Sunday, March 20, 2016

Top Santa Cruz Restaurants with Outdoor Dining

Spring is here and the weather is starting to warm up. What better way to celebrate the new season then to have a meal outdoors in the cool spring air while being warmed by the early season sun. Spring can bring some of Santa Cruz’s best weather for the year and what better way to enjoy it then to eat a scrumptious meal in the open air. This is by no means a comprehensive list of places to dine outdoors in Santa Cruz, but they are definitely a few of my favorites.

If you are looking for stunning views of the Monterey Bay, then this is the spot to eat. Linwood’s Bar and Grill, located in the main building of the Chaminade Resort combines great eats with stunning patio dining. Take in the views and enjoy the fine weather while sitting around one of their many outdoor fire pits and sipping one of their specialty drinks.  Chaminade tends to be a little pricey, so you may want to check out their happy hour, Monday – Thursday from 3pm-5pm.

A Santa Cruz staple, The Crow’s Nest sits on the edge of Twin Lakes State Beach and provides fantastic views of the beach and the Santa Cruz Harbor entrance. Crow’s Nest is actually two restaurants in one. Downstairs is the Crow’s Nest dining room, which features, fancier and more expensive plates. The real gem is upstairs in the Breakwater Grill, where you can get great deals on drinks and grub for a fraction of the cost of the downstairs dining room. The Breakwater Grill arguably has the better views, as it sits up above the beach and has sweeping views of the bay. If you are able to snag a table, you can enjoy outdoor deck seating with fantastic views, good food, great drinks, all while listening to the crashing waves in the background.

Aldo’s sits across the harbor from the Crow’s Nest and provides some fantastic outdoor dining. The majority of the seating for this restaurant is on a deck that sits over the calm waters of the harbor. It’s a great place to enjoy some sunshine and watch the boats come and go from the harbor. This is a great place for breakfast or brunch. Come early or plan to wait as it can be very busy on the weekends in summer.

The Crepe Place may not have an ocean view, but they do have a fantastic outdoor patio for dining. Situated on busy Soquel Ave, you  would never guess that there is a serene garden dining atmosphere at the back of this long time Santa Cruz establishment. Enjoy some great food or even some evening entertainment. The Crepe Place is often very busy on nights when they have live music on their outdoor stage.

Michael’s on Main may have one of the best non-ocean view dining options in Santa Cruz. Situated on the banks of the Soquel Creek, the restaurant/bar extends outside to a large deck under a canopy of trees, where sunlight filters through as you listen to the babbling creek below. Come here to enjoy a drink or some of their delicious cooking, either way you will not be disappointed.

Burger.  Aptos, CA
Not to be confused with the Burger. that is on Mission St. on the west side of Santa Cruz. The Aptos location as great outdoor seating and also is great for kids. Enjoy the warm weather and play some corn hole on the lower level of the restaurant. It is also a great place to kick back with some friends and have a beer, hang outside under the trees, and get to enjoy some true Santa Cruz flare. It also doesn’t hurt that they are one of the best burger joints in Santa Cruz!

I hope you can get out and enjoy some great outdoor dining from one (or all) of these fine establishments. If you have any other suggestions for great outdoor dining post a comment below!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Taste of Fall – Apple Hill

Let’s be honest, California does not experience seasons, but there has been a little chill in the air and it has me thinking of all things Fall. Or maybe it’s just that Starbucks has released its Fall drinks...That being said one of the few places in California that offers a glimmer of Fall is Apple Hill. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills just outside Placerville, in a small town called Camino, is a network of apple orchards collectively called Apple Hill.

There is a small chance that you get to see some Fall colors, but Apple Hill is best known for its food (all things apple) and crafts. A few of my favorites include fresh apple fritters, caramel apples, apple cinnamon donuts, and hard apple cider! The best thing about Apple Hill is that each farm is unique and provides something a little different, from the type of apple to the type of apple pie recipe used at the farm. Spend a day (or a weekend) going farm to farm and indulging your sweet tooth and walking through the apple orchards.

To learn more about Apple Hill check out the official website: www.applehill.com


Sunday, August 23, 2015

5 Must Make Sweet Breakfasts

Breakfast is possibly the best meal of the day. I mean, who can say no to bacon. However, I must admit, as much as I love a good savory bacon filled meal, a good sweet breakfast often hits the spot. These are five of my favorites that have graced my table.

