Santa Cruz area restaurant news highlights through February 2015

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it's usually served with fries)

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it’s usually served with fries)

Some of this is more recent restaurant news for the Santa Cruz area, and some is much older. I recently discovered that quite a few people I know weren’t aware of certain closings, so I am distributing information that might seem out of date to those who keep on top of local restaurant news.

The Hideout opened in Aptos in January. I haven’t made it there yet, but I’ve been hearing positive comments. It’s open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9p.m. except Tuesdays, when it doesn’t open until 5 p.m. Sandwich/burger selections include Reuben, roasted vegetables with goat cheese, grilled chicken club, and a signature burger with a ground beef/bacon patty and crumbled bleu cheese (see photo above). Dinner entrees served after 5 include Merlot-braised short ribs, pistachio-crusted chicken, New York strip, and Petrale sole piccata. Several pasta dishes, soup, salads, sides, and starters round out the menu.
Location: 9051 Soquel Drive, Aptos (most recently the site of restaurant Ma Maison)
Contact Info: 688-5566,

Opening Soon
Mutari Chocolate House
is opening in early March; co-owner Adam Armstrong says they’re aiming for March 5th. He and his brother Matt will be the first tenants to officially open in the Food Lounge, the new venue from Andrea Mollenauer of Lifestyle Culinary Arts. They create their product Mutari Hot Chocolate on site. This chocolate is “Stone Ground Bean to Bottle” made from cacao that is “always certified organic and ethically traded (and mostly Rainforest Alliance Certified).”  You can enjoy hot chocolate at the Chocolate House or buy your own bottled mix to take home — it’s also sold at retailers like Artisans Gallery so you may have noticed it in the last few months. Learn more at and I got to experience a hot chocolate tasting at Mutari last fall when they had their factory at Front St. Kitchen and I really liked the varieties I sampled. The new Chocolate House will serve coffee, hot chocolate, sipping chocolate, mini cupcakes (from Buttercup), and more.

More on the Food Lounge: Mollenauer and partners Cat Hernandez and Sally Kane are launching this unique space that has lots of options including: you can throw a party there, have an event for your business, or attend a pop-up. Other tenants at the Lounge include Fogline Farms, Ocean2table, and Mortal Dumpling. Officially the Food Lounge will be an “innovative community-minded event venue, commercial incubator kitchen, and full-service food hub aimed at fueling, educating, and inspiring Santa Cruz.” Visit to sign up for the email list.
Location: 1001 Center Street, Santa Cruz

Verve Coffee is opening a new location at 1010 Fair in Westside Santa Cruz at some point in the future, in the former spot of Chimera Tattoo. This is the same plaza where Bantam Restaurant is located.

Two venues in downtown Santa Cruz on Pacific shuttered their doors:
Sushi restaurant Benten closed Jan. 31.
Noah’s Bagels closed on Feb. 24.

Santa Cruz restaurant The Greek closed at the end of November. A permit taped to one of the restaurant windows indicates a Korean eatery will be opening in the future. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mentioned that owner Vasili was retiring (yes, this is the same Vasili that formerly owned Vasili’s in Westside Santa Cruz).

Downtown Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly is now closed on both Mondays and Tuesdays. They used to be closed on Mondays, and beginning January 6 they are only open Wednesday through Sunday. This is continuing “at least through the winter months.”
Location: 1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 824-6100,

Soif is closing in late March for a few weeks, to do some remodeling.
Location: 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 423-2020,

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off Results including top-rated Pleasure Pizza

Big winner Derek Rupp & his Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery crew and family. Photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Facebook page

Big winner Derek Rupp & his Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery crew and family. Photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Facebook page

Interested to learn who made the best soup at the 2015 Santa Cruz Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off after reading my preview article? Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery, led by Derek Rupp, was a big winner – he was awarded 1st place / Best Professional by official judges in both Boston and Manhattan categories AND he won the People’s Choice award for Best Professional Manhattan.

See below for all results of the 34th annual event, which was held Feb. 21, 2015.

