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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Food, Friends and Fuel (a.k.a. Caffeine): Jessie Trask and Jared Delong enjoy pie and coffee at Coffeetopia.

Java Paradise

Coffeetopia fills a need on West Side

By Janet Blaser

FOR A LONG TIME NOW, I've been thinking that the West Side needed a good coffeehouse: a place to hang out, run into friends, catch up on my correspondence and relax with a good cup o' joe. I'd had my eye on the Goodwill donation station over next to Marcelo's--that big parking lot would make a great patio, and with all the UC students waiting for the bus right there. ... Anyway, my plans have not come to fruition, but somebody else's have. A second Coffeetopia opened on Mission Street across from Longs Drugs at the end of last summer and has established itself as a community meeting place and java house. Turns out owners Dave and Kristin Larkin also saw that need and figured they could fill it. "People come in and thank us for being here," said Dave. "It's humbling. They're looking for experience and interaction, or they'd make their coffee at home."

This is the couple's second venture--their No. 1 son on Portola near 41st is paradise for two kinds of surfers: the ocean kind and the net variety. There a curbside patio with undulating stone walls offers a chance for sunshine and people-watching a few blocks from the Pleasure Point break, while inside, two computer stations provide web access, by the hour, for those who somehow manage to live without a computer at home. (I can't imagine.)

A coffee-lover after my own heart, Dave believes the effort it takes to make an excellent espresso drink is almost the same as the effort needed to make a mediocre one. So why not just do it correctly? "We care an awful lot about what we're putting out over the counter," he said. "It's not that hard to do it right." The newest Coffeetopia also has two PCs and a printer/copier, with Internet hookup, available for $6 an hour. And since the shop is open from 6am to midnight, seven days a week, well, even the most overdue paper can be finished at the last minute.

And in case you are stressed out about all those deadlines, the rest of the cafe is easy on the eyes. Beautiful burled wood blocks cover one entire wall, a little morguelike in their layout but gorgeous nonetheless. There's a 4-foot-high column fountain in one window, set in a pool of black rocks, that trickles quietly in the background. And do check out the giant red lava lamp oozing on the front counter. A high ceiling, lots of light and the catty-corner counter combine in what feels like a perfectly harmonious feng-shui arrangement of elements, culminating, of course, in that perfect cup of coffee.

And in that regard, you've got a lot of choices. Brew bar or ready-made coffee from the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company; espresso drinks; all sorts of iced and frozen coffees; Italian sodas; and nine kinds of smoothies made to order. You can also choose from a smorgasbord of bagels and toppings, a handful of premade sandwiches and salads and, of course, the requisite pastries and cookies. Coffee anyone? You'll find Coffeetopia at 1723 Mission St., Santa Cruz, at the north end of the strip of stores.

Wine and Dine

Here's your chance to take part in a one-of-a-kind evening. The fifth annual Ultimate Winemaker's Dinner, hosted jointly by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association and Shadowbrook Restaurant, is set for Feb. 29. More than 35 local wine growers will be pouring a variety of vintages during a half-hour wine tasting in the Rock Room Lounge preceding a specially prepared menu. During the meal, vintners will escort their wines to each table, explaining nuances and answering any questions you may have. This event always sells out far in advance, so if you're interested, make reservations now. Cost is $26 per person for the winetasting, due in advance; an additional $35 for the dinner can be paid at the event. Call 479.WINE (9463) for details.

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From the January 26-February 2, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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