Santa Cruz Good Times

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Apr 20th
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Dynamic Dining

dining_mainstWith 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.

We arrived at 8:15 without reservations on a Friday night, and patiently awaited a table in the crimson-walled foyer for 30 minutes. The aroma of the night's special lamb dishes kicked our appetites into overdrive. Once seated, our knowledgeable server explained a number of unique ingredients in the evening's menu.

We began with a shared plate of two ocean-salted, skin-on Cured Wood-fired Sardines ($11) which joined blackened Padrón peppers and cubes of crisp pork belly fat on a bed of sautéed garden arugula and shaved fennel.

Briske has a penchant for charcuterie, making Porchetta di testa "caprese" ($17) a "must try." Made by rolling a pig's face into a fat sausage shape, and cooking slowly at 200 degrees, the thin striated slices of soft, fatty meat were joined by heirloom tomatoes striped with red and yellow, fresh, white anchovies, kalamata olives, arugula from the garden, and topped with shavings of sharp, salty pecorino cheese.

I can't say no to pizza, especially when it's wood-fired ($17). Oiled arugula dining_mainsttwilted atop marinated red onions, more Porchetta di testa, a bit of smoked potato purée and treccione cheese.

From the night's local lamb specials, which could be ordered as five courses for two ($60) or a la carte, we enjoyed the combination lamb entrée ($25). A bed of plump, cinnamon-scented shelling beans, the size of peanuts but as firm and plump as olives, supported sweet, ground lamb sausage, a rare cut of loin, and a piece of tender shoulder.

For the finale, a sliver of Flourless Chocolate Torte ($8) was tender and bittersweet, decorated with whole raspberries, tart raspberry syrup and tiny chocolate gratings.


Main St. Garden and Cafe, 3101 N. Main St., Soquel, 477-9265. Beer and wine. Serving dinner Tuesday through Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and lunch Saturday and Sunday from noon. Visit mainstreetgardencafe.com


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Enjoy Maine Lobster under the redwoods when Mountain Parks Foundation presents the 17th annual Henry Cowell Lobster Feed.

Highway One bluegrass band will serenade diners in picnic area 1, which can be reached from the park's Highway 9 entrance which is one mile south of Graham Hill Rd.

The meal includes a 1 1/2-pound Maine lobster, salad, corn on the cob, ice cream and cookies. Proceeds benefit environmental and cultural education at Big Basin and Henry Cowell State Parks.


Henry Cowell Lobster Feed,  from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday Oct. 8, (dinner between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m.). $60 per person. Please visit mountainparks.org.

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Sugar: The New Tobacco?

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