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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
10.15.08

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Phaedra

Eat a scone for Mother Earth : At Original Sin, it's the right thing to do.

Dish

Ambrosia Indian Bistro comes to Aptos.

By Amber Turpin


NECTAR OF THE GODS
Compared with our neighbors over the hill, good Indian food options in our neighborhood are sadly few and far between. But that could be changing with a new place in Aptos that may open up some eyes to this fabulously varied and flavorful cuisine. Ambrosia Indian Bistro now resides where Bleu Spoon chugged along for years, a stone's throw from the SnoWhite burger joint and Seacliff State Beach. Chef Bhupender Singh started his long culinary career in India, traveling and working around the globe to eventually rest for a bit at the renowned Amber India (Mountain View and Santana Row), which the San Francisco Chronicle anointed "Best Indian Cuisine in the Bay Area," before venturing out on his own with the first incarnation of Ambrosia in Monterey. He is now in our neck of the woods, offering a wide selection of dishes (including Amber India's famous butter chicken) that reflect various regions. On both my visits, a sampling presented a distinct range of spices and layers of complexity, not a hodgepodge of same-flavored gut-busters, as is sometimes the case at other establishments. Ingredients are fresh (the goan fish curry features fresh halibut), and a tandoori oven is used for several items, including over a dozen varieties of naan. Every day offers a lunch buffet from 11:30am till 2:30pm that features a rotating array of offerings; on weekends it also includes a glass of sparkling wine. Speaking of wine, Ambrosia carries an Indian label called Sula Vineyards that is bound to be interesting. (www.ambrosiaib.com)

CIAO BELLA
What exactly makes Happy Hour "Italian style"? I've wondered this every time I drive by the sign touting this at Caffe Lucio on the corner of Ocean and Soquel. On a recent weekday visit, it meant a lively staff, drink discounts ($1 off beer and wine, $3.50 well drinks), six kinds of $5 pizzettas and blaring Fleetwood Mac. Not exactly what Italy conjures up in my mind, but nonetheless an enjoyable way to burn an hour after work. The mad scientist behind the restaurant, Lucio Fanni (former owner of Al Dente in Seabright), has been likened to Einstein in appearance, and the specialty cocktail list reflects the association (behold the E = MC2 or the tempting Cola Einstein with Averna, bitters, lemon juice and ginger ale over ice). For the nonimbibers and kids (Lucio seems to charm the socks off the babies around town), there are close to two dozen varieties of syrup flavors for Italian sodas. (www.caffelucio.com)

ECO-HAPPY SWEETS
Original Sin Desserts in Capitola is now the first bakery in our area to be certified by the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program. Back in the spring, I toured the facility with owner Tanya DeCell as she explained why and how her space employed environmentally conscious methods. Energy Star appliances, recyclable paper goods and retrofitted light technology are some of the ways she has passed the test, along with using natural sunlight to enhance efficiency (and increase staff morale). Her business plan always envisioned green practices, as well as homemade products and locally sourced ingredients. Now that the certification process is complete, DeCell can prove she's succeeded in her mission, all while creating loads of good things to share with all of us. (831.477.7776; www.originalsindesserts.com)


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