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Apr 16th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Fine Fast Food

Fine Fast Food

Next door to the renowned Bittersweet Bistro sits Bittersweet Express. More than a deli, this smaller sister caters to people on the go with an array of prepared and made-to-order specialties.

The long list of steaming beverages includes cappuccino, mocha chai, and white hot chocolate. In the mornings, breakfast burritos grilled like panini are filled with eggs, cheese, potatoes, onions and choice of meat.

At lunch, the handful of tightly packed tables inside were occupied, so we took a seat on the spacious front patio. Encircled by potted shrubs, healthy Peruvian lilies bloomed brightly, and numerous water bowls were filled for canine companions.

An Artichoke-Swiss Bacon Melt ($8), hot and crisp from the panini press, featured three smoky strips of bacon, their chewy ends extending beyond the long Cuban roll.  A hearty slice of melted cheese, sweet caramelized onions and herby artichoke pesto completed this satisfying sandwich.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Critic's Picks

Critic's Picks

No matter your mood, there's a local restaurant to thrill you

I'm often asked to name my favorite local restaurant, which is an impossible task because it depends on what I need. Is it spice, greens, romance, comfort, or camaraderie? I love the pizza at five places, and if I crave a fast food burger, does that make it the best in town?

So I've looked back at the 100-plus restaurants I've written about this year, and come up with my most memorable culinary experiences.

I love to try new foods, and this year we welcomed back Vasili Karagiannopoulos at his The Greek in downtown Santa Cruz. Imam Bayaldi, a baked eggplant dish stuffed with tomatoes, pine nuts and feta, was one of the most flavorful vegetarian dishes I have experienced.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Herbal Essence

Herbal Essence

Black China Bakery Café has added dinner time to its repertoire three nights a week. Initially sharing the patio and back room of an interior design studio, the café now occupies the entire building.

A Cheese Plate ($12.50) was listed on the specials board, so I chose a bottle of Valcantera old-vine Spanish Grenache ($19); a bit spicy, smooth, and with a dry finish. Three cheeses were sprinkled with fresh rosemary needles. A medium-hard, sharp, Petit Basque sheep's milk cheese, semi-ripe Brie, and a semi-soft wine-soaked cheese were joined by large, plump, soft dates, colossal green olives, and skinned almonds, and served with rustic bread. Hunger pangs subsided as we nibbled through the textures and flavors; sweet, crunchy, earthy, briny, and creamy.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Last Chance for Decadence

Last Chance for Decadence

Before New Year’s resolutions take hold, ’tis the season to indulge

Each year-end brings reflection and subsequent goal-setting. For  those of us who resolve to eat healthier, lose weight, or both, Jan. 2 is a day of reckoning. We have but one week to engage in what many would-be dieters fondly refer to as their last supper; when we indulge on favorite foods without remorse.

When skinless chicken breasts become de rigueur, I crave wicked protein. I treated myself to a large Togo’s #9, relatively unchanged  from the one I enjoyed at their first store in a rustic cabin-like structure near San Jose State. Warm, finely shaved, seasoned pastrami, its edges rimmed with thin strips of peppered fat, was stuffed into a large white roll with pickles, tomatoes, whole pepperoncini peppers, crisp shredded lettuce and red onion.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary

I’ve often made a mental note when traveling Mt. Hermon Road to stop at Auntie Mame’s. I’m sorry it took me so long.

It’s bright inside this corner storefront in an aging retail building, where a long, shiny wooden lunch counter was immaculate. The walls held historic photographs, one of which sparked memories of reindeer-drawn sleigh rides at Santa’s Village amusement park.

You’ll find all of your morning favorites on the extensive breakfast menu, which is served all day. Creative specials were listed on the white board, which included Huevos Potatoes ($7.50); home fries layered with eggs, cheese, salsa and green onions.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Sushi Safari

Sushi Safari

On 41st Avenue, Pink Godzilla and Miyako each offer unique Japanese specialties

Capitola's 41st Avenue is home to numerous sushi restaurants. Miyako, across from the mall, is a full-service Japanese Restaurant. During a weekday lunch hour, the buffet ($9.95) was popular, stocked with tempura asparagus, seaweed and red bell pepper relish, fried tofu, chicken drumsticks, and glass noodle sauté.

But I was surfing for sushi. On the helpful laminated placemats, photographs of sashimi were identified by both their Japanese and English names. I ordered Lunch Special #3 ($12.95), with seven pieces of nigiri sushi chosen by the chef.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Viva la Sopa

Viva la Sopa

Just before the days begin to lengthen, and the air is frigid as if snow-kissed, all I can think about is a bowl of homemade soup.

I heard good words about the Carne en su Jugo beef soup ($6) at Taqueria Santa Cruz, and as it turns out, it's the restaurant's signature dish. After placing my order at the counter, I picked a sunny plump booth by the window. Spanish-language ESPN2 was recounting the weekend's events on two flat screen televisions at either end of the long dining room.

Soon, a large bowl was delivered to my table with a foil package of steaming, aromatic corn tortillas. In the clear broth, which was sprinkled with finely minced cilantro and white onions, floated large pieces of green avocado. I squeezed wedges of lime into the soup, and crumbled the crisply fried dried red peppers onto its surface.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

In-and-Out

In-and-Out

Backstage Lounge quickly dishes up lusciously flavored organic Asian-fusion specialties

Culinary integrity in the midtown-Seabright neighborhood just keeps getting better. And newcomer Backstage Lounge continues the trend, serving Asian-inspired dinners nightly by the Rio Theatre.

Many inexperienced restaurateurs have come and gone at this location since the charming Bea and her Koffee Kup retired. Although the Lounge may be new to the neighborhood, the proprietor, David Jackman, is no neophyte. He has owned Chocolate at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a decade, and before that, So Say We.

Tablecloths with shiny copper-colored brocades of Asian motifs shimmered in the small room where lights with faceted glass shades hung from the ceiling. Bright blue walls added excitement, and an array of jazzy music like you might hear in a 1940s supper club supported the classy ambiance.

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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.