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Critics' Choice Awards

There is so much to celebrate in Santa Cruz that we couldn't fit it all into our print version. In this web-exclusive section, we present a few more selections from our critics.

Best View Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Roses of Yesterday & Today

No, a rose is not just a rose, especially to those who love them. From hybrid teas to florabundas, they are colorful children, fragrant aunties, incandescent movie stars, each with a personality of its own. Then there's a whole bunch of rosarians who dig older beauties, heirloom varieties of roses that date back hundreds of years. These folks shop their blooming hearts out at Roses of Yesterday & Today, a gardener's paradise that showcases more than 300 varieties of old, rare and unusual roses throughout its lush gardens. Whether your taste runs toward a heady Autumn Damask or a crimson Eugene deBauharnais, chances are co-owner Guinevere Wiley has it or can get it for you. Drop by or order online; either way, the blushing beauties are waiting for you. (803 Browns Valley Rd., Corralitos; 728-1901; www.rosesofyesterday.com)

Kelly Luker


Best Guilty Secret of Knee-Jerk Liberals

Target

While a shopping spree through downtown Santa Cruz' trendy boutiques is fun for those powered by Daddy's trust fund or dotcom stock options, South County decided it was high time for a real store for real people, with stuff at real prices. Enter dreaded chain store Target, built smack dab on top of the horny-webbed titmouse or some such endangered creature. Environmentalists (who could afford $300 Creuset cookware) fought and lost. Thank goodness. They may now be found mingling in the aisles of Target with the rest of us poor saps, oohing and aahing over 99-cent tube socks and Buck Forty-Nine spatulas. Let's have a cup of coffee at Borders Books when it opens and compare deals! (Target 1415 Main St.; Watsonville; 761-9194)

Kelly Luker


Best Big-Bang Theory

Markley's Gun Store and Indoor Range

Maybe swaying and singing "Kuumbaya" at another rally for nonviolence is your idea of big fun. Me, I'd rather be shooting the crap out of stuff down at Markley's target range. Unfortunately, one is limited to paper targets, but imagination and the memory of former boyfriends go a long way in creating stunningly fabulous carnage. Seriously though, Markley's is a class operation for those who like to keep their firearms--and Second Amendment rights--in well-oiled shape. The indoor range offers 21 lanes with automatic target retrieval. If you're short on equipment, they rent everything from ear plugs and goggles, even the gun. For seven bucks an hour, it's the cheapest and best therapy around. (13 Blanca Lane; Watsonville; 722-6945)

Kelly Luker


Best Cold Nose and Warm Heart

The SPCA of Monterey County

Don't let the name throw you; due to some Goldbergian funding/contract/whatsis, the shiny new pound on Airport Blvd. is stuck with that name, but the stars are all local talent. There's Buddy, a giant Belgian shepherd known for his gentle, playful ways. Or the pointer-mix Sadie, looking for love in all the wrong places. Consider Bugs, a rather large lady of the feline variety. Play your cards right, and Buddy, Sadie or Bugs just might be sleeping at the foot of your bed tonight. The price is right, and adopting a pet from the SPCA earns you triple karma points. (13 Blanca Lane; Watsonville; 722-6945)

Kelly Luker


Best Chicharrón

Del Sol Market

After a few weeks of the tofu/bean sprouts health diet, I'm about ready to bitch-slap John Robbins himself. Instead, I take a road trip South County way to Del Sol and order up a mess of chicharrónes. Pork rinds, Mexico-style. Don't even confuse these masterpieces with packaged, manufactured gringo Granny Goose junk. A perfect chicharrón comes from pork fatback thrown in a boiling pot of lard and seasoned with just enough chili and salt to distract you from the errant hog bristle that made it through the butcher process. The carniceros at Del Sol also know to leave just enough meat on the fat to tease you. Disgusting, you say? Ever tried to eat tofu? Don't even talk to me about disgusting. (100 Union St.; Watsonville; 768-1424)

Kelly Luker


Best Reason to Join a Monastery

Christmas Shindig at Biggam Christensen and Minsloff

We don't usually think of attorneys and politicians as party animals, but each year for the past 20-plus years, the law firm of Biggam Christensen and Minsloff, which contracts with the county to serve as the public defender, has hosted a no-holds-barred, throw-away-the-tie holiday bash. The best part is, the cops refrain from busting the joint--since some of them are there partying too. Last year's affair was a bit strange, with the politicking over former district attorney Art Danner's judgeship and an impending choice of a new DA making for some weird party dynamics. And next year's will come just three months before a special election for both jobs. We promise to check our notebooks at the door.

