Have It Your Way

dining carboneroCarbonero Café & Catering brings its fresh and wholesome gourmet repertoire to Scotts Valley

My visit to Carbonero Café and Catering felt eerily familiar. Winding down a narrow tree-lined road, I followed the reddish umbrellas into what was previously a cafeteria for Seagate Technologies, and now home to Fox. I spent almost half of my life in buildings like this, where patches in the shiny lacquered concrete floors spoke of bygone product lines.

And the high tech cafeterias? Definitely edible food, but boring. So here at Carbonero, tasting the internationally-inspired creations of chef and owner Byron Gravelle, it was as if I had died and gone to Google.

The executive chef in his chef whites greeted me, and each of his staff was helpful and friendly. The menu at Carbonero Café does not change with the seasons. For the most part, it changes every day. The eatery’s mission is to serve natural and fresh-picked organic foods.

A coffee bar with an extensive list of ground-to-order caffeinated favorites is certain to please employees of neighboring firms including Hospice, and Bay Photo. The patio tables were full, but the indoor eating area is almost totally enclosed by windows. Redwoods, oak, and Japanese maple trees surround the building, creating a fine environment for the California Gray Squirrel that scampered about. Carbonero introduces a delightful concept in its Fresh Pick salad bar ($5.50/$6.50). Customers choose their greens, dressing, and five toppings. Additional toppings can be selected ($.75 each), as well as protein, which on this visit included grilled chicken ($1.75) and blackened salmon ($2.50). A member of the kitchen staff tosses it all together for you.

I went for the multi-colored greens, adding red onions, roasted golden beets, crunchy sunflower seeds, sliced pepperoncini peppers, and wonderfully strong-flavored feta cheese. The blackened salmon was neither oily nor too salty and cooked lightly, retaining its beautiful deep pink color. The Asian sesame dressing was nice and light, tasty, and gently spicy, but I detected little sesame flavor.

Irregularly-shaped, hand-made burgers ($3.25/$4.50/$6), either single, double or triple, are always available with choice of toppings. You can also add fries ($1.50) or onion rings ($3.25). I chose the day’s special ($6). A heaping helping of minced roasted garlic and blue cheese was placed atop the cooking burger. It was joined between halves of an airy nine-grain bun by two slices of bacon, romaine, and a thick slice of ruby red tomato. At the condiment station customers can finish their burgers off with three kinds of mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup.

There are always a couple of main course specials. Yakisoba noodles ($7) were stir-fried with carrot, summer squashes, frilly kale, bell peppers, onions and sweet roasted pork. A topping of corn relish and a squeeze fresh lime added a nice brightness. Seven types of hot sauce available at the condiment counter included Sriracha, a perfect addition to this dish.

The day’s hot sandwich ($6.50) was an amazing Italian Sub. Roasted turkey on a baguette was spiced up with sopresseta salami, pepperoni and sweet grilled onions and peppers.

Café Carbonero & Catering, 915 Disc Dr., Scotts Valley, 740-4673. Open Mon-Fri with breakfast from 7:30-10 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and coffee bar until 3 p.m. Visit cafecarbonero.com.

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