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Dec 28th
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Food & Drink

Dining Reviews

Far from Plastic

Far from Plastic

In the mood for Japanese food, I sauntered into the little Totoro Sushi on Mission Street. Presented with both a lunch and special sushi menu, I knew immediately what I wanted. Something I had first seen, but made of plastic.

In Japan it is common to see plastic food samples in an eatery's windows. The idea for these replica foods materialized in the 1920s when a young entrepreneur made wax molds to help restaurants show customers how new western dishes appeared. Faux food has since grown into a huge industry. Each dish is custom made, based on photographs and sketches of a chef's dish. A silicon mold is taken of the actual food, and expert artists make plastic sauces, condiments and garnishes. Sometimes, the replica appears more appetizing than the original.

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Wine Reviews

Bartolo 2007 Cioppino Rosso

Bartolo 2007 Cioppino Rosso

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
Barry Jackson, winemaker at Equinox, not only makes a fine sparkling wine, made in the methode champenoise style, but he also directs his talents to another of his labels—Bartolo—in the form of a fine red wine called Cioppino Rosso, a blend of 61 percent Syrah, 20 percent Chardonnay and 19 percent Mourvedre. “I call it Cioppino,” says Jackson, laughing, “because I throw all these leftovers in a pot.” He’s referring, of course, to the famous fish stew—first made by Italian immigrants. Jackson is not without a sense of humor—although the bottom line is he takes his winemaking very seriously. But the label spills the beans on what Cioppino’s all about. It says, “An eclectic blend of ever-changing varietals, Cioppino Rosso, as its culinary namesake, is composed of odd bits and wines nobody else wanted.” I can’t think of another winemaker who would—tongue in cheek— describe their wine as being made from “odd bits.” The label continues with “The wine pairs well with a broad range of foods and is, of course, fabulous with Cioppino.”

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Dining Reviews

Long Live the Linguini

Long Live the Linguini

Celebrating 30 years, Ristorante Italiano's bright flavors and generous portions ensure its distinction as a local favorite

I'm fortunate to occasionally work in Branciforte Plaza, where the aroma of Ristorante Italiano's roasting garlic wafts across the parking lot. Many reasonably priced specials grace the lunch menu, which I happily order to savor in the office. One day, as the sun set, waves of laughter emanate from the heated patio deck, where groups gather to relax after work, and families celebrate birthdays. On the building's exterior, an extraordinary three-story mural depicting an Italian avenue adds a whimsical touch.

In the restaurant's main dining area, where ceiling joists are painted a lively green and autographed straw-encased Chianti bottles commemorate dinners of the past, subdued lighting and romantic booths set the stage for the spectacle of Italian specialties. A ceiling fan turned slowly, barely rustling the thin leaves of a tall parlor palm in the solarium-like front room.

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Dining Reviews

All Sauced Up

All Sauced Up

On an unassuming stretch of Soquel Drive, El Chino Mexican Deli Restaurant occupies a narrow storefront.

Inside, lively fiesta music plays on the stereo, decorative eaves with clay tiles jut from the walls, and healthy live plants crawl across rafters, creating the comfortable illusion of dining in a sidewalk cantina.

The list of weekday lunch specials ($5.85 to $7.50) includes avocado-chicken salad, enchiladas, chili rellenos and carne azada burritos. We were drawn to the generously plated house specialties, each of which occupied half of their oval pottery platters.

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Dining Reviews

Two Sweet for Words

Two Sweet for WordsBehold the beautifully luscious treats of local chocolatiers, Richard Donnelly and Ian and Mary Rose Mackenzie
Behind an attractive storefront on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, Richard Donnelly makes internationally award-winning chocolates and truffles. At the front door, customers gather in the small retail space. Bookshelves and tables hold pre-packaged sweets, and a glass cabinet displays available truffle flavors. In the open kitchen, chocolate is being mixed and candies are laid out for packaging. Much of the work here is done by hand—the hand of a master.
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Wine Reviews

Poetic Cellars Petite Sirah 2005

Poetic Cellars Petite Sirah 2005

Plus Upcoming Wine Events

If you’re lusting after some seductive and downright sexy wine for Valentine’s weekend, then look no further than Poetic Cellars. Winemaker Katy Lovell has absolutely nailed it when it comes to making the ultimate romantic nectar.

On the back label of every bottle of Poetic Cellars wine, you will find a poem—and don’t poetry and romance go together like Napoleon and Josephine? I always find myself heaving a sigh when sipping the gorgeous wines of this winery, which is celebrating the one-year opening of its tasting room in Soquel.

