries in the area make different kinds of Rosé: there’s a Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Rosé of Zinfandel, a Rosé of Syrah—and so on. Their pretty pink hues make them so appealing—varying from the lightest pink to an almost-crimson blush. The strawberry shade of Silver Mountain’s Rosé of Pinot Noir is pretty and vibrant. It all depends, of course, on how long the red grapes are pressed and the juice is in contact with the skins. In the case of this Rosé, the Pinot Noir grapes are de-stemmed and partially crushed before they “bleed” the must. After a small amount of juice is drawn off to ferment alone, it becomes this delicious Rosé with bright floral aromatics and a squirt of summer sun.

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Dining Reviews

Mountain Mama

Mountain Mama

Mama Mia's large portions and colorful sauces give Feltonians a taste of Italy
In the heart of Felton, Mama Mia's has been serving hearty Italian fare for 14 years. The restaurant has been so successful that she now has three younger sisters in Santa Clara County.

Eighteen pasta dishes include spaghetti with homemade meat sauce or marinara ($13.99) and homemade cannelloni and manicotti crêpes ($14.99). For entrées, veal or chicken parmigiana ($17.99) are breaded and baked, as is the rolled chicken breast saltimbocca. The scaloppine is made with eggplant ($13.99) and Osso Buco ($19.99) is served with lamb demi-glaze over risotto. They proclaim their pizzas to be the best in town. On our recent visit, bowls piled high with seafood cioppino were the nightly special ($24.95).

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Dining Reviews

Fast Forward

Fast Forward

When a new restaurant hangs up its shingle, a stream of happy goose bumps runs down my spine. Theoretically, I should allow a newcomer to get its feet firmly on the ground before writing about them, but my palate is just too impatient.

And so it was with Caffe Tazzina which opened in the space recently vacated by Black China Bakery on Soquel Avenue. At the helm is Katelin Brightman, previously of Black China, in partnership with Tim O'Connor. Caffe Tazzina is also a brand of coffee made locally by O'Connor at Pacific Espresso.

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Wine Reviews

Roudon-Smith Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Roudon-Smith Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Now that the warmer weather has descended upon us, it’s time to think about lighter wines. Of course, there’s always an occasion to drink a hearty Pinot Noir or a robust Merlot, but on a warm spring day, then a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc is just the ticket.

Roudon-Smith Winery makes a delightful Sauvignon Blanc. Their 2007 Lake County is crisp and refreshing—and suited to a whole array of food. The label says, “This single-vineyard wine opens with a nose which blends lemon zest, key lime pie and pineapple aromas with undertones of banana.” Now doesn’t that sound perfectly cool and fruity for a summer day’s picnic? The label goes on, “This veritable tropical fruit basket continues with a wave of flavor that zips across the palate and leave you refreshed and wanting more.” And I would agree with that. It’s a light and very drinkable wine that goes down very easily. I would also suggest chilling this wine and serving it as an aperitif before dinner. It perks up the taste buds and makes your mouth water.

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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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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Pinned Down

Actors shine in true-crime wrestling drama ‘Foxcatcher’
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Best Bites of 2014

A look back at the year in good taste

 

What downtown business is good for both one-stop shopping and last-minute gifts?

The Homeless Garden Project store. Because it is a community effort and has really useful and beautiful things, and allows you to connect with a lot of folks who are doing great work in Santa Cruz. Miriam Greenberg, Santa Cruz, UCSC Professor

 

Vino Tabi Winery

One of Santa Cruz’s most happening areas to go wine tasting is in the westside’s Swift Street Courtyard complex. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners (SCV), the place has been a hive of activity, and a wine-tasting mecca. Adding to the mix is the lively Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing beer company—making Swift Street Courtyard a perfect spot for a glass of wine or a pitcher of ale.

 

Betty’s Eat Inn

Yes, she’s a real person; no, this isn’t her