Top rated by judges:

Best Professional Boston

  • 1st – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery (Derek Rupp) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Local Harvest Eatery (Denna Myers) Santa Cruz
  • 3rd – Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle (Gigi Davis ) Monterey

Best Professional Manhattan

  • 1st – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery (Derek Rupp) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Seascape Resort (Matt Lamendola) Aptos
  • 3rd – Midgley’s Public House (Mike Midgely) Stockton

Best Individual Boston

  • 1st – Alerts (Kenny Simon) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Santa Cruz Kids Chowder (Tom Rumbaugh) Santa Cruz
  • 3rd – Onokine (John Ono) Watsonville

Best Individual Manhattan

  • 1st – Clam Halen (Brad Bishop) Santa Cruz
  • 2nd – Wine w/Swine (Mark Brown) San Jose
  • 3rd – Dragon Mama’s Portuguese Red (Michele Hartmangruber) Fremont

Most Original Teams

  • 1st – Clam Rock (Christopher Hirz) Gilroy
  • 2nd – Cucina Bambini (Shelly Ballard) San Jose
  • 3rd – Sir Clamalot (Barbara Defries) San Pablo

People’s Choice (Voted #1 by the Public)

  • Individual Boston – 4 Men & A Clam (Wayne Locke) Scotts Valley
  • Professional Boston – Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle (Gigi Davis) Monterey
  • Individual Manhattan – Grandma’s Clam Diggers, Janine Ponce, Aptos
  • Professional Manhattan – Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery

Most Tasted Chowders

  • 1st – Rosie’s Clam & Get It (Kitty Dixon) Soquel
  • 2nd – 4 Men & A Clam
  • 3rd – Silence of the Clams (Brian Edwards) Campbell

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off

2015 Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off

This Saturday is the 34th annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Feb. 21, 2015 chowder cook-off has free admission. If you want to eat chowder, tasting kits are $9 and include five samples plus a People’s Choice ballot. The cook-off is a fund-raiser for the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department. In 2014, the event raised more than $62,000.

Approximately 80 individuals and teams are participating, including teams from New Leaf Community Markets, Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery, Solaire Restaurant & Bar, Seascape Resort, Ideal Bar and Grill, Parish Publick House, and Kauboi Grill and Sushi.

The competition features two divisions:

• Best Individual (Amateur) – with subcategories for both Manhattan & Boston varieties
• Best Professional – with subcategories for both Manhattan & Boston varieties

Teams can choose to compete in one or both of the Manhattan & Boston categories. They are also in the running for prizes such as “Most Original.” Some participants dress in costumes such as mermaids and scuba divers.

The 2014 winners included:

  • Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery (awarded 3rd place professional by the judges in both Manhattan AND Boston categories)
  • UC Santa Cruz Dining (awarded 1st place professional by the judges AND by People’s Choice ballot in Manhattan category)
  • Ideal Bar & Grill (awarded 1st place professional by People’s Choice ballot in the Boston category, and received 2nd place in Most Tasted Overall)
  • Silence of the Clams (Brian Edwards, Campbell-awarded 1st place individual by the judges in the Boston category)

On Saturday, the Boardwalk rides will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cook-Off Schedule:

10:00 a.m. Cooking starts & tasting kits go on sale
1:00 p.m. Public tasting begins (there is also a judges’ tasting)
4:00 p.m. Winners announced

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Valentine’s Day & February events at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

There will be lots of seafood at Chaminade's Valentine's Night buffet

There will be lots of seafood at Chaminade’s Valentine’s Night buffet

Chaminade is a sweet spot to spend time with your sweetheart, with gorgeous views plus killer food and some of the most attentive and gracious staff around. And if you’ve only thought of the overnight accommodations for out of town visitors, think again—could make a great ‘staycation’ for locals!

Here are a few highlights of this month’s offerings.

Sweetheart Seafood Buffet
For Valentine’s Day dinner on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, the talented Executive Chef Kirsten Ponza and her culinary team have created a sophisticated all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that will be available from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Enjoy items like crab legs, smoked salmon, oysters on the half shell, sushi and sashimi, ceviche, and a flambé station. Dinner includes unlimited champagne, and the buffet price is $120 per person excluding tax/gratuity. After paying, each guest receives a $20 dining card valid for a future visit (not valid that evening). Reservations are required at 831-475-5600.

