Capitola’s culinary hobbit continues to thrive with style and excellence
Available men, unavailable men, women’s lib 2010 and Bernee Mountain Dogs became the hot topics of conversation recently as four of us revisted Shadowbrook Restaurant for what would be become a wicked Wednesday night. Wicked because we hardworking folk—try shoving commas, apostrophes and periods together in the minivan of literature and see how tricky it can be—never shy away from wine, so Shadowbrook’s Winemaker Wednesdays stand out.
So there we were, in the well-known restaurant’s Rock Room Lounge, about to be detoured from reality by Mount Eden Vineyards, when one of us confessed of several crushes they had formed on several men that were, well, not on the market. “Move on,” we quickly advised. “You’re the prize—and if that person cannot see that, then your answer is: “NEXT!”
It was a tasty conversation to accompany the wine flights that suddenly arrived at the bar where we were seated.
First came the 2008 Chardonnay Wolff Vineyard, whose grapes were harvested in October in the Edna Valley. This jewel was firm with a citrus zest that clearly showed off its fine flavor after nine months of aging. (One of us secretly wished that very thing were true in their personal relationships, but what can you do?) We each nibbled on the tasty cucumber salad that accompanied the wine and soon, the second offering was in our orbit—a 2006 Chardonnay, Saratoga Cuveé, certainly an attention-grabber for the palate with its bright pear appeal and the anise flavor. Paired nicely with a prosciutto dish, some of us moved on to better emotional territory: Available men.
“This is the perfect place for a date with ‘him,’” somebody commented about their honey. I looked around. Well, indeed it was. The Rock Room, with its enormous fireplace, cozy seating, attractive aquarium, is the perfect lounge. But this isn’t really news. For more than 60 years now, Shadowbrook has spoiled the county with its savory meals and marvelous ambiance. (It nabbed the 2010 GT Readers’ Poll for Best Ambiance, in fact.) Truth is, it’s challenging to write about this place because you often sound as if you’re gushing, but excellence is excellence, and my two recent visits seem to prove that. Hold that thought—the third wine, a 2005 Cabernet, Saratoga Cuveé and its pal—a duck confit—are worth mentioning. There was a notable red rasberryness to the wine, with plenty of currant flavor. A winner, sure, but it was the middle selection, the Jan Brady of the girls, the 2006 Chardonnay, that won us over. There was something distinctly original about it. But this is Mount Eden we’re dealing with here, so all of the wines were noteworthy in my book. Truth is, Mount Eden is still one of the best vineyards in the area. (Vinocruz, by the way, in Downtown Santa Cruz, is a great host to many of its wines.)
Take note: If you haven’t delved into Shadowbrook’s Winemaker Wednesdays, it’s time you do before it comes to a close after this month. You can’t beat the ambitious selection of wines that are presented each week—each month, really—but beyond that, the prices are unmatchable. Glasses of wine from $3.75-$4.50; bottles of wine more than half off, often within the $15-$18 arena. Dive in.
Onward. We descended to a lower level of Shadowbrook’s multi-layered lair and were welcomed to a wonderful corner table—the best, I think—overlooking the tranquil Soquel Creek. Our conversation had begun to Ping-Pong—from the restaurant’s own herb garden to the venue’s staff (many of them there for many, many years)—before we found ourselves quickly surmising that the women’s liberation movement, while having traveled far over the course of four decades, could use another boost. Was it true? We couldn’t expound upon why—not in detail, anyway—because decisions had to be made.
We ordered more wine.
TASTE AND STYLE Owner Ted Burke and Chef Ashley Hosmer show off a tempting Mahi Mahi dish. A David Bruce 2006 Central Coast Petite Syrah comes along for the ride.
Moments later the most available man of the evening—finally—arrived: A David Bruce 2006 Central Coast Petite Syrah. Handsome and downright dashing, the wine was full of deep, dark, berry flavors, had a rich body—admit it ladies, deep down, in real life, don’t we all long for this?—and soft tannins. It was the perfect companion for our appetizers.
We all shared a Maryland Quattro Crostini ($8.95)—grilled francese bread with fire-roasted peppers and wild arugula—and Soft Shell Crab Tempura ($12.95), which was an impressive ensemble of Ponzu, wasabi, pickled ginger and shisu.
While we were waiting for our entrees, overseen by Executive Chef Ross McKee this evening, we took in the ambiance and the view. The sun had set and the lights on the patio were suddenly sparkling. Once our main dishes arrived we toasted our great luck and picked up the forks.
The Mahi Mahi ($24.95) was beautifully presented. A char-grilled gem that was basted with sake, the sautee of shimeji mushroom and an accompaniment of bok choy and wasabi mashed potatoes, could not have been better prepared. Tender and a truly impressive array of flavors.
The Prime Kansas City Steak ($34.95) was hearty. This char-grilled one-pound steak—what a meal—arrived topped with oven-roasted cipollini onions and pancetta. It’s also served with potato gratin. The steak was cooked medium rare. “Mouthwatering,” somebody mused.
But the Swordfish ($28.95) was also a powerful dish. The fish was pan-seared with roasted baby vegetables and the combination fingerling potatoes and meyer lemon beurre blanc created a sensational collaboration. You simply wanted more, even when you became satiated.
Then there was the Blackened Lamb ($31.95). In a word: Precious. A mix of Cajun spices and roasted garlic-beurre rouge, it came with a curious shimeji mushroom bread pudding that was, quite simply, dynamite. When you order this dish, take note of its textures and, also, how light its sauce actually is when you would think the opposite would be true.
Somewhere during this memorable feast, we ordered another bottle of David Bruce before merging briefly onto why Bernese Mountain Dogs may be the best dogs on the planet. (No, it wasn’t the wine talking, they’re fine dogs—pet one; hug one.)
In the meantime, the top dogs of the night were Shadowbrook owners Ted Burke and Bob Munsey. The duo, who have been business partners and owned this impressive culinary hobbit since 1978, continue to impressive us with a festive variety of cuisine that is as luscious as it is inventive—two ingredients that aren’t that simple to combine, but they manage to do it with aplomb.
Cheers to longevity—a most delicious thing.
This article is one in a series of Editors’ Dinners designed to illuminate the art of conversation and meals. Visit Shadowbrook Restaurant, 1750 Wharf Rd., Capitola, 475-1511; shadowbrook-capitola.com.