Lily Belli on Food: Cocktails for history buffs, fruit frustration, and supporting Ukraine relief
… COVID positivity has dropped, the mask mandate has been lifted, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History is ramping up its schedule of community events to pre-pandemic levels. One event series in particular caught my eye, as it brings together two of my passionate interests — cocktails and history. If sipping cocktails named after important local figures from days of old while discovering new facets of Santa Cruz history sounds like a great time, In Pour Taste, A Timeless Cocktail Series is for you. The inaugural event on Sunday, March 27, focuses on the California Gold Rush era. For the event, Front & Cooper bar manager Patrick Ferraro will create a two bespoke cocktails, each named after notable denizens of Santa Cruz’s historic Evergreen Cemetery. You can make an afternoon of it as things unfold in the MAH’s Secret Garden outdoor space. A guest speaker will share stories from the event’s chosen era, followed by a history-themed trivia game with prizes. Admission to the MAH is included in the $45 ticket price, and guests can wind down the evening by visiting the Santa Cruz history gallery and any other exhibits in the museum. Organizer Nikki Patterson, director of development and communications for the MAH, tells me that museum plans at least seven more In Pour Taste events, through January of next year, and each will focus on a different era in Santa Cruz County history. Purchase tickets for this event through Eventbrite. More information at santacruzmah.org/visit or contact Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org …
… Last week, after apple farmer Jake Mann of Five Mile Orchard told me about how unseasonably warm winter is affecting local crops, I wanted to reach out to another well-known local farmer to see how he was faring. Everett Family Farm lies two miles outside of Soquel on Old San Jose Road, sitting along Soquel Creek. Rich Everett has managed the farm with his wife and family for 20 years. There, they grow 14 varieties of apple trees in addition to pluots, plums and cherries, 35 different row crops and some livestock. Everett says that the temperature drop last week was welcome after the heat wave the week before, but he’s frustrated at the changing weather patterns nonetheless: “In the last twelve months things have been completely cattywampus. It’s been challenging to produce the same quantity and quality that we’ve been producing.” In the past few years, winter “chill hours” for fruit trees have been insufficient. Those chill hours encourage nutrients to fall to the roots while the tree is dormant. While the chill hours this year have been sufficient, the early warm weather we experienced early in the season confuses the trees. If weather variability poses new challenges, it’s not the most pressing issue confronting Everett — it’s water. Responding to climate change is a marathon, he says, and water issues are a sprint. While he and his family have worked to conserve water on their farm for two decades, the approaching summer is looking dire, and Everett wants people to know that conserving water is paramount. “We want to sound a red alarm to tell people that this lack of water is serious,” he said. “People in our area are really going to have to address it in a way that they’re not used to if they want to eat food from our area.” He hopes that this spring brings the rain they desperately need, and lots of it, but says it’s not looking good: “We’re just not getting that moisture that I know everybody in our coastal farming communities desperately needs now.” …
… The lack of rain isn’t affecting just local farmers. Santa Cruz County celebrated Fungus February as best it could last month, but the mushroom season has been dismal for local foragers. Charlie Lambert, co-owner of Ocean2Table, tells me a lack of significant moisture is to blame. Lambert says Santa Cruz County is completely shut down — no local edible mushrooms have popped up in at least a month. “If you go anywhere in Santa Cruz, and you go on a hike and put your hands in the dirt, it’s dry and dusty. I don’t see any fungi activity,” he said. “It’s a bummer.” Monterey saw its most recent local bloom of porcinis in January, and it lasted just one or two weeks. Steady rainfall last fall allowed porcinis and chanterelles to flush in Santa Cruz County, but there haven’t been any flushes since then. Ocean2Table works with foragers throughout California to bring mushrooms to its CSA customers, and it isn’t finding any mushrooms in neighboring counties, either. Foragers are finding black trumpet, hedgehog and yellowfoot chanterelle mushrooms in northern California around Fort Bragg, Mendocino and Humboldt, and those mushrooms are making their way down the coast to Ocean2Table’s CSA customers and a few local grocery stores, where scarcity has driven prices up. For example, chanterelles were $10 per pound at the peak of the season; now they’re around $30 per pound. Black trumpet mushrooms rose from $18 to $28 per pound. While the winter was a wash locally, Lambert is hopeful that one or two more storms with 3 to 4 inches of rainfall each will saturate the topsoil this spring. Should we be so lucky, we will enjoy a spring flush of porcini mushrooms. Sign up for Ocean2Table’s newsletter for updates at getocean2table.com.
