Tag Archives: Rio Grill

Foodie Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Local gifts, part 4

One of the gift boxes available through the El Pajaro CDC (Community Development Corporation) Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program
Photo courtesy of EPCDC

Here is part four of my foodie holiday gift guide to support local small businesses. I’ll try to post another guide in a couple days. Happy shopping & stay safe out there!

Also see:

Note: past installments include events that have already taken place, but they also mention local businesses you can still support!

Food Gift Boxes from local entrepreneurs

There are two upcoming Kitchen Pop-Ups at El Pajaro CDC, 23 E. Beach St., in Watsonville. The pop-ups include artisan food products for sale, both separately and as part of holiday food boxes that contain enticing product combinations. I have tasted most of these products and they are fantastic. Hours are 3-7 p.m. on two Fridays: Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. Shoppers may order holiday gift boxes at epcdc.square.site, and curbside pickup is available. At this site, you can also order ahead and pick up selected boxes at the Saturday Westside Santa Cruz or Sunday Live Oak farmers market. Some of the entrepreneurs’ products are El Pajaro CDC jam (organic berry jam); Hakouya (miso dressing) Il Biscotto (Italian cookies); Mary’s Fruit Tarts (shortbread cookies); My Mom’s Mole (dry mole mix); Rogue Pye (assorted hand pies); Santa Cruz Balsamics (flavored balsamic vinegars); Scrumptious Fish & Chips (condiment sauce); Teresa’s Salsas (fresh salsas); The Green Waffle (assorted flavors of waffles); and Yoli’s Adobo (sauce). The EPCDC Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program offers a fully equipped, shared-use facility to help culinary entrepreneurs start or expand food businesses. Learn more at elpajarocdc.org. Since they launched seven years ago, they have helped more than 60 businesses. To shop, visit epcdc.square.site.

Packaged Meals

Have people to shop for that don’t have time for cooking or don’t like cooking? You might consider a gift certificate to a business that offers prepared meals. These three local companies offer pickup and delivery options, with menus rotating weekly. I have been a happy customer ordering from all of them!

Foodsmith, based in Soquel, has paleo, vegan, and keto meals with organic produce. You pick from breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, for two, three, five, or six days. One recent paleo meal was Carne Asada Barbacoa Plate (grass fed beef with roasted peppers, sweet onions, dry-farmed tomatoes, butternut, chili-braised collards, cauliflower rice and avocado lime crema). Since 2017, Foodsmith has donated over 60,000 meals to people in need—including, this year, 1,500 meals to Grey Bears this holiday season (for those who are homebound) and meals to local hospital workers helping fight the pandemic. Buy gift certificates here. For more info, visit myfoodsmith.com.

Golden Roots Kitchen in Scotts Valley offers gluten-free organic dishes. Some are vegetarian or vegan, including the weekly frittata and a recent Roasted Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad, and a few feature pasture-raised animal proteins including Fogline Farm chicken. Founder and executive chef Melanie Geist emphasizes a farm-to-table philosophy and takes extra steps like “soaking and sprouting to make our plant based food more digestible and bio-available.” Buy gift certificates here. Also, next week they will be offering packaged snacks like warm olives, pan toasted nuts and chai spice molasses cookies and featuring Hanloh Thai Food’s pad Thai kit. “We think this kit would make a really fun gift,” says Melanie. For more info, visit goldenrootskitchen.com.

Golden Roots Kitchen has featured select dishes from Hanloh Thai Food for the last few months, and recently Hanloh joined the same Scotts Valley commercial kitchen as GRK. Hanloh’s founder/chef Lalita Kaewsawang, a former staff member of Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, offers a rotating menu of what she calls “Thai comfort food and country-style cooking.” Recent dishes have included vegan green curry (vegetables from Spade and Plow and Windmill Farm), Drunken Noodles, Son-in-Law Eggs, and charcoal-grilled lemongrass chicken. Buy gift cards here. For more info, visit hanloh.com.

Monterey County

The next Big Sur Foragers Festival, an annual benefit for the Big Sur Health Center, was slated for January 2021. Like many events, it’s pivoting to a virtual format—and tickets for one of these offerings, a raffle, would make a great gift. Prizes include a family ‘staycation’ (a suite at beloved Carmel inn Hofsas House plus a gift card for Lugano’s Swiss Bistro, which I still haven’t made it to!), a $500 gift card to popular Moss Landing restaurant Haute Enchilada (one of my favorites when I drive down the coast), and a restaurant trifecta with gift cards from Tarpy’s, Montrio Bistro, and Rio Grill (the first two are Monterey and the latter is Carmel—all wonderful spots). Tickets are only $5 or 6 for $25 and you get to choose which prize(s) you’re trying for. Visit bigsurforagersfestival.org/raffle for more information and a downloadable form.  

