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Oct 20th
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Dining

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

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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Dining Reviews

Fork in the Road

Fork in the Road

10 Dishes You Need to Know About
Santa Cruz County has plenty of creative diversity. But the same can be said for its culinary offerings, especially ethnic dishes. Take note of 10 that captured our interest.

Pumpkin Red Curry
What It Is: Succulent scallops plus sizeable prawns and chicken pieces are encased in a fragrant, red curry sauce featuring pumpkin and Thai basil. You will swallow any pride and lick up every last drop; like all the restaurant’s dishes, you can taste the freshness. The recipe comes from Thailand native Dee Hongmanee, who co-owns Sawasdee with her husband Bill and creates all the recipes.
Get It Here
: Sawasdee, 5050 Soquel Dr, Soquel, 462-5051

 

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Wine Reviews

Sones Cellars ’08 Canción del mar

Sones Cellars ’08 Canción del mar

Plus Upcoming WIne Events
Lois and Michael Sones met at sea when they were both working on a cruise ship in the mid-1980s – hence the nautical theme of their white wine – Canción del mar. Even their bottle labels, which are beautiful and eye-catching, continue this theme and depict the bow of a boat with a masthead of Minerva holding a bunch of grapes.

Sones Cellars started out in a very small way, as most wineries do, but I have now noticed their wines all over town in one store or another. Michael Sones is getting due recognition for making some superb handcrafted wines. As well as Canción del mar, the winery produces Petite Syrah and Zinfandel.

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Dining Reviews

Storm Watch

Storm Watch

........ In any weather, the view from Paradise Beach Grille complements the marvelously seasoned food and attentive staff

When your business depends on the Internet and the power goes out, you might as well go to lunch and enjoy Mother Nature’s show. This was the justification that brought us to Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille in the middle of a mid-week afternoon.

The charming hostess led us across the colorful rock mosaic floor to the best seat in the house. Adjacent to the glowing fireplace and overlooking rain-swollen Soquel Creek, we were ushered into autumn by the season’s first storm.

While we were waiting for appetizers, all manner of flotsam floated and bobbed by on Class III rapids, from patio furniture and a hay bale, to branches and whole trees. We had apparently missed sighting a floating dock with attached kayaks in tow. Seagulls facing the wind hung motionless on extended wings until blown backwards by strong gusts.

The bartender delivered a large bowl of Thai-waiian Spicy Black Mussels ($15) accompanied by a mound of sticky sweet rice. The dark broth was scented with coconut and salty, sweet, spicy Thai ingredients.

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Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop

 

Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

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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Martin Ranch Winery

Friends who are wine club members of Martin Ranch invited us to the winery’s fun and festive annual barbecue, where the wine is flowing and the food just keeps on coming. Music and dancing are part and parcel of the action, and a good time is guaranteed.

 

Beer Bus

Santa Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay