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Dining

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

Wine Reviews

Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards

2007 Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys
What makes a good bottle of wine? Well, in this case, it’s 76 percent Zinfandel, 8 percent Petite Syrah, 7 percent Syrah, 6 percent Grenache, and 3 percent Carignane. I’m talking about Ridge Vineyards’ 2007 Sonoma County Three Valleys. This superb blend made by Ridge Vineyards of Cupertino, is luscious, fruity and sublime. The Carignane, a popular blending wine, adds a nice peppery finish. Bottled in August 2008, it’s ready to drink right now, but it will also keep well for another half dozen years or so.

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Dining Reviews

Full Circle Brew

Full Circle Brew

Grain, once it's cooked to make the wort that becomes beer, is of no use to the brewmaster. So spent grain from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is sent to northern Monterey County, where it helps nourish 100 sheep at Garden Variety Cheese. Three varieties of sheep cheese are then sold at the brewery ($7 for a quarter pound) and also offered with tasting flights of four beers ($7). Local partnerships such as this make SCMB and its organic beers unique.

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Wine Reviews

River Run Vintners 2007 Negrette

River Run Vintners 2007 NegretteA bottle of Negrette is something you don’t see every day. Negrette is a rare and wonderful grape that originated centuries ago in Cyprus. The owner and winemaker at River Run Vintners, J.P. Pawloski, must like a challenge because it requires some skill to make a good wine from this particular grape. Established in 1978, River Run Vintners has risen to the occasion many times. Located near Aromas, this family business – producing about 3,000 cases annually – is open to the public only six days a year, and by appointment.
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Dining Reviews

Sugar and Spice

Sugar and SpiceAn entire generation has been born and become adults since Allbright’s Donuts began treating the Branciforte neighborhood to an incredible array of pastries and savories. Considered by many to be the best shop in town, donuts, croissants and bagels are still made fresh daily.

Be prepared for a time warp, as swivel chairs fixed to a linoleum-tiled floor and upholstered in retro orange vinyl encircle two U-shaped faux wood counters. Vintage advertising posters depict donuts of yesteryear. Even the proprietors seem not to have aged a day since I enjoyed my first apple fritter, and today these pastries are still the same two-fisted size they were two decades ago.

 

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Dining Reviews

Neighborly Noshing

Neighborly Noshing

The Seabreeze Cafe continues to fetch fans with its fresh and hearty homemade cuisine
In Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe, an exceptionally tidy eatery, breakfast is served all day. And that’s a good thing. With three-egg omelets ($7.75 to $8.95), you can choose between potatoes or fruit, and toast or a homemade muffin. From the grill comes French toast and plain, bacon, or almond waffles. Throughout the room, children in high chairs decorated coloring book pages with crayons, anticipating a Mickey Mouse Pancake ($2.25).

 

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Wine Reviews

Vine Hill Winery

Vine Hill WineryVine Hill 2008 Chardonnay
Sharing food and wine with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For all time, it has been the ultimate demonstration of giving – to empty one’s larder and to drain out one’s wine barrel in the name of hospitality. 

Every year when my husband and I go to Shakespeare Santa Cruz with a group of friends, we get together and share our spoils during a picnic before the performance. We also share what we have left during intermission. And because of the very nature of Shakespeare Santa Cruz – a wonderful laid-back way of seeing great plays and marvelous acting in the Sinsheimer-Stanley Glen – one can also partake of a little libation as the play unfolds.

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Dining Reviews

Fishermen’s Fare

Fishermen’s Fare

Gilda’s popular Friday night Cioppino celebrates our local Italian heritage

In a weekly ritual, seafood lovers seek traditional California sustenance. Braving snaking traffic on Municipal Wharf, they anticipate Gilda’s Friday night special Cioppino ($13.95).

A luscious aroma greeted us in Gilda’s foyer. Eyeing the practically packed house we headed to the cocktail lounge. It is fitting to enjoy this meal in a shared setting, after all: California Cioppino was invented as a potluck of sorts, as fishermen contributed their catch to a communal pot.

Although the views are magical at any table, southwestern-facing swivel-chairs look straight out from the bar upon Steamer Lane and the lighthouse. On the walls of the small room hang photos of the Cottardo Stagnaro family and historic hauls of fisherman from times past.

 

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Dining Reviews

All Aboard! The Train Place Deli

All Aboard! The Train Place DeliModel trains greet guests at the front door of the Train Place Deli, and then chug along tracks over trestles to the rear of the restaurant where they round a mini reproduction of the historic Felton Flume and Lumber Company. The owners know that visitors initially come to see the trains, but believe that they return for the food.
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Dining Reviews

Johnny’s Harborside On the Waterfront

Johnny’s Harborside On the Waterfront

Johnny’s Harborside launches new summer menu
It’s easy to drive past the seafoam green building without noticing the restaurant with an intimate view of harbor life perched upstairs. Head down Lake Avenue on the one way street towards the harbor, make the first right, and you will find quick gourmet lunches, amiable neighborhood happy hours, relaxing weekend brunches, and romantic sunset dinners at Johnny’s Harborside.

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Wine Reviews

Pleasant Valley Zinfandel 2006

Pleasant Valley Zinfandel 2006

Most red wine drinkers love Zinfandel. It’s a grape that grows well in California – producing spicy, jammy wines of varying intensity. I have a hard time steering my husband toward anything else, in fact. If we’re out for dinner, he nearly always orders Zinfandel.

When it comes to locally produced Zin, we are very fortunate. We have wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation making some of the best there is in our Golden State. On a wine-tasting trip to Pleasant Valley Vineyards, I thoroughly enjoyed all of their wines – especially the Austin Craig Zinfandel 2006 ($33). All the typical aromas of Zinfandel are present – lots of raspberry, blackberry, cherry and plum. There’s a spicy pepper in there, too. You just know it’s going to be wonderful from the very first sniff.

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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

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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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

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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.”