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Dining Reviews

Offal Good

Offal Good

Enlightened chefs insist that if we are to eat animals, we must respect them. This calls for a humane life and death, as well as making use of everything they sacrificed. Pondering that philosophy, I waited in line at Taqueria Vallarta studying the new brightly-colored, backlit menu, where lengua (tongue) is one of many meat choices. As I waited at a small table by the window, I was apprehensive. The tongue, after all, was designed to withstand bites.

Waiting to eat something I've never before tried brought forth an unattractive memory. After eating blood sausage as a teenager at a pique-nique on a beach in Normandy, my intestines were so immediately insulted that I sprinted to the nearest WC.

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Wine Reviews

Hallcrest Vineyards Pinot Noir 2005

Hallcrest Vineyards Pinot Noir 2005

Plus Upcoming Wine Events
Hallcrest Vineyards has been around for a long time. Nestled on a hill in the town of Felton, it was originally a retreat in the late 1800s for the Hall family, who actually planted the Hallcrest Estate vineyard. The on-site winery, which was started in 1945, is still in use today. When releasing its first wine in 1946, it was one of only three vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today, there are about 70 wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) – with new ones springing up all the time.

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Dining Reviews

A Night To Remember

A Night To Remember

There’s enough fun, flavor and festive food at 515 Kitchen & Cocktails to keep you engaged for hours

Oh, these are crispy balls of ginger goodness.” Now, I was certain somebody at the dinner table uttered that statement. I just could not recall which one of us did. There were three of us at a recent visit to 515 Kitchen and Cocktails and you see, it’s the latter part of the moniker of the popular Santa Cruz restaurant that must have gotten us all into some (good) trouble.

“Cocktails.”

Well, in this case it was a bottle of 2008 Byron Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, estate bottled and loads of fun for the palate—an embraceable treat with hints of anise, black cherries and Asian spices. Did we imagine the smoky vanilla?

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Wine Reviews

Aptos Vineyard Chardonnay 2006

Aptos Vineyard Chardonnay 2006It’s rather difficult to pair wine with Indian food. Typically, Indian people do not drink wine with their food. Those wonderful hot and spicy dishes need the cooling flavors of lassi, chai—or just plain water. But friends had invited my husband and I to an authentic Indian meal at their home for 10 people cooked by a lady from Goa on the west coast of India, so I searched for something light to go with the food—and Aptos Vineyard’s Chardonnay ($17 from DeLuxe Foods of Aptos) seemed like just the ticket. It’s an uncomplicated wine with a fruity palate—and with just the sort of apples and pears aroma needed for a zesty Goan feast. It’s certainly not the “buttery” Chardonnay that many wine tasters expect—being much more crisp and perky.
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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

 

Our Gifts - Fiery Sacrificial Lights to One Another

Wednesday is Christmas Eve, Hanukkah ends and the Moon is in Aquarius, calling for the new world to take shape at midnight. Thursday morning, the sun, at the Tropic of Capricorn, begins moving northward. The desire currents are stilled. A great benediction of spiritual force (Capricorn’s Rays 1, 3, 7) streams into Earth. Temple bells ring out. The heavens bend low; the Earth is lifted up to the Light. Angels and Archangels chant, “On Earth, peace, goodwill to all.” As these forces stream into the Earth they assume long swirling lines of light, in the likeness of the Madonna and Child. The holy child is born. Let our hearts be “impressed” with and hold this picture, especially because Christmas may be difficult this year. Christmas Day is void of course moon (v/c moon), which means we may feel somewhat disconnected from one another. It’s difficult to connect in a v/c moon. Try anyway. Mercury joins Pluto in Capricorn. Uh oh … we don’t bring up the past containing any dark and difficult issues. We are to attempt new ways of communicating—expressing aspirations and love for one another, replacing wounding, sadness, lostness, and hurts of the past. Play soothing music, pray together, have the intention for peace, harmony and goodwill. Don’t be surprised if things feel out of control and/or arguments arise. We remember, before a new harmony emerges, chaos and crisis come first to clear the air. We are to be the harmonizers. Christmas evening is more harmonious, less difficult, more of what Christmas should be— radiations of love, sharing, kindness, compassion and care. Sunday, Feast Day of the Holy Family, is surprising. Wednesday is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2014. Taurus moon, a stabilizing energy, ushers in the New Year. Happy New Year, everyone! Peace to everyone. Let us realize we are gifts radiating diamond light to one another. Living sacrificial flames!

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Let My People Go

There’s a lot to like in Ridley Scott’s maligned ‘Exodus’
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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