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Aug 01st
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

2011: Diversity was the Word

2011: Diversity was the WordThe 2011 year in Santa Cruz food landscape had a number of notable excitement/changes.

I appreciated experiencing the increased diversity brought to life by some new entrepreneurial families. Tran Noodle House introduced Vietnamese pho to Watsonville. This relatively simple soup of noodles and meat cooked in a well-made broth and embellished with crisp mung bean sprouts and fresh basil leaves is savory, centering, and meant to be slurped.

Pupusas with strongly fermented cheese, the national dish of El Salvador, along with pastelitos empanadas and Salvadorian tamales were introduced by Chelito's on Ocean Street bringing an array of new flavors to town.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Side by Side

Side by Side

Chinese Village and Bamboo Garden add different twists to favorite dishes

For some time I’ve marveled at the coexistence of two adjacent Chinese restaurants on Capitola Road. The atmosphere in each is distinct, from the decor to the seating, and although the three quarters of the two menus are similar, I found the preparation styles, ingredients, and flavors very different. The lightly cooked fresh vegetables at both establishments were excellent.

In the Chinese Village parking lot, median strips were planted with Asian herbs. Inside, owner Sally Wong, still wearing her apron, was enjoying her mid-day meal at the counter. Her experience in the kitchen spans many decades. The restaurant, which opened in 1976, has been at its current location for about15 years.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fuel Stop

Fuel Stop

Moss Landing's Lighthouse Harbor Grille offers tasty entrées

After kayaking, or on the way to Laguna Seca or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing is a convenient stop for breakfast or lunch. Sandwiched between The Whole Enchilada restaurant and a huge fruit stand sits a shack-like structure which houses Lighthouse Harbor Grille.

The brightly painted interior is decorated with nautical kitsch right down to the vinyl tablecloths and curtains with lacy lighthouses. Each table held Tapatio and three flavors of Tabasco, stirring in me a craving for something spicy.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Hot from Your Oven

Hot from Your Oven

Fresh Prep Kitchens returns to a retail storefront, this time in Capitola's King's Plaza Shopping Center next to Baskin Robbins. To ensure that your favorites are waiting when you arrive, it's best to order through the website. However, I was at OSH and stopped in to see what was available.

The kitchen was abuzz as employees prepared and packaged ready-to-cook meals. From the refrigerator I selected Dijon-Herb Crispy Chicken Bake ($14.95) with mashed potatoes. I then heard a call from the kitchen that the Chicken Pot Pie ($15.95) was ready. Each comes with a side of vegetables or greens.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Curry My Favor

Curry My Favor

The new Real Thai Kitchen still offers a huge selection of fresh, house-made and delectable dishes

When Real Thai Kitchen changed hands, I was understandably concerned. This was a kitchen that made curry pastes from scratch, which didn't hold back on traditional ingredients, and which knew that if you asked for "Thai Spicy" you understood the consequences. With some attractive decor changes, the addition of Sunday dinner, and a beautiful color photo menu, I still recognize some faces, including the chef's. Thai Kitchen's weekday lunch buffet ($8.95) offers a quick and flavorful midday repast. It typically includes Tom Kha coconut-based soup with cabbage and tofu, a crisp green salad with peanut dressing, fruit, white and brown rice, and eight hot dishes, of which the curries tend to be the spiciest. Still, if you'd like more heat, ask for a condiment tray which includes ground chilies and chili paste.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fore The View

Fore The View

Pasatiempo, which means "a relaxed pastime" is a golf course designed by internationally acclaimed Dr. Alister MacKenzie and local Marion Hollins. It is fitting then that the bar and grill that bears his name is perched on a hill overlooking the 9th fairway with a view of Santa Cruz and the bay beyond. Golfers can enjoy an early breakfast, order lunch from the kiosk at the 9th tee or enjoy post round meal and beverages, and the public is welcome. Breakfast ($7 to $10.50) served all day, includes eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, omelets, burritos, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruit and Grand Marnier French toast.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Midwestern Hospitality

Midwestern Hospitality

Peachwood's arranges happy marriages between local produce, Kansas City beef and Omaha pork

On Sunday mornings at brunch you may find David Smith, chef-proprietor of Peachwood's Steakhouse, manning the carving station dressed regally in whites and a tall, pleated toque. Once a Midwest college chemistry professor, Smith owned a Kansas City-style steakhouse and in 1991 brought his recipes and relationships with family ranchers to Santa Cruz.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Parmesan Meets Pico de Gallo

Parmesan Meets Pico de Gallo

Part Mexican, part Italian and sometimes a fusion of both, MexItalian Restaurant offers a bright array of fresh options

Jean-Pierre (JP) Iuliano, co-owner of Café Mare, and Fernando Vasquezmatias who hails from Oaxaca, Mexico have worked together since their days at Star Bene. Their new endeavor, MexItalian, combines Old and New World ingredients and recipes in unexpected ways.

The Water Street restaurant’s interior is relatively unchanged from its previous incarnation where glass tops protect brick red fabric tablecloths. In the cabinet, shakers of Parmesan and oregano share the shelves with bottled hot sauces. The menu includes a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options, and Vasquezanatias said everything is made from scratch.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

From Peru to You

From Peru to You

With a remodeled kitchen, a compact healthful menu and Internet access, La Moraqueza Espresso Café has opened its doors in the historic Camp Capitola Superintendent’s office.

The café was one of the stops on this month’s First Friday tour, and still features the art of Heejin Lee and Robert Ernest Quihuis III. However, owner Washington del Aguila proudly pointed out photographs from his Peruvian home town.

Soft ’70s and ’80s rock included ballads by Air Supply, REO Speedwagon and Phil Collins as we sat in what was possibly a parlor in this State Historic Monument.

Breakfast choices ($3.50 to $5) include bagels and toast with eggs. The crusty warm Lox Bagel ($4.50) included thin slices of cured salmon, capers, red onions and mixed greens. The tartar sauce spread gave it a tasty, tangy bite.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Delightfully Corny

Delightfully Corny

Chelito's Pupuseria offers an introduction to the Salvadorian kitchen

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, present day El Salvador was home to numerous indigenous populations including the Maya, Lenca and Pipil peoples. Today's Salvadorian menu has roots in these various cultures when corn, peppers, fruit, and cacao were local staples—and the menu at Chelito’s Pupuseria is no different.

We enjoyed a basket of unique tortilla chips which were thin and crisp with well-bubbled surfaces. We helped ourselves to smoky red salsa, tart tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo loaded with green chilies at the condiment bar.

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