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Oct 23rd
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Get S’mac

Get S’mac

The Red’s mac ’n’ cheese (and beer pairing) is downright irresistible

The last time I really truly indulged in macaroni and cheese I was 7 years old. I was living in Chicago at the time. My friend Nancy used to invite me over to her house, down the block, and together, we’d concoct a fairly lovely batch of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, pile it high on our plates and then pour a river of ketchup all over it. Delicious. I gained 10 pounds that year. I feared cheese-and-carb combos ever since.

So, fighting back the flashback from my youth, I decided to be brave and experience the Red’s S’mac Pairing Dinner in Downtown Santa Cruz. It sounded like the most curious food and beverage marriage since my Polish family insisted vodka was a good chaser for Polish sausage. Four courses with four different beer brews—four different and unique experiences for the palate.

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Dining Reviews

Italian Village

Italian Village

The Star Bene family offers Old World hospitality with its Italian recipes

quartet of old friends discussed business and life over dinner, joined later by a woman and young boy. The table then erupted in excitement as Grandmother made her entrance. As is characteristic of European neighborhood restaurants, it was from this table that Sergio Di Sarro, an owner of Star Bene, arose to welcome us into his dining room.

On this particular mid-week evening, the back patio was empty. Inside the home, plastered walls with rounded corners were faux-painted in delicate colors, and were romantically illuminated by numerous lights. A bottle of Sangiovese, one of our favorite varietals, miraculously decorated our table, which was also stocked with crayons for adorning the clean white paper tablecloth covers.

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Dining Reviews

A Lush Cliff

A Lush Cliff

People often wait on the sidewalk in front of tiny Cliff Cafe. The photocopied and stapled menu is three pages long, and from the narrow strip of a kitchen come thoughtfully-designed and marvelously-flavored breakfast and lunch.

Thick, translucent plastic protects the brightly-colored tablecloths on just six tables. A stainless steel Metro rack holds coffee cups and a selection of children's books.

Choose from simple, wholesome Chunky Oatmeal ($4.75) with raisins or dates ($1) to filling omelets ($6.95 to $9.25) like the bacon, avocado, tomato and cheese. At 11:30 a selection of five sandwiches ($6 to $7.75) joins the lineup. Of special note are the six tofu sautés.  Neither an afterthought or a simple substitute for scrambled eggs, these dishes are designed with tofu in mind, and I noted the aroma of turmeric wafting from the kitchen from one of these masterpieces.

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Wine Reviews

2005 La Rusticana d’Orsa Red Table Wine

2005 La Rusticana d’Orsa Red Table Wine

When Ralph DiTullio of Nonno’s Italian Cafe called to invite me to lunch at La Rusticana d’Orsa, I accepted immediately. La Rusticana is hardly ever open to the public, and this was my golden opportunity to visit the winery and try some of their gorgeous wines.

A group of about 20 people meet up at Nonno’s—an Aladdin’s cave of wine. DiTullio’s passion for this beverage shows in his collection of wines from all over the world, plus an outstanding array from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Cafe, deli and wine bar rolled into one, Nonno’s is truly a charming place. Wine tastings are held most Saturdays—and there’s a bocce ball court to add to the fun.

The owners of La Rusticana, Frank and Marilyn Dorsa, bought the estate in Los Gatos years ago and have dedicated their time to getting their 40-acre property exactly as they want it. It’s an exquisite place—full of bronze statues, beautiful fountains, lily ponds and breathtaking gardens. One could be in Italy on the most magnificent property, but here we are in Los Gatos, hidden away in the rolling hills.

DiTullio, an ebullient fellow who loves wine and food, immediately pours some La Rusticana wine for our group—a glass to carry with us as we go on a tour of the property. I had been here some years ago, but the estate is even more stunning now.

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Dining Reviews

Light Bites

Light Bites

Around the county, happy hours offer reasonably-priced hunger-crushing snacks

I got to thinking about small plates while reading the book 'Tapas' by Joyce Goldstein. In Spain's early evenings, neighbors visit pubs to socialize and snack on proprietors' unique noshes. Hungry, I set out to sample some happy hour treats.

