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Apr 16th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Bread as Art

Bread as Art

From the ceiling of the little market and bakery hang piñatas of all shapes and sizes, but the bakery cases were practically empty at nine in the morning. We were quickly greeted by co-owner Jorge Hernandez who sent us into the kitchen where we selected eight just-baked pastries ($10.60) from the six-foot tall racks of colorful, sweet and savory breads in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

Although El Rosal has a huge selection, Hernandez said his bakery makes far fewer than the 500 or more varieties in Mexico's repertoire.

The Spaniards first brought wheat to the New World, and for a short time in the 1860s the French brought expert pâtissiers. Hernandez says that each of the Mayan tribes in the south and the Aztecs farther north added their own touch to these foreign influences, creating the wonderful diversity.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Hoffman’s hands reigns over to Food Network for an extreme makeover

There was suspense and drama, frustration and anticipation, showmanship and emotion. Like Roger Craig at Albertson’s, Lance Armstrong on Beach Street, and James Durbin at Loudon Nelson, this was a Santa Cruz moment. Food Network was in town.

When I read about the filming of Restaurant Impossible at Hoffman’s, I called for reservations along with every other self-professed foodie in town. Upwards of fifty redials and no luck. I felt like the Queen of Sheba on Monday when an associate said there was a seat for me.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Continuity of Community

Continuity of CommunityFrom snacks to hearty dinners and bocci ball to nightly live music, Bocci's Cellar remains an important gathering place

In the first decade of the 17th century, Mission Church planted vineyards in the area of Harvey West Park, ostensibly the first local viticulture. A few Victorian homes built a century later still stand nearby. Angelo Peter Urbani was born in one of these on Encinal Street to Italian immigrants. The family elevated their home to create a cellar underneath in which to age barrels of wine. Of Angelo's sons, Joseph is immortalized on a plaque outside of Bocci's Cellar for adding the bar and dining room that transformed the home into a gathering place for the Italian community.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

PIZZA @ burger.

PIZZA @ burger.

Some things just go together; Rum and coke, peanuts and Crackerjacks, pizza and beer. Which brings me to Mission Street's burger., where almost 50 draft beers are joined by even more bottled selections. All those beers, just begging for pizza. And burger. heard their cries.

The new offerings are wood-fired with dough and sauces made daily. The pizzas I enjoyed each had thin, cracker-crisp crusts, a seared edge here and there, and a hint of flavorful cheese.

We ordered burgers and pizzas at the counter, and beers at the bar. The burgers arrived quickly. French fries were dipped in ketchup, sweet potato fries in a vinegared Thousand Island-style tartar sauce. As my compadres took the final bites of their juicy sandwiches, making use of the abundant napkins, the first pizza arrived.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Dynamic Dining

Dynamic Dining

With an ever-changing menu, it's like a new restaurant at every visit to Main Street Garden Cafe


I find it impossible to get bored with Main Street Garden Cafe. Under the leadership of Chef Brad Briske, previously of San Francisco's Millennium and Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz, the menu incorporates pasture-raised meats, sustainable fish, house-made pasta, local wines, and local organic produce, some from the restaurant's own garden, and including eggs. It changes weekly to celebrate seasonal specialties which recently included tomatoes, watermelon, summer squash, shelling beans and Padrón peppers.

A parade of local artists display their craft on the walls and local musicians perform regularly on the restaurant's spacious patio.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Gourmet Pique-nique

Gourmet Pique-nique

Hidden at the center of the Seascape Village retail shops, Seascape Foods offers beach gear, basic groceries, local products, and gourmet food to go that can join you at beach or for a round of golf.

In the morning, enjoy a coffee drink with breakfast burritos and omelettes. The fresh house-baked muffins are always delicious. Recently, a sweet surfaced Strawberry Muffin ($2.50) with a crinkled brown crust divulged bubble gum-colored berries from its hearty interior.

A wealth of salads ($7.99 to $10.99 per pound) was displayed in the case at lunchtime including marinated tofu or gigante beans, carrot, and antipasti with roasted tomatoes. Green salads such as Greek and Caesar are also available. Entrées of Tri-tip Lasagna, Baked Mac and Cheese, Vegetarian Lasagna, and fat, sauced enchiladas waited in thick casserole dishes.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Oh, Au Midi

Oh, Au MidiAu Midi Restaurant & Bistrot raises the culinary bar

Not long after Muriel and Michel Loubiere opened Au Midi in October 2008, word quickly spread about this delightful French restaurant, and it was soon rated one of the best restaurants in the area. It has continuously maintained this status—thanks in no small part to the culinary talents of chef Muriel Loubiere.

My friend Sandy and I are greeted and seated by Michel in the warmth of the small cozy restaurant. We order a bottle of Soquel Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc ($34), an excellent pairing to go with our main dish of seafood.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Gourmet Grazing

Gourmet GrazingLast week I attended Gourmet Grazing on the Green, an annual cancer benefit put on by the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group held in Aptos Village Park. The event was hugely successful this year with a grand turnout of vendors—63 in all.
Some of the vendors were new on the scene, so it was exciting to taste their wares and get to know them. Here are two of them who participated:
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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.