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Jul 31st
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Sushi Surpise

Sushi Surpise

Capitola's Sushi Garden combines the best of traditional Japanese cuisine with creative fusion rolls
At Japanese restaurants I find it difficult to choose between traditional dishes, old school sushi, and the gustatory surprises that may be hidden in a fusion roll. And so it was at Capitola's Sushi Garden where all of the above are offered. Japanese ingredients like shiso herb leaves and burdock root gobo join jalapeños and macadamia nuts integrating cultures.

At lunch, when most entrées cost $9.50 or less, choose from noodle soups, teriyaki, and donburi rice bowls. Two- and three-item Bento Box combos ($9.50/$12.50) include a small selection of main dishes, potstickers, sushi, sashimi or a California Roll. At dinner, expect to add about $7.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Lend Me a Hand

Lend Me a Hand

Gabriella Café blends incredible house-made pasta and charcuterie, local organic produce, sustainable fish and pasture-based beef

To mark our return home and the final day of vacation, my husband and I settled into a cozy table at Gabriella Café. It had been some time and a chef ago since our last visit.

We began the evening with a bottle of unfined and unfiltered Sangiovese from Healdsburg's Peterson winery ($34). Gabriella's famous focaccia that night was topped with green and sweet caramelized onions which took the edge off of our appetites.

We then enjoyed long paper-thin shavings of tender asparagus ($11) dressed with flowery Sevillano olive oil and topped with truffled pecorino sheep's milk cheese and bits of red kohlrabi.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Italian Lesson

Italian Lesson

La Posta attracts Seabright neighbors with unique Italian food
Like a foodie foreign language class, the servers at La Posta are kept busy explaining the menu which is riddled with less familiar Italian foodstuffs and regional specialties. Cavolo (cabbage), cacio (cheese), caprino (goat cheese), or farro (spelt) combine to make meals that you don't frequently find.

By 8 p.m. on a Friday night, the tables were all occupied by couples, groups and families. In the softly lit room, alive with conversation, a single tiny flame danced on each table like a firefly.

Being huge fans of bivalves we started with two dozen Mussels alla Triestina ($10), which is named for an Italian town. Large, creamy morsels of seafood were cooked with garlic, chilies, and a fresh bay leaf and topped with fine, crisp breadcrumbs. We soaked up the broth with dark, nutty homemade bread. We also enjoyed Asparagus al forno ($6) with thin spears roasted al dente and served with salty green and black olives.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Witchy Women

Witchy Women

According to Bruce Aidells and Dennis Kelley in the book "Real Beer and Good Eats," beer was brewed by women as part of their kitchen responsibilities. It is said that the image of a witch stirring a bubbling cauldron came from this very activity as her trusty cat kept rodents away from the grain. In colonial America ale was drunk with every meal, and our forefathers, who considered the beverage liquid bread, declined to tax it.

Fast forward to 2010, when the women brewers at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing invited other females to make an organic Belgian-style Wit beer, or "white beer." Owner Emily Thomas along with brewers Kelly Vaillancourt and Nicole Beatie were joined by two community members. The ladies used traditional ingredients coriander and orange peels, although theirs were from fresh blood oranges. Just 155 gallons were brewed.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Mountain Mama

Mountain Mama

Mama Mia's large portions and colorful sauces give Feltonians a taste of Italy
In the heart of Felton, Mama Mia's has been serving hearty Italian fare for 14 years. The restaurant has been so successful that she now has three younger sisters in Santa Clara County.

Eighteen pasta dishes include spaghetti with homemade meat sauce or marinara ($13.99) and homemade cannelloni and manicotti crêpes ($14.99). For entrées, veal or chicken parmigiana ($17.99) are breaded and baked, as is the rolled chicken breast saltimbocca. The scaloppine is made with eggplant ($13.99) and Osso Buco ($19.99) is served with lamb demi-glaze over risotto. They proclaim their pizzas to be the best in town. On our recent visit, bowls piled high with seafood cioppino were the nightly special ($24.95).

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fast Forward

Fast Forward

When a new restaurant hangs up its shingle, a stream of happy goose bumps runs down my spine. Theoretically, I should allow a newcomer to get its feet firmly on the ground before writing about them, but my palate is just too impatient.

And so it was with Caffe Tazzina which opened in the space recently vacated by Black China Bakery on Soquel Avenue. At the helm is Katelin Brightman, previously of Black China, in partnership with Tim O'Connor. Caffe Tazzina is also a brand of coffee made locally by O'Connor at Pacific Espresso.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Still Divine

Still Divine

Casablanca Restaurant continues to strike a memorable culinary chord
Should Pacific Avenue be closed off to traffic? Was the destruction of the Cooper House a horrible mistake? Where on the Earth is the best place to wear a mankini?

Dear Lord, with these questions floating about our striking ocean-view table, it was going to be a long night at Casablanca Restaurant. Not that the four of us minded. This was Casablanca, after all, the famed Santa Cruz destination right off Main Beach, an establishment that’s been hailed both for its breathtaking scenery and its culinary prowess. Besides, this had to be the first time the subject of mankinis—an odd amalgam of a bikini and Speedo for the testosterone set—came up in a dinner conversation before a meat dish appeared.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

The Real Thing

The Real Thing

Homemade recipes draw raves at Real Thai Kitchen
Hidden behind a Blockbuster store in the Seabright neighborhood, Real Thai Kitchen carefully prepares nearly one hundred dishes from the tropical paradise of Thailand.

The popular weekday lunch buffet ($8.95) included coconut milk soup, rice, salad, Old-fashioned Pad Thai, tempura, and a selection of curries and sautéed dishes with meat and/or vegetables. We ordered from the menu, feeling more like having leftovers than over-eating.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Rising to the Occasion

Rising to the Occasion

I've enjoyed Raisin Fugasa French Toast at Aldo's Harbor Restaurant for as long as I can remember. But when I tasted their extra-tart sourdough bread at the Dream Inn's Aquarius, I knew I had to visit Aldo's Soquel Bakery.

I headed south, armed with a late morning appetite, and was surprised by what I found in this little store. In the back, as I expected, carts of bread were being readied for wholesale delivery. But the front held much more than bread.

The bakery case included large lemon bars ($1.25), scones ($1.75), éclairs ($2.75), muffins ($1.50), brownies ($1.50) and assorted cookies such as old-fashioned snickerdoodles ($1).  Breakfast Burritos ($3) or Ham and Egg Croissants ($4.75) make great traveling companions. I fell hard for the Raisin Danish ($1.50), coiled like a snake and drizzled with sugary glaze, it was as light and airy as a croissant.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Spring Flower

Spring Flower

Yan Flower dishes up a fresh assortment of unique Chinese delicacies at the southern end of Pacific Avenue

I don't often find myself in the South of Laurel section of Pacific Avenue, but when a friend described Hong Kong Noodles at Yan Flower I just had to try them. After all, the man is of Korean and Chinese heritage, and speaks with a New York accent.

In the back of the restaurant the owners converse in Cantonese. Yan Flower's well-kept yellow and green tiled building is roomy, clean, and simply decorated. Comfortable orange booths surround glass-topped tables, the windows are treated with pretty flowered valances, and the walls are papered with tasteful, contemporary swooshes in soft earth tones.

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Picture of Health

Santa Cruz just received a high ranking among California counties. But it may be hiding some of the biggest health dangers facing our area

 

Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Time Capsule

Actors age in real time in audacious, mesmerizing ‘Boyhood’
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Foodie File: Maharaja

Chef Didar Singh on Royal Taj’s reincarnation as Maharaja

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

This vivacious cherry-pink Rosé is a simply beautiful summer wine.