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Sep 02nd
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Artisanal Goodies for Foodies

Artisanal Goodies for FoodiesShelving lines every available space in the small River Café and Cheese Shop, cradling a fine selection of artisanal gustatory creations; most of it Californian, much of it local, and all of it sure to add a new spin to your favorite dishes.
The small, but well-picked cheese selection includes farmstead Blue from Point Reyes Farm and soft-ripening Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery of the same town. Local olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Belle Farms, Pasolivo lemon olive oil from Paso Robles, and River Café’s own organic jams make a colorful display. Numerous wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains are also featured.
I was excited to find an 8-ounce chub of Dry Chorizo, the essential Spanish salami, made by Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse Chef Paul Bertolli, proprietor of Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Salumi. I also picked up a wedge of sheep’s cheese from North Monterey County’s Garden Variety Cheese, to be enjoyed with the chorizo as tapas.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Ship Ahoy

Ship Ahoy

The Crow’s Nest celebrates 40 years of salads, seafood, sunsets, and sociability

A considerable school of small fish broke the water’s surface, dappling it like raindrops and inciting two dozen pelicans to dive-bomb headfirst after them in rapid succession. Sleek pinnipeds joined in the frenzy, their shiny furred bodies leaping, spinning and splashing. This is just one of the many sunset performances staged nightly outside The Crow’s Nest, the popular beachfront restaurant and lounge now celebrating its 40th birthday.

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

For the Love of Ginger - Hot Plate

For the Love of Ginger - Hot Plate

My children, when small, created pet names for their favorite places. There was the Slide Park, the Duck Park, and Red Chinese. This moniker referred not to politics, but to the interior color scheme of King Chwan Chinese Restaurant.

Today, red tassels still hang from the lamps, but the room is light and airy, with sheer white café curtains and softly colored valances on the windows, and elegant blue upholstery.

 

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Feast Fit for a King

Feast Fit for a King

Artistic presentation complements fresh flavors at My Thai Beach
Prime restaurant real estate on Capitola’s Esplanade affords diners colorful views of the bay, and at My Thai Beach the meals are as pretty as the scenery.
The owners have undertaken a charming remodel of what was previously the Beach House. As if surrounded by ocean, there’s a metallic sheen to the aqua blue walls. A new bamboo bench seat stretches along one side, above which meticulously aligned frames feature photographs and original artwork. On the opposite wall hang portraits of kings and queens. Gilded roughly hewn beams run across the burgundy ceiling from which fans quietly twirl.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Full Circle Brew

Full Circle Brew

Grain, once it's cooked to make the wort that becomes beer, is of no use to the brewmaster. So spent grain from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is sent to northern Monterey County, where it helps nourish 100 sheep at Garden Variety Cheese. Three varieties of sheep cheese are then sold at the brewery ($7 for a quarter pound) and also offered with tasting flights of four beers ($7). Local partnerships such as this make SCMB and its organic beers unique.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Sugar and Spice

Sugar and SpiceAn entire generation has been born and become adults since Allbright’s Donuts began treating the Branciforte neighborhood to an incredible array of pastries and savories. Considered by many to be the best shop in town, donuts, croissants and bagels are still made fresh daily.

Be prepared for a time warp, as swivel chairs fixed to a linoleum-tiled floor and upholstered in retro orange vinyl encircle two U-shaped faux wood counters. Vintage advertising posters depict donuts of yesteryear. Even the proprietors seem not to have aged a day since I enjoyed my first apple fritter, and today these pastries are still the same two-fisted size they were two decades ago.

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Neighborly Noshing

Neighborly Noshing

The Seabreeze Cafe continues to fetch fans with its fresh and hearty homemade cuisine
In Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe, an exceptionally tidy eatery, breakfast is served all day. And that’s a good thing. With three-egg omelets ($7.75 to $8.95), you can choose between potatoes or fruit, and toast or a homemade muffin. From the grill comes French toast and plain, bacon, or almond waffles. Throughout the room, children in high chairs decorated coloring book pages with crayons, anticipating a Mickey Mouse Pancake ($2.25).

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fishermen’s Fare

Fishermen’s Fare

Gilda’s popular Friday night Cioppino celebrates our local Italian heritage

In a weekly ritual, seafood lovers seek traditional California sustenance. Braving snaking traffic on Municipal Wharf, they anticipate Gilda’s Friday night special Cioppino ($13.95).

A luscious aroma greeted us in Gilda’s foyer. Eyeing the practically packed house we headed to the cocktail lounge. It is fitting to enjoy this meal in a shared setting, after all: California Cioppino was invented as a potluck of sorts, as fishermen contributed their catch to a communal pot.

Although the views are magical at any table, southwestern-facing swivel-chairs look straight out from the bar upon Steamer Lane and the lighthouse. On the walls of the small room hang photos of the Cottardo Stagnaro family and historic hauls of fisherman from times past.

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

All Aboard! The Train Place Deli

All Aboard! The Train Place DeliModel trains greet guests at the front door of the Train Place Deli, and then chug along tracks over trestles to the rear of the restaurant where they round a mini reproduction of the historic Felton Flume and Lumber Company. The owners know that visitors initially come to see the trains, but believe that they return for the food.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Johnny’s Harborside On the Waterfront

Johnny’s Harborside On the Waterfront

Johnny’s Harborside launches new summer menu
It’s easy to drive past the seafoam green building without noticing the restaurant with an intimate view of harbor life perched upstairs. Head down Lake Avenue on the one way street towards the harbor, make the first right, and you will find quick gourmet lunches, amiable neighborhood happy hours, relaxing weekend brunches, and romantic sunset dinners at Johnny’s Harborside.

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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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Foodie File: Beer Thirty

Cups runneth over at Soquel’s new beer garden

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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.