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Aug 01st
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Soft and Succulent

Soft and Succulent

According to Seafood Watch, farmed oysters, which constitute 95 percent of the world's harvest, are considered a "Best Choice" in terms of sustainability. Nutritionally, a trio of these bivalves has only 30 calories and provides more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of zinc and B-12 and a third of the iron requirement. Purists can guiltlessly slurp away on these open-faced mollusks raw or heated over coals until bubbles just begin to appear in their natural juices.

As a child, I first encountered an oyster hidden in a combination basket of Gilda's deep-fried Fisherman's Catch ($12.75). Its soft center contrasted favorably to the flaky cod and crisp calamari tentacles.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

From Field to Able

From Field to Able

The Youth Crew at Food, What?! mixes farming-based curriculums with personal, business, community and networking skills

Since 1979 Santa Cruz’s nonprofit Life Lab organization has built a fine boutique of garden-based curriculums. Children around the country learn hands-on science in the fresh air of their school gardens. At the Garden Classroom at UC Santa Cruz, kids learn about nature, weather, and decomposition, while teacher-training classes offer graduate credits. And three years ago Food, What?! was born as a high school youth empowerment program.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Join the Club

Join the ClubThe Clubhouse Kitchen brings weekend breakfast to Seabright along with tasty sandwiches and fresh salads

During two separate incidents, friends raved about The Clubhouse Kitchen, whose mission is to serve “comfort and quality all on one plate.” Having just opened its doors three days before, it is the fourth restaurant in this location in as many years. But its predecessors didn't serve weekend breakfasts, and in the Seabright neighborhood, morning meals are extremely popular.

We arrived during the first official Saturday shift prepared for the occasional glitch, which fortunately failed to materialize. The French Toast ($8.99), thick slices of soft-crusted baguette soaked in a cinnamon batter, was cooked to a golden brown with custard-like centers. The bacon was just what I craved: smoky and fully cooked but still soft and chewy.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Barista Island

Barista IslandYears ago it occurred to me that thoroughfares leading to freeways should have drive-up coffee stations. I could get my first fix of caffeine safely sitting in the parking lot that was otherwise known as Hwy 101, and be primed to leap into the workday.
We have a few such establishments in Santa Cruz, and when the tiny shack in the Whole Foods parking lot was torn down, I appreciated the sign that hinted at a bigger and better replacement.

And so was born Midtown Lulu's where you can obtain a handmade cup of joe from the comfort of your car, and the attractive olive-colored island now includes walk-up service as well.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Last Call

Last CallEnd-of-the-season vegetables join fall produce on the seasonal menu at Oswald
s we creep deeper into fall, sunflowers mature, the last of tomatoes hang on the vines, squash ripens, and roots are harvested. There is something    about autumn that alters my appetite. Something, I wonder, that might reside in my DNA.

Birds build nests without the benefit of parental instruction. Do they hear voices whispering, “Build it!” as did Noah, and Ray Kinsella?
It is perhaps this same phenomenon that creates a craving for vegetables at this time of year unlike that of any other. Perhaps it is my ancestors, who lived before the advent of supermarkets, reminding me that fresh produce will soon become scarce.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Lost in Translation

Lost in TranslationI was craving egg rolls, or maybe wonderfully hot Chinese mustard, so I stopped by Kong's Market which is nestled on a residential street near Pleasure Point. Stocking a small selection of household staples, it also houses a deli counter with sandwiches and pocket-like burritos to-go.

I chose Pork Egg Rolls ($1.40) over the vegetarian version and was quite surprised by their appearance. The crisply fried, long rectangles of dough stuffed with lightly seasoned ground pork were bumpy and blistered. The wrapper was thicker than that of any egg roll I had previously eaten. I asked for some sauce, and was presented with four bottles of condiments.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Pie Guys

Pie Guys

The nation's best pumpkin pie is made right here in Santa Cruz

Now that it's pumpkin month, at 45 bay area farmers markets you can find Beckmann's Bakery's pumpkin pies, which are the best in the country.

Beckmann's, celebrating 25 years, sells its pies only at farmers markets, an operation run by Tony Stumbaugh and his boss Scott Adams. Stumbaugh was investigating ideas to increase sales and found the American Pie Council, an industry organization that aims to preserve America's pie heritage. Joining the organization, they headed to Florida and the National Pie Championships.

Transporting 20 frozen pies was the first challenge. "Everyone at the airport was looking at us funny," Stumbaugh said. "We had this giant thing packed super well with so much dry ice we were worried we were going to get arrested by Homeland Security."
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Nuts and Honey

Nuts and Honey

My first taste of baklava came in the kitchen of a friend's Russian grandmother. She spoke little English, but the message she sent through those infinite layers of sweet, sticky pastry was one of true love.

Numerous peoples claim title to the inception of baklava, but it is believed to be of Central Asian Turkic origin, and perfected by the chefs of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul. The dessert, popular throughout Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East is made by individually buttering micro-thin sheets of dough called phyllo, the Greek word for leaf, which are alternately layered with nuts and spices. After baking they are doused with honey.

My own attempts to prepare what has become my kids' favorite dessert have produced barely edible results. To the rescue comes Scotts Valley's Eva Marie Vaniotis-Tordoff who launched her line of baklava this past summer at select retail establishments. I found packages with two browned and shimmering squares of Eva's Baklava ($2.89) at Shopper's Corner on a baked goods rack back by the kitchen utensils.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Due West of Japan

Due West of JapanImura Japanese Restaurant serves sushi, shioyaki and some Korean specialties too

If you'd like to improve your sushi-making technique, Chef Jim Song stars in an informational five-minute video on the website of Watsonville's Imura Japanese Restaurant. In it, he makes rolling a compact, symmetrical California Roll appear error-proof. At Imura you will find this perfectly made roll along with other traditional Japanese dishes and locally uncommon culinary gratifications.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Step Back

Step Back

In the evenings, the setting sun casts its rays on a vibrant, standing-room only crowd on the deck of Caffe Pergolesi. But on a fall morning I discovered a sea of tranquility.

The dozen or so patrons included retirees discussing football, an occasional studying student or businessperson channeling Cruzio's free wifi, and a constant stream of acquaintances choosing from the caffe's long list of caffeinated beverages.

 

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