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Apr 17th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Daily Bread

Daily BreadJust across the Stockton Avenue Bridge at the portal to the Esplanade sits Capitola Coffee Roasting Company and Pâtisserie. Michaella (Mika) Olavarri is at the helm, popping warm pastries out of the oven and mixing up hot and iced coffee drinks.
There aren't many bags of beans on the shelves, as Olavarri prefers to roast in small batches for the freshest flavor. And with each bag or tall ceramic mug purchased, comes a free cup of coffee.
Rays of the morning sun brightened and warmed the small café as one of my favorite French chanteurs serenaded softly through the speakers. Two large tables and stools at a bar along the wall provide seating, and power strips support WiFi use.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

A Harbor Fall

A Harbor Fall

The new fall menu at Johnny’s Harborside offers fresh and comforting fare

I was craving a pleasant, tasty, and leisurely brunch with an exquisite view, so, under a cloudless sky, we headed to Johnny’s Harborside at the small craft harbor. Soft butter melted gently into warm, itty bitty cinnamon-scented muffins which tasted of chocolate with autumn walnuts while we reviewed the new fall menu.

Chef Brian Woods’ new creations include a number of starters such as grilled shrimp cocktail with avocado ($13), grilled romaine salad ($7) with smoked tomatoes and citrus Caesar vinaigrette, warm spinach salad ($9) with bacon vinaigrette, caramelized onions and goat cheese, and vegetarian spring rolls ($7) with sesame vinaigrette.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Hot from the Oven

Hot from the Oven

Roland Konicke, a transplanted New Yorker, worked in and around local farmers markets for years. He missed the Big Apple's pizzas, and set out to let Californians taste the difference, using local, organic ingredients. Even the meat products, from Santa Cruz's El Salchichero, are from local pasture-raised animals.

Konicke sells his Uncle Ro's take & bake pizzas at Santa Cruz farmers markets. Shoppers can snack on a warm slice, or take one home to bake. Local ingredients lead to seasonal combinations, and August's Padrón pepper pies made the local top-ten list.

Temporarily mobility-impaired, (oh, I miss the farmers market), I followed a hint that someone had spied the pies at Whole Foods in Santa Cruz. Right next to the store’s in-house creations were four varieties of Uncle Ro’s ($10.99).

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Nest Eggs

Nest Eggs

Crow’s Nest launches daily breakfast

Stand-up paddle boarders, scullers, kayakers and a back-pedaling otter floated down the channel followed by Team O'Neill with a boat load of school children. Two sets of twin toddlers pranced happily in the sand while a runner and dog-walker made their way down the levee toward the lighthouse. It is the familiar view from the comfortable Crow's Nest, and now it's available at breakfast.

With all those healthy people exercising outside, I assuaged my guilt with a reminder that breakfast is the most important meal, and, coincidentally, that's the way it was treated by the Crow's Nest kitchen.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Bread as Art

Bread as Art

From the ceiling of the little market and bakery hang piñatas of all shapes and sizes, but the bakery cases were practically empty at nine in the morning. We were quickly greeted by co-owner Jorge Hernandez who sent us into the kitchen where we selected eight just-baked pastries ($10.60) from the six-foot tall racks of colorful, sweet and savory breads in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

Although El Rosal has a huge selection, Hernandez said his bakery makes far fewer than the 500 or more varieties in Mexico's repertoire.

The Spaniards first brought wheat to the New World, and for a short time in the 1860s the French brought expert pâtissiers. Hernandez says that each of the Mayan tribes in the south and the Aztecs farther north added their own touch to these foreign influences, creating the wonderful diversity.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Hoffman’s hands reigns over to Food Network for an extreme makeover

There was suspense and drama, frustration and anticipation, showmanship and emotion. Like Roger Craig at Albertson’s, Lance Armstrong on Beach Street, and James Durbin at Loudon Nelson, this was a Santa Cruz moment. Food Network was in town.

When I read about the filming of Restaurant Impossible at Hoffman’s, I called for reservations along with every other self-professed foodie in town. Upwards of fifty redials and no luck. I felt like the Queen of Sheba on Monday when an associate said there was a seat for me.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Continuity of Community

Continuity of CommunityFrom snacks to hearty dinners and bocci ball to nightly live music, Bocci's Cellar remains an important gathering place

In the first decade of the 17th century, Mission Church planted vineyards in the area of Harvey West Park, ostensibly the first local viticulture. A few Victorian homes built a century later still stand nearby. Angelo Peter Urbani was born in one of these on Encinal Street to Italian immigrants. The family elevated their home to create a cellar underneath in which to age barrels of wine. Of Angelo's sons, Joseph is immortalized on a plaque outside of Bocci's Cellar for adding the bar and dining room that transformed the home into a gathering place for the Italian community.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

PIZZA @ burger.

PIZZA @ burger.

Some things just go together; Rum and coke, peanuts and Crackerjacks, pizza and beer. Which brings me to Mission Street's burger., where almost 50 draft beers are joined by even more bottled selections. All those beers, just begging for pizza. And burger. heard their cries.

The new offerings are wood-fired with dough and sauces made daily. The pizzas I enjoyed each had thin, cracker-crisp crusts, a seared edge here and there, and a hint of flavorful cheese.

We ordered burgers and pizzas at the counter, and beers at the bar. The burgers arrived quickly. French fries were dipped in ketchup, sweet potato fries in a vinegared Thousand Island-style tartar sauce. As my compadres took the final bites of their juicy sandwiches, making use of the abundant napkins, the first pizza arrived.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Dynamic Dining

Dynamic Dining

With an ever-changing menu, it's like a new restaurant at every visit to Main Street Garden Cafe


I find it impossible to get bored with Main Street Garden Cafe. Under the leadership of Chef Brad Briske, previously of San Francisco's Millennium and Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz, the menu incorporates pasture-raised meats, sustainable fish, house-made pasta, local wines, and local organic produce, some from the restaurant's own garden, and including eggs. It changes weekly to celebrate seasonal specialties which recently included tomatoes, watermelon, summer squash, shelling beans and Padrón peppers.

A parade of local artists display their craft on the walls and local musicians perform regularly on the restaurant's spacious patio.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Gourmet Pique-nique

Gourmet Pique-nique

Hidden at the center of the Seascape Village retail shops, Seascape Foods offers beach gear, basic groceries, local products, and gourmet food to go that can join you at beach or for a round of golf.

In the morning, enjoy a coffee drink with breakfast burritos and omelettes. The fresh house-baked muffins are always delicious. Recently, a sweet surfaced Strawberry Muffin ($2.50) with a crinkled brown crust divulged bubble gum-colored berries from its hearty interior.

A wealth of salads ($7.99 to $10.99 per pound) was displayed in the case at lunchtime including marinated tofu or gigante beans, carrot, and antipasti with roasted tomatoes. Green salads such as Greek and Caesar are also available. Entrées of Tri-tip Lasagna, Baked Mac and Cheese, Vegetarian Lasagna, and fat, sauced enchiladas waited in thick casserole dishes.

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Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.