Feeding the Spirit at Soif

I discovered Soif Wine Bar & Merchants at the end of one of Those Weeks. Kid One was too sick to go to school, but well enough to want to make things. Like marble-and-wire wizard rings and dried apple mandrake heads from a wizard how-to book Grandma got him for his last birthday. Kid Two was sick, too, but well enough to rub clay-dough into the rug and blame it on his brother. Errands and chores multiplied at dizzying speed; on top of the usual dry cleaning, shoes needed repair, and the broken washing machine wouldn’t be fixed for a week.

Riva House Reminiscences

Every family needs a dependable, kid-friendly restaurant, one with enough of a variety of menu items to interest the adults and familiar enough for children. Ours was Riva House. Our family Riva House tradition goes back to when LL and I were dating, and we would stop in for spring rolls, clam chowder and a glass of wine at the bar to visit with a friend who worked there.

Reinventing the Crepe

I had lunch at The Crepe Place with a friend who has been doing a great deal of her own cooking lately. She has been busy reinventing the “comfort food” of her childhood into dishes that are, well, healthier. We started with a pot of chai at one of the small tables against the wall in the back room, and she told me about her latest meal reincarnations. Hamburger Helper evolved into turkey sausage with brown rice and peas.

Caffeine and rational thought at Verve

Caffeine and rational thought at Verve

I’ve long thought that there was very little scientific and technological progress in the Middle Ages because – seeing as water quality was dicey at best – people sat around drinking beer and hard cider all day. Nothing like a steady diet of strong mead to fuel superstition and conflict, right? It’s not by chance the Age of Enlightenment coincided with the mainstream availability of coffee. An entire continent shook off a centuries-long muddled haze and embraced the caffeine-fueled investigation of rational thought.

Santa Cruz’s age of Aquarius

Santa Cruz’s age of Aquarius

There really aren’t that many restaurants in Santa Cruz County that have an excellent ocean view with equally engaging food. And THAT is why I love Aquarius restaurant at the Dream Inn. The Dream Inn is the coastline’s tallest multi-story hotel that had probably gotten to be a little shabby by the time LL proposed to me there all those years ago, but in recent years received an upscale hipster-worthy remodel from new management Joie de Vivre along with a total foodie remake of the restaurant, newly christened Aquarius. I LOVE this place . . .  LL and I go there a few times a year for lunch when schedules permit – are we really that busy?? This Monday, there were only three other tables seated, and we sat watching some hardcore couple in wetsuits playing kettleball in the surf with a couple of sea lions peeking their shiny heads up from the sea. If you ever are traveling along the coast between San Jose and Monterey, this is one restaurant worth stopping for both the food and the view – and it’s even a hotel restaurant. I’ve dug up a few photos for you to see why: Artisan reuben sandwich I say "artisan" because the pastrami came from Santa Cruz's own El Salchichero butcher shop, home of locally raised meats and artistry in the hands of owner Chris LaVeque. Then the sauerkraut isn't just any sauerkraut - it's Farmhouse Culture, also a Santa Cruz creation. Aromatic, spicy, and delicious. The scene of the crime The Dream Inn, now a Joie de Vivre-managed property, houses Aquarius. It's also where...
A Heavenly breakfast

A Heavenly breakfast

There’s a great breakfast place in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, between Scotts Valley and Felton, California – the Heavenly Cafe. It’s filled with roadside country charm and offers something for everyone, from oatmeal to a full bar. It’s good enough to seek out if you ever find yourself, say, driving from the San Jose Airport to Santa Cruz or Monterey for a vacation and want to start out with some good food and local flavor, or if you are like LL and me that day and were headed to buy some cheese-making supplies at the totally awesome Mountain Feed and Farm Supply and thought to make a morning of it. I had their quesadilla con todo, flour tortilla filled with a turkey, mushroom, onion, cheese, and salsa mixture that was delicious but sadly didn’t photograph well. But here is a photo of LL’s eggs benedict. Quite racy, hmmm? Here is the link to their address and map. Be sure to go, if you ever are in the neighborhood. Tell me what you...
A real taste of Santa Cruz at El Salchichero

A real taste of Santa Cruz at El Salchichero

California Highway One becomes Mission Street for several miles on the west side of Santa Cruz, as you learn whether you are driving south, making the c-shaped curve around the Monterey Bay, or north, hugging the open sea on your way to Half Moon Bay. Don’t drive too quickly, even if the traffic is light, or you’ll miss some of the foodie treasures the town has to offer. Stop for a cappuccino at The Abbey, a cool little coffee and art lounge hidden behind the Vintage Faith church, then for a brown sugar milk caramel bar from the famous Donnelly Fine Chocolates in an unassuming storefront near the road up to UCSC. And for the ultimate taste of Santa Cruz, turn into the Swift Street Courtyard, where – along with the local winery and brewery tasting rooms – brightly painted ceramic pigs mark the entrance to el Salchichero. Here you’re just one bronze sausage-link door handle away from the best local artisan meat around.   El Salchichero is an actual old-timey butcher shop, where the tasty locavore twist is the products come from regionally sourced and humanely raised animals. Shopping here is a vote for sustainability, goodness, and respect for your food, as well as for supporting local business. Plus, when you eat a burger that came from a cow that grazed on those grassy slopes looking out over the Pacific. It’s a very real taste of Santa Cruz. Take advantage of owner Chris la Veque’s butchery wizardness to get uncommon cuts like beef bavette and pork secreto as well as pate, rillettes, chicharrones, even whole rabbit. On the smokehouse side, Chris makes his own bacon...