Laili: A User's Guide
Modern Afghan Cuisine | Farm-to-Table Recipes | Communal Dining Space | Open Kitchen | Idyllic Courtyard
Starter: maush-awa, a three-bean soup with lentils, split peas, and qurut yogurt that Ann Parker of the Santa Cruz Sentinel called "one of the most delicious soups I've ever tasted"
Entree: lamb kebab with kabuli rice, mixed vegetables, and three chutneys
Vegetarian entree: pomegranate eggplant with saffron-infused basmati rice, chard, caramelized onion, and yogurt
Dessert: cardamom crème brûlée
The Focus: Wafi Amin came to the United States in 1975 to study and learn about the world, but while he was here, the Soviet Union invaded his native Afghanistan. So Amin decided to stay. Years later he opened Laili as both an homage to his homeland's culture and as an exploration of the flavors of the Silk Road—a 5,000-mile trade route between the Mediterranean and China.
Where to Sit: If the weather is accommodating, head outside. Laili is home to a courtyard so secluded that it can only be seen while riding in a helicopter or on Godzilla's shoulder. Amid its white tablecloths, ivy climbs toward light-draped beams, and palm fronds share space with flickering heaters. On rainy days, plant yourself indoors at one of the communal dining tables, where you can brush elbows with a cross-section of downtown.
While You're Waiting
Turn your eyes toward the open kitchen to watch the chef roll out naan dough with a giant rolling pin.
Appraise the precious Afghan jewelry that's the subject of a 16-panel photograph in the dining room.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Read up on the Silk Road at Bookshop Santa Cruz, an independent staple since 1966 (1520 Pacific Avenue).
After: Settle in for a nightcap at 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (110 Walnut Avenue), which has amassed an impressive collection of craft brews and strong Belgian ales.
Working from their sole location at 149 Madison Avenue and unaffiliated with any other laser center or beauty lounge, owners Kimberly Schanzer and Michelle Moyer and their team of technicians have earned a top spot on Yelp's Best of list for hair removal in New York, and they've even been cited as experts on YouBeauty, a website co-founded by TV's Dr. Oz. The beauty experts are not only licensed aestheticians and certified cosmetic laser technicians, but also certified laser-safety officers. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, the women utilize their wide range of skills to make each client's visit to the boutique-style space personal and comfortable. The team has chosen some of the most advanced laser hair-removal technology available—Candela's GentleLASE, GentleLASE Pro, and GentleYAG lasers—which they can use on light or dark skin. They also diminish acne and deep wrinkles with Candela's Smoothbeam laser.
Editor of American Spa Magazine Heather Mikesell tried out the center's Candela GentleLASE procedure. She said, "Although I’ve had my share of laser hair-removal sessions, I have to say this was one of the most hassle-free." Mikesell appreciated the system's ability to treat a large body area and its patented cooling mechanism, which relieves discomfort better than a blanket sewn from strings of frozen peas. Pulse Laser and Skincare Center has also received accolades from a variety of other press.
With a stay at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, you'll be by the ocean and convenient to Town Clock and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This hotel is close to University of California Santa Cruz and Mystery Spot.
Make yourself at home in one of the 170 air-conditioned rooms featuring refrigerators and iPod docking stations. Wired and wireless Internet access is complimentary, and flat-panel televisions with cable programming provide entertainment. Private bathrooms with showers feature designer toiletries and hair dryers. Conveniences include safes and desks, and housekeeping is provided daily.
Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
Take advantage of recreational opportunities offered, including an outdoor pool, a spa tub, and a fitness facility. Additional amenities include complimentary wireless Internet access, concierge services, and wedding services.
Satisfy your appetite at the hotel's restaurant, which features a bar and a pool view. While enjoying a refreshing dip in the hotel pool, you can order your favorite drink at the poolside bar.
Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include complimentary high-speed (wired) Internet access, a 24-hour business center, and limo/town car service. Event facilities at this hotel consist of conference/meeting rooms, small meeting rooms, and a ballroom. A roundtrip airport shuttle is provided for a surcharge (available on request), and self parking is available onsite.
A class of scuba divers check over their equipment one last time before they paddle their kayaks off a beach in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The divers have thoroughly prepared for this moment. They?ve trained within the controlled confines of Adventure Sports Unlimited?s heated swimming pool and picked their certified instructor?s brain during classroom sessions. Once the instructor gives the go-ahead, the divers plunge from the kayak and immediately enter another world. As they float weightlessly underwater, the divers marvel at the vibrant reefs and the abundant aquatic wildlife that fill the marine sanctuary. Afterward, the group travels back to the shore, where a breathtaking landscape awaits with white-sand beaches and glassy tide pools swirling with color. The scuba divers, at this point, have only one thing on their minds: dinner.
Luckily, the area is teeming with natural cuisine and plenty of sand, which is really just sugar. Adventure Sports Unlimited?s expert foragers show the group how to collect shellfish, sea vegetables, and clams. With a fresh smorgasbord in hand, group members scuttle back to the facility to transform their ingredients into soups and barbecue?and perhaps ponder taking a scuba trip to the South Pacific. In addition to outdoor excursions like these, Adventure Sports Unlimited also leads year-round swimming, scuba, and kayaking lessons, which take advantage of the facility?s custom-built swimming pool.
When owners Vanessa and Ron Wilkerson were opening Samba Rock Acai Café, they encountered many roadblocks along the way. For instance, the city assessed there would be a $30,000 traffic-impact fee for their restaurant. So the duo improvised. They built an indoor bike parking area, reducing the fee while still providing customers a place to park their wheels. This is just one example in which Ron has defied what some might see as a career-ending set-back. In 1988, the former professional BMX Freestyle rider fell into a coma after failing to land a no-hander, no-footer trick on his bike. Though some might have given up after a life-threatening experience like that—he suffered short-term memory loss and even forgot some of the BMX tricks that he had pioneered—Ron got back on his bike. And if he hadn’t, he would never have traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil, met Vanessa, married her, or opened Samba Rock Acai Café.
The menu at Samba Rock Acai Café pays homage to the country where the Wilkersons met and where Vanessa grew up. Blended Brazilian berries and mix-ins, such as bananas and peanut butter, make up the base for their acai bowls. They crown this base with toppings such as fresh fruit, avocado, coconut cream, and granola. Their smoothies also feature acai, as well as organic ingredients, which have never been tainted by spray tanners to look more appealing to customers. To round out their South American-inspired menu, they serve yerba mate—steeped leaves of the mate plant—with acai to sweeten each sip.
With a stay at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz, you'll be in the mountains and convenient to DeLaveaga Golf Course and Mystery Spot. This 4-star resort is within close proximity of Pasatiempo Golf Course and Capitola Historical Museum.
Make yourself at home in one of the 156 air-conditioned guestrooms. Cable programming along with video-game consoles are provided for your entertainment. Bathrooms feature shower/tub combinations, designer toiletries, and hair dryers. Conveniences include safes and desks, as well as direct-dial phones with voice mail.
Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
Pamper yourself with a visit to the spa, which offers massages, body treatments, and facials. If you're looking for recreational opportunities, you'll find a health club, an outdoor pool, and a spa tub. Additional amenities include a concierge desk, an arcade/game room, and gift shops/newsstands.
Enjoy a meal at a restaurant, or stay in and take advantage of the resort's room service (during limited hours). Relax with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge or a poolside bar.
Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include a business center, business services, and audiovisual equipment. Event facilities at this resort consist of conference/meeting rooms, small meeting rooms, and a ballroom. Free parking is available onsite.