1. Dutch Babies (recipe courtesy of Sunset Brunch Cookbook ©1985)
No, I am not referring to eating sweet small Dutch children. Dutch Babies are a large fluffy pancake, not unlike a German Pancake. Once cooked they form a small fluffy pancake stadium that you can fill with fresh fruit and whipped cream!

What you need:
Pan Size
Butter
Eggs
Milk & Flour
2-3 qt. (recommended)
¼ cup
3
¾ cup each
3-4 qt.
1/3 cup
4
1 cup each
4-4 ½ qt.
½ cup
5
1 ¼ cup each
4 ½-5 qt.
½ cup
6
1 ½ cup each
(I recommend the smallest size because it can be made in a normal pie tin. If making for multiple people, you will want 1 pie tin per 1-2 people)

To make, place butter in a pan and set in a 425⁰ oven. While the butter melts, mix batter quickly. Put eggs in a blender or food processor and whirl at high speed for one minute. With motor running, gradually pour in milk, then slowly add flour; continue whirling for 30 seconds.

Remove pan from oven and pour in batter. Return pan to oven and bake until pancake is puffy and well browned (20-25 minutes, depending on pan size)

Fill Dutch Baby with fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream or squeeze lemon and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Best served fresh out of the oven.

2. Cottage Cheese Pancakes (recipe courtesy of Sunset Brunch Cookbook ©1985)
This is my favorite pancake recipe on the planet. These pancakes are light, creamy, protein packed wonders! They also happen to be super easy to make.

What you need:
3 eggs
1 cup small-curd cottage cheese
2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, oat or barley flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend all the above ingredients in a blender until smooth. Then cook like you would a normal pancake. These pancakes are excellent plain, but are also delicious with all the normal toppings like maple syrup or homemade jam (my favorite is homemade peach jam)

3. Basic Crepes (recipe courtesy of Sunset Brunch Cookbook ©1985)
Savory crepes seem to be all the rage these days and seem to overlook the joy of a sweet crepe. This crepe recipe is on the sweeter side and is fantastic filled with fresh fruit like strawberries, raspberries, or peaches with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. 

What you need:
1 cup milk
3 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

In blender, whirl milk, eggs, and flour until smooth. Use a 6-8” frying pan, spray the pan with cooking spray or melt butter into the bottom of pan. While on medium heat, pour about 2 tablespoons batter in the pan. While pouring the batter or quickly after pouring, tilt pan so that batter covers the entire flat surface of the pan. Cook until the surface is dry and edge is lightly brown, then flip and lightly brown the other side.  Serve warm out of the pan or cooled. Lay crepe on a plate and scoop fresh berries or peaches inside with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Wrap like a burrito and let your taste buds be dazzled!

4. Waffles (recipe courtesy of Sunset Brunch Cookbook ©1985)
Waffles are always a must on a sweet breakfast list. They are a tried and true favorite. I will not claim to have found the best recipe under the sun for waffles, however I will say that it is quick, easy and delicious.

What you need:
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs separated
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons salad oil

In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar; set aside. In a medium size bowl (I prefer a kitchen aid if you have one), beat egg whites until stiff moist peaks form. Add the egg yolks, milk, and salad oil to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Then fold in the egg whites. Cook on waffle iron until desired browning occurs.

Top with fresh fruit and whipped cream (can you see a theme here), or my wife’s favorite, peanut butter and maple syrup.

5. Sweet Mini-muffins (recipe courtesy of Sunset Brunch Cookbook ©1985)
You might as well call these tasty treats baked donuts, as they are closer to a donut than a muffin. These cinnamon sugar morsels melt in your mouth and are sure to be a hit. Best if baked in a mini-
muffin tin but can be made in a normal sized muffin tin as well.
 
What you need:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
About ½ cup butter melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon mixed with ½ cup sugar

Beat together butter and ½ cup sugar until well blended, then beat in egg. Mix together the dry ingredients and alternate pouring with milk, into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spoon about 1 rounded teaspoon  into each greased 1 ½ inch mini muffin tin (if using regular muffin tin fill each cup half full with batter). Bake in a 375⁰ oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pans. While still hot, dip each muffin entirely into melted butter, coating evenly, then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Can be served warm or cold, but are best warm right out of the oven.

Disclaimer: If you aren’t drooling by the time you have reached the end of this post, then these recipes aren’t for you. These are definitely not for you if you support a vegan diet, eat kale, use butter or sugar substitutes, are gluten-free, or think you can substitute whole wheat flour for regular flour.

Disclaimer Two: Consuming the above recipes has been known to cause tears of joy, happiness, families to come back together, and just general elation with life.