King of the Hill

dining linwoodsFresh flavors complement the view at Linwood’s Bar and Grill  

Leaves were rustling in the chill wind, but inside at Linwood’s, rays of warm sunshine streamed through the windows. Looking out across the patio perched on a hill, a fir forest rises from below, and in the midday light, it seemed to stretch all the way to the shimmering bay beyond.

To the left is an arbor on which roses and wisteria bloom seasonally; the setting for many a romantic Chaminade wedding.

In Linwood’s dining room, painted cocoa with robin-egg blue accents, dark wood tables set with black napkins and Captain’s chairs offer comfortable seating. A black grand piano waits majestically in the corner. In addition to the bar, tall countertops and a fireplace surrounded by sofas offer a relaxing lounge experience.

Linwood’s strives to use local produce and sustainable sources of fish. The lunch menu contains some of my favorites such as Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($13) with three dipping sauces, which are served with soba noodles and vegetables. The seasonal Pizzetta ($12) is topped with pistachios, honey and fresh mint.

Sandwiches ($15 to $17), which are served with steak fries, include a Creekstone natural beef hamburger, house-made sausage, brined and grilled chicken breast, and Caprese with fresh mozzarella.

Winter salads ($7 to $14) include roasted beets served with goat cheese and candied nuts and a Caesar made with escarole.

A medley of textures and colors commingled in the huge bowl of Asian-style Chicken Salad ($16). Topped with crisply fried strips of wonton and sprigs of dill, aromatic grilled chicken, slivers of young sugar pea pods and bright tendrils of the plants themselves were joined by tender-crisp slices of bok choy, fine julienne of carrots and yellow squash, soba noodles and mushrooms. It was both a filling and fulfilling complement to the view. As the server was elsewhere occupied, I made a trip to the well-stocked bar for an iced tea refill.

At dinnertime the environment is vastly different. A cozy firepit glowed outside, while tiny candles flickered on each table and from the encircling window sills. Lights from Live Oak were visible beyond the darkened patio and invisible forest.

As Chaminade’s Sunday Brunch was our children’s birthday breakfast of choice, it seemed fitting to return with my son on the 25th anniversary of his birth.

Linwood’s appetizers ($8 to $18) included fresh corn soup with sage and local crab, salads, pizzettas, and Watsonville ostrich carpaccio with pecorino cheese. The main dishes ($21 to $33) varied from seared chicken breast, house-smoked salmon fettuccine, and house-made sage and butternut squash ravioli.

Warm, bulbous rolls were served with marinated olives and sweet, pink whipped butter which was dotted with bits of fresh cranberries. A half dozen fresh oysters ($12) sat on a bed of rock salt which was strewn with pink peppercorns and a confetti of nori seaweed. Shaved pickled ginger and the peppercorns added a lovely sparkle to the velvety, chilled bivalves. A cucumber vodka martini ($10) with fresh basil and cucumber was the perfect savory accompaniment. The accomplished server regularly inquired as to our satisfaction. dining linwoodsn

A rich, creamy soufflé ($13) of sweet and savory figs and Asiago cheese, presented in a tiny cooked pumpkin shell, was paired with fans of thinly sliced pear and baguette crostini.

The hearty Fairfax Salad ($12) of mixed field greens was topped with two thick cakes of Burratta, a soft, fresh mozzarella, surrounded by meaty tomato slices with chiffonade of basil, and drizzled lightly with pesto vinaigrette.

The medium-rare, grill-marked Creekstone Rib Eye steak ($33) with a rich demi jus reduction was tender and smoky. It was joined by fresh vegetables and a halved baked potato, its flesh mashed and returned to its skin.

The double-wide, bone-in pork chop ($28), its lean, white meat encircled with house-made bacon, lay atop smoothly mashed potatoes with broccoli rabe and baby purple and orange carrots.

A side platter of Brussels Sprouts ($6) was roasted with cubes of salty pancetta bacon and fennel, and lightly seasoned with truffle oil. The fennel and crisp outer leaves of the sprouts had turned undeniably sweet and mellow.

Recalling the amazing desserts at Chaminade’s Sunday brunch buffet, we left adequate room to share some sweet treats ($7). The choices ranged from a light trio of sorbets to a decadent chocolate ribbon cake.

A tart arrived unexpectedly for the birthday boy, monogrammed with a cursive “L.” The crumbly crust held a sweet-tart lemon filling.

A gooey dark chocolate center trickled from the cylindrical Chocolate Magma Lava Cake, which was moist, rich and lightly sweetened. Vanilla bean gelato with tiny icy crystals was sweet and creamy.

Linwood’s Bar and Grill, One Chaminade Ln., Santa Cruz, 475-5600. Full bar. Serving lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Visit chaminade.com/Dining/Dining.asp

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