editorspicks
Cover Stories

Best Of Santa Cruz County 2016 Editor’s Picks

Editor’s Picks

Best Local Hashtag

#onlyinsantacruz

There is a place carved out on Twitter where lovers of Santa Cruz can bask in the picturesque glory of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, although that isn’t even the best kind of #onlyinsantacruz tweet. We love this hashtag—which also offers rich browsing on Instagram—more for its dispatches on watching a 12-piece ukulele band or devouring edibles while getting a haircut. Then there’s the local dude with his lightsaber, guys dressed up like bags of weed, and a woman in a dentist office crying over a fish that had died the previous month. JACOB PIERCE

Best Movement Exploration Space

Max10

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Whether a painter, musician, dancer, or comedian, it’s not making the art that is the hardest part, it’s convincing people that the art is worth showing. That’s why Max10 is invaluable for young artists to bring their ideas to a local audience and receive immediate, face-to-face feedback. Choreographer Cid Pearlman brought the model of 10 shows at a maximum of 10 minutes each to Santa Cruz a few years ago, and with quarterly showcases, anyone has the opportunity to push themselves as an artist and bring the community together to support fresh talent. Full details at motionpacific.com/max10. ANNE-MARIE HARRISON

Best Community Cheerleader

Matthew Swinnerton

If anyone loves Santa Cruz more than Matthew Swinnerton, they’re definitely not as vocal about it. Since founding Event Santa Cruz in 2013, the gathering, held in a different Santa Cruz business each month, has showcased more than 100 local entrepreneurs as speakers. Swinnerton was made ringleader of the NEXTie awards (coming up on April 8) two years ago, and has recently started a video series where he interviews Santa Cruz County’s movers and shakers. His gregarious and affable personality is infectious, and it’s hard to walk away from an encounter with the man without feeling a bit more enthusiastic, optimistic and pepped up. Go, home team, go! LILY STOICHEFF

Best Excuse for Being Late

Traffic

“Hey, sorry! I wanted to get here an hour ago, and I figured it would surely be smooth sailing when I left my house at 11 a.m., but Highway 1 was down to one lane because a Prius had been rear-ended by 1974 Volkswagen van, sending hand drums and hula hoops flying into the air. So I tried taking Soquel Avenue, but it was blocked by people protesting the unethical imprisonment of pet fish in office aquariums.” JP

Best Bargain Wine Rack

Shopper’s Corner

Where else on the planet can you stand on gleaming 75-year-old hardwood floors, surrounded by your foodie friends and neighbors, and ponder serious wine bargains crying out for attention on the infamous bargain rack? Malbecs at rock bottom—they’ve got ’em. Old-vine Sauvignon Blancs for under a buck? Totally. Curious varietals from the southern hemisphere are priced to tempt you. And so you take home a few unknown labels and test drive them over dinner. Among the always drinkable discounts, I invariably discover some absolute gem. When I do, I jump in the car and drive back to Shopper’s to scoop up as many as I can afford. The wine buyer is one sharp-eyed dude, and you can have lots of legal fun just working your way through the intriguing inventory of this not-so-secret corner of Shopper’s Corner. CHRISTINA WATERS

Best Ongoing Interview Attempt

Rodarte

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Ever since the New York Times magazine published the October 2013 article “For Rodarte, A Santa Cruz State of Mind,” about Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters who overcame the “suburban ennui and ‘really weird vibes’ of their childhood in Santa Cruz” to make it big in the world of fashion, we’ve been relentlessly trying to catch up with the sisters. If designing for the movie Black Swan was the breakout for their high-end label Rodarte, these locally raised sisters have only continued their trajectory toward untouchable genius in the fashion world, and GT promises not to remove them from our speed dial until we have them on the line. MARIA GRUSAUSKAS

Best Reason to Put on Cowboy Boots

Western Wednesday at the Crepe Place

Sometimes you just want to relive the good ol’ Wild, Wild West—without all the guns, harsh living conditions and disease, of course. There are few better ways to get your bottled-up yeehaws out than Western Wednesday at the Crepe Place on the third Wednesday of each month. Presented by Tomboy, the shindig includes one touring band, one local band, and a vintage photo booth to get your old-time portrait taken. Grab a dancing partner, or several, for a toe-tappin,’ boot stompin,’ honky tonkin’ good time. Wear cowboy boots to get $1 off the cover. AMH

