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Aug 28th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Lighten Up

Lighten Up

In my columns I focus on the best edibles our local cooks and chefs have to offer, and avoid chain restaurants, especially national ones. I rarely eat fast food, anyway.

But, there are extenuating circumstances, like when the kitchen was being remodeled and I needed a quick breakfast for the school kids, or when the "low on iron" buzzer signals a Whopper Junior emergency. Now you've met the skeletons in my closet.

On one clandestine visit to McDonald's, I was intrigued by the ads for smoothies, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal. I scoffed, recalling the introduction of Caramel Frappe and its 450 calories, for 12-ounces! Could McDonald's actually smaller-size me?

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Down in the Valley

Down in the Valley

Charming old-school service, fresh ingredients, and a bucolic drive make Scopazzi's a longtime favorite

In 1915 the original Scopazzi's Restaurant building was erected as a hotel by the Locatelli family, housing lumber men and, later, movie stars. The paneled Redwood Dining Room with open-beam ceiling was built in 1924, and the lounge added after the property was sold to the Scopazzis in 1955. There still remain china cabinets and a beautiful marble-topped buffet. And there still remains that old-school San Francisco Italian professionalism; from word-of-mouth orders to the kitchen, to table-side preparation of flaming specialties and dishes like Veal Scaloppine and Chicken Cacciatore.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Salmon and Salad

Salmon and Salad

We headed over to the harbor to experience the Johnny's Harborside Winter Wednesday Cioppino night. As an e-club member, I also had a coupon for two-for-one starters or salads. While "Fresh Catch Your Way" is still a mainstay of the menu, Chef Scott Delk, who arrived at Johnny's after the closing of Theo's, has added his own touch to the fresh and flavorful presentations.

Although Taco and Tequila nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays and house special margaritas are just $7, the combinations were too unique to ignore.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Brew Ha-Ha

Brew Ha-Ha

San Francisco Beer Week hits Santa Cruz

With the holiday season behind us, and St. Patrick’s Day still weeks away, you may find that the prevalence of socially acceptable excuses to enjoy large quantities of beer fall flat this time of year. Never fear, for San Francisco Beer Week lets your cup runneth over with more than 300 Northern California events from Feb. 11–20. Locally, food and beer pairings, beer tastings, educational classes and opportunities to talk with brewers ensure it won’t be hard to find a great stout shindig, ale adventure or porter party.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Three Squares and a Snack

Three Squares and a Snack

No matter which meal you prefer, Severino's prepares them all with flair and fresh ingredients

Many hotels lack kitchens while others offer the most basic sustenance. Neither is the case at the Seacliff Inn, where Severino's fuels patrons throughout the day with ambitious wake-ups like Eggs Benedict, a casual lounge menu and filling dinner entrées of Salmon Dijon and rack of lamb.

Severino's serves breakfast daily including omelets, Huevos Rancheros, and lox and bagels. On weekends breakfast is followed by brunch. A nice list of salads ($10.99 to $12.99) includes seared Ahi with roasted red pepper vinaigrette.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Pumpkin Pie Chai

Pumpkin Pie Chai

I awoke recently to the seasonally uncommon sight of dry streets and a cloudless blue sky. Energized, I headed for the redwoods and Jenna Sue's Cafe. With the heater on, the sunroof wide open, and my old-school CD changer recently silenced by a pothole, I drove leisurely up Highway 9 hearing only the occasional swoosh of a passing car, the squawk of a jay, or the gurgling of a hidden waterfall.

Opening in the wee hours of the morning, Jenna Sue's is a commuter's best friend. Five pumper pots of coffee were lined up on a shelf, while breakfast sandwiches waited in the cold case. From the Bagel Bar, they stuff a plain bagel with a number of fast-breaking fillings including hummus, sprouts, cucumber and pesto cream cheese.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Suds and Spuds

Suds and Spuds

From Irish specialties to burgers, organic salads, and house-made desserts, at Rosie McCann's every day is St. Patrick's Day

Rosie McCann's has been a downtown fixture for a decade and a half, balancing the fine line between restaurant and disco. At each of my three recent visits the wait staff made me feel welcome and cared for, and I found comfort in the food of my ancestors.

For lunch Rosie's offers Irish Classics ($8 to $13), entrées ($13 to $15), burgers ($6.95), salads and house-made soups ($4 to $7).

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Beyond Rolled Rice

Beyond Rolled Rice

Mobo has served legendary sushi for more than two decades. Rolls such as the broiled Pineapple Express ($13.95) with spicy tuna and macadamia nuts inside, smoked salmon, macadamias and pineapple on top offer sensational flavor and textural experiences.

There is another side to Mobo that may be overlooked; the more traditional Asian fare beyond miso soup and gyoza pot stickers.

