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Dec 27th
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Dining Reviews

Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

The Gathering

The Gathering

Westside Coffee Company offers an amiable environment and tasty food with their array of Java and tea

Espresso used to be so simple. A quick stop at a Parisian Café yielded a dark, hot, aromatic beverage served in a tiny, white demitasse cup with a cube of sugar. In minutes we were back

on the sidewalk attending to remaining errands.

At Westside Coffee Company the coffee beverages are worth lingering over with neighbors or Wi-Fi-enabled laptops. The store has been in business for more than 15 years, but now has a brand new owner and friendly, efficient baristas.

Pastries ($2.25) are baked in-house every day. The one-inch thick slice of moist, nutty banana bread was dense and crumbly and not too sweet.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

A Hot Tip

A Hot Tip

I try to avoid grocery shopping when hungry, but just driving into the parking lot at Scotts Valley Market when smoke is drifting upwards from the outdoor grill makes me ready for another meal.

Every day they fire up wood chunks to cook meats for their deli. Today spice-rubbed tri-tip, large racks of ribs, and chicken legs lent their aroma to the smoke.

The market is the sister of Ben Lomond Market, and locally owned by a family which has been in the grocery business since 1946. The merchandising is sharp and orderly with products supported by stainless Metro-style wire shelving. The produce is locally grown when available and 40 percent of it is organic.

My destination on this visit was the deli, with a case full of prepared salads from pasta to tuna and Chinese Chicken. There's a fresh fruit bar and a two-sided salad bar with a great selection of greens and toppings.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

First Resort

First Resort

The coastal cuisine at Sanderlings, with fresh, local ingredients, is as nice as the view

At Sanderlings in Aptos, creative food is available 16 hours a day. Even the all-day menu is enticing with spicy Garlic Wings as a snack or a Grilled New York Sandwich for something more substantial. On my visits, each of the experienced staff members were punctual and polite.
At breakfast, porcelain vases of fragrant pastel sweet pea flowers adorned white tablecloths. Smooth jazz played in the north-facing dining room, which looks out over manicured shrubs and wooden patio seating toward spindly cypress trees, Monterey Bay and the cliffs of Santa Cruz. Sand-colored Spanish-style townhouses of the resort hug the cliff, framed by a eucalyptus forest.
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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Oh, Fudge

Oh, Fudge

I typically view fudge as a Christmas necessity, but mid-way through the year it’s National Fudge Day. I have made fudge in the traditional manner of boiling sugar, butter and milk to the soft ball stage temperature, then stirring in unsweetened chocolate squares until melted and fully integrated. When I got a microwave oven and discovered Marshmallow Cream, it substantially simplified the process. I also learned that no matter how tiny the pieces I shaved from the soft block of chocolate sugar, eating most of a batch results in substantial weight gain.

Now I look to the experts when it comes to fudge, who offer manageable quarter-pound slices. Split four ways, each serving is only 120 calories.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Sharing the Beans

Sharing the Beans

A Taste of Puerto Rico brings Caribbean cooking and culture into your kitchen

It was a home-cooked, multi-course meal in another couple's home, prepared by a guest chef. There were flavors and textures I had never experienced thanks to Ishmael Huggins who owns A Taste of Puerto Rico with his wife Lori Williams. Williams sets the stage with music and a festive table while Huggins heads to the kitchen to prepare dishes from his homeland. He is best known as a singer of Caribbean-Latin music for the band Broken English.

First to the table was an attractive platter of Serenata de Bacalao which merges the culinary cultures of Africa, Spain and Italy. Dried salt cod, soaked in water to remove most of its briny taste was mixed with chunks of potato, tomatoes and pimiento-stuffed olives and dressed with olive oil and oregano. On top were sliced hard-boiled eggs and slivers of ripe avocado.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Short Order

Short Order

It's an itty bitty kitchen, but the staff at Jack's Hamburgers keeps the piping hot orders streaming through the door. A sheet pan of assembled lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle stacks await to be popped onto sandwiches at the last second, as hungry patrons wait for their names to be called.

I added chunky red onions to a warming cup of Chili ($2.25) which featured two varieties of soft beans and finely minced peppers in a thick, mildly spiced soup. This hearty stew is also available on french fries ($2.75/$3.25) as well as burgers.

