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Oct 01st
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Dining Reviews

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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Dining - Dining Reviews

Judge Not by Size Alone

Judge Not by Size Alone

The Hole in the Wall restaurant combines international flavors to start the day out right
When I travel, it's not uncommon to search for little hole-in-the-wall restaurants where meals are surprisingly good. Such is the case in Aptos where just eight tables inside and six more outside comprise the capacity of The Hole in the Wall restaurant, sandwiched between Manuel's Mexican Restaurant and the Mediterranean.

Breakfast, which is served all day, includes Belgian waffles, pancakes and French toast with fruit, biscuits and gravy, Benedicts and even a Brazilian açai bowl with granola, fruit, yogurt, and bee pollen.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Shopping for Crépes

Shopping for Crépes

Although I occasionally crave a particular Junior burger for a buck, I gravitate toward locally owned eateries and the unique specialties created by their owners. Which is why I was happy to hear of Cafe Laila on my trip to the Capitola Mall.

At this corner cafe with a view of the fountain, the former owner of Capitola's Misk offers a variety of beverages, sandwiches and crépes.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Behold: Shadowbrook

Behold: Shadowbrook

Capitola’s culinary hobbit continues to thrive with style and excellence
Available men, unavailable men, women’s lib 2010 and Bernese Mountain Dogs became the hot topics of conversation recently as four of us revisted Shadowbrook Restaurant for what would be become a wicked Wednesday night. Wicked because we hardworking folk—try shoving commas, apostrophes and periods together in the minivan of literature and see how tricky it can be—never shy away from wine, so Shadowbrook’s Winemaker Wednesdays stand out.

So there we were, in the well-known restaurant’s Rock Room Lounge, about to be detoured from reality by Mount Eden Vineyards, when one of us confessed of several crushes they had formed on several men that were, well, not on the market. “Move on,” we quickly advised. “You’re the prize—and if that person cannot see that, then your answer is: “NEXT!”

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Dining - Dining Reviews

One Fish, Two Fish, Green Fish

One Fish, Two Fish, Green Fish

Three years ago I interviewed Dave Greenberger, owner of Dave's Gourmet Albacore in the Harvey West neighborhood, where he cans flash-frozen, line-caught fish. Recently I noticed they've added a large deli complete with tables, as well as numerous canned products.

Dave's albacore has so much flavor that it can be enjoyed undressed. Each piece of prime fish is cut by hand, individually canned, and then cooked, retaining all of its flavorful and healthy juices. The Tuna Bagel Melt ($8) showcased this mildly flavored white fish with tomatoes on two bagel halves, topped with thin slices of cheese and broiled. Salty, smoky albacore was pulled from the case to fill another tender bagel with cream cheese and capers ($8).

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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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On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Melinda’s

New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”