Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
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Coastal Hideaway

dining_CascadeAt 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.

Cascade boasts numerous accolades, including San Mateo County's gold award for use of fresh, local and sustainable products. They even pour beers from Santa Cruz Aleworks and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. Seats at the serpentine bar were filled with people meeting people. The wisecracking bartender mischievously hid labels and bantered comically with patrons. Seasoned squash and sunflower seeds, and bowls of bright green olives were welcome with the unique sequence of pours; from Meridian Chardonnay to an incredibly meaty Martella Petite Syrah. To enhance the experience, we ordered a Cheese Plate ($10) with blue, brie, soft-ripened goat cheese and Gouda.

Returning a few hours later for dinner, the bartender Don, now dressed in black, had morphed into a welcoming and mannerly maître d' who showed us to our table where his wife Barbara would be our server. The large, open dining room was full of families enjoying a spring weekend.

We began with Jalapeño Margaritas ($9); a blend of Hornitos, fresh lime, and chili simple syrup, which hinted at the unique flavor of the popular pepper without the heat. A paddle-shaped bread board held a toasted baguette and herbed butter, which was magically replenished when empty.

Chef Michael Davis steamed Mussels and Clams ($13) in Santa Cruz Ale, adding fresh tomatoes just before serving. The seafood-flavored broth with pesto and crushed red peppers rivaled any I've tasted this side of Charleston.

Locally raised sustainable abalone ($19) was the second appetizer. Panko-encrusted in stylish brown butter, it was served with pea sprouts, julienne of squash and tart grapefruit and red onion salsa.

The charred Skirt Steak ($25), marinated in red wine, was accompanied by roasted corn and red bell peppers, smoky chard, and sweet potato chips.

Filet Mignon ($34) was absolutely tender throughout and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was served with curly battered and deep fried red onions, thin spears of grilled asparagus, and spicy, finely puréed green cilantro-chili chimichuri.

To end the evening, we shared a snifter of Soquel's Osocalis Brandy, enjoying its caramelized, fruity aroma.

Accommodations at Costanoa include tent camping, RV parking, tent bungalows, lodge hotel rooms and cabins with fireplaces. I had chosen the latter for sentimental reasons, and although it turned out to be a duplex, the parents next door kindly kept their little ones busy outside.

Cascade Bar and Grille at Costanoa, 2001 Rossi Road at Hwy 1, Pescadero, (650) 879-1100. Full bar. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit

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