Little Caricias Café offers healthy alternatives to fast food on Beach Hill
Caricias Café sits on the small patio in front of Boca Del Cielas, a mauve Victorian bed and breakfast just up the First Street hill from the Boardwalk Bowl. Tico, the resident scarlet macaw, shimmied up the pole to her perch and surprised us with a loud squawk. The immense parrot then climbed down the backside of the wrought iron fence behind my daughter's chair, nibbled playfully on her sweatshirt, and gently grasped her elbow with zygodactyl feet.
On the whiteboard which describes the menu, I was surprised to see a fruit Pico de Gallo ($3). Spears of pineapple, honeydew melon, mango and cucumber were served with Tajin Clasico, a brand of slightly tart seasoning that includes powdered chilies and salt. I learned that dried chilies are enjoyed on everything in Mexico, especially fruit. Even better than Tajin was the spicier house-made version based on toasted, dried Japanese red chilies.
The Wrap ($5) was beautifully presented with more fruit. The large, appetizingly green spinach tortilla was spread with Mediterranean hummus (they also offer jalapeño hummus) and filled with romaine lettuce, chicken breast, sweet dried cranberries and crunchy almonds.
The following week I returned for breakfast. A Chorizo and Egg Burrito ($3.00) was waiting in the coffee cart's warming tray. The rustic, black-speckled flour tortilla, made in-house, was thick and chewy; perfect fuel for an aerobic beachfront workout. The spicy potato burrito lived up to its name, but I still made sure to sprinkle it with the wonderful chili powder.
The selection of 12- and 16-ounce coffee drinks includes lattes ($2.75/$3.25) and mochas ($3.25/$3.75), and water and sodas are also sold.
Bionicos ($3.50) is simple and guiltless satisfaction. At the bottom of the 16-ounce cup is a layer of yogurt topped with chopped almonds and sweet granola. The cup is then filled with fresh fruit including blackberries, sliced mangos and strawberries.
Caricias Cafe, 118 First St., Santa Cruz, 457-2430. Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
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Speaking of summer fruit, olallieberries are ripe at Swanton Berry Farms' Coastways Ranch. Last year we wandered around the long rows of vines picking our own berries ($4 per pound) in the cool coastal fog. Children exclaimed in delight at each discovery of a fruit-filled plant. This year's season may run only until mid-July. If you miss the olallies, blackberries are expected to be ripe mid-July through August. Call the farm's hotline for an updated schedule.
The strawberry U-pick ($2.50 per pound) should last until October, and there are fields at both Coastways and the Farm Stand. If you're not feeling that ambitious, the stand sells fruit, preserves and baked goods.
Swanton Berry Farm, 469-8804. Farm Stand, open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., located two miles north of Davenport at 25 Swanton Rd. Coastways Ranch is open daily for strawberries and olallieberries 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., eight and a half miles north of the Farm at 640 Cabrillo Hwy., Pescadero. Visit swantonberryfarm.com
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