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New Brighton Weekend Report: Marianne's, Vallaharta, Swanton, & Duarte's Tavern

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New Brighton Weekend Report: Marianne's, Vallaharta, Swanton, & Duarte's Tavern

brian j | Jun 5, 2006 03:04 PM

Camped out at New Brighton SB this past weekend down in Capitola. Stopped off at the Ferry Building Farmer's market on our way out of town to pick up some food for the weekend. Got a great salami from the Fatted Calf, Saucisson Sec, which was a perfect accompaniment to Cowgirl Creamery's Mt Tam, put together on an ACME epi baguette. Also picked up some wonderful juicy pluots from Twin Girls. And some ground buffalo from Prather Ranch for some burgers, along with some Niman Ranch bacon, and Neals Yard Lacanshire Cheddar.

It was a perfect weekend to camp by the beach. Perfect weather. The food we brought made life even more lovely.

After packing up our campsite on Sunday morning we decided to pop into Santa Cruz. I was directionless and mapless, but very luckily we ended up at Marianne's Ice Cream. Ordered a scoop of Lychee and another of Cantoloupe (per a previous post). These were two of the best scoops of ice cream I've ever had. Very bright flavors and accurate flavoring. The two fruits complimented each other very much. The combination was actually sorta similiar to a classic orange/vanilla creamsicle, but more tropical in nature.

Next we made our way to the boardwalk. Popped into one taco shop but they were out of carnitas so we popped back out. As we were driving out of Santa Cruz we spotted another taco spot named Vallarta. Decided to pull over and give it a try. I ordered the fish taco and Dana got the carnitas. I was disappointed with the fish taco as it consisted of ground up Tilapia, and I was hoping for a fried piece of fish (I should have asked). Dana's carnitas were good, though, so I ordered one of those after the fact. It was a solid carnitas taco. Not amazing, but pretty good.

We then proceeded to drive up 1 north to Swanton for some U-pick organic strawberries. The farm is located right off of 1, right across from the shore. Truly gorgegous. We immediately got to work picking the bright red berries. We snagged 10 lbs in all! Also got a blackberry cobbler which we later and ate was pretty good, but not amazing. Hoping to bake up a real nice Strawberry pie with the berries.

Afterwards we continued to drive up 1. We were hungry again so I consulted with my trusty Chowhound guidebook. We were approaching Pescardeo and the book happened to Duarte's Tavern as having the "best calamari ever", so we decided to check it out. We missed the turn and ended up having to backtrack through some very curvy backroads. When we finally got there we mistakenly entered through the backdoor off the saloon area. Didn't see a host anywhere, so we just stood there waiting for 10 minutes until finally one of the servers told us we needed to go up front. Luckily we got a table pretty quickly after checking in.

Upon reviewing the menu I noticed they had farmed abalone on the menu. But it's pretty pricey at $25 for a sandwich and $40 for a meal. Having never had it before I asked our waitress what it's like. She compared it to calamari. Since I already had my mind set on calamari I opted for the fried calamari appetizer which was considerably cheaper at only $8. Dana ordered a bowl of cream of artichoke soup and some fries.

The calamari was tender and good, but certainly far from the best I've ever had. Most recently I've had much more amazing calamari at Pizzaiolo in Oakland, which was cooked in their wood-burning oven. The artichoke soup was also good, but still nothing too special. The fries seemed pretty standard and probably not house-made. Overall the food was ok, but the meal was disappointing after such a great weekend.

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