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Aug 01st
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Oh, Au Midi

Oh, Au MidiAu Midi Restaurant & Bistrot raises the culinary bar

Not long after Muriel and Michel Loubiere opened Au Midi in October 2008, word quickly spread about this delightful French restaurant, and it was soon rated one of the best restaurants in the area. It has continuously maintained this status—thanks in no small part to the culinary talents of chef Muriel Loubiere.

My friend Sandy and I are greeted and seated by Michel in the warmth of the small cozy restaurant. We order a bottle of Soquel Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc ($34), an excellent pairing to go with our main dish of seafood.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Gourmet Grazing

Gourmet GrazingLast week I attended Gourmet Grazing on the Green, an annual cancer benefit put on by the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group held in Aptos Village Park. The event was hugely successful this year with a grand turnout of vendors—63 in all.
Some of the vendors were new on the scene, so it was exciting to taste their wares and get to know them. Here are two of them who participated:
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure beyond Pizza

Pleasure Pizza's East Side Eatery pairs local produce with pasta, salads, sandwiches, and an array of house-made sauces

For 35 years, Pleasure Pizza has been satisfying hunger pangs of neighbors and surfers from its 41st Avenue corner. The new owner, Derek Rupp, who previously was executive chef at Google, has expanded the business across the street, where, in addition to pizza, his Eastside Eatery serves a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner specialties.

During the fall and winter, breakfast is served only on weekends. Savory House Specials include soft polenta with sausage, eggs and roasted vegetables ($8.99) and Nasi Goreng ($7.99), an Indonesian fried brown rice with onions, chili, garlic, spices, and the sweet Indonesian soy sauce kecap manis.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Galician Treasure

Galician Treasure

At the Everett Family Farm's farmers market booth, a sign read "el famoso Padrón.” The wrinkled appearance of these small Galician peppers reminded me of pepperoncini.

Galicia is an autonomous region of Spain which is bordered on the south by Portugal and on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean. Its economy is driven by fishing, manufacturing and agriculture. From one of its municipalities come these pementos de Padrón, only relatively recently available stateside.

Generally a sweet pepper, but occasionally one with an overabundance of capsaicin sneaks in amongst its mellow brethren, earning these capsicums the nickname Russian Roulette. A Galician saying warns, "Peppers of Padrón, some of them hot, and others not." Apparently, if left to mature to a deep red, they are quite spicy.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

North and South

North and South

Capitola Diner serves breakfast all day and mixes it up with Mexican specialties


The family-owned Capitola Diner aims to create a relaxed beach house atmosphere, and boasts a large menu that combines American diner standards with Mexican-influenced dishes and seafood specials.

For brunch, I enjoyed a tasty Santa Fe Skillet ($8.99) served in a long-handled casserole. Softly scrambled eggs with melting cheese, tender pieces of bacon, and cubes of creamy avocado were topped with a gentle house-made salsa, a touch of sour cream, and plenty of sliced green onions. Underneath were nicely cooked, but mildly seasoned red-skinned potatoes; nothing a little Tapatio hot sauce couldn’t remedy. Breakfasts are served with a choice of toast, biscuits or pancakes. The latter were thick, chewy and filling.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

The Buzz on Bees

The Buzz on Bees

A redwood-lined country road off of Freedom Boulevard climbs to the top of a hill where Dana and Ed Mumm, Sr. sell the goods of their hard-working bees. From hand-gathered and strained raw honey, to sweet-smelling handmade candles, the Mumms’ mission is one of love.

I met with Dana at their sunny gift store. Wildflower honey is gathered locally in the spring, its taste varying each year depending on what's in bloom. It's a dark honey in which I tasted a bit of caramel, and immediately craved a warm batch of cornbread.

Lighter in color and more viscous is the earthy sweetness of sage honey, made when the hives are brought to the Carmel area.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

On a Roll

On a Roll

At Takara Japanese Restaurant, colorful presentations augment fresh flavors

I hadn’t visited Takara Japanese Restaurant since they moved from a tiny mid-town location to the expansive Red Lobster site in Capitola. We were met with glasses of ice water and warm damp towels to prepare our hands for the possibility of finger eating. Bowls of warm miso soup ($2.50) were soothing and salty with soft seaweed and tofu.

The restaurant's beautifully appointed interior is rich and multi-textured with warm wood, bamboo, mats woven from organic materials, and silk weavings.

The Sweet Mussel appetizer ($5.50) included three bivalve half shells stuffed with chopped mollusks in a sweet, garlicky mayonnaise-type sauce, which were baked until golden and heaped with sparkling orange tobiko flying fish roe.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Good and Grilled

Good and Grilled

I arrived at Brown's Ranch Marketplace as a batch of chicken was pulled off the mesquite charcoal-fired grill. I expected good things from Crown Café, owned by Scotts Valley Market, with an Executive Chef who studied in Paris at le Cordon Bleu under Julia Child. A friend says it’s the only good sandwich place in town.

A cold case was stocked with olives, juices, fruit and meal-sized salads. The Traditional Cobb ($6.95) with mixed greens was topped with blue cheese, tomatoes, bacon and hard-boiled egg. Made-to-order hot ($5.99 to $8) and cold ($6.99 to $7.99) sandwiches, wraps ($4.99) and Panini ($6.49), along with more salads are made to order behind the counter.

My first happy encounter was with the Smoke Stack ($6.99). The smoky flavor of Boar’s Head turkey breast was evident in this warm sandwich served on a Francese roll with crunchy bacon, crisp lettuce, cheddar cheese, and pesto mayonnaise.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

I am Hungry

I am Hungry

Café Gratitude brings attractive and flavorful organic vegan food to Downtown Santa Cruz

Whether you’re a practicing vegan or not, the touches of herbs and spices used at Café Gratitude guarantee a memorable meal. For the most part, you can’t identify the dishes’ ingredients by their names on the menu, so at the first visit, I studied the descriptions over a Bison organic IPA ($5), a hoppy beer made in Ukiah. A cool glass of I am Bright ($4) followed. This probiotic kombucha tea, rich with antioxidants had a light fruity flavor.

Matthew and Terces Engelhart opened their first Café Gratitude in San Francisco's Mission District, focusing on sustainability and community. They now have a handful of locations and grow much of the produce at their farm in Vacaville.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Under the Sycamores

Under the Sycamores

It was a busy morning on the deck at River Cafe. Patrons enjoyed beverages from the organic coffee bar with Wi-Fi, a fresh flat of strawberries was delivered, and employees delivered large catering dishes.

Vegetarian breakfast burritos and frittatas ($6.50) with seasonal vegetables were ready to be heated, and could be embellished with Italian pork sausage ($1 and $1.50). I chose the frittata, cooked in a casserole like a crustless quiche. Airy egg custard was topped with greens, soft, crumbly goat cheese, and grill-marked tomatoes. It was served with smoky salsa and slices of sweet oranges.

I also enjoyed a scone ($3), which was crumbly, riddled with poppy seeds, and had a pleasant lemony flavor. The side of house-made jam was tart with crushed berries.

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