ON THE MENU
Santa Cruz has become the West Coast center of a national struggle for Starbucks workers to unionize their workplaces. The Mission Street and Ocean Street Starbucks represent two out of the three Starbucks in California that will vote to unionize. On Thursday, they had their first hearing in front of the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to certify an election, as my colleague Max Chun reported last week. Watch for his reporting on the NLRB’s decision, expected later this week, on whether the organizers will be able to vote to unionize.
➤ HOT NEW JOBS, ORDER UP: See all the most recent listings here.
- Guest Service Host at CineLux Theatres
- Facilities & Safety Director at Second Harvest Food Bank
- Snap Hand (Counter & Kitchen) at Snap Taco
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Santa Cruz worker-owned business Hard Core Compost has been fighting global warming through compost collection since long before the state of California recently required local municipalities, and all of us, to get our hands dirty. The eight-year-old company recently received a $9,000 grant from CalRecycle to build infrastructure and create workshops at its site on Shaffer Road next to the Homeless Garden Project. Read about the plans here.
18.33 — The season-to-date rainfall for the city of Santa Cruz, 5 inches shy of the average of 23.31 inches.
“In the city [of Santa Cruz]’s hierarchy of food waste diversion, the top thing is avoiding food waste in the first place.” — Kumi Maxson, worker-owner at Hard Core Compost, which collects 3,000 pounds of food waste each week from 330 customers in the Santa Cruz area.
A QUICK ASK
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LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
This past week, my family joined the rest of the world as we watched in disbelief as Russia invaded Ukraine. Michael and I have been glued to the news and are horrified by the terrifying situation Ukrainian families have had thrust upon them. My heart is heavy, my stomach sick and my dreams disrupted. Many tears have been shed after watching videos of children sheltering in subway stations with scared parents. I am amazed by their bravery and resilience, and am also angry that they must be brave and resilient. This past week, I started joining my husband in his nightly meditation, and it has helped soothe my mind before bed. We have also made a donation to World Central Kitchen, chef José Andrés’ nonprofit. WCK is on the ground in multiple locations in Poland along the border of Ukraine and serving thousands of hot meals to Ukrainian refugees every day. If you’d like to learn more or make a donation, visit wck.org.
And a reminder ... you can also text me directly on your iPhone or Android device by subscribing to my Subtext channel. It’s a simple setup: Enter your contact info in the form, and you’ll receive a bite-sized message from me shortly thereafter. Thanks to those of you who’ve already offered tips and thoughts there! I’m reading them, and replying.
THIS WEEK, I’M READING ...
… Free Food Is All Around, You Just Have to Learn to Forage for It, an article by Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé in the March issue of Food & Wine magazine on the surge of interest in foraging. In it, chef Danny Childs talks about using American pawpaw fruit in his distinctive bar program in New Jersey; Twila Cassadore, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, discusses the importance of preserving Native American foraging traditions; and TikTok star Alexis Nikole Nelson says that simply being outside as a person of color can be a revolutionary act. I highly recommend following Nikole Nelson on Instagram at @blackforager. Her vibrant personality and vegan recipes always make my day.
THIS WEEK, I’M MAKING ...
… Black Sesame Hazelnut Milk from “Eat & Be Well Vol. 3: Infusions.” The free e-book is the third collaboration between nutritionist and Kitchen Witch Bone Broth co-founder Magalí Brecke and Santa Cruz-based photographer Liz Birnbaum. In it, Brecke shares recipes for infused beverages, like nut milks, teas and ciders, that strive to balance and fortify the digestive system. I adore Volume 1 and Volume 2, which include savory, health-conscious dishes, and can’t wait to try the somewhat unusual but very alluring drink recipes. Read my interview with Brecke on gut health here.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ José Andrés and World Central Kitchen Are Already on the Ground to Help Feed Ukraine (Food & Wine)
➤ Restaurant work has become more stressful than ever. Could a staff therapist help? (NPR)
➤ J. Kenji López-Alt Says You’re Cooking Just Fine (The New Yorker)
Thanks for reading! Have a great week.