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Three Sunday events: Soif & Ocean2table in Santa Cruz, fire benefit with food/wine at Monterey Aquarium

Santa Cruz’s Soif hosts 4th annual waiters race

Santa Cruz’s Soif hosts 4th annual waiters race

There are many food and wine and events this weekend in the Santa Cruz and Monterey area. Here are details on three occuring Sunday, Aug. 7: a fun waiters race at Soif, a delicious seafood and wine popup with Ocean2table and MJA Vineyards, and an epic benefit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with more than 20 chefs and wineries.


Noon to 3pm: Waiters Race at Soif

Soif Restaurant & Merchants is hosting the fourth annual Waiters Race on Walnut Avenue.  As in previous years, three-person teams from several area restaurants will navigate an outdoor course, demonstrating many of the skills members of the service industry bring to work every day.  The event is billed as “not only a friendly competition among area restaurants, but also a celebration of the skill and dedication of members of the service industry.” This event is free; teams from Soif, Woodstock’s Pizza, 99 Bottles, Ulterior @Motiv, and Assembly are participating. The three judges are David Kinch (chef/owner of Michelin 3 Star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos and owner of Bywater in Los Gatos, he’s a Santa Cruz resident); Sue Slater (Department Chair/Instructor in Cabrillo College’s Department of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management); and Paul Mekis (Director of Wine for Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and winner of an SF waiters race many years ago).

Location: 105 Walnut, Santa Cruz


5 to 8pm: Ocean2table Pescetarian Popup at MJA Vineyards

MJA Vineyards is hosting a popup with Ocean2table. There will be several a la carte dishes available featuring Ocean2table seafood and there will be optional wine pairings. Food dishes are subject to change depending on what the fishermen catch on Saturday. All seafood is local, wild and sustainable and all vegetables are local and organic. A tentative menu includes sablefish cakes drizzled in spicy garlic aioli; lettuce wraps with pan-fried lingcod, parsnip slaw and chipotle crema; tacos with pan-fried petrale from Half Moon Bay; and wild morel mushroom soup.

Location: 328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz


6 to 8pm: Soberanes Fire Relief Benefit at the Aquarium

The Monterey-based restaurant group Downtown Dining (Tarpy’s Roadhouse, Montrio Bistro, Rio Grill) is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a benefit. There is free admission and free coffee; tickets for food, beer and wine will be sold at the event. More than 20 chefs are participating including Todd Fisher (Tarpy’s), Tony Baker (Montrio), Cy Yontz (Rio), Michelle Lee and Matt Bolton (C Restaurant+Bar), Yulanda Santos (Aubergine), Tom Snyder (Esteban at Casa Munras); Mo Tabib (The Fish Hopper); Johnny DeVivo (Porter’s in the Forest); Tim Wood (Valley Kitchen at Carmel Valley Ranch); and Angela Tamara (Peppoli at Spanish Bay). Aquarium exhibits will be open during the event. 100% of all proceeds collected will go to those impacted by the fire through the “Soberanes Fire Fund” of the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC). The Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC) created the Soberanes Fire Fund to assist communities affected by the Soberanes Fire which began July 22, 2016. Donations will provide both immediate relief and support in the aftermath of the fire.

Location: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

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A Santa Cruz foodie’s Carmel getaway: Hofsas House, Rio Grill, & 5th Ave. Deli

Breakfast at Hofsas House Hotel in Carmel

Breakfast at Hofsas House Hotel in Carmel

A piece of pork belly that tastes so sweet and addicting, it’s no wonder the appetizer is named after a legendary candy. Feeling heat beaming up through the floor tile, warming my bare feet. These are just two highlights from my recent overnight getaway from Santa Cruz to Carmel.

First, the lodging: I highly recommend Hofsas House Hotel, a Bavarian-inspired boutique inn. I stayed in a spacious, wonderful ocean-view room with a king bed, fireplace, and kitchenette. The room (#45) had quaint, pleasant furnishings and I was delightfully surprised at the size of the bathroom. The next morning, I toured several other guest rooms and they looked very comfortable. There are accommodations, even dog-friendly ones, ranging from a single-queen-bed room to cottages and a two-bedroom suite. Some of these are perfect for groups, whether it’s a couple families traveling together or a girls’ getaway. Hofsas House offers fun packages for family reunions and other group events, as well as a la carte selections like massages or local wine/cheese pairings.

The very reasonable room cost includes refreshing bath amenities like chamomile clove orange blossom bath gel, which I liked so much I tracked down where to buy a larger bottle for my own home.  There is complimentary continental breakfast, too. You can eat this in the hotel lobby’s cozy sitting area, or take food back to your room or to an outdoor deck. Breakfast features French Roast coffee, yogurt, fruit, orange juice, and pastries from Paris Bakery in Monterey. These baked goods, which include yummy, buttery croissants, are delivered fresh every day.

Hofsas House is walking distance from lots of restaurants, cafes/bakeries, and wineries. It’s also close to a park, the beach, and many other attractions. The hotel features dry saunas and a heated pool, which I didn’t get the chance to try, and lots of easy off-street parking. Only a few rooms have that luxurious heated bathroom floor I mentioned, but owner/general manager Carrie Theis says that as she renovates various rooms, the plan is to add more of these.