An Affair to Remember
During the month of February, Chaminade is offering this special package which includes overnight accommodations for two, a welcome amenity at check-in (chocolates, etc.), two glasses of wine and an appetizer at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, and wine tasting for two at MJA Vineyards. Package prices start at $229, not including tax or resort fee.  For reservations or information call 800-283-6569 or visit

Spa Package
The Spa at Chaminade has created a package featuring aphrodisiac ingredients. Available until Feb. 28, the Be My Valentine spa package includes an 80-minute side-by-side couples massage, a half bottle of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine, and four chocolate-covered strawberries.  The price is $392 (including gratuity) and that reflects a discount.  For reservations and information call The Spa at Chaminade at 831-465-3465.
Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Chaminade location: One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz

Web site:

Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley: First-class sweets for Valentine’s Day & beyond

Chocolates at Ashby Confections

Chocolates at Ashby Confections

Whether you have treats to buy for Valentine’s Day, or just want to treat yourself or someone else, Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley is a must-visit stop!

Valentine’s Day goodies include a five-piece set of heart-shaped chocolates that are each handmade and decorated.  It features a Honey Truffle, Liquid Toffee, 70% Dark Chocolate Truffle, Earl Grey Tea Truffle and a Mocha Truffle. Also, there are four-piece Valentine’s-themed sets: Aphrodisiac Truffles with either a “calming and relaxing blend” (herbs include Kava Kava) or “stimulating and invigorating” blend (includes Siberian Ginseng). Or you can create your own gift with chocolates such as Monterey Bay Sea Salt Caramels or Ceylon Cinnamon Ginger Creams.

In December 2013, chocolatier Jennifer Ashby opened the chocolate shop Ashby Confections in Scotts Valley, at 16C Victor Square. Have you visited yet? It’s chock full of tasty, award-winning chocolate made by a fabulous local artisan. This talented confectioner has lots of fans–ones like Chaminade Resort & Spa (they are utilizing her sweets in a special “An Affair to Remember” romance package this month), her many online customers (order at, and people that pick up Ashby treats when they’re grocery shopping at retailers such as New Leaf Community Markets, Shopper’s Corner, and Staff of Life.

I first became an Ashby Confections fan after tasting the amazing chocolate at the 2011 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival—they are a longtime participant of this festival that benefits UCSC re-entry students. At the January 2015 Chocolate Festival, the company received several awards: Best Truffle, Best Caramel, Most Unique Use of Chocolate, and Best in Show.

Ashby, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and the Culinary Institute of America, formed her chocolate company in 2004. Before opening the SV store, Ashby made and sold her creations at Heather’s Patisserie in Aptos.

Jennifer and her staff make everything at the shop by hand using fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever possible.  All of the chocolate is either fair trade or direct trade, and some of it is organic as well.  She regularly uses locally sourced ingredients, including ones from Route One Farms.

One chocolate she uses a lot these days is Askinosie, which is produced in Missouri by Shawn Askinosie and his team. It’s a relatively new addition to Asbhy’s confections. “It’s is single origin and sourced for either Tanzania, Ecuador, Honduras or the Philippines,” says Ashby. “We are using the chocolate from Ecuador beans in our confections now, she adds. “We also are blending our own milk chocolate in house now using the dark Ecuadorian chocolate.”  Ashby is proud to be using this chocolate.  “Shawn does direct trade with the farmers, and does profit sharing with them as well as numerous things to help the community that these beans come from, like building water wells.”  The flavor is complex, and the texture is smooth.  “The aftertaste is so pleasant.  Using his chocolate has definitely made my confections better,” says Ashby.

She has recently created several new products such as Coco Tortoise, which has caramel on toasted coconut with either milk or dark chocolate; Rosewater Marshmallows; and Dark Chocolate Truffles made with local honey. She is also coming out soon with a line of chocolate bars made with organic California olive oil and “other foods and spices that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as turmeric.”

In case anyone needs suggestions for a chocolate to try, the most popular items at the shop right now are Ghost Pepper Caramels. Ashby describes them as “pleasantly spicy with the amount of ‘kick’ that is found in medium-hot salsa…a delicious menagerie of sweet, spicy, salty and chocolatey.”  Another customer favorite is Rocky Road. But I’m sure whatever you try, you’ll enjoy. Bon Appetit! Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Store location: 16C Victor Square, Scotts Valley, 831-454-8299
Store hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue-Sat, Noon-6 p.m. Sun
Web site:

Valentine’s Day 2015: celebrating at SF and Oakland restaurants

We are one week away from Valentine’s Day 2015! If you’re planning to dine in San Francisco or Oakland for the occasion, here are a few restaurants to consider.

