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Travel BLOG
January 06, 2015

Fireside Wine or Dine

Some visitors to Santa Cruz County might argue that we don’t have seasons here. Our temperate climate, year-round growing season and sun-kissed winters make this a more-than-welcome destination to live, work and holiday. However, residents of this fine coastal community are not immune to feeling a chill, even if it happens to be 55 degrees above instead of below, and prefer to head indoors to a cozy fire just like the rest of the world. Luckily, there are plenty of accommodating local restaurants that not only provide invigorating food and drink, but also firesides to warm up next to. Fireside ambiance in the Rock Room Lounge
Picture: Shadowbrook SHADOWBROOK It is not an exaggeration to say that the storied Shadowbrook Restaurant, set into a cliff-side above Capitola Village, is one of the most romantic restaurants in the country. The countless nooks and crannies, all throughout the six ornate dining rooms on four levels, offer patrons a not-to-be-forgotten experience, ever since it opened in 1947 with a “Romance in Dining” theme. Shadowbrook is on the top of this list for a reason, with iconic structural features that showcase four fireplaces. A massive stone hearth is aptly located in the historic Fireplace Room, with a cluster of cozy tables and a balcony above. Another one sits in an intimate alcove, which tends to be the most requested seat in the house when special proposals are planned, in the wine cellar. The original fireplace holds center attention in the Owner’s Private Reserve room, designated for seating large parties and groups. Finally, and perhaps the most utilized, is the inviting fireplace that takes over a large corner of the Rock Room Lounge. It is here that the popular Winemaker Wednesday event takes place, featuring a different local wine each week, as well as live jazz on the weekends. Cozy fireplace in the main dining room of Hollins House
Picture: Amber Turpin HOLLINS HOUSE The hilltop location of the Hollins House, overlooking the Pasatiempo Golf Club and all of the Monterey Bay beyond, feels like an exclusive hideaway. Once you make it past the gated entrance of the golf course, up the road to the very top and through the grand front entrance of the restaurant, you feel as if you have journeyed much farther than the mere three miles from Santa Cruz glistening down below. And whether you happen to be there for one of the many private events that predominate the calendar for this historic 1930’s estate or to enjoy dinner or a cocktail at the old-school bar (both open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays), elegance awaits. Soak in the ambiance near one of four fireplaces, each offering a welcoming vantage point to the amazing view. A lengthy wine list and an innovative yet comforting menu, both featuring many local offerings, solidify the appeal of this distinct destination. Globe-shaped warmth at the Crow's Nest
Picture: Amber Turpin CROW'S NEST On a recent Wednesday evening, if you happened to be searching for a dry nook out of the rain, you might have stumbled into a party. Apparently, much of Santa Cruz already knows that the upstairs bar at the Crow’s Nest is the place to be on Wednesdays, when happy hour lasts all night long. That means that the lengthy appetizer menu is half off and drinks are deeply discounted, too. But the real secret is the globe-shaped fireplace tucked close to a wall of windows, perfect for heating up while gazing at the sparkling harbor lights and night sky view. If you can snag a table close by, you will find yourself in a private cozy calm amidst the happy hour bustle. El Jardin_Fireplace close up Fire and margaritas at El Jardin
Picture: Amber Turpin EL JARDIN Nothing solves a case of the winter doldrums like an icy cold margarita on the rocks. At El Jardin, you can fantasize about lying on a beach in Mexico (or your favorite local beach). Just close your eyes, imagine the heat of the fireplace in the main dining area as sunshine and take a will be transported. The fresh chips and trio of toppings that arrive at your table only strengthen your imaginary vacation, while the vibrant folk art, glowing lights and colorful tile-work transport you all the way. Those in the know come to El Jardin for the mole, a recipe that has won awards at the lively Mole & Mariachi Festival both years running. Every day of the week features specials and happy hour deals and the cocktail list with 18 different top-shelf concoctions will not disappoint. Enjoying the fire and Cafe Cruz's outdoor patio
Picture: Amber Turpin CAFE CRUZ Coming up on their 20th anniversary, Cafe Cruz has remained a solid standby in the Santa Cruz dining community. The famous rotisserie cooking, locally sourced and generously sized menu items, and friendly service are all reasons people return again and again. But some would argue that it is the spacious ambiance that keeps Cafe Cruz packed day and night. The beautiful copper-walled, open kitchen is the anchor to an assortment of seating options, from the central dining space to the open air patio to the covered garden room to the cozy bar. And with fire being utilized as one of the restaurant’s signatures with the french Rotisol rotisserie, it is no wonder that there are several more heating elements throughout. An impressive Tuscan fireplace dominates a whole wall outside along with a table-top fire pit to gather around. And in the bar, the adobe-style fireplace is the coveted spot for an intimate respite. The wine list gives a very strong nod to our excellent local vineyards, a glass of which goes perfect near a roaring flame on a cold night.


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