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Oct 02nd
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

In-and-Out

In-and-Out

Backstage Lounge quickly dishes up lusciously flavored organic Asian-fusion specialties

Culinary integrity in the midtown-Seabright neighborhood just keeps getting better. And newcomer Backstage Lounge continues the trend, serving Asian-inspired dinners nightly by the Rio Theatre.

Many inexperienced restaurateurs have come and gone at this location since the charming Bea and her Koffee Kup retired. Although the Lounge may be new to the neighborhood, the proprietor, David Jackman, is no neophyte. He has owned Chocolate at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a decade, and before that, So Say We.

Tablecloths with shiny copper-colored brocades of Asian motifs shimmered in the small room where lights with faceted glass shades hung from the ceiling. Bright blue walls added excitement, and an array of jazzy music like you might hear in a 1940s supper club supported the classy ambiance.

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Dining Reviews

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Like most liquor stores, neon signs which announce the availability of beer shine through plate glass windows. But at Garden Liquors and Deli, a majority of customers come for the food.

During a recent lunch hour, a steady stream of large and small salads ($2.75 to $5.95) was pulled from the self-serve deli case. The wide variety included Chicken Caesar, Chef, Spinach, and Tuna Salad. Also available for a quick getaway was a selection of Saran-wrapped sandwiches, fresh fall apples, and numerous desserts— including squares of Tiramisu and wedges of multicolored cheesecake.

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Wine Reviews

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

Pelican Ranch Winery makes a good Chardonnay. After all, the owner and winemaker, Phil Crews, is a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Cruz, so he certainly knows a thing or two about blending and fermenting—be it wine or chemicals.

This particular Chardonnay, a 2008 Los Carneros Napa Valley, Mitsuko’s Vineyard—is really luscious. Phil professes he made it to be “bold and delicious”—and he’s succeeded. Some Chardonnays are crisp and light, but this one is more complex with heavy fruit, toasty oak, vanilla and butterscotch from the full malolactic secondary fermentation. Notes of ripe pear and apple are in there also, with a hint of vanilla. All in all, it’s a lovely Chardonnay, which would pair well with almost anything. Certainly the “toasty oak” in the wine is not overwhelming, which can really detract from the refreshing flavors of a good Chardonnay.

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Dining Reviews

Raising the Bar

Raising the BarInside and out, the bar menu at Verve Lounge sets the standard

lthough the building has housed numerous dark and rustic watering holes, the renovation undertaken by Verve Lounge in Aptos has created a light and lively club. A stage and large dance floor feature music nightly and flavorful bar food quells the appetite.
Large windows now light the decidedly upscale interior where tall tables with black high-backed chairs make perfect conversation spots. The long, shiny bar is lined with soda fountain-style chrome stools with chic red upholstery.
On a Saturday afternoon, owner Deb Schottgen was stocking the bar for the crowd that would later enjoy the music of local band Extra Large. It was happy hour, when well drinks and draft beers are just $3.
The bar menu includes pulled pork or burger sliders, Panini, hot links and wings ($7). From 5 to 8 p.m., larger plates ($7 to $10) include side salads and chips. And recently, crab cakes were added to the Friday menu.
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Dining Reviews

Singing in the Abbey

Singing in the Abbey

At the busy corner of Mission Street and Highway 1 stands a large and attractive brick church where a meeting hall has been transformed into a popular non-profit coffee, art, and music lounge.

On one side of the comfortable, high-ceilinged room, green velvet settees loaded with colorful pillows, floor to ceiling drapes, and crystal chandeliers give it an operatic feel. Elsewhere patrons enjoyed coffee and conversation at various sizes of both tall and short tables. Laptops appeared in abundance, taking advantage of free Cruzio hotspot wireless internet and numerous electrical power strips.

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Wine Reviews

Trout Gulch Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay

Trout Gulch Vineyards 2007 ChardonnayGerry Turgeon has been making award-winning Chardonnay since 1988. Until very recently, his Trout Gulch Vineyards never had a tasting room open to the public. I have seen Turgeon here and there at many wine events such as Passport and the Vintners’ Festival—usually pouring at a restaurant or other location. Now all that has changed since he moved in with the Surf City Vintners. Trout Gulch (named for its location on Trout Gulch Road in Aptos) deserves its own tasting room on Swift Street—and even though it’s not open every weekend, you can easily find their wines at most wine bars, restaurants and in local supermarkets.
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On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

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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Melinda’s

New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

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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.”