A16 in San Francisco
A16 is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a festive four-course menu from Executive Chef Rocky Maselli and traditional wine pairing options from Wine Director/Co-Owner Shelley Lindgren. Dish highlights include Wild Nettle and Ricotta Ravioli with green garlic and asparagus, Abalone Crudo with fava leaf and castelvetrano olive, McFarland Spring Trout with black truffle and roasted sunchoke, and Velrohono Manjari Chocolate with Hazelnut Torta and coffee mousse. The prix fixe dinner is $85 per person. Reservations can be made by visiting or calling 415-771-2216.
central kitchen
For Valentine’s Day, Chef Thomas McNaughton will be offering a special “Mine & Yours” five course tasting menu for $125 per person with optional $75 wine pairings. Highlight dishes include Lobster with Vietnamese herbs and celeriac, Maitake with black garlic and cured yolk, Duck with beet, lime and nasturtium. This evening will be reservation only, so call 415-826-7004 or book via

Celebrate Valentine’s Day all weekend long at the iconic CLIFT hotel. The weekend will kick-off with the 4th Annual Love Bitten x Love Smitten party from 9pm-2am on Friday, February 13 where Motown on Mondays DJs Gordo Cabeza, The Captain Hat, and Timoteo Gigante will provide entertainment. Free entry. See

On February 14, CLIFT’s Valentine’s Day celebration will run with the theme of First Crush – “Meet the love of your life or just for tonight.” Red Light Lit, an erotic literary journal that explores love and lust in the form of poetry, prose and song, will take over the Redwood Room from 6:30-9pm with a musical performance by Francisco Fernandez of the Ferocious Few. This sensual poetry slam will be followed by an over-the-top Valentine’s Day party from 9:30pm-2am with DJs JT Donaldson & GE-OLOGY. Admission is free. See

CLIFT will also offer a romantic Valentine’s Day package throughout the entire month of February. The First Crush package includes a bottle of champagne with chocolate covered strawberries, 20% off all services at Cowboys & Angels salon, and a complimentary glass of wine at First Crush restaurant ( in San Francisco’s Union Square. Booking details can be found here.

Grab your special someone for a romantic evening under-the sea this Valentine’s Day weekend. Farallon will offer a special five-course tasting menu from Friday to Sunday in addition to their a la carte menu. Dish highlights from Executive Chef Ryan Simas’ tasting menu include Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke with taro root chips, wakame salad, and avocado, and Seared Georges Bank Diver Scallop with french green lentils, foie gras torchon, and cognac reduction. The dinner menu will be offered at $90 per person with $70 optional wine pairings from Wine Director Luke Kenning. Reservations can be made by visiting or calling 415-956-6969 and there is a 72 hour cancellation policy.

Flour + Water
Grab your favorite partner in crime for a special valentine’s day at flour + water. Chef Thomas McNaughton and his team have created a four-course menu for $95 per person highlighting some of their favorite dishes of the season.  Flour + Water’s wine director has worked with the culinary team to pair some unique selections with the menu. Wine pairing is optional for the evening, but the menu is set for the restaurant. Make your reservations online via

Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Luce with dinner prepared by a Michelin-star chef Daniel Corey, who will be preparing a three course menu of seasonal, California fare with dish highlights including Handmade Ricotta Tortellini with green asparagus, hazelnuts, and delicate herbs, Yellowfin Tuna slowly poached in California Olive Oil with baby artichokes, and green garlic, and Textures of Lemon Verbena with buttermilk panna cotta. The prix fixe dinner is $82 per person, with a complimentary glass of Rosé upon arrival. Make reservations at or call 415-616-6566.

Presidio Social Club
For Valentine’s Day, Presidio Social Club is offering three special cocktails, in addition to three new dishes which will be offered throughout the month of February. Cocktails, all $13, include:

  • The First Blush (Calvados, Lemon, Brut Rosé, and Apple Chip Garnish),
  • Afternoon Delight (Riesling, Framboise, Crème de Pêche, Peychaud’s Bitters, garnished with a floating rose petal)
  • Love Potion #563 (Aperol, lemon, and Sparkling Wine, with a long lemon twist garnish)

Valentine’s Day desserts include:

  • PSC Brownie Banana Split for two with Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Salted Caramel ($12)
  • Roasted Marcona Olive Oil Almond Cake ($8)

Three new dishes available for the month of February include:

  • Bistecca for Two (36 oz bone-in Beef Porterhouse) with Oven Roasted Broccoli and Twice Baked Potatoes
  • Chilled Seafood Selection (Mendocino Uni, Shigoku Oysters, and Hawaiian Ahi Tuna—can be ordered separately or to share)
  • PSC Chopped Salad with Red Wine and Pork Belly Vinaigrette