The warm Udon Noodle Appetizer ($3.50) featured soft, fat wheat noodles in an earthy toasted sesame tahini sauce, similar to one I tasted with meat fondue in Tokyo.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Feeling Blue?

Feeling Blue?

Overlooking Soquel Creek, Little Tampico adds innovation to Mexican favorites


ampico is a port city on the Gulf of Mexico whose name means "place of the water dogs"; in other words, otters. Its humid subtropical climate sees a January low temperature of 55 degrees, so it seemed fitting, on a day that reached 53 degrees, to visit Soquel's Little Tampico.

At this restaurant on the sloped bank of Soquel Creek, we chose the lowest of its three dining levels where a gap between the windowed wall and overhead canvas canopy let in the crisp air. From here we could watch the smoothly flowing stream.

Chips were served with a pair of salsas. One was fairly mild with cilantro and chunks of fresh onion and tomato. The other was tomato-based also, but smooth, with a combination of chilies and spices that gave it heat and a very unique flavor.

As an appetizer, the Blue Nachos ($9.95) were even more delicious than expected. Blue corn tortilla chips were layered and topped with not only the typical Jack and cheddar cheeses, but crumbles of tangy goat ranchero as well. Also included were the house's black beans (more on them later), salsa, thick slices of fresh jalapeños and generous mounds of sour cream and mashed avocado. It was a meal in itself.

The lunch menu, served weekdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. includes an all-you-can-eat taco and tostada bar ($6.95). From the list of Almuerzo (lunch) Favoritos, we chose the Tampiquena ($9.75). A sliced medium-rare rib-eye steak was joined by a fat, miniature crunchy taco with ground beef, a medium-sized chicken enchilada, lard-free refried beans, rice and avocado.

From the regular menu I chose the Santa Fe Enchilada ($11.50) which was assembled like lasagna. A thick layer of shredded beef was hidden between two blue corn tortillas and topped with cheeses and the flavorful cooked ranchero salsa made with tomatoes and onions. Oh, and the black beans were in a sauce like barbecue beans but dark and flavored with south-of-the-border spices.

For dessert, a triangular slice of lightly sweetened flan ($4.50) lay in a generous amount of caramelized sugar syrup. The dense toothsome custard was decorated with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. A warming winter beverage ($7), coffee spiked with Jameson whiskey and Kahlua, was served in a large Mason jar with a handle.

And good news: the restaurant is hoping to expand into an adjacent storefront with a full-service bar.


Little Tampico, 2605 Main St., Soquel, 475-4700. Full Bar. Open daily at 11 a.m., until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit littletampico.com.


★★★


Chocolate (the restaurant) is offering cooking classes at Backstage Lounge, many of which are geared toward tweens and teens. Chocolate will be used in both sweet and savory dishes. On Jan. 21, make mole and on Jan. 28, it's crêpes. February's classes include Cooking for Two (adults), Party Food, Cupcakes, and more crêpes.

Classes cost $50, or four for $150.


Chocolate's Cooking Classes at Backstage Lounge, 1209 Soquel Ave. Visit chocolatesantacruz.com/classes.html.

Dining - Dining Reviews

Seafood with Spices

Seafood with Spices

Mexico's state of Michoacán, meaning "place of the fishermen" in the Nahuatl language, is blessed with rivers and lakes, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Its town of Cotija is known for the crumbly cow's milk cheese we often find atop Mexican entrées.

I headed down Portola Road to Taqueria Michoacan last week in search of seafood specialties. The little restaurant is easy to miss, located in what may have once been a home. On the attractively lettered menu board, fish find their way into tacos, burritos, and tostadas ($2.00 to $6.95). Shrimp is served breaded, in a spicy ranchero sauce, or grilled with bell pepper, tomato and onion ($10.50). Octopus or shrimp ceviche tops tostadas ($5.95).

I first ordered the Michoacan Special Dish ($11.95) with rice and beans. Six plump shrimp were bathed in a spicy hot red sauce, which I also enjoyed on the simple griddled piece of firm, flaky white fish. I put bits of the large thin slice of asada beef into steaming corn tortillas, with onions which had been sautéed until dark and sweetly caramelized, and tomato and cilantro guacamole. The hot sauce in the squirt bottle I found too salty for chips, but the perfect complement to this impromptu soft taco.

While enjoying the surf and turf, people came and went, leaving with one of the 13 versions of Super Burrito ($5.95). Weighing in at almost one and a half pounds, they're stuffed with refried beans, rice, cabbage, avocado and sour cream. In one I had simmered shreds of chicken in a mildly sweet mole, in the other, chunks of tender pork chile verde.

Between two brown dotted flour tortillas, the Super Quesadilla ($5.95) held cabbage, cilantro, avocado, and sour cream with my selection of barbecued chicken; little pieces of spicy grilled meat.


Taqueria Michoacan, 21401 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 465-8290.

 
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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

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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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.