Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 24th
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The Real Thing

dining_RealThaiHomemade 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.

My favorite soup here is Tom Yum, in a cup ($3.95), bowl ($7.95) which serves three or four, or a flaming maw fai donut-shaped pot ($10.95). Strips of white chicken were bathed in a tart and spicy broth seasoned with lemongrass, kaffir leaves and the eucalyptus-like rhizome galangal. Fresh mushrooms and tomato wedges were added before serving.

We dipped hot skewers of Chicken Satay ($7.25) in mild, sweet and savory peanut sauce. A pair of Fresh Spring Rolls ($3.95) was stuffed with thin strands of noodles, organic tofu, and vegetables; their bright colors visible through translucent rice paper wrappers.

The orange sherbet-colored Thai Iced Tea ($1.95), seasoned with star anise and topped with sweetened milk, was refreshingly decadent.

Thai salads are topped with grilled beef or deep-fried catfish with mint, cashews and green apples. I enjoyed the Ground Pork Salad ($9.45) which was loaded onto a large plate. Spicy white meat with slivered bamboo shoots, red onion, cilantro, flaked and whole dried Thai chilies and peanuts was drizzled with tart, spicy lime dressing, and served with sliced hearts of romaine lettuce.

Rather than relying on prepared curry pastes, Real Thai makes theirs from scratch with fresh leaves, and fruit from the kaffir lime tree. The nutty sweetness of brown rice goes exceptionally well with the curries, which are made to order with varying levels of heat. I like my Thai spicy, and this Kitchen doesn't disappoint. Bright Yellow Chicken Curry Breast ($9.45) held chunks of sweet potatoes in a smooth coconut milk sauce.

House specials include Spicy Basil Duck, and juicy marinated and grilled barbecue chicken. For dessert, the coconut ice cream is a treat.

Real Thai Kitchen, 1632 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-2559. Beer and wine. Serving lunch weekdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays at noon. Dinner nightly at 5 p.m. Closed Sundays. Visit ★★★

The last time I tended to tomatoes in my garden, they ripened to a beautiful crimson color, and were absolutely tasteless. This year I'm going to enjoy the same heirloom varieties enjoyed by diners at Manresa, a renowned Los Gatos restaurant (whose chef was just nominated for a Beard Award) which sources its produce from Ben Lomond's Love Apple Farm. The Farm's annual sale of more than a hundred varieties of tomatoes is underway three days a week, and April is the month to transplant them (except in colder mountain regions: wait until May.)

The Farm also provides information on raising healthy and productive plants, offers classes from building the best tomato cage to container vegetable gardening and chicken-keeping, and maintains an incredibly informative website.
Love Apple Farm, 9299 Glen Arbor Road, Ben Lomond. Plant sale Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday through May 30, 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or by appointment. Visit

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