Rose Pistola
North Beach institution Rose Pistola, bringing classic Italian dishes to its many loyal fans over the years, is offering a special Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu for $60 per person in addition to the regular menu. Valentine’s Day dish highlights include Beet and Goat Cheese Agnolotti with tarragon burro fuso, Quail al Mattone with mushroom-Parmesan pudding and caramelized carrots, and Pan Roasted Branzino with fennel pollen and mussels cream sauce, and Chocolate Mousse with raspberry macaroon. Reservations can be made via or by calling the restaurant at 415-399-0499.

This Valentine’s Day, Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino of SPQR will be offering a three-course prix fixe lunch for $48 per person and a five-course prix fixe dinner for $90 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by emailing or by calling 415-771-7779.
Top of the Mark at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins
Top of the Mark provides an unforgettable setting for the most romantic day of the year with a five-course dinner on Saturday, February 14 starting at 7:30 for $495 per couple. This dinner includes one bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé, live entertainment from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and a rosé for lady guests. Highlights of the night’s menu include Sturgeon Caviar with blinis and creme fraiche, Maine Lobster and Wagyu Beef with salsify, espelette, and artichoke truffle jus, and Valrhona Chocolate with strawberry meringue, almond, and Grand Marnier. A separate menu is available for vegetarian guests. Dinner guests will automatically be entered into a drawing for a one-night stay in the luxurious Presidential Suite, valid on Valentine’s Day. Reservations required. Please call 415-616-6941.

InterContinental Mark Hopkins Romance Packages
Couples can enjoy the city lights with a special dinner experience available from Saturday, February 7 through Friday, February 13. The Head over Heels package guarantees guests a highly coveted window table at Top of the Mark, a bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé, a special appetizer, a chocolate dessert, a framed souvenir photo, and a rose for lady guests ($250). Guests can indulge a bit further with the Endless Love package, which includes the Head over Heels package along with a bottle of Dom Perignon ($450). Reservations are required.
Salumeria – Make Valentine’s Day Dinner at Home
This Valentine’s Day, Salumeria in bringing back their flour + water pasta project for $45 plus tax, ideal for two people. Stay in this Valentine’s Day and cook at home by trying something new with flour + water. The kit includes all you need to make Beet and Rose Caramelle with Ricotta, Truffle & Whey Champagne. Make it a complete meal by adding on cured meats & cheeses, chocolate budinos or go big with the addition of the blini kit. Order online or by calling 415-471-2998.

East Bay
A16 Rockridge in Oakland
Celebrate Valentine’s Day at A16 Rockridge with a four-course menu prepared by Executive Chef Rocky Maselli and wine pairings from director/co-owner Shelley Lindgren. Valentine’s Day dish highlights include Buffalo Ricotta Gnocchi with green garlic and asparagus, Lucky Dog Ranch Prime Rib Roast with spinach, carrot, and salsa verde, and Chocolate Espresso Mousse with dark chocolate ganache, cacao nib, and amaro caramel. The prix fixe dinner is $75 per person. Reservations can be made by calling 510-768-8003 or visiting

If you’re on Twitter, please follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Discounts/events at Santa Cruz & Capitola New Leaf & Whole Foods

Whole Foods is offering a kids’ Valentine cookie class

Whole Foods is offering a kids’ Valentine cookie class

During February, there are a few upcoming events—plus some discounts ending soon—at New Leaf Community Markets and Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz and Capitola.

New Leaf:
February 7-8, get 50% off select chocolate items (treat yourself or do early Valentine shopping!)

Feb. events at Westside location include:
Love & Chocolate

You don’t need a significant other to join this cooking class focused on love, self-care and sensuality. Join Talya Lutzker, Certified Ayurvedic practitioner and chef in making decadent chocolate treats and homemade body care recipes that nurture self-care and sensuality for you or a loved one. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb 11, $40 per person or $70 for 2.
1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. Preregistration required.

Foodie Crafts for Kids – Make a Valentine’s Gift
Kids 16 and under are invited to make a unique picture frame using organic ingredients they can give as a gift, using dried lentils, quinoa, rice and pasta. This is a free, drop-in event, with no preregistration required. It’s taking place at three New Leaf stores at three different times from Feb 11 through Feb 13.

