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Oct 01st
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Dining Reviews

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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Dining - Dining Reviews

A Dimpled Diet

A Dimpled Diet

Discovering that today is National Waffle Day triggered a memory of my mother, who treated us to waffles on leisurely Sunday mornings.

Standing at her white-tiled kitchen counter, she whipped the egg whites until stiff before gently folding them into the flour, yolk, and baking powder batter to guarantee an airy waffle. Then she added chopped walnuts, which brought crunch and texture to the bread. For the grand finale, after brushing the checkered griddle halves with Crisco oil, she laid out two soft strips of cooked bacon which sizzled on the hot metal before she poured the batter over them. We stood by hungrily waiting for steam rising from the iron to subside. It took seven or eight rounds to satisfy the five of us with these nutty, crisp, airy, smoky, maple syrupy cakes.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Bus Stop Sandwich Shop

Bus Stop Sandwich Shop

A small triangular kitchen looks out upon the bus lanes at Santa Cruz's Metro Center. Here at Café Lena you'll find breakfast and lunch plus smoothies, coffee drinks and candy.

Morning bus commuters enjoy a variety of toasted bagels with cream cheese ($2), turkey ($5) or spreads such as pesto and sun-dried tomato along with a 20-ounce cappuccino ($2.75) or smoothie ($3.75). I ordered a plain bagel with buttery hummus ($2.75) which was both filling and flavorful. (Don't forget the napkins!)

For lunch, the list of sandwiches ($5) includes roast turkey and veggie pine nut pesto. Fresh salads ($5.75) such as Greek, Oriental Chicken, Caesar, and Chef bring the best of springtime to the workday.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Get Fresh with Me

Get Fresh with Me

Fresh Monterey Bay fish steal the show at Moss Landing's Sea Harvest

This week winter will finally hand the weather back to spring, and we will have more evening hours to work up an appetite in the arms of Mother Nature. It's again time to enjoy biking, hiking and kayaking.

In Moss Landing, just south of Monterey Bay Kayaks, Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant is nestled in the corner of an immense parking lot. Inside, tables lined up along large windows shared views of the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, where two dozen sea otters feasted and frolicked in the choppy water.

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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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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.”