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Sep 19th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

North Coast Ghost

North Coast Ghost

Whether it's fine dining or a snack, at Moss Beach Distillery marvelous ocean views are on the house
During Prohibition, under the cover of darkness and fog, Canadian rum runners landed just north of Half Moon Bay at Moss Beach to unload their contraband. While most of their cargo was destined for San Francisco speakeasies, some of it made its way up the cliff to Frank's Roadhouse, a restaurant frequented by well-heeled celebrities and civic leaders. Today, the white building is home to Moss Beach Distillery and perhaps also to the charming but ghostly Blue Lady.

It was a pleasant stroll to the restaurant from the Seal Cove Inn, where our overnight package included a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant. Above the bar, which serves nice Bloody Marys, is a stamped tin ceiling. The overstuffed swiveling barstools, each with its own footrest, are fixed to the floor.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Top o' the Mornin'

Top o' the Mornin'

Breakfast has returned to the little restaurant at the tip of the Seabright neighborhood where Bea's Koffee Kup once thrived. Today, Backstage Lounge, which now prepares dinner only for private parties, serves a unique array of breakfast and brunch specialties daily.

The stunning Crème Brûlée French Toast ($8.50) was an incredible treat. On two fat slices of golden brown bread with the airy texture of challah, custard was poured and drizzled with a swirl of dark molasses. Joining the main course was a pretty piped cone of butter, the texture of whipped cream, and a mix of bright berries, bananas and pineapple. The side of bacon ($3) was extra crisp.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

On a Roll

On a Roll

Sam's Chowder House brings New England-style seafood to Half Moon Bay
Perched on a cliff just south of Pillar Point Harbor, eco-friendly Sam's Chowder House offers sensational views and a respect for seafood that allows its flavors to shine. Voted Best Waterfront Dining last year by SF Gate's readership, its award-winning Executive Chef and partner Lewis Rossman seeks sustainable and local ingredients for his seasonal menus.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Turf and Surf

Turf and Surf

Fragrant smoke rises from the grill where teriyaki-marinated pork baby back ribs ($6.99/lb.) cook slowly over indirect heat. I was surprised to find this delicacy at Soquel's Fish Lady.

Finally noticing the lettering that announced the availability of smoked fish, I wandered into the store where I found smoked ahi, trout, scallops, and of course wild salmon ($1.25/oz.). This moist pink fish with a mild smoky-sweet teriyaki flavor was topped with a coarse black pepper glaze. Although soft, it is dense enough to remain chunky when tossed with pasta. This fish lady will also smoke the fish you catch.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Coastal Hideaway

Coastal Hideaway

At Costanoa's Cascade Bar and Grille, KOA melds magnificently with sustainable haute cuisine
I had been looking forward to our anniversary get-away weekend. In addition to the obvious, it held the opportunity to experience a trio of recommended restaurants. Driving north on Highway 1 on a Saturday morning, with bucolic farms on one side and flocks of parasurfers hovering over whitecaps on the other, cares quickly vanished.

Just two miles north of Año Nuevo State Reserve, we turned right onto tree-lined Rossi Road towards our first stop, Costanoa. We checked into our Douglas fir cabin and reviewed the day's extensive activity list. Sandwiched between face painting and burger BBQs was wine tasting at Cascade Bar and Grille.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Packed with Peanuts

Packed with Peanuts

With June 12 rapidly approaching, I decided to prepare for National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. These snacks formed the basis of my first cooking lesson; placing balls of dough on a cookie sheet and smashing them with the tines of a fork to form the characteristic matrix on top. My mom only allowed cookies that we made from scratch, so needless to say I was frequenting the kitchen by the time of my seventh birthday.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

A Sweet Finish

A Sweet Finish

El Jardín brings its friendly staff, unique sauces and gorgeous desserts to Santa Cruz
Since 1985 the Delgados have run what is now a family of Fine Mexican restaurants in historic California towns such as Columbia and Murphys. They've traveled quite a way to bring their specialties to the comfortable restaurant that most recently housed Sestri.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Pressed for Time

Pressed for Time

The Italian word panino, which means little bread, also refers to a sandwich assembled with such bread. In Italy, the sandwiches are served regular and pressed. The plural of panino is panini, which stateside, has become synonymous with a flat sandwich, heated in a clamshell-like griddle with a weighted top.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Burl-esque

Burl-esque

Felton's Oak Tree Ristorante merrily applies local ingredients to its Italian masterpieces
An ancient oak stands not far from a redwood forest. Its namesake, Oak Tree Ristorante, was recently visited by Danny Glover, or so I am told. I just missed his visit by days, but found celebrity just the same, on the white plates at this lively Felton restaurant.

Under the arms of this tree, where La Bruschetta once existed, a colorful border of roses and camellias shields a large patio from Highway 9. Protruding from the front door is a redwood sculpture of a shapely woman meditating cross-legged in the lotus position. I pulled on the burl girl's arm, splitting her in half as the door opened into the bright restaurant where more beautiful burl had been made into countertops. The bright-eyed staff, conversing in Italian, was enjoying morning espresso from demitasse cups.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Good Morning, Sunshine

Good Morning, Sunshine

It's interesting how the scent of morning coffee can transform the ambiance of a popular seafood restaurant into that of a cozy coffee shop. This was my experience last week as we sampled the new weekend breakfast at Stagnaro's on the wharf.

The Marine Mary ($8) was a sight to behold. A pint glass of Bloody Mary was decoratively embellished with a skewered pair of prawns and two pimiento-stuffed green olives. Two red straws were cradled in the channel of crisp celery, and a large wedge of bright-skinned lime hugged the rim. I tasted both Tabasco and a hint of horseradish in this Sunday-perfect eye-opener.

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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
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Sweet Treats

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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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.