  • Downtown store: Wed, Feb 11, Noon to 2p.m.
  • Capitola store: Thurs, Feb 12, 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
  • Westside store: Fri, Feb 13, 4-6 p.m.

Learn more at

Store Contact Info

Westside Location: 1101 Fair Ave, Santa Cruz, (831) 426-1306
Downtown SC Location: 134 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, (831) 425-1793
Capitola Location: 1210 41st Ave, Capitola, (831) 479-7987

There are also locations in Half Moon Bay, Felton, San Jose, Pleasanton, and Boulder Creek

Whole Foods
Customer Appreciation Week at WFM Capitola & Santa Cruz ends Feb. 8.
Free coffee and tea daily from 8-11 a.m. through Sun, Feb. 8 (both locations)
Free BBQ lunch Sat, Feb. 7 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Capitola) and from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Santa Cruz)

Other events include:
Kids cookie decorating class with Valentine’s Day theme, 5-6 p.m. Tues, Feb. 10 – Capitola location
$10/child; call 464-2900 to reserve a spot

Learn more at

Contact Info for Santa Cruz/Capitola

Whole Foods Market Santa Cruz is located at 911 Soquel Ave. Call (831) 426-9901 for more information.

Whole Foods Market Capitola is located at 1710 41st Ave. Call (831) 464-2900 for more information.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Get a free burrito when you order tofu sofritas at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill is offering a special promotion: anyone that orders vegan organic sofritas on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 will get a free burrito during their next visit.

How it works: order an item with sofritas (tofu) as the filling at any Chipotle in the U.S. or Canada. It can be a burrito, a bowl, some tacos, or a salad. Bring your receipt back between Jan. 27 and Feb. 28 and get a free item of your choice: a burrito, bowl, salad, or order of tacos.

Chipotle added sofritas to its menu a couple years ago. It was first tested in a few markets including Northern California in April 2013. A big success, it was soon added to all locations. It’s made from shredded tofu braised with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. FYI, it’s not just for vegetarians—it satisfies a carnivore like me. I have enjoyed sofritas many times! Chipotle uses organic, non-GMO tofu from Oakland’s Hodo Soy (learn more at

Wondering about the name? Chipotle says its sofritas are inspired by the Spanish word sofrito– a popular cooking base used for stews, rice and beans in Spanish and Latin American culture.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.

Saratoga Mountain Winery hosts three crab feed benefits with live music

Crab at a past Mountain Winery crab feed benefit. Photo courtesy of Mountain Winery

Crab at a past Mountain Winery crab feed benefit. Photo courtesy of Mountain Winery

The Mountain Winery in Saratoga is offering three Sunday crab feed benefits in January and February: January 25, Feb. 1, and Feb. 8. The cost is $75 for adults, $35 for kids 3-11, and free for kids under 3. Beverages will be sold separately, and gratuity is not included. Advance ticket purchase is required; visit for details or to buy tickets.

The event takes place at the winery’s Historic Winery Building. For the price of admission, each person receives fresh, Half Moon Bay crab plus lots of other food: there will be a chef-attended pasta stations, garlic bread, salad, and dessert.

A 2014 attendee commented on Yelp: “The buffet offered Caesar salad, coleslaw, pasta, tortellini, cold crab and seasoned hot crab…everything was outstanding…the crab was generously sized, which made it quite easy to enjoy ample amounts of meat with ease…I must have had more crab this evening than any other time in my life combined!  The staff was outstanding, very attentive and…also very generous with the garlic bread that was being delivered to our table.  Half dazed and in crab coma, I was faced with a lemon bar garnished with raspberry sauce dessert to finish things off.  They also brought out steaming hot washcloths to wipe our hands and faces off with, a very nice touch to an already successful crab feast!”

Each crab feed begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. When you buy your ticket, you can choose either a 4 p.m., 5 p.m., or 6 p.m. seating. But that doesn’t mean you only have an hour to eat. For example, if you choose 4, you can stay until the end. The separate seatings and staggered arrival times are for the purpose of eliminating long lines. Parking is free during the crab feeds.