Best Activity to Add to Your Morning Routine

Podcasts

Something changed in the weeks following my discovery of the vast and varied underworld of podcasts. At the risk of sounding like a depressive, they help me get out of bed. Setting my iPhone in a glass bowl to amplify the podcast over the shower, they have kept me engrossed through the outfit-choosing process all the way to the office. From friend-recommended episodes of This American Life and Serial (consumed in a single weekend), to, most recently, the past 40 interview episodes of WTF, broadcast from the garage of comedian Marc Maron, podcasts are one of those constructive, productive activities that, if you choose the right ones, can pull laughs out of you in traffic and bring the voice of, say, Richard Thompson or David Spade (one of the funniest ever) into your kitchen as you wait for your toast. They will keep you company, distract you from heartbreak, expand your vocabulary, and fill your head with thoughts, ideas and stories of humanity. I was surprised to find that Santa Cruz is a hotbed for podcast production, too, from the medical prowess of Dr. Dawn Motyka’s Ask Dr. Dawn to stories from the LGBTQ community, Out in Santa Cruz, to Motorcycles & Misfits: Re-Cycle Garage in Santa Cruz, with its rotating cast of characters on a mission to get old motorcycles back on the road and to teach people how to wrench on them. MG

Best Biscotti

Companion Bakeshop

Surely a no-brainer, the pastry counter at Companion Bakeshop must send out subliminal alerts that are exactly tuned to my neural nets. The minute one of the gluten-free almond apricot biscotti emerge from the oven, a timer goes off in my left brain, and I zoom over. Once tasted, there’s just no going back from these super-sized biscotti that are at once fragrant, chewy, crunchy, and packed with flavor. They are the stuff of dreams. I buy them three at a time—you never know when a biscotto craving may arise—and devour one each night, accompanied by nettle tea and a shot of Fernet Branca. Life is good. CW

Best Local Fungus

Candy Cap Mushroom

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Even folks who are typically cautious of wild mushrooms can’t resist Lactarius rubidus, known colloquially as the candy cap. This innocuous-looking, small, reddish-brown mushroom is a favorite of local foragers due to its sweet, earthy flavor that is strongly reminiscent of maple syrup. Yes, really. Try it locally in LionFish SupperClub’s Candy Cap bread pudding, as a seasonal ice cream flavor at Penny Ice Creamery, and in Uncommon Brewers’ Rubidus Red Ale. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go hang out with the cool kids at the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, and discover many other mushroom secrets waiting in our forests and mountains. LS

Best Little-Known Local History

54th Coast Artillery Regiment

On Easter Sunday in 1942, 200 African-American men set up camp at Lighthouse Point—at a time when there were 18 African Americans total living in Santa Cruz. They were the 54th Coast Artillery Regiment, an all-black unit responsible for defending the Monterey Bay in the event of a Japanese attack. The regiment’s arrival wasn’t treated well by all locals, and city officials attempted to make some parts of town inaccessible to the soldiers. In response, the local military chaplain threatened to boycott the “whole damn town” and local businesses. AMH

Best Old-Timey Ice Cream

Marianne’s

Sometimes the dessert we crave isn’t artisanal ice cream with inventively concocted flavors like oatmeal stout. Sometimes we want something that’s still fresh and delicious, but with a few dozen more flavors to choose from. We’re talking about a place where they don’t accept credit cards and where the wallpaper of dancing cows is clearly circa 1963. When it comes to ice cream parlor time travel, Marianne’s takes the cake every time. JP

Best Shoe Repair Shop

A & B Shoe Repair

A & B Shoe Repair is a family-owned mom-and-pop shop that has been in business for 32 years. Located conveniently near the State Park Drive exit in Aptos, the tiny operation is run by Jimmy Park, who is as welcoming and friendly as he is a master of his trade. Having studied at an orthopedic college, Park is skilled in working with all kinds of leather. Aside from repairing broken heels, resoling shoes, and keeping our favorite kicks polished to a sheen without breaking the bank, the shop also works on leather bags. Open Tuesday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 7745 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 688-6214. MG