John Yewell


Best Cheap Oral Satisfaction You Can Enjoy in Public

Yogurt Delite

We refer, for all of you out there with naughty minds, to the frozen yogurt shrine that is Yogurt Delite. Many of us, no matter where in the county we live, have driven out to Mission Street to stand in line behind young lovers, kids in pajamas and seniors wearing matching sweat outfits. We have. And so have you. If you're under 8 years old and have a permanently arrested palate, you might want to add M&Ms or gummi bears to your Cappuccino Dream frozen yogurt. But if you're semi-grown up, the small cup filled with a swirl of French Vanilla and whatever the evening's chocolate is, will do just fine. It's safe, sane and well under two bucks. Almost no calories either. Madre Dios!

Christina Waters


New Best Scone on the Planet

Pear Ginger

While we're still wild about the Black China Bakery cranberry-studded number, we are officially mad for the pear ginger scone from Kelly's Bakery. I mean consider those two flavors. Pear--the essence of autumn, more subtle and mysterious than a mere apple, yet just as evocative of youth and lazy afternoons. Ginger--easily one of the finest spice ideas cooked up by natural selection, it warms the blood, cools the brain, conjures visions of something faintly exotic yet healthy. The bite of the ginger massages the pliant pear--and the whole flavor sex romp is enfolded into a creamy biscuity scone that is practically an entire breakfast in a hand-held package. Ask for them when you're out doing that power latté in the morning.

Christina Waters


Best Reason to Pass Up the Mashed Potatoes

Ristorante Avanti's Soft Polenta

Mashed potatoes hold a prestigious spot as one of the best comfort foods ever invented. But anyone who's tried the soft polenta whipped up by the chefs of Ristorante Avanti knows that the Mission Street nook has managed to match, if not surpass, the healing power of the mashed potato. Soothing, creamy and perfectly textured, Avanti's soft polenta side dish works as an accompaniment to any meal of the day, from a frittata breakfast to late-night snack. This is no lame potato stand-in. Polenta is a corn-laced pleasure all its own.

Mary Spicuzza


Best Places to Cop a Feel ... and Then Some

Downtown Santa Cruz and the Capitola Esplanade

Note: Those of you who find P.D.A. offensive should stop reading right now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not enjoy yourself (or others)--but, oops, I digress into judgment. No blame to lay--just tips to share in order that good times may be had by all.

Unbeknownst to the City Redevelopment Agency (sorry, Ceil), downtown Santa Cruz offers a plethora of options for aroused individuals to satisfy their desires. Every parking structure offers bright, airy and often-empty upper levels (all with a view), as well as the more Gothic-inspired basement levels, generally more trafficked and thus better suited to those with a more devil-may-care attitude.

Bathrooms, for some reason, rate high on this list, and there are two downtown that qualify as exceptional. (My apologies to the owners of these spaces.) Lulu Carpenter's Coffee House--formerly Espresso Royale--has two of the biggest, cleanest, classiest rest rooms you can imagine. But what takes them a step above the rest are the gigantic mirrors--larger than a full-sized door, they guarantee double trouble. It's my opinion these restrooms are a Penthouse shoot waiting to happen. Bob Guccione, where are you?

Strangely enough, the next spot is barely a block away. More quaint than chic, but with a bigger risk factor, the ID Building bathrooms are also literally just steps away from fully staffed offices hard at work. You run the risk of a knock at the door in mid-, er, you know. And, you have to ask for the key--with a straight face--downstairs from employees at ID. The payoff? Well, besides the obvious, you can watch out the window as your friends and neighbors walk by on the street below, unaware.

Should you want to venture out into nature a bit, why, look no further than the Capitola Esplanade--actually, look way out on the very end. Go up the few steps, past the small, raised grassy area, and you'll find a tidy little corner bound by strong iron fencing. Backed by steep cliffs and with the surf pounding on two sides--well, you get the picture. No street lights here, either; just twinkling lights from the wharf reflecting on the water.

Noe Sall


Best Chat While Getting a Tat

Garth at Lovedog Tattoos

Besides touching up my Spuds Mackenzie tattoo quite masterfully so that it fully accentuates my sporty Dorothy Hamill cut, Lovedog Tattoo's Garth makes every late night art session more invigorating than nude night on the Discovery Channel. It might be about chemical warfare, a pharmaceutical conspiracy, his ever-resourceful chain saw--but whatever it is, he always has something interesting to say. I'm fairly certain that he could put Epson out of business with the impressive ink work he does. I'm officially trashing my faithful AM radio and Art Bell routine and tuning in to the world according to Garth.

Matt Koumaras


Best Political Race Participant

Santa Cruz City Councilwoman Katherine Beiers

We love a politico who doesn't mind getting down and dirty in those races. In Katherine Beiers case though, we aren't talking about mudslinging campaigns, but long, muddy road races covering 26 miles--and more. Since she ran her first marathon at age 50, Beiers hasn't slowed down. She may the only political activist who stays active, but she probably doesn't have a lot of peers in her age group--67--who have racked up 10 marathons so far. But Beiers was getting bored with only 26 miles, so she's knocking off her first 50-k (that's 30 miles) this May. If we may say, Madame Politician, you're an animal!

Kelly Luker

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Best Write-in

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Web extra to the March 22-29, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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