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Welcome to Lily Belli on Food, a weekly food-focused newsletter from Lookout’s food and drink correspondent, Lily Belli. Keep reading for the latest local food news for Santa Cruz County — plus a few fun odds and ends from my own life and around the web.

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… Less than a year after its highly anticipated opening, Alderwood Pacific, the sister restaurant to fine-dining Alderwood Santa Cruz, closed suddenly Sept. 27 due to “circumstances outside our control,” according to its profile on reservation site OpenTable.

The restaurant is labeled as “temporarily closed” on its Google listing and on its Instagram page, but it’s unclear whether or not the restaurant will reopen. “Due to no agreement on the lease with the landlord, we are not moving forward with the Alderwood Pacific concept right now,” Sam Woods, the director of operations at Alderwood Pacific’s parent company, Santa Cruz Sky, told me in an email. Here’s what we know.

workers pick grapes at Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

… The 2022 crop report for Santa Cruz County was released Friday and, as in 2021, shows modest gains across most of the local agriculture industry. Notably, the value of wine grapes has swung drastically over the past four years, with a sharp decrease in 2020 due to the negative impacts of wildfire smoke followed by a bumper crop in 2021. The value of cut flowers continues to bounce back to nearly pre-pandemic levels after dropping sharply in 2020. Read my full analysis on Lookout.

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… Watsonville restaurant Miyuki, which originally opened in 1982, has changed hands. Former owner Chris Ishikawa took over the Japanese restaurant on East Lake Avenue in 2016, and has now handed the reins to Paul Tashiro, a Watsonville native and former sergeant with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.

Retired sheriff's sergeant Paul Tashiro has taken over Watsonville Japanese restaurant Miyuki.
Retired sheriff’s sergeant Paul Tashiro has taken over Watsonville Japanese restaurant Miyuki. Credit: Via Facebook

Tashiro had an interesting path to chefdom — after more than three decades of service, he retired from the sheriff’s office in 2018 and was trained as a sushi chef at Imura Japanese Restaurant in Watsonville. Then he was hired as a steak chef for a company based in Los Angeles. “They sent me across the nation grilling steaks and writing blogs at food and wine events,” he wrote on Instagram. That led him to create and produce a radio show on KSCO-AM called “The Ghosts N Grub Show,” which caught the attention of a Hollywood producer, who hired him to co-create content for reality TV and miniseries documentaries.

For Miyuki fans, not much will change. New menu items might appear as specials from time to time, but “Miyuki’s traditions, its legacy menu and its entire staff will remain the same,” Tashiro says.

Nichole Accettola and Malena Watrous in a collage with the cover of their new cookbook,
Bookshop Santa Cruz will host Nichole Accettola and Malena Watrous discussing their new cookbook, “Scandinavian from Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden,” on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Credit: Via Bookshop Santa Cruz

… To all the home bakers — mark your calendars for an event at Bookshop Santa Cruz later this month. On Tuesday, Oct. 17, chef Nichole Accettola of Scandinavian-inspired Kantine in San Francisco and Malena Watrous, a recipe tester and writer based in Santa Cruz, will share their new baking cookbook, “Scandinavian From Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.”

The book includes 75 recipes for baked goods and simple morning and midday meals rooted in Scandinavian cuisine, like black currant caves, cardamom morning buns, gravlax and chive potato salad smørrebrød, and much more. Bookshop’s cookbook buyer, Stefanie Berntson, uses and loves this book, and says it’s one of her favorites of the season. Yes, there will be samples! Register for this free event at bookshopsantacruz.com.

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… Celebrate apple season and be amazed at this incredible variety of this humble fruit at the 2023 apple tasting at Wilder Ranch State Park on Saturday, Oct. 14. More than 70 varieties of apples will be available to taste, including rare, historic apples, apples you know and love, new locally bred apples and weird, unidentified apples — all freshly picked at the peak of flavor.

This event is put on by the Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers and is returning to its home at Wilder Ranch for the first time since the pandemic. The apple tasting will be held in conjunction with Wilder Ranch’s Heritage Harvest Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person, with discounts for families.


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Luca Viara, co-owner and head chef of Tramonti, inside the outdoor seating area of the Seabright restaurant.
Luca Viara, co-owner and head chef of Tramonti, inside the outdoor seating area of the Seabright restaurant. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Everyone, it seems — business owners, the City of Santa Cruz and customers — want to keep outdoor dining areas, which sprung to life during the pandemic through temporary permits that waived many of the traditional planning requirements. The question is — how? In September, city officials introduced a new process for restaurants and bars to follow to gain these permanent permits. But so far, it’s been a slow, complicated undertaking and, in its current form, remains cost-prohibitive for many business owners. Read the story on Lookout.


The Spam musubi at Zen Musubi, a kiosk on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

“The palm of our hands has energy. We have to use our palm so we merge our energy into the ingredients.” Lisa Koda, on why she makes every rice ball at Zen Musubi by hand. Zen Musubi moved into a kiosk on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz in mid-September. Here’s why Koda prefers the term “musubi” over “onigiri.”

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Tell me if this sounds familiar: My first cup of coffee in the morning gets slammed down in under five minutes — but the second cup of coffee often never gets finished because I was pulled away to find a specific episode of “Blippi” for my 2-year-old or to grab the baby’s toy out of the dog’s mouth. I often find it half an hour later, cold and sad. But cookbook author and Carmel Valley-based influencer Caroline Chambers gets it. She shared that you can rescue that cuppa by pouring in a splash of maple syrup, a dash of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon and your milk of choice. Shake it up, pour it over ice and you have something that freakishly resembles a fancy beverage at your favorite café. Yes, it’s weird, but don’t knock it until you try it.

Could you make this with a fresh cup of coffee? Yes. Does it feel more triumphant to create order from chaos? Also yes. Honestly, I hesitated sharing this recipe with my readers because I’m a little worried that you’ll think it’s kind of gross. But surely there are others who have the same bad habit as me — *cough* parents *cough* — and could use this tip. This weirdly delicious trick is for us.


➤ Have you experienced sticker shock at your local coffee house? You’re not alone — the price of certain coffee drinks has definitely increased over the past couple of years. So why is your latte $7 — or more? The short answer: Because everything, from the cup it’s poured into to the wage of the person drawing a cute foam flower on top, is more expensive. (Vox)

➤ Semaglutides like Mounjaro and Ozempic “are shaping up to be the hottest Big Pharma gold rush in decades” and cause dramatic weight loss by dulling the taker’s appetite. Food just doesn’t carry the same pleasure that it once did. Despite the health benefits of weight loss in certain groups, one writer finds the new trend “ominous.” (Washington Post)

Happy fall!

~ Lily

Lily Belli is the food and drink correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Over the past 15 years since she made Santa Cruz her home, Lily has fallen deeply in love with its rich food culture, vibrant agriculture...