Lily Belli on Food: Giant leap for Cabrillo wine program, restaurant supply gets a boost and an apricot bonanza
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… When longtime Cabrillo College culinary arts instructor Sue Slater retired in 2019, some wondered about the fate of her beloved wine program. I’m happy to report that under the guidance of wine instructor Deborah Parker Wong, it’s stronger than ever. Wong worked with a team of wine professionals, including wine scholar Laurie Love, Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains executive director Keikilani McKay and local winemakers, to completely restructure the program. Some classes were consolidated to eight weeks while others expanded to semester-long courses. In an exciting leap forward for the program, students could earn a one-year Certificate of Achievement in Wine Studies, pending expected approval by the state of California.
For Wong, who has taught wine courses at Cabrillo since 2015 — including her popular Wine Faults course on sensory flaws in wine — matriculation is vital because it gives students a choice in the careers they want to pursue. It was also crucial to dismantle Cabrillo’s rule to limit “sip and spit” wine tasting in class to those 21 and over. Other colleges and universities in the state that offer wine courses allow students as young as 18 to taste wine for educational purposes under the supervision of an educator. Says Wong: “Wine is complicated, and if you lock in early, you can have a very successful career in the wine industry.” With these changes, Cabrillo’s new and greatly improved wine program will offer more options for students seeking higher education in the wine and culinary realm, and likely have a positive impact on our local wine industry. Fall enrollment is now open. Visit cabrillo.edu for more information.
… Caterers, restaurateurs and chefs, listen up: A new restaurant supply store is coming to Santa Cruz. US Foods Chef’store announced Tuesday that it is opening a location next door to REI at 1660 Commercial Way. The huge 23,000-square-foot warehouse will offer professional supplies and ingredients in a variety of sizes, including fresh meat, produce, dairy, deli items and seafood, as well as baking ingredients, beverages, janitorial supplies and other catering essentials. There are more than 80 Chef’stores nationwide, including 15 in California; the closest one is on West San Carlos Street in San Jose. Santa Cruz County has a few mom-and-pop restaurant supply stores, and while some good deals and products can be found, I doubt that their inventory and prices will be able to compete. In reality, most industry professionals I know shop at Costco when they’re not traveling over the hill. Having a large restaurant supply store on our doorstep could be a boon to Santa Cruz County small-business owners. The store is set to open this fall; expect more information on this new addition to Santa Cruz as it develops.
… The Sustain Supper, Homeless Garden Project’s event of the season, returns July 23 to Natural Bridges Farm on Santa Cruz’s Westside, and this year, the HGP team invited chef Bryant Terry to be the keynote speaker. Anyone who has flipped through any of Terry’s six cookbooks, including 2021’s critically acclaimed “Black Food,” 2020’s “Vegetable Kingdom” and 2014’s “Afro-Vegan,” just squealed in delight. The four-course, farm-to-table vegetarian dinner is inspired by the James Beard- & NAACP Image Award-winning chef, author and educator, and will be prepared by a team of Central Coast chefs, including chef Anna Bartolini of La Balena and chef Yulanda Santos of Michelin-starred Aubergine. In addition to being wined and dined by some of the best, guests will enjoy live music, a farm tour and a number of other speakers. All proceeds from this event support the Homeless Garden Project’s core transitional employment program for people experiencing homelessness. Tickets start at $175 and can be purchased through Eventbrite.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside opened two weeks ago in the space that held Café Rio for more than 30 years, marking a significant update to the dining scene in Rio Del Mar. Chef John Harry infused a seafood-centric menu with Southern charm, and dishes like oysters Bienville and the low country boil wowed during a recent visit. Read my full story on the opening of the new restaurant and what’s to come.
ON THE MENU
The slushie is flourishing in Santa Cruz County, and I’m absolutely here for it. Homemade twists on the frozen 7-Eleven classic — often with added alcohol — are everywhere these days, from Apérol spritz slushies at Mentone in Aptos to hard apple cider slushies at Santa Cruz Cider Co. in Watsonville. They’re playful and fun, and in these dark times, that feels like exactly what we need. My list of where to find local slushies is growing and I don’t want to miss any. Where are you getting your slushie fix these days? Text me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
$2,999,500 – Price listed for the old Caffe Pergolesi at the corner of Cedar and Elm streets in downtown Santa Cruz. Personally, I think the time is ripe for someone with a lot of vision — and cash — to turn it into Santa Cruz’s next hot restaurant. Humor my vision in Friday’s Eaters Digest.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
In the past few weeks, my father-in-law’s apricot tree exploded with fruit. Some branches are so laden with tiny, tangerine-colored apricots that several branches broke under the weight. Although rather small, they’re sweet and tangy, but they cover his backyard, and we’ve been struggling to figure out what to do with them all. Every few days he sorts through as many ripe ones as he can and delivers boxes of fruits to his neighbors. Luckily, I scored on a dehydrator at a garage sale last weekend, and he’s had it going full steam for the past few days. Some will be frozen for jam and desserts, and thankfully my friends who own Fruition Brewing in Watsonville promised to take everything we couldn’t handle to use in a craft beer. Marco doesn’t mind the onslaught one bit — at 14 months old, he adores sorting the little fruits and will eat as many as his Nonno dares to give him. Watching grandfather and grandson work together in the garden is a sweet moment I’ll cherish forever.
THIS WEEK, I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT …
… “The Bear.” This eight-episode series on Hulu centers around a wunderkind fine-dining chef who returns to his hometown of Chicago after he inherits his brother’s hole-in-the-wall restaurant and tries to turn it around. The performances, especially by star Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edbiri, who plays his ambitious sous-chef, are magnetic. “The Bear” is also the most realistic depiction of working in a restaurant that I’ve ever seen, which means at times the full weight of the high-stress environment hits you in your chest. Watching the staff struggle under the weight of an onslaught of to-go orders in Episode 7, skillfully filmed as one continuous shot, was easily the most intense 20 minutes of television I’ve ever experienced. Kitchen lingo, including “yes, chef,” “heard,” and “corner” are now a part of my vocabulary. Run, don’t walk.
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ What to know about California’s landmark plastics law (New York Times)
➤ Freedom, finances, and fried chicken (Eater)
➤ A tiny S.F. diner reminds me that love is real (San Francisco Chronicle)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.