Monterey Ranch Chicken Sandwich ($5.85) from the list of daily specials was spectacular. Layered between halves of a large, toasty French roll, was smoky grilled chicken breast, bright lettuce and thick slices of tomato, the same as a regular Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($4.60), with the addition of flavorful ranch dressing and melted Monterey Jack cheese.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

The Nutty Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Santa Cruz couple opens a unique nut bar in downtown Santa Cruz

Most nuts make wonderful, healthy snacks packed with protein, fiber, minerals and healthy oils.

At Santa Cruz's new Nut Kreations, there are plenty of nutty products to pick from.

On my first visit, I was bedazzled and overwhelmed by the selection as I eyed the rows of triangular dishes in the U-shaped glass-fronted display case. Nuts are raw, roasted, spiced or sugared. There are also candied pretzels, chocolate chips and beautiful dried fruit, some of it also seasoned; everything you need to create a signature trail mix or granola. Attractive wall cabinets hold nut roasters, butters, oils, flours, syrups, sauces, extracts, teas, coffees and cookbooks.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Out of the Office

Out of the Office

Working as I do all over the county, I'm constantly seeking little places with reasonably priced eats where I can get some work done. It seems the food writing muse is more apt to appear in the presence of sustenance. Additionally, the regulars at each of these establishments tend to represent a different slice of Santa Cruz that is equally nourishing.

One such place is The Coffee House, off the beaten path amidst the light industrial and medical businesses that line Commercial Way. A few months ago it became part of the Live Oak Cafe and Bakery family which is owned by Kathleen Rawson. Her easygoing husband Bill, a boisterous barista, makes everyone feel welcome.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Variety is the Spice

Variety is the Spice

At Guang Zho, fresh ingredients are infused with flavors from Peking, Hunan and Singapore

For five years now Guang Zho has been filling Live Oak neighbors with Chinese food from its restaurant on Portola Road. The menu boasts more than 150 dishes, some more familiar than others. And for vegetarians, they are happy to substitute a high quality textured vegetable protein in almost any dish.

The funky brick building is reminiscent of an old burger joint drive-in, but inside, soothing pastel colors of pink, mint and forest green set the stage for a relaxing meal.

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Food & Drink - Dining Reviews

Good Morning, Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam

Tran Noodle Restaurant brings healthy Southeast Asian cuisine to Watsonville

According to Vatcharin Bhumichitr in his book “Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia,” more salads are consumed in Vietnam than in any of its neighboring countries, and fresh herbs seem to be a focal point of the meal rather than a stand-alone course. We've had little opportunity in our county to explore this delicious cuisine until recently, and although pasta is featured in the name of Andy Tran's new Tran Noodle Restaurant, it's the fresh fruits and greens, seasonings, and attention to details that steal the show.

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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Our Gifts - Fiery Sacrificial Lights to One Another

Wednesday is Christmas Eve, Hanukkah ends and the Moon is in Aquarius, calling for the new world to take shape at midnight. Thursday morning, the sun, at the Tropic of Capricorn, begins moving northward. The desire currents are stilled. A great benediction of spiritual force (Capricorn’s Rays 1, 3, 7) streams into Earth. Temple bells ring out. The heavens bend low; the Earth is lifted up to the Light. Angels and Archangels chant, “On Earth, peace, goodwill to all.” As these forces stream into the Earth they assume long swirling lines of light, in the likeness of the Madonna and Child. The holy child is born. Let our hearts be “impressed” with and hold this picture, especially because Christmas may be difficult this year. Christmas Day is void of course moon (v/c moon), which means we may feel somewhat disconnected from one another. It’s difficult to connect in a v/c moon. Try anyway. Mercury joins Pluto in Capricorn. Uh oh … we don’t bring up the past containing any dark and difficult issues. We are to attempt new ways of communicating—expressing aspirations and love for one another, replacing wounding, sadness, lostness, and hurts of the past. Play soothing music, pray together, have the intention for peace, harmony and goodwill. Don’t be surprised if things feel out of control and/or arguments arise. We remember, before a new harmony emerges, chaos and crisis come first to clear the air. We are to be the harmonizers. Christmas evening is more harmonious, less difficult, more of what Christmas should be— radiations of love, sharing, kindness, compassion and care. Sunday, Feast Day of the Holy Family, is surprising. Wednesday is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2014. Taurus moon, a stabilizing energy, ushers in the New Year. Happy New Year, everyone! Peace to everyone. Let us realize we are gifts radiating diamond light to one another. Living sacrificial flames!

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Let My People Go

There’s a lot to like in Ridley Scott’s maligned ‘Exodus’
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