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All in The Family : The first cousin to Vasili's should open soon at Front and Cathcart in Santa Cruz.


The cheese whizzes at Harley Farms in Pescadero win big at the American Cheese Society Competition.

By Amber Turpin

Cheese Whizzes
The results are in from the American Cheese Society competition, held July 25 in Chicago, and surprise, surprise--California's cheesemakers did us proud. At least 15 different Golden State producers competed this year, and high praise is due to our own local Harley Farms in Pescadero for getting top marks in five separate categories. The goat farm received first place awards for its Monet and fromage blanc and third place for its ricotta and feta, and chèvre in oil. It's well worth a visit to the farm for an idyllic tour and tasting of these triumphs ( was a lot of competition. The American Cheese Society is a venerable organization that launched in 1983 when a group of cheese enthusiasts got together and decided it was time to formally appreciate the efforts of domestic cheese makers. Today, there are about 1,400 members of the society, a not-for-profit extended network of producers, food professionals, writers and consumers, all promoting farmstead and naturally produced cheesemaking within the United States and Canada. This year's competition--which, like every year, put greater emphasis on recognizing the positive qualities of submissions than grading down for technical flaws--attracted a record-breaking 1,149 entries from 181 producers.

More Masa
Eating is so easy in the summertime, when creating a meal out of two or three ingredients is both delicious and nourishing. An obvious seasonal superstar is the tomato, and it surely takes center stage when added to any dish. A summer favorite of mine is to whip up some salsa fresca (tomatoes, cilantro, a chile, onion, some salt and lime) and proceed to heap it onto a warm corn tortilla and consume with abandon. This minimalist yet delicious combination is nothing new, but the key is that everything, including the tortillas, be as fresh as possible. If you don't have a tortilla press, or the inclination to slap around your own masa, never fear. We have several places that locally produce fresh tortillas on a daily basis, making it easy to pick up a few to take home. Both the taco bar and restaurant at El Palomar downtown always make tortillas to order, and La Mission on the West Side and Café El Palomar at the harbor (owned by members of the same family) do as well. Most people don't realize that we even have a tortilleria tucked away behind Jeffrey's Restaurant on Soquel. In the depths of Del Pueblo Market, tortillas are produced and distributed near and far; yellow corn on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and white corn every day. They also have a small taqueria in the back. And then there's Watsonville, where a plethora awaits at La Rosa, Hector's, Fiesta Tepa Sahuayo and on and on.

Awaiting the Opening 'Opa!'
Vasili's on Mission Street is inarguably a success. Even after owner Vasili Karagiannopoulus sold the bustling taverna five years ago, it remained consistently delicious. It's a restaurant from which you always know exactly what to expect, day after day, year after year. That's why it's intriguing and exciting to see what The Greek will hold for us downtown in the former E3 Playhouse space. Apparently, Karagiannopoulus has his hand in the new business, creating the only other competition Vasili's has seen in the Greek genre. The sale five years ago was amicable, so hopefully the two can complement each other. Stay tuned.

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