Lily Belli, Lookout's Food & Drink Correspondent
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Au revoir, Soif; Food Lounge’s next life, Cruz Kitchen opens, and my new butcher block

Hey, Lily Belli here. If you’d like to subscribe to this new newsletter, click on the person icon in the upper right corner of the screen, then navigate to “Manage Newsletters.” Keep reading if you want to stay updated on all things food in Santa Cruz!

Lily Belli, Lookout's Food & Drink Correspondent

... Soif Restaurant will close at the end of this week, and I’m still in a state of shock. On Monday, owner Patrice Boyle said that the decision to close after 20 years has been a while in the making. Now in her 70s, Boyle told me that she will focus her energies on her Seabright restaurant La Posta and “spend more time at home.” Soif’s closing truly marks the end of an era. After I moved to Santa Cruz in 2007, every time my mother would visit, she and I would eat at Soif. That was back when chef Santos Majano, who would go on to run the Kitchen at Discretion for four years, was at the helm. His menu centered on tapas, small plates and appetizers, with just a handful of entrees. We would order “the whole left side of the menu,” as my mom would say, and accept every wine pairing our server suggested. Our meal almost always started with stuffed piquillo peppers, and would include a stream of exquisite seasonal dishes, always accompanied by inspired wines. Young as I was, my mother’s excuse for these regular splurges was that my education at Soif was at least as important as my education at UCSC. Well mom, judging by my current line of work, you may have been right! Throughout the years it’s always been a place where I could expose myself to fresh ideas in wine and food. Now to try and enjoy one last meal there before it’s gone for good. Read more about the closure here

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz student Tommy Alejandrez was living on the streets when he met former NFL player Zack Follett on a busy...

Ascona Vineyard

... Last week, viticulturist Ken Swegels and his wife Abbey Chrystal showed me around their home on Ascona Vineyard up off Skyline Boulevard. The young couple, who are also part owners of Madson Wines, moved up there at the start of the pandemic after living in the Santa Cruz area for almost two decades, and now share the property with three dogs, a cat and a flock of chickens. They have more than half a dozen grape varietals planted on the four-and-a-half-acre property, and yes, there’s some pinot noir and a little cabernet, but the vast majority are unique to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Swegals and Chrystal believe that as climate change continues to warm our winegrowing region, the weather will become increasingly untenable, if it isn’t already, for local mainstays of pinot, cab and chardonnay. After our walk, they treated me to a tasting of several wines made from varietals they believe will not only be sustainable, but thrive, under our new conditions, including a sauvignon blanc made by Ryan Beauregard of Beauregard Vineyards and two Burgundian wines that knocked my socks off. Am I being intentionally vague about their new varietals? Yes, but you’ll just have to wait for my deeper dive in a few weeks …


... Brayden Estby of 11th Hour Coffee and Andrea Mollenauer, the founder of the Santa Cruz Food Lounge, met with me at the Food Lounge in downtown Santa Cruz last Friday. They shared that the space is undergoing a pivotal transition, one that will bring new energy, customers and community into the groundbreaking space. As of Jan. 1, Mollenauer has officially handed over management of the Food Lounge to Brayden and his brother Joel. Mollenauer currently splits her time between teaching as the culinary director at Cabrillo and at Aptos High, and believes the brothers, who recently opened a second location for 11th Hour Coffee inside what was Kelly’s French Bakery, will breathe new life into the space. I’ve been going to events and popups at the Food Lounge since it opened in 2015, and I can’t tell you how many new food businesses I’ve been introduced to there — Full Steam Dumpling, Hanloh and Kickin Chicken, just to name a few. I’m so excited for its next phase of life. More on the coming changes later this week ...

Cruz Kitchen logo

... Cruz Kitchen and Taps, the new brick-and-mortar establishment by chef Dameon Deworken of Drunk Monkeys food truck and his business partner Mia Thorn, opened softly last weekend at the intersection of Pacific and Laurel, where the ghost of Saturn Café’s veggie burgers and vegan milkshakes of days past still linger. Mia and Dameon have done a lot to spruce up the iconic building and bring it into the 21st century. Although the beautifully renovated bar was closed at the time due to a postponed liquor license, my friend and I had a great meal there on Sunday night. Read more in my Eaters Digest later this week.



I don’t think when my editor handed me the assignment on the rollout of the new statewide composting mandate in Santa Cruz County, he or I anticipated it would be such a complicated story. The initial article, published earlier this month, talked about how complicated the implementation of organic waste service is going to be based on who picks up your waste. After it came out, readers had questions on how exactly things will work on the ground level, so I worked with waste management leaders again to answer them. Together both pieces should keep you well-informed on how the new mandate will affect you. We will all need to adjust our habits, or face possible penalties, in the name of fighting global warming.


7 — the number of food businesses that use the commercial kitchen space at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge at 1001 Center Street, and the number of years it’s been open.


“The uncertainty around the future availability of quality brewing ingredients due to climate change is scary.” — Tallula Preston, co-owner of Fruition Brewing, in last week’s Eaters Digest.


I need your help with an upcoming story. Many of us walk through the grocery store without realizing how many amazing local products line the shelves. I definitely have my favorites, but I want to know yours. Which local (to Santa Cruz County) jams, salsas, pastas, spreads, cookies, hot sauces, etc do you love? This time I’m excluding our many talented beverage makers and farmers. Tell me at, or DM me on Instagram at @lilywrenn.

Whether it’s helping members get a new home or combating predatory lending with short-term, lost-cost loan options,...


Last Saturday was a big day in the Belli household. After nearly a year and half in storage at my in-laws house, my prized butcher block finally landed in the kitchen of our new home. We moved several times over the last year, and it didn’t make sense to move the butcher block until we were completely settled. Then, because it weighs a metric $&!% ton, it became the problem no one in my family wanted to deal with. But oh, I’ve missed it. My now-husband gifted it to me for our first Christmas. Mike and his father purchased it at an estate sale four years ago, sanded off layers of grime and refinished it to shining glory, all in secret to surprise me. He originally got it into our old home with the help of three of his friends, all of whom have sworn off moving the darn thing ever again. No amount of pizza, beer or baked goods could persuade them. Thankfully, with the help of an industrial dolly and endless patience on behalf of my husband and father-in-law, it crowns my kitchen once again. My house finally feels like home.

Lily Belli's butcher block


Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci. From viral Negroni lessons to his hit travel show, Stanley Tucci is having a major moment in food, and I’m totally here for it. I fell in love with his genuine appreciation and enjoyment of food, cooking and travel in ‘Searching for Italy,’ which premiered last year, and his food-centric memoir dives deep into his favorite meals from throughout his life. From detailing the home-cooked meals he enjoyed growing up in an Italian family in New York, to holiday meals at his British in-laws, all paired with his gentle, dry humor, it leaves me laughing and salivating.


Now that the weather is cool, I’m falling in love with beans again. I know, how very 2020 of me, but it’s still my favorite cost-saving meal-planning trick. Simmer a pound of beans on the stove for a few hours with a sliced onion and a few cloves of crushed garlic, and you’re one step away from soup, tacos, or rice bowls for the rest of the week. It’s pennies on the dollar per meal, even if you splurge on delicious heirloom Rancho Gordo beans.

Rancho Gordo Beans

Find them at El Salchichero on the Westside, downtown at Toque Blanche and at Jones & Bones in Capitola.


Why Would an LA Restaurant Keep Selling a Dish That Loses Money? (
A bottle of wine could cost $5 more this year as California winemakers grapple with a glass crisis (San Francisco Chronicle)
SF Chron Winning Wines from Santa Cruz and Monterey (

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! - Lily