Meat being cut at Home
(Via Home)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Meaty masterpieces, family dinner challenges, Funk’s Franks fundraising, and … text me

Lily Belli, Lookout's Food & Drink Correspondent

… I am mesmerized by Home restaurant’s Instagram account. The behind-the-scenes look at chef Brad Briske‘s Soquel restaurant that Hannah Honda, the general manager and social media queen, has been sharing lately has been blowing my mind. For example, they recently posted a series of pictures and videos showing sous-chef Emily Renwick prepping a long strip loin that had been dry-aged for 20 days. The beautifully marbled steaks boasted a fat cap at least an inch thick. Just beautiful. In the past, they’ve shown how they age the meat by coating it in lard, a technique I’ve never heard of. They’ve also shared some of the finished dishes that recently graced Home’s menu, like crispy beef tongue with smoked trout roe and creme fraiche, sea urchin bucatini carbonara and luscious, melt-in-your mouth home-cured charcuterie, which they age in their wine cellar. The care that kitchen takes with its ingredients and the way they’re preparing them is incredible, and honestly it’s a crime that the Michelin Guide passed them over last year …

Ascona Vineyard
(Via Achilles)

... Some of you might have seen a new coat of bright blue paint go up on the old Taco Bell at the corner of Morrissey Boulevard and Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz. Certain social media circles lit up with a rumor that Achilles, a popular Santa Clara-based fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant owned by Elias Stanom and Diaa Altali, is opening a second location there. A call to the restaurant confirmed that they’re going in, although the person I spoke to said they still have some things to work out with the city (what else is new?). He could not reveal an opening date. I’m not familiar with the restaurant, but it has high Yelp ratings and its menu features shawarma, gyros and heart-shaped falafel. I’m excited about the possibility of more Mediterranean options, especially in that area of Santa Cruz where there currently aren’t any, and applaud new restaurant openings during a pandemic …

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

… There’s a new food truck in town. Charles Funk has gained passionate fans over the past two years for his Chicago-style hot dogs, served out of his hot dog cart at local breweries like Shanty Shack and at events. Now Funk’s Franks is expanding. A Chicago native with 15 years of restaurant experience under his belt, Funk plans on expanding the menu to include diner dishes inspired by the Windy City — such as Italian beef sandwiches with homemade giardiniera dipped in au jus, cheeseburgers and chicken lemon rice soup — while continuing to source from local food purveyors and farms. His truck is often found at Greater Purpose Brewing in Live Oak. If you’d like to help him on his journey, you can donate to his GoFundMe (he’s a little over halfway to his goal of $8,000 to cover business expenses for the truck), or go enjoy one of his delicious franks. Find him on Instagram at @funksfranks. The truck has a legacy all its own — it passed through the hands of German Sierra and Gabriela Ramirez of Pana and Austin Towne of Gordo Gustavo’s in its past lives …

Image of Funk's Franks GoFundMe
(Via GoFundMe)


This week, I’m celebrating my favorite local ready-made products found on grocery store shelves, and wow, there are a lot to choose from. Thank you to worker Tess at AJ’s Market in Soquel and buyer Andre Beauregard at Shopper’s Corner in Santa Cruz for helping me navigate their wide selections of Santa Cruz County-made products. Keep an eye out for this story later this week.


While putting together the story on how Andrea Mollenauer, the founder of the Santa Cruz Food Lounge, passed management of the kitchen and event space to brothers Joel and Brayden Estby of 11th Hour Coffee, I got to reminiscing about the early days of the Food Lounge. In 2015, pop-ups were just starting to boom, the lines were long and the food was exciting. Who else remembers stuffed bao dumplings from Noah Kopito’s Mortal Dumpling? The themed LionFish dinners held by Zachary Mazi and Tighe Melville? Or the epic brunches put on by Ty Pearce of Ty’s Eatery? Pop-up restaurants have flourished in the past seven years, and it’s fun to reminisce about the early days. Read about the Santa Cruz Food Lounge’s next phase of life here.


