About Tara Fatemi Walker

Tara Fatemi Walker first fell in love with Santa Cruz as a UCSC student long ago. She returned in 2004 and is grateful to live in such a wonderful community. She loves to write about food, restaurants, and culinary events; see more of her writing at santacruzfoodie.com.

Staff of Life Natural Meats: Not Your Average Grocery Store Butcher

staff of life natural meats

A couple months ago, a friend raved to me about eating some wonderful grass-feed beef that she had cooked after buying it at Staff of Life’s new Farm to Fork meat department.

It took me a while to get there myself, as I’d received a Christmas gift subscription to local butcher El Salchichero’s CSM (monthly meat box) and was well-stocked in the meat department for three months. Last month, I finally tried Staff’s expanded meat products, and was very impressed so I decided to find out more.

Santa Cruz native Anthony Blanco purchased the Natural Meats and Seafood department at Staff of Life last November, and has been enthusiastically operating it ever since.

Many don’t realize that this is a separate business that first opened in 1997, and is run independently from the rest of the store.

staff of life natural meatsAnthony has more than two decades of experience as a local butcher, including jobs at Freedom Meat Lockers, Deluxe Foods, The Fish Lady, and New Leaf Community Markets. For many years he has cooked and prepared food for his family—which includes his wife Shana, 14-year-old son Shane, and 6-year-old daughter Hazel. He even prepares food for the family dog, Grace, who appreciates the cooked ground meat/rice/puréed organic pumpkin combination.

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Farm to Table (Without Leaving the Farm): Route 1 Farms Summer Dinner Series

route 1 farm dinner series 2015Imagine:

A leisurely walk through trees and fields overflowing with farm-fresh produce…

Hearing stories of the farm directly from those who grow the food…

Eating a wonderful outdoors meal made with fresh farm ingredients, dining next to friends old and new.

Those of us that live in the Santa Cruz area are so fortunate, for so many reasons. One of my favorite aspects to Santa Cruz: the abundance of independent farms that we’re surrounded with, all growing beautiful and delicious products.  Some of these farms even hold community events—like Route 1 Farms, who announced its annual summertime dinner series where you can have experiences like the one described above.

Tickets went on sale earlier this month.

You may be thinking – wait a second, spring just started and you’re already talking about summer? But tickets to this series sell out fast, so here are details.  In fact, at the time of this writing, each dinner was already half full.
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Family Dining on a Budget

family dining on a budget

Are you one of the many folks in the Santa Cruz area who is raising one or more kids?  If you’re anything like me, you probably accumulated a lot of debt with holiday shopping and travel! I thought it would be a great time to do some research and share a few tips on where to dine out for less money.

Please, please, please – if you know of any that aren’t on this list, share them in the “comments” section at the end of this article. [Read more…]

Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Roux Dat

Roux Dat Restaurant Sign

This is the final restaurant in our list of the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

best new restaurants santa cruz 2014New Orleans-inspired Roux Dat, serving Cajun and Creole cuisine, is a small-yet-comfortable spot near Bed, Bath & Beyond and Trader Joe’s in Capitola. It’s in the former location of Yogurt Express.

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Mortal Dumpling

mortal-dumpling-santa-cruz

This is the sixth of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

best new restaurants santa cruz 2014Chef Noah Kopito is the man behind Mortal Dumpling, which is mostly a restaurant that does pop-ups, including a regular Thursday gig. Every Thursday from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. you can find Mortal Dumpling at POPUP. For several months in 2014, they were at Front St. Kitchen on Monday nights from 6-9 p.m., but the final night at this location was Dec. 29, 2014 (Front St. is going through some changes).

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Midtown Cafe

Midtown Cafe Santa Cruz

This is the fifth of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

best new restaurants santa cruz 2014Zac Craeger opened Midtown Cafe in January 2014. It’s primarily a breakfast and lunch place, although they are open “most Friday nights” (more on that later) and they do have beer and wine available. It’s a casual, friendly neighborhood spot. There is some counter seating by the front window, a few small tables inside, and plenty of tables in a relaxing back patio.

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Lúpulo Craft Beer House

Lupulo beer

This is the fourth of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

Lúpulo Craft Beer House, owned and operated by Noëlle Antolin and Stuyvesant Bearns, is a tasting room, restaurant, and bottle shop that offers 16 rotating taps and over a hundred bottled beers.

best new restaurants santa cruz 2014The atmosphere is cozy, with tables and a bar. Whether or not you’re a beer lover, the food is definitely worth a visit. The menu changes with the seasons, as the owners are committed to sustainable food practices. “Our ingredients are organic, our meats are local and pasture-raised, and most our produce comes from the farmers market,” says Antolin.

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Kaito

Kaito Ramen House

This is the third of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

Kaito opened in May in the former location of Pink Godzilla. The fact that the web site includes the word smile should tell you a lot: it makes chef/owner Koji Goto very happy to provide customers with first-rate, reasonably priced food.

best new restaurants santa cruz 2014The word Kaito means “Ocean Lover,” and it’s doubly appropriate: first, because of its iconic Pleasure Point location, and second, because there are many tasty seafood items on the menu.

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Back Nine Grill & Bar

Back Nine Grill & Bar

This is the second of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

Back Nine Grill & Bar replaced the former Peachwood’s at The Inn at Pasatiempo. The restaurant opened in August after undergoing interior renovations, resulting in a pleasant ambience that is a vast improvement over Peachwood’s. Servers are friendly and knowledgeable.

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Best New Santa Cruz Restaurants: Assembly

Assembly Santa Cruz

This is the first of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.

Zach Davis and Kendra Baker opened Assembly, their latest venue and their first full-service restaurant, in March. The dynamic duo first opened The Penny Ice Creamery in 2010 and followed that with The Picnic Basket and then more Penny locations (a kiosk, then Pleasure Point).

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