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[whitespace] Cakes Let Them Eat Cake: Anita Lynn's creations are a truly original sin.

Photograph by Mathew McCabe

Sin and Sin Again!

Great desserts from Original Sin, plus two mighty midcounty Mexican dining rooms get our attention

By Christina Waters

THE METRO SANTA CRUZ office enjoyed an indulgence in dessert wickedness thanks to Anita Lynn of Original Sin. Lynn's business is naughty, but nice--she creates decadent cakes, cheesecakes, tarts and mousse specialties for enlightened restaurants and occasionally private patrons. Our sampling notes ranged from "awesome" to, well, "sinful." The signature Chocolate Sin Cake, for example, zoomed off the scale in flavor intensity and managed the voluptuous textures of fudge, brownies and mousse all in one. The topping of chocolate ganache (worth sinning for, I assure you) was swirled with white chocolate. I was especially blown away by the fresh-from-the-oven German chocolate cake, refreshingly more pecan-intensive than coconut-intensive. We were collectively on our knees over the light buttercream frosting the sides. Yes, God, this is my idea of a real German Chocolate Cake, layered with coconut pecan custard. Sarah Phelan, however, was so stunned by a sample of Original Sin lemon cheesecake--ultralight and lemon zesty--that she ran into the Xerox alcove to inhale her slice privately. Sarah rarely acts this way and later confessed that she simply could not, would not, share her new favorite lemon cheesecake. Impressive, gloriously and obviously handmade, Original Sin desserts belong on every restaurant menu and are featured currently at such dining rooms as Seascape, Stagnaro's, Cafe Lido, Zelda's and Miramar. Completely authentic, nothing artificial, Anita Lynn's exquisite cakes are the real deal.

Spicy Dining Rooms

Two places that need your attention serve generous quantity and authentic quality Mexican foods--Rio Del Mar and El Chino. Located at the end of Soquel Drive, just before it swings over the freeway and lands in Deer Park, Rio Del Mar has got a lot going for it. World Cup soccer can be watched while you sip your icy margarita at the tiny front bar. Yes, it's a full bar. Inside the long restaurant is lined with booths, filled with tables and draped with all the right colorful stuff, from serapes to thick glass chandeliers and paintings on black velvet. What we love most is the back deck that hangs over Aptos Creek and its jungly green banks far below. This is a terrific secret getaway for a luscious prawn burrito and an icy Pacifico. Fajita fans will go crazy over the house-specialty sizzling grilled steak fajitas served with beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream and warm tortillas. The whole enchilada, if you will. Rio Del Mar Mexican restaurant--9067 Soquel Drive (831.662.8795) is open from 11am all day long (closed Monday).

If you stood in front of the Skyview Drive-In and looked across Soquel Drive, you'd be able to see El Chino, framed by Cafe X and Upper Crust Pizza--a rather happening gastronomic neighborhood. A family-owned-and-operated affair, El Chino's got a menu as big as an Aztec calendar and a full bar to match. Cozy and clubby, tile roofs hang over each of the booths. El Chino specializes in Mexican-American classics like avocado and shrimp salad, nachos, enchiladas, rellenos and major fajitas and burritos. But this menu also offers traditional items like menudo, caldo, even my favorite Mex breakfast--nopalitos cactus with huevos. There are few pleasures packed with more flavor than a midday meal of huevos rancheros or nopalitos scrambled with eggs and jalapeños. Add an ice-cold Bohemia (the king of Mexican brews, with apologies to wimpy Corona and over-rated Dos XXs) and you're truly living. El Chino is located at 2525 Soquel Drive (831.476.7175) and is open 11am-9pm Monday-Thursday, (until 10pm on Friday), and opens at 8am Friday-Sunday. Menudo daily!

A Better Syrah: Thanks to roving aficionado Stephen Plager, I test-drove a bottle of Ahlgren Vineyard 1998 Syrah the other day and discovered my new favorite wine. Plager's palate is flawless--and he's not bad as an eye man either. Even more incredibly, the 1999 Ahlgren Syrah is almost as good, for a few dollars less. Kudos to Dexter Ahlgren on such firmly managed opulence.

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From the June 19-26, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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