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[whitespace] John Robertson Photograph by George Sakkestad

Morning Liftoff: John Robertson shows off the 'French Bistro' breakfast at Cafe Sparrow.

Morning Sparrow

Venerable Aptos restaurant Cafe Sparrow now offers breakfast treats

By Janet Blaser

THE NEWEST PLACE to go for all your morning favorites is Cafe Sparrow. Tucked into Aptos Village, this cozy gem has been providing diners with a French country eating experience for more than 20 years. It was in 1989--just months before The Big One--that Bob and Julie Montague opened the cafe. And while Sparrow has been serving lunch and dinner steadily over the years, breakfast hasn't been offered since those earth-shaking days in the beginning.

Sparrow is a place to relax and enjoy your food as it should be--calmly, easily and in good hands. Floral calico prints cover the tables, softened by toppers of white lace and echoed in the classic French tented ceiling. Clean-swept wood floors, sponge-painted walls and big windows everywhere add to the farmhouse effect. Traditional breakfast fare includes basic egg dishes with or without Corralitos ham, the Sparrow French toast, made with thick slices of homemade cinnamon-raisin bread, topped with powdered sugar and slivers of toasted walnuts, flapjacks and an inspired selection of omelets and scrambles, the latter made with your choice of eggs, tofu or egg whites only.

Prices are reasonable, portions are hearty and the service is attentive and personal. Manager Mark Ganzert moved to Sparrow about two years ago from the Ostrich Grill. So far, Saturday's breakfast business is booming, he said, but during the week it's not as busy. Good. I say go now before the long waiting line starts. Cafe Sparrow is open for breakfast from 7am to 2pm, weekdays, and 9am to 2pm on Saturdays. Lunch service begins at 11am; Sunday brunch is served 9am to 2pm. The restaurant is at 8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos; for more info, call 688.6238.

Trial by Kitchen Fire

Well, I not only survived but feel safe in saying I came through my "Trotter Kitchen Trials" with flying colors. By the end of the evening at Blacks Beach (where the fundraiser dinner for the Community Foundation went off without a hitch), chef Charlie Trotter invited me to help at the Masters of Food & Wine at the Highlands Inn the next day. Donning a chef's jacket, I breezed into a kitchen packed full of acclaimed chefs and their staff acting as if I had a clue ... but I did, because Trotter, besides being skilled and knowledgeable about every aspect of food and cooking, knows how to inspire people to do their best.

So when he strategically placed me in the plating line and showed me what to do, whether it was swirling a circle of crème fraîche or piling shaved black truffles over the grilled lamb's tongue, he knew exactly what kind of responsibility I could handle. "Janet, I challenge you to put too many truffles on each plate," he said under his breath. "Oh, yeah," I responded, and the race was on.

If you've ever wondered how Trotter gets his dishes to look so impeccable (besides the fact that he's a Virgo through and through), it is actually quite simple. The prep for each plate is divided into anywhere from 12 to 20 or more steps--demonstrated and then labeled with a Post-It at each station on the 40-foot line. Chef is at the end, making sure every dish looks exactly the way it should. The after-effect of all of this was that I couldn't eat "regular" food for two days--so spoiled was I by diver scallops (heaven from the sea), black truffles and even the duck gizzard confit (which I was forced to eat--and then didn't want to stop).

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From the March 8-15, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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