Valentine’s Day is in just a few weeks, and if you plan on indulging in a nice meal that weekend, it’s time to make your reservations. Where are you and your sweetheart going? I’m putting together a list of romantic dinner spots, and I’d love some suggestions.

Did you know … 70% of readers view Lookout on their phone? Heck, you’re probably one of them. Not only can you read this newsletter in the palm of your hand, but you can now also text me directly on your iPhone or Android device by subscribing to my Subtext channel. By signing up for my texts, you’ll get first notice of each Tuesday edition of this newsletter. The setup is simple: Enter your contact info in the form, and you’ll receive a bite-sized message from me shortly thereafter. I’ll be sure to include some of your tips in next week’s newsletter.



54 — The number of Starbucks that are currently voting to unionize, including a second one as of Monday in Santa Cruz, after two Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, unionized late last year. Last week, I reported on the union organizing attempt at the Ocean and Soquel Starbucks — the first such effort in California.


“I don’t get caught up in how sad I am about it. There’s a sense of loss, but mostly I feel like, wow, that was a great 20 years.” — John Locke, former wine director at Soif Restaurant on the restaurant’s recent closure.


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B Corporations, including the Santa Cruz businesses highlighted here, make it their mission to balance profit with...


Cooking is my favorite hobby. There are few things I love more than spending an entire Sunday layering flavors into a stew, or tackling a complicated recipe from a new cookbook. The methodology of cooking is so relaxing, and I enjoy flexing my creativity and skills to create something that’s (hopefully) delicious. Under normal circumstances, I’d even say I’m pretty good at it — I can braise, saute, roast, fry and grill just about anything. I have at least a passing familiarity with cuisines from around the world — Brazilian moqueca, Thai larb and Italian spaghetti alla carbonara are all family favorites — and I can whip up dinner from an almost-empty fridge.

But since I became a mom, my hard-earned skills have, somehow, left me ill-equipped to put dinner on the table. The few hours of family time we have between getting home from work and Marco’s bedtime are precious, and while I still love cooking, I don’t really want to be stuck next to the stove. Yes, my husband and I could eat later, but sitting down for a family meal is a standard I want to set early, and it’s something we enjoy. For the first time in my life, I understand why microwaves and slow cookers exist (I own neither), and why entire TV shows and magazines are dedicated to sharing recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Still, hand me a chicken breast, and my first thought is slow-cooked chicken tinga tacos. I have the skills, but not the mindset. Rerouting my brain has become a surprising challenge. The question I’m wrestling with is, how do I make meals that are quick, moderately healthy and delicious enough to qualify as dinner?

Dinner at the Bellis
Dinner at the Bellis’: a quick chicken dinner that became chicken marsala with mushrooms, bacon and kale … delicious but an hour late.


Corey Mintz The Next Supper book cover

“The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After” by Corey Mintz. This is a fascinating, extremely well-researched deep dive into the current state of the restaurant industry. Mintz elucidates the momentous effect the pandemic has had on restaurants. By exploring the rise of chef-driven restaurants, delivery apps, ghost kitchens and other ways the restaurant industry has been challenged and changed, he outlines how he believes the industry should approach this pivotal time.


“Who Do You Want Controlling Your Food?” The price of beef has risen 40-70% during the pandemic, but the profits aren’t trickling down to ranchers. Peter Goodman, a New York Times global economics correspondent, travels to Montana to speak to a third-generation cattle rancher about “feeding America and going broke doing it.” He illuminates how these price increases aren’t just more pandemic chaos, but a reflection of fundamental changes in the meatpacking business. Listen to this The Daily podcast episode from Jan. 28.


After two devastating years, S.F.’s historic Chinatown hopes this Lunar New Year will begin a turnaround (San Francisco Chronicle)
Robot Waiters Deliver Dishes by Dropping Them Down from the Ceiling at the Beijing Olympics (Food & Wine)
M&M’s have had a ‘progressive’ makeover — could this be feminism’s sweetest victory? (The Guardian)

That’s all for this week. Thanks for your readership! — Lily