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This week, Lily digs into the numbers behind levels of heavy metals in dark chocolate, previews the NEXTies awards show from the food and beverage side and shares some seasonal faves she’s chowing down on.

With Valentine’s Day around corner, dark chocolate’s metal levels in spotlight

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Chocolates from Ashby Confections at the Aptos farmers market. Credit: Blaire Hobbs / Lookout Santa Cruz

A recent report found high levels of lead and cadmium in dark chocolates, but there’s much more to those numbers and how they relate to consumer safety, Lily found after talking to Santa Cruz County chocolatiers. Read more here.

MeloMelo PROMOTED CONTENT ROADBLOCK (Honing the harvest)

Santa Cruz food and beverage influencers to savor at the NEXTies

Collective Santa Cruz founders Kendall Denike (left) and Jalen Horne.

From the likes of chef Jessica Yarr to the arepas of Pana Food Truck, natural wines at the Apéro Club and market-style events of Collective Santa Cruz, Lily Belli has the scoop on this year’s NEXTies honorees. Read more here.


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In the November election, proponents of Measure O sought to establish a permanent home for the downtown farmers market at its current home on Lot 4. The measure was defeated, freeing Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets to negotiate other downtown locations with the city. Nesh Dhillon, executive director of SCCFM, shares where the conversation stands and the progress the community might see within the next year. Watch for the story later this week.


Capitola Village from the air
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

“Margaritaville is back open for business!” — Nearly a month after a storm surge in early January damaged the restaurant, Margaritaville announced Thursday that it is once again open for business. It’s welcome news from Capitola Village, although other nearby restaurants face much longer roads to recovery.

Shopper's Corner PROMOTED CONTENT ROADBLOCK (Eating with the seasons)


There are two seasonal foods I just can’t get enough of lately. OK, three – I shared my winter citrus obsession, particularly for cara cara oranges from Ken’s Top Notch Produce’s stand at my local farmers market, in Friday’s Eaters Digest.

Another is Dungeness crab, which my family picks up almost every weekend from H&H Fresh Fish Co. in the Santa Cruz Harbor. After a late start to the season, local crab is here in abundance and, compared to other years when the price for live crab rose to $18 per pound or higher, is available for a very affordable $8-9 per pound. That’s $5 less than the sliced turkey I pick up at the grocery store for my husband’s lunch for sweet, fresh crab caught in Monterey Bay.

You might think the third is a little odd, but stay with me — carrots. During the colder months, the sugars in root vegetables like the humble carrot are more concentrated, which results in a sweeter flavor. They’re also crunchier and more refreshing, although I’m not sure what the science has to say about that. Raw, organic carrots, purchased with the tops on to ensure freshness, are my favorite go-to snack these days — we’ll see if my palms turn orange.


… who will take over for Soleil Ho as the San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic. Ho announced Monday that they are stepping down from the position after four years and will move to the opinion section of the paper as a columnist and cultural critic. Ho took a more progressive stance in their criticism than their predecessor, longtime Chron restaurant critic Michael Bauer, for which they were awarded the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award by the James Beard Foundation in 2022, a top honor for restaurant criticism. I’ve admired their smart, insightful and often funny reviews that stretched beyond the boundaries of San Francisco, and can’t wait to see who follows in their footsteps.


Forget Pandemic Puppies. Meet the Inflation Chicken. (New York Times)
California wants people to switch to all-electric appliances. But what happens when the power goes out? (San Francisco Chronicle)
Resy Is My Best Frenemy (and It Could Be Yours, Too) (Eater NY)

Happy dining!

~ 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...