Best Downtown Farmers Market Bargain

Roti

The downtown farmers market offers a bevy of delicious lunch options: a chicken naan wrap from India Gourmet, the perfect pork pie from Back Porch, or a healthy vegetarian crepe from Delicious Crepes. But pinpointing the best bang for your buck—that’s a tough one. Fear not, the dedicated GT staff has done the legwork for you. Here’s our thrifty favorite: The quarter rotisserie chicken and side of perfectly seasoned potatoes from Roti ($7.50). It’s enough food for next-day lunch leftovers, the chicken is consistently tasty and the potatoes are superbly salted. AMH

Best Way to Trick Your Kids

The Green Waffle

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Not only do The Green Waffle founders Martin and Blanca Madriz have a fascinating and inspiring life story, they are also onto something fantastic: making the all-American favorite breakfast (yes, we know, they’re a Belgian export) into something nutritious and healthy. Martin and Blanca use only oats, egg whites and spinach to make their deceptively delicious waffles with a color that rivals green eggs and ham. AMH

Best View You Have To Earn

Eagle In Tree Vista in the Byrne-Milliron Forest

The Byrne-Milliron Forest outside of Corralitos is not for wimpy hikers, but the prize is well worth the effort. After climbing a few miles of nearly horizontal logging trails lined with majestic redwoods, adventurers who reach the Eagle In Tree Vista, red-faced and wheezing, are rewarded with an unobstructed 180-degree view of the Pajaro Valley. From this 1,600-foot vantage point, take in a panoramic view of the Strawberry Capital; patchwork farmland; Pinto, Kelly and Tynan lakes; rugged and graceful Mt. Madonna; and the Pajaro River as it snakes its way toward the coast. If the hike doesn’t take your breath away, the view certainly will. LS

Best Reason Not to Visit the Forest

To Play Your Radio

In an ideal world, those people who add “portable radio” to their nature-trip packing list would be herded to the nearest amusement park instead. Or better yet, placed under house arrest. The beach is one thing—and I do have fantasies of throwing the next beach-towed radio into the surf—but bringing a radio into the forest is an infraction of the highest level. Annoying beachgoers with their country music pale (only a little) in comparison with disrupting the peace and serenity of the redwoods. Isn’t there, like, a Great America they can go be loud at? MG

Best Local Grenache

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

I’ll admit that I backed into the singular charms of Grenache the old-fashioned way. I trained my palate on the inimitable Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre troika that powers the great reds of the Rhône. I’ve even gone so far as to put away a few choice bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape Vieux Telegram (cost me an arm and a leg!), as well as a few of its new world cousins made by Rhône Ranger Randall Grahm (only cost me an ankle). My go-to Grenache is the sturdy, confident goes-with-everything version made by Jeff Emery. His Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2014 Grenache is made with cool-clime Monterey highlands grapes loaded with spice, white pepper and berries. At under $20, it drinks like a Tesla, and underscores all that is great about the grape. CW

Best Drinking Game

Local Trivia

Throwing coins in red cups of tepid fizzy lager is so “kids table.” Grownups know that the best way to get your buzz on is attending a trivia match at a local bar. Between 99 Bottles, Woodstock’s Pizza, Rosie McCann’s, New Bohemia Brewing Co., and Lúpulo Craft Beer House, battles of wits are available almost every day of the week. Despite the rumor that alcohol kills brain cells, studies have shown that you are definitely better at trivia after a couple of pints. This is also one of the few public circumstances where the nerdier you are, the sexier you become. So keep your phone in your pocket and assemble your dream team (don’t forget a punny team name) and hit up the local watering holes, each with their own flavor of questionnaire. Oh, and watch out for those UCSC linguistics grad students. Trust me on that one. LS

Best Traffic Problem to Get Mad About That’s Not Cars

Horrible Cyclists

Who in Santa Cruz hasn’t had to roll down his or her car window to yell at a particularly clueless cyclist? We see them every day—riding against traffic at night, without a helmet or light, earphones in, guzzling a Big Gulp filled with Olde English. They obviously have no regard for the rules of the road, nor even for the ability of a 5,000-pound Escalade to level them like a tractor over a cornfield. More importantly, their dumb choices give other cyclists all over the county—the majority of whom follow the rules—a bad rap. JP

