Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 19th
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Last Chance for Decadence

Dining_MarinisBefore 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.

Many people covet sweet creaminess. At the corner of 41st Avenue and Portola Road, Verve’s fresh coffee is made from a selection of single-origin beans, roasted daily. Even late in the afternoon, every table was occupied, with laptops unfolded absorbing free wi-fi. The soothing warmth of a small Latte ($3.50) or rich Mocha ($4), (not to mention the pastries), will be fondly missed by many as we try to make a habit of enjoying our cup of joe black.

Just around the corner from Verve, decadent treats at Original Sin top my list. A mini-cheesecake ($6.50) drizzled with chocolate is rich enough to serve four. With reduced winter hours, (they’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), it’s comforting to know I can find their sweets inside New Leaf Market at the intersection of Pacific and Soquel Avenues, which just happens to be one of the most fragrant corners in town.

The sweet cinnamon scent of warm snickerdoodles led me across the street and through the door of Pacific Cookie Company. I had my sights set on a chocolate chip cookie ($1). Guarding my treasure, I found a sunny patch on the sidewalk and savored the crisp edge, soft center, and chips that melted quickly on my tongue.

I’ve found that the number one craving in weight loss circles is ice cream, so I toddled on down to Marini’s, where unique concoctions like Horchata join old-fashioned Rocky Road.

Oh, but wait! There’s fudge, and truffles, and caramel-almond turtles!  “Stay focused,” I thought, as I ordered a Hot Fudge Sundae  ($4.95). The woman next to me exclaimed, “Oh, I could just swim in that!,” as she eyed the overfilled traditional sundae glass. I grazed  on the mountain of fluffy whipped cream, digging deeper and deeper until I encountered the ball of butterscotch-marble ice cream. Rich, but not overly sweet, I savored its creamy texture. I wondered if shoppers thought it odd to be having a sundae for supper as I plunged the long spoon down into the warm fudge mixed with crunchy almonds.

So as we welcome 2010, I offer a toast to Marini’s Chocolate Fudge (no, I couldn’t resist). May every aspect of the New Year be rich and satisfying!

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