During each event, there will be live music:

  • Jan. 25 — Magnolia Jazz Band
  • Feb. 1 — Hootenanny (acoustic rock/pop band)
  • Feb. 8 — Harmony Grits Bluegrass Band

A portion of proceeds benefits The Mountain Winery Kids’ Foundation, which provides grants to charitable programs that support a target population of disadvantaged or “at risk” children in the Santa Clara county. Past grant recipients include the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley (allowed the after-school Sports, Fitness and Recreation program to serve additional children daily), National Hispanic University (hands-on mathematics and science program for at-risk middle schoolers), and the San Jose Science Workshop (providing significantly at-risk neighborhood children 8 years and older with hands-on projects in science, technology and literacy). Learn more at

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.
The Details
Crab Feed Benefits
Sunday Jan. 25, Feb. 1, and Feb. 8 from 4-8 p.m.
Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Rd., Saratoga
$75 for adults; $35 for kids 3-11

2015 Big Sur Foragers Festival Fungus Face Off Results

A winning dish from Carmel Valley Ranch with chanterelle, black trumpet, hedgehog mushrooms plus short ribs on a garlic crostini with sea salt and red radishes, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch Facebook page

A winning dish from Carmel Valley Ranch with chanterelle, black trumpet, hedgehog mushrooms plus short ribs on a garlic crostini with sea salt and red radishes, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch Facebook page

If you’re curious who won the Fungus Face Off at last weekend’s Big Sur Foragers Festival, I have the results. If you’re not familiar with the festival, it’s an annual weekend of gourmet food, first-rate wine and beer, entertainment, expert-led foraging hikes and the Fungus Face Off that is described as a “friendly chef competition with celebrity judges.” The event also raises funds for the Big Sur Health Center. This year’s Big Sur Foragers Festival raised more than $30,000.

For the Face Off, celebrity judges included Jim Dodge, Mike Hale of the Monterey Herald, Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times, and Wendy Brodie. Attendees had an opportunity to taste along with the judges and to cast their vote for “People’s Choice.” Participating restaurants were The Restaurant at Ventana Inn Executive Chef Paul Corsentino, Chef Sean Garrett, Fernwood, Chef Johnny DeVivo, Porter’s in the Forest at Poppy Hills, Chef Phillip Burrus, Esalen, Chef Tim Wood, Carmel Valley Ranch, Chef Evan Lite, The Beach House at Lover’s Point; Chef Brendan Esons, Big Sur Roadhouse; Chef Tony Baker, Montrio Bistro / Baker’s Bacon and Chef Steve Johnson and Mike Behan, TusCA Ristorante at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

Here are the Face Off results:

Winner of Best Dish Using Wine and People’s Choice Award Winner: Carmel Valley Ranch
Chanterelle, black trumpet, hedgehog mushrooms with short ribs on a garlic crostini with sea salt and red radishes

Winner of Dish Most Easily Adapted to Home Cooking: The Beach House at Lovers Point
Mushroom and pork Suigow with shitake, oyster, porcini and portabella mushrooms with a truffle soy butter

Winner of Most Nutritious and Healthy: Big Sur Roadhouse
Drinks with a variety of marinated wild mushrooms (Drinks include Wood Sorrel Ale; Huckleberry Fizz with Big Sur Spring Water and Pine Needle Bay Laurel and Spearmint Tea with Big Sur Honey)

Winner of Best Use of Local Ingredients: The Restaurant at Ventana
Candy Cap mushroom ravioli fried with chanterelle mushrooms, black truffle puree in a chanterelle mushroom broth with pickled chanterelles

Winner of Most Inventive Use of Ingredients: Porter’s in the Forest
Mushrooms 5 ways:  Pine nut aioli, fried lentil, burnt meringue (Mushrooms were pickled, roasted and sautéed and finished with chili sea salt)

Winner of Best Cooking Technique: Fernwood
Pork and chanterelle meatloaf with chanterelle butter gravy and a lemon microgreen salad  (The meatloaf was made with 4 kinds of pork and Fernwood house made bacon)

Winner of Best Vegetarian Dish: Esalen
Wild fennel salad with Esalen garden herbs, puree of Coke Farm celery root and pickled chanterelles

Winner of Best Table Display: Big Sur Bakery
Mushroom puppies with pate and Choux puffs with black trumpets, wild rice and hints of Umeboshi

Winner of Judges Pick for Best Overall: Montrio and Bakers Bacon
Black trumpet mushroom tart, dock candy cap jelly, Foie Gras parfait, Bakers Bacon and pine needle syrup

Winner of Dish with Most Complex Flavors: TusCA Ristorante Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa 
Sea scallop with coconut carrot broth, roasted shitake mushrooms, fresh Enoki mushrooms, lime caviar as well as a Thai basil leaf

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