Best New Local Task Force

Leaf Blower Pollution Task Force

Managed by Ken Forster of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping and Lena Roxanne Evans, the Leaf Blower Pollution Task Force of Santa Cruz is a public group on Facebook devoted to bringing awareness to the downsides of leaf blowers. In a polite and diplomatic way, the group looks beyond the obvious noise-pollution annoyance of the leaf blowers’ incessant 180-decibel whine to the larger issues: gas leaf blowers whip up not just leaves, but a tornado of fine particulates into the air, including molds, fungus, exhaust fumes, carcinogens, and pesticides—all of which lodge themselves into human lungs. The high-velocity blowing also destroys habitats and ecosystems of birds, small mammals and pollinators. If leaf blowers annoy you too, join up on the Task Force’s Facebook page and help support the movement to find smarter landscaping solutions. MG

Best Locally Made Vegan Dip

La Onda

It’s difficult to describe the taste of La Onda. It doesn’t taste like the combination of its ingredients, but is somehow far more than the sum of its parts: sustainable almonds, grape seed oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, aminos, and a variety of spices depending on what flavor you choose (habanero is a favorite). It’s incredible on sandwiches, with chips, or with a chicken or pasta dish. The number of vegan options that taste like shoe leather still outnumber the ones that don’t, so cheers to La Onda for creating something gluten-free, vegan, sustainable, and delicious. AMH

Best Way to Find Dark Sky Sites

Santa Cruz Astronomy Club

On a night when the moon is small or there is no moon at all, billions of stars, and oftentimes, a few of the five visible planets, can be seen in the sky. The trick, of course, is to get to a dark-sky location for maximum enjoyment, with a pair of binoculars or a telescope for views of deep-sky objects like globular clusters and neighboring galaxies. The Santa Cruz Astronomy Club hosts several star parties at various dark-sky sites, some of them, like the Bonny Doon Airport, open only by reservation through the club. Quail Hollow Ranch County Park and Little Basin Campground are ideal for getting up out of the city lights and into the dark of the Santa Cruz Mountains, while driving north or south out of town along the coast also promises some stellar night sky views. MG

Most Affordable Custom Bikes

Dave’s Custom Bikes

Anthony Brown, owner of Dave’s Custom Bikes, rolls his eyes when I ask about high-end bike components he deems unnecessary. He snorts at wheel advice friends have given me and dismisses most of the trends and hype that aren’t based in true technology improvements as “myth.”
The secret to getting a bike at Dave’s is having Brown build a custom one for you, from either a used or new frame with new components, though he carries new bikes, too, if you want to roll out the door on the same day.

Brown bought the bike shop from his longtime partner Dave in 2014. Brown is practical. He won’t overcharge you or oversell you. “I’m cheap,” he says, diverting my attention away from an expensive component. “It depends on what you mean by best,” he says, when I say I want the best gears. “It’s all about the frame,” he says, whenever my focus strays elsewhere.

When the shop is quiet, and both Brown and his co-worker Matthew Staker are available, it’s an education to hear them debate the best bike for you. Clearly, there is no one way to build a better bike. They ask questions about your bike-riding usage, then, sounding like the Siskel and Ebert of bikes, they discuss, disagree, and finally arrive along with you at a recommendation. Dave’s Custom Bikes is at 910 Soquel Ave., Ste A, Santa Cruz. 423-8923, davescustombikes.com. JEANNE HOWARD


 

About the Illustrator

Mott Jordan

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Cover artist Mott Jordan has been a fixture on the Santa Cruz visual arts scene since the 1980s. A studio art major at UCSC, he soon found a niche creating illustrations and front-cover designs for weekly newspapers Santa Cruz Express, The Sun, Santa Cruz Magazine, The Student Guide, and the occasional feature illustration for Metro Santa Cruz and Good Times. His “golden surfer” design, based on the West Cliff surfer statue, was adapted to be part of the SantaCruz.com web logo. His studio is in the 17th Avenue Studios art complex in Live Oak, and from there he creates graphic work and large quirky pop-surrealist oil paintings on shaped panels. Jordan opens his studio most years in October as a participant in Santa Cruz County Open Studios, and his work will be featured in May at Agency, 1519 Pacific Ave. in downtown Santa Cruz.

 

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