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This week, Lily has an update on a food truck fave finding a downtown home, sustainable seafood options and the surprising emotions that came with a kitchen overhaul.

Arepas come to the Octagon as Pana takes Abbott Square spot

Pana Venezuelan Food is now serving its menu of stuffed arepas inside the Octagon at Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz.

German and Gaby Sierra have brought their popular Venezuelan food truck fare to a brick-and-mortar space downtown … and don’t worry, their new venture won’t cut into the trucks’ schedules around Santa Cruz County. Read more here.

Second harvest double giveback fundraiser membership offer
Second harvest double giveback fundraiser membership offer

Giant tiger prawns off Seafood Watch ‘Avoid’ list amid latest update

A giant tiger prawn

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is out with new recommendations to help consumers choose seafood sustainably, and giant tiger prawns farmed in Vietnam are now among the items considered a “Good Alternative.” Read more here.


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Piles of debris lie outside My Thai Beach on the Esplanade in the Capitola Village on Friday, Jan. 6.

Restaurants in Capitola are reeling from a storm surge last Thursday that damaged many coastal businesses. But even owners whose food businesses managed to escape relatively unscathed from the punishing weather fear what a prolonged closure of the beachfront properties might mean for the usually busy tourist season. Read Saturday’s update.


“At one point, I wasn’t really a responsible person. He has trusted me enough to give me the password to open the restaurant and just be a responsible person in society.” Cesar Chagolla, a cook at Achilles Restaurant in Santa Cruz. With support from his family and Elias Stanom, his employer, Chagolla has turned his life around from a life of crime, gangs and drugs. Read more about Chagolla and Gayle’s purchasing manager Michael Hanson in the final installment of our 2023 Unsung Santa Cruz series.


Do you clean your kitchen before you go to bed? I try, but most mornings I’m greeted with a pile of dishes from the day before. At the end of the day, my husband, Mike, and I are often too tired to deal with the mess — all we want to do is hang out with each other and watch a show.

But for months I haven’t been able to get a clean morning kitchen out of my head. I know what a positive impact it would make on my life, but I felt like I didn’t have the energy to get there. Lately, Mike and I have been discussing — what if we just had fewer dishes? After talking it over and making a game plan, we decided to create a minimal kitchen and on Sunday, we made it happen. The result is incredible, but although it’s a positive change for our family, it was more emotional than I thought it would be.

Things are rarely just “things.” Stuff holds energy. While I was sorting through everything in my kitchen, I realized it wasn’t just about figuring out what “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” might suggest. Objects also spark guilt, resentment and loss. Giving something up can mean admitting that the imagined version of yourself that would have used that object in their everyday life doesn’t actually exist. It can mean saying goodbye to the negative memory the object triggers when you pick it up. This is hard and, surprisingly, within the satisfaction of finally getting rid of the unused Yeti thermos and extra cast iron skillet, there was grief — not for the object itself but for how long I had let it take up space in my life.

But I wanted fewer things. I wanted a kitchen that was easy to clean. I wanted more time in my life back from tackling a never-ending, Sisyphean pile of dishes, from even choosing which coffee mug to use in the morning. So I kept going.

MeloMelo PROMOTED CONTENT ROADBLOCK (Honing the harvest)

The pile of things destined for the donation center soon took over our kitchen counters and dining room table. It was shocking to me how much stuff our kitchen cabinets held — dozens of glasses, mismatched mugs, creamers and sugar bowls, plates for 16, several sets of baking pans, multiple whisks and spatulas and measuring spoons and reusable straws. Far, far more than our small family would ever need or use.

We got rid of 90% of it and kept the absolute bare minimum: four dinner plates; four bowls; four large drinking glasses and six smaller ones; four matching coffee mugs; four stainless steel kids cups; two to-go coffee mugs. Pots, pans, baking items, wine glasses, mixing bowls and plastic storage containers were similarly trimmed down. Now we barely own enough dishes to fill the dishwasher.

Tuesday, I woke up to a spotless, uncluttered kitchen. I did the breakfast dishes in less than two minutes. After dinner, I’m confident Mike or I will return it to its pristine state. My kitchen has never been more empty, and it finally feels like the calm space I always wanted it to be.


… restaurants to consider offering the same number of items on a shared plate as the number of people at the table. I went out with my girlfriends on Sunday night, and we ordered multiple plates to share. There were four of us, but many of the plates came with either three or five items — three meatballs, for example, for five blue cheese-stuffed dates. It became a joke at our table of who was going to eat half a deviled egg so we could each have a bite, but it would have been nice if we had been offered to add another one for an extra fee. Plus, it’s more money in the restaurant’s pocket. What do you think — is this a weird request, or something you’d like to see more of, too? Let me know via text or email at


Noma, Rated the World’s Best Restaurant, Is Closing Its Doors (New York Times)
Tipping is Weird Now (The Atlantic)
$7 a dozen? Why California eggs are so expensive — and increasingly hard to find (Los Angeles Times)

Stay safe and dry out there this week!

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...