At Michael's on Main, happy hour beverages included selected draft beers ($3), wine ($4), signature cocktails ($5), and well drinks ($4).

From the half-priced bar menu, we started with Cuban Pulled Pork Sliders ($6). A trio of small sesame seed-studded buns was spread with spicy Mojo aioli, stuffed with cabbage and hunks of sweetly-marinated, fall-apart-tender pork, then skewered with a toothpick securing a slice of pickled jalapeno.

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Dining Reviews

Tip Top Tapas

Tip Top Tapas

Tortilla Flats has been preparing gourmet Mexican cuisine for more than 30 years. The unique dinner menu at this small restaurant in the heart of Soquel Village is augmented by Tapas selections on Mondays and Tuesdays, fusing Spanish and Mexican flavors in small plates.

I was surprised by the size of the Original Margarita. It was served in a husky, multicolored, translucent glass, and flavored with orange liqueur and freshly-squeezed lime juice.

The dishes were served in succession beginning with a pair of hot house-made corn tortillas. Albóndigas ($6), or meatballs, are popular Spanish Tapas fare. Seven dense balls of velvety ground beef and veal were topped with crumbled queso fresco and a salty and spicy dark sauce seasoned with paprika.

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Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi 2008 Rosé of Zinfandel

Vino Tabi 2008 Rosé of Zinfandel

There are those times in one’s wine-drinking life when a beautiful Rosé is like an epiphany. Drinking the popular Chardonnays and Merlots as often as we do, sometimes the thought of a Rosé wine never comes into the picture. How often do you order a Rosé when you’re out to dinner? It’s easy to forget about the Rosés of this world when confronted with a plethora of reds and whites.

Stopping by Vino Tabi’s tasting room one afternoon, winemaker Katie Fox said, “Try this Rosé. I just love it.” She was referring to her Rosé of Zinfandel 2008 Central Coast ($22 and available only at the winery). One sip and I was smitten. A very pretty coral-ruby color, this excellent wine has a very definite essence of chocolate and strawberries—with just a hint of rhubarb. It’s not cloyingly sweet as are some Rosés—and in fact has quite a tart cherry finish.

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Dining Reviews

Flying South for Brunch

Flying South for BrunchBright and lively describe both the atmosphere and food at Nuevo Southwest Grill

Weekend brunch at Nuevo Southwest Grill offers both creative south-of-the-border-themed entrées and familiar fare as well. Choices ‘From the West’ ($5.95 to $9.50) include smoked salmon served on flatbread. ‘From the South’ ($7.25 to $8.95) you might select the shredded meat Machaca.
A raised platform gives tables farthest from the large windows unobstructed light. There is a free and open feeling here, with high ceilings supported by beams. Contrasting turquoise trim adds a pleasant vibrancy. A covered patio is also available for seating, and a couple of tables by the sidewalk are filled on sunny days.
My glass of tropical iced tea ($1.75) hinted refreshingly of fruit and was always quickly refilled. In the Nuevo Scramble ($8.50), bright multicolored corn tortilla strips were mixed with Cajun sausage, cheese and three scrambled eggs to create a flavorful, but not incendiary combination. An ice cream scoop of chunky, fresh, and unblemished guacamole and salsa fresca with chipotle added a kick and even more color to this filling dish.
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Dining Reviews

Seabright Sandwiches

Seabright Sandwiches

Many a Madison Avenue Marketeer might marvel at the creatively-crafted slogan, concocted legend, classically-executed artwork, and glitzy website: but it’s the hamburgers at Betty Burgers that steal the show.

The oddly-shaped lot on the corner of Murray and Seabright has seen many businesses come and go, but Betty is blessed frequently with lines of hungry people lingering about her double doors. She also welcomes phone-in orders with a special pick-up and beverage-only line.

Promising “juicy patties and hot buns,” the streamlined menu features an assortment of hot sandwiches, each with pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, and flavored mayonnaise-based sauces called lubes.

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Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
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Latest Comments

 

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