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[whitespace] Southern Exposure Bistro
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Well Exposed: A diner surveys the sumptuous menu at Southern Exposure Bistro.

Full Exposure

Ann Confer has created an oasis of ecstasy at Southern Exposure Bistro

By Janet Blaser

THE ALLURE OF A GOOD MENU is that it definitely hints at the pleasures ahead; ingredients, descriptions and even verb forms move the mind into active anticipation. An astute menu sets the stage for the coming acts, giving just enough information to intrigue, but not so much as to confuse or be redundant. It is the mission statement of the chef--his vision, as it is, of what he is doing back there in the kitchen.

Think of this when you visit Southern Exposure Bistro, the newest addition to the rapidly growing South County contingent of fine dining establishments (most notable being Bittersweet Bistro and the Bleu Spoon). Combining the best of California regional cuisine with selected French and Italian influences, veteran restaurateur Ann Confer has created a literal oasis of ecstasy.

Really, though, that's been no problem for Confer, who has 17 years of restaurant experience tucked under her own belt. Southern Exposure has always been a catering operation and only found this permanent home last spring. Quick renovations to the cozy California cottage added another dining room and re-did the front patio, and the interior has been brightened with neutral colors and elegant accouterments, creating a more light-hearted ambience in general. When veteran manager Tiffany King greets you in the foyer, you know you're in good hands.

Let's get back to that menu, though. On a typical evening you'll find a Specials page with a soup, salad, pasta (or two), several entrees and a dessert du jour. If you can tear yourself away from these offerings (like the salad of roast beets, toasted walnuts, blue cheese and pea shoots), the regular menu is just as tantalizing. Starters include a soup, duck liver pâté, crab cakes and seared scallops, all described with tantalizing detail in simple but luscious language. Several salads, a trio of pasta and risotto dishes, and a handful of entrees (chicken, duck, lamb, beef and fish), all served with a starch and vegetable, promise yet more good times.

Because of the intimate nature of the building's dining rooms (the main room with the fireplace seats about 45, and a small private parlor holds one table that can seat up to a dozen), the full bar and the attentive, personal service, Southern Exposure is a wonderful place for special-occasion dinners. A Taste of the South Thanksgiving dinner was the first; keep an eye out for a big New Year's Eve extravaganza. I'd recommend reservations--the number you want is 688.5566. And do ask for directions if you're not exactly sure where 9051 Soquel Dr., Aptos, is, as it's a little tricky. Southern Exposure is open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday, 5:30-10pm.

Plan Ahead

Speaking of holidays (again), if you're thinking of going out to eat on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you'd best start planning now. Lots of restaurants will not be open, and those that are will be quite busy. Theo's in Soquel (462.3657) will be serving both times, with a prix fixe meal at $42 per person and an early seating on Christmas Day from 3 to 7pm.

Want something for nothing? Well then, enter the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company's Fair Trade Certified Contest, where you can win not only an espresso machine but a pound of coffee a week for a year. All you have to do is fill out an entry form, which includes four simple questions about the Fair Trade coffee program, and then hope for your good coffee karma to kick in. Entries are available at the downtown store, Aptos Coffee Roasting Company or any New Leaf Market location, as well as in ads everywhere. At any rate, if you win, let me know--you'll never be able to drink all that coffee by yourself. (Hmm, I wonder if Roger Rush is disqualified because he already won once?)

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From the December 6-13, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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