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Take a Break from the Kitchen

dining cheeseLocal chefs offer creative winter menus on December 25th

I was in college when my parents transferred to South Carolina, so for many holidays, it was just my grandparents and I. Although I once cooked a turkey dinner for them in my tiny apartment, on appliances older than I was, most of the time we celebrated at a restaurant. It was a treat having my grandparents to myself, watching the winter waves from the comfort of Ideal Bar and Grill.

Even if you do celebrate Christmas, there are many reasons to consider eating out. The stress of the weeks leading up to the holiday, with shopping, mailing, and even end-of year deadlines at work adds up. Fully experiencing Christmas morning with family, friends, kids and grandkids holds its own rewards. Occasionally I have to acknowledge it: let someone else do the dishes!

We will miss the opportunity to enjoy Christmas dinner at Peachwood’s, as owner and chef David Smith recently retired. But there are many chefs who will gift us with their culinary creations on Dec. 25. Prices noted are for adults/children, and many websites offer detailed menus as well as online reservations.

Solaire at Hotel Paradox
Solaire at Hotel Paradox will be serving a four-course tasting menu ($38/$19) of starter (shrimp and grits or seasonal grilled Castroville artichoke), chanterelle soup or salad, leg of lamb, turkey, diver scallops or roasted squash with a finale of coffee and pecan pie, gingerbread cake or triple chocolate cake. 611 Ocean St., 600-4545, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., hotelparadox.com/dining.

Cafe Mare
Cafe Mare will be serving its regular menu of Italian specialties, along with some “very nice” specials. I always enjoy the antipasti of smoked salmon with fresh mascarpone cheese. Salmon penne pasta with a vodka cream sauce is filling, as is the seafood pasta spaghetti mistomare. The Cucumber Cooler features locally hard-to-find Hendrick’s gin, while Crema di Limoncello and a selection of ports pair nicely with dessert. 740 Front St., Santa Cruz, 458-1212, cafemare.com.

Ideal Bar & Grill
You can’t go wrong with the view of Main Beach at Ideal Bar & Grill where they’ll be serving a traditional dinner including maple-sage turkey breast, roast yams and green beans with garlic mashed potatoes ($17.95/$9). Also available will be Cioppino ($26) with local Dungeness crab, and herb-crusted prime rib ($22.95) with potatoes and vegetables. 106 Beach st., Santa Cruz, 423-5271, 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., idealbarandgrill.com.

Aquarius at the Dream Inn
Across the street, Aquarius at the Dream Inn will be serving a four-course meal ($55/kids menu) with a pristine view of the bay. House-cured salmon with cornichons, soup, salad or scallops with celeriac rémoulade, with a main course of veal chops, striped bass, duck confit, or sweet potato gnocchi. Of course, there will be a number of desserts to choose from. 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 460-5012, 12:30 until 9:30 p.m., aquariussantacruz.com.

Chaminade
The entire bay is visible from the top of the hill at Chaminade, where diners will enjoy a festive buffet ($47.95/$17.95), including salad, cheese, and fruit displays, the seafood bar with whole poached salmon, and the popular carving station with prime rib, turkey and ham. Each stainless steel chafing dish offers its own gift such as butternut squash ravioli. Chaminade’s pastry chef creates the breads and always-luscious desserts in-house. 1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, 475-5600, noon until 6 p.m., chaminade.com/#/holiday_events.

Zelda’s On The Beach
Feast at the Capitola Beach from Zelda’s, which will be serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m. After noon, enjoy a traditional turkey or maple-baked ham dinner ($16.95/$10.95) or something from the special holiday menu. 203 Esplanade, Capitola, 475-4900, noon, zeldasonthebeach.com.

Severino’s Bar & Grill  dining dessertSeverino’s Bar & Grill will host a buffet from its pool-side dining room within the Best Western Plus Seacliff Inn. Salads and vegetables will join Black Angus prime rib, local Dungeness crab, roasted leg of lamb and turkey, jumbo prawns, side dishes and dessert. 7500 Old Dominion Court, Aptos, 688-8987, 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., seacliffinn.com/severinos_grill.html.

Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort
I have enjoyed the lavish spreads for Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort, and expect the Christmas Day feast ($45.95)/$19.95) to be no different. The traditional holiday gourmet buffet includes a seafood bar, roasted prime rib, fresh vegetables, sides and salads, and a festive dessert display. 1 Seascape Resort Drive, Aptos, 662-7120, 2-7 p.m., sanderlingsrestaurant.com.

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