After relaxing in the hotel room, we decided to get in the car and drive to Rio Grill for dinner. There were many great-sounding options within walking distance, but I had tried Rio for a delicious lunch a few months ago and was excited to taste Chef Cy Yontz’s Southwestern Cuisine-themed dinner creations.

We had the privilege of being waited on by manager Joe Valencia, a consummate host who regaled us with entertaining stories and food recommendations. Thank goodness we listened to his suggestions; the thought of not getting to try the “Candied Swine Jolly Rancheros” makes my heart ache. It was THAT good. It’s a very popular appetizer that Yontz makes with pork belly. He’s a talented man with a smoker; the restaurant’s most popular entree is house-smoked half chicken with chile butter (the meat has been rubbed with annatto oil, garlic, and herbs, and smoked for four hours). My favorite dish from dinner, that I ordered based on Joe’s suggestion, was duck breast with tortilla-squash chilaquiles, Oaxacan mole rojo, and duck confit tamale. Every bite was nuanced with layers of flavor; you won’t be disappointed if you order this entrée! It’s no wonder that Yontz’s accolades include getting the award for 2015 Monterey County Celebrated Chef of the Year from the American Culinary Federation Monterey County Chamber.

The next morning, I enjoyed talking to Carrie Theis and learning more about the hotel’s history. She is a very gracious host who cares deeply about her guests’ comfort. Hofsas House has been in Carrie’s family for more than 60 years, and it’s obviously more than a job to her. Her grandmother, Donna Hofsas, established Hofsas House in the early 1950’s; at the time it was just a few cottages. Donna completed the first expansion in 1957, adding 25 rooms and a pool. As a child, Carrie spent summers in Carmel and got to help her grandmother behind the hotel’s front desk. Her journey has come full circle, as she returned to Hofsas House a few years ago and realized it’s her true calling.

After a leisurely morning in Carmel, we decided to stop and get sandwiches to go so we’d have lunch taken care of upon our return to Santa Cruz. Carrie recommended 5th Ave. Deli, and now I’m heartily passing that recommendation on to you. The service was extra-friendly, and the menu had something for everyone. Next time I visit, I plan to buy a few things before taking a picnic to Point Lobos. Delectable highlights from this lunch included edamame salad, and sandwiches with curry chicken salad and teriyaki salmon.

I had a wonderful time in Carmel, and I definitely suggest you visit this relaxing and beautiful town soon—it’s full of great food, friendly people, and so much more!

For more information:
www.hofsashouse.com / 831-624-2745 / San Carlos St. between 3rd & 4th Ave., Carmel
www.riogrill.com / 831-625-5436 / The Crossroads, Highway 1 at Rio Rd., Carmel
www.5thavedeli.com / 831-625-2688 / 5th Ave. between San Carlos & Dolores, Carmel

Monterey and Carmel restaurants and bars offer tax day relief

Idaho Trout with herb vinaigrette and sauté of Brussels sprout leaves, cauliflower and new potatoes (recent dinner entrée at Rio Grill, which is offering two lunch entrée discounts on April 15) Photo credit: Rio Grill Facebook page

Idaho Trout with herb vinaigrette and sauté of Brussels sprout leaves, cauliflower and new potatoes (recent dinner entrée at Rio Grill, which is offering two lunch entrée discounts on April 15)
Photo credit: Rio Grill Facebook page

If you’re feeling the crunch from paying your taxes, you can get some relief at three Monterey and Carmel restaurants and bars offering tax day specials on food and drinks.

  • From 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tarpy’s Roadhouse in Monterey and Rio Grill in Carmel are each serving two lunch specials for $10.40 each. The entrees are not being announced ahead of time. Also, customers that purchase these “1040” specials can enter their business card in drawings to win $50 restaurant gift cards.
  • Knuckles Sports Bar, at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, is serving up $10.99 burgers and $4.15 draft domestic beers. They are open from 4 to 11 p.m.

See below for locations and contact info. If you’re unfamiliar with these restaurants, here are a few facts:

  • Tarpy’s Roadhouse Executive Chef Todd Fisher made a special guest appearance on TV’s The Today Show a few days ago. Since joining Tarpy’s in 2014, he has consistently delivered stellar, innovative food. The restaurant is in a beautiful 1917 stonehouse.
  • Rio Grill was voted “Best Carmel Restaurant” in the 2015 Monterey County Weekly readers’ poll. Executive Chef Cy Yontz creates delicious dishes; the restaurant’s most popular dish is house-smoked half chicken with mild-smoked chile butter.
  • Knuckles Sports Bar is a family-friendly venue that many refer to as the best sports bar in Monterey.

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The Details: Promotions valid Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Tarpy’s Roadhouse is at 2999 Salinas Hwy, Monterey, 647-1444, tarpys.com
Rio Grill is at 101 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 625-5436, riogrill.com
The Hyatt Regency Monterey is at 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey, 372-1234, monterey.hyatt.com