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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.

Stay in touch with me by text throughout the week — I send text alerts every time I publish a story. And you can text me back! Share your thoughts, send tips and give feedback. Sign up for texts from me here. Thanks to those of you who’ve already subscribed! Check out all of my food and drink coverage here.

… I’m thrilled to welcome a new member to Lookout’s food and drink reporting team. Wine educator, certified sommelier and longtime Santa Cruz resident Laurie Love is Lookout’s new wine correspondent. In her twice-monthly column, she’ll share everything you need to know about what’s happening in the Santa Cruz area’s wine industry, from viticulture updates and tasting-room happenings to local events and notable wines.

In her first column, she checks in on the grape harvest and explains why it’s just getting started in the Santa Cruz Mountains after weeks of delay, shares a major milestone for Bargetto Winery, uncovers an unusual Italian varietal being grown at Regan Vineyard Winery in Corralitos, visits Aptos Vineyards’ new tasting room, reveals her current favorite local wine and a lot more. Read Laurie’s first column on local wine.

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

So who is Laurie Love? Chances are, if you’ve worked in the local industry or taken a wine class at Cabrillo College, you already know her. Laurie has lived in Santa Cruz County for 34 years, is a wine educator at Cabrillo and a member of its culinary arts advisory board. She specializes in French wine and wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains American Viticulture Area and is a contributing writer for the Slow Wine Guide USA, featuring wineries that are sourcing from sustainable vineyards. She’s also worked at local wineries and earned several certificates. Basically, when it comes to wine, she really knows her stuff. And with her help, so will her readers.

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… Six months after opening for breakfast and lunch, the Grove Cafe and Bakery in Felton will launch dinner service in mid-October, owner-chef Jessica Yarr announced on social media this week. Guests can expect a menu of “elegant tapas and entrees meant for sharing” and tableside service (guests currently order at the counter for breakfast and lunch).

And the Grove now offers beer and wine in addition to nonalcoholic cocktails and housemade elixirs. Guests should note that the Grove will be closed temporarily on Mondays and Tuesdays while these new changes get underway.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Yarr’s charming, welcoming café on Highway 9 in downtown Felton, be sure to stop in for thoughtful plant-forward sandwiches, salads and mains, plus absolutely jaw-dropping pastries. Go to thegrovefelton.com for more info.

shoppers corner

… Llano Seco Meats, one of the Bay Area’s largest suppliers of heritage pork, ceased production earlier this month. As the most widely distributed sustainably raised pork producer, its closure has had a substantial impact on the California ecological meat industry.

But in Santa Cruz County, high-quality pork is still available if you know where to look. Chris LaVeque of El Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, Tim Estrada of Point Butcher Shop and farmer Ryan Abelson of Pajaro Pastures Ecological Farm in Corralitos weigh on where to source quality pork products locally. Learn more in my story on Lookout later this week.

… Do you know how to shuck an oyster? Whether or not you know your way around the back of a bivalve, consider joining me and H&H Fresh Fish Co. for fresh oysters and bubbles on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 5-6:30 p.m. at its fish market in the Santa Cruz Harbor. At this Inside Santa Cruz event, owners Heidi Rhodes and Hans Haveman will share valuable insight about our local fishery, how and where they source the products at their market and teach guests how to shuck an oyster. This free event is open only to Lookout members and there are just a few tickets left — grab your spot here.


Want to stay on top of the latest local food news? I send text alerts every time I publish a story. And you can text me back! Share your thoughts, send tips and give feedback. Sign up below.


Brothers Chuck (left) and Phil Ornelas of Buena Vista Brewing Co.

This year is shaping up to be a big one for Buena Vista Brewing Co., with more on the horizon in 2024. The brewery, originally based in Santa Cruz, moved operations to Watsonville with the acquisition of the three-year-old Slough Brewing Collective in August. Owners Chuck and Phil Ornelas are also in the process of opening a taproom and brewery in downtown Watsonville. To think — just four years ago, Buena Vista was a backyard hobby. But the Ornelas brothers’ success reflects the growth of brewery ownership by people of color in an otherwise static industry. Read the full story here.


$280,000 — The new projection of revenue from Santa Cruz County’s 25-cent tax on single-use cups – about 40% of the $700,000 originally projected when the tax was approved in 2019. Why so much less? Fewer businesses are complying and the county struggles to track the ones that do. Read more from Lookout’s Max Chun here.

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My freezer is full of lingcod and rockfish after my husband, Mike, experienced an exceptional day of fishing on the California Dawn, a fishing charter out of Berkeley Marina, last weekend. He says they motored out by the Rittenburg Shoals well past the Farallon Islands, and he had one of the best days of fishing in his life, with perfect weather, a helpful crew and limits of enormous fish. Not only did he catch a limit of 10 rockfish, plus one rock sole — one of the two lingcod he caught approached 25 pounds. Thankfully, he had the deckhand clean everything this time — last time he took a charter out, he came home with three huge halibut that we had to clean at 8 p.m. after we put the kids to bed. Can you imagine if he’d brought that monstrous lingcod home?? Anyway, if anyone is looking for a fun fishing charter, he recommends them.


… to a 2016 episode of the “Gastropod” podcast on first foods, titled “First Foods: Learning to Eat,” which resurfaced in my podcast app last week. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared that my baby daughter, Cecilia, had — on a whim — raspberry sorbet as her first food? This was a sharp contrast to the careful planning I committed to when planning my son’s first food a couple of years ago. Well, this episode reveals the history of first foods, the invention of baby food and how what we eat as babies influences our flavor preferences as adults. A bonus for parents of young kids, it shares the science-based formulas that work and those that don’t if you want your kid to like — or at least eat — vegetables.


➤ You’ve probably had ice cream, gelato and popsicles — but have you had Italian ice? Izzy’s Ices in downtown Santa Cruz brings this refreshing East Coast frozen treat to the West Coast. (Lookout)

➤ Corporate employees at Dine Brands, Applebee’s and IHOP’s parent company, now have an extended parental leave program, thanks to the initiative of employees led by a new chief people officer. The company has enacted new policies from resource groups representing young professionals, people of color and LGBTQ+ employees. “None of these are mandated,” one exec says. “These are all organic.” (Restaurant Business)

➤ Members of the local agriculture industry weigh in on what the Oriental fruit fly-induced quarantine in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties looks like on the ground. One Bay Area farmer affected by the restrictions says they’re “devastating”; meanwhile, a farmers market organizer says the measures are merely an “inconvenience.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

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...