File photo from the Watsonville Strawberry Festival
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: SoFria launch party celebrates Latinx businesses and Capitola loses a culinary veteran

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… I have some sad news to share from Capitola. Sharon Kay Hadley, the owner of the Fish Lady market, passed away last week. Known to many as simply the Fish Lady, Sharon served the culinary community through her shop for more than 30 years, first on South Main Street in Soquel and more recently at the corner of Bay and Capitola avenues in Capitola. There, she offered quality and often local fish, meats, produce and other grocery items. The Fish Lady market will continue on despite the loss of its “mermaid,” says daughter Lacey Kay, under the helm of Sharon’s husband and “co-captain” Mike Hadley. My deepest condolences to the Fish Lady family and crew.

sofria craft beer event poster
(Via Facebook)

… There are more than a dozen craft breweries in Santa Cruz County, and I’ve reported on quite a few collaboration beers, but never a collaboration between a brewery and a barbershop. Well, two years ago Jose Moya, owner of Get Faded barber shop in Santa Cruz walked into Buena Vista Brewery’s taproom across the street from the Old Sash Mill. He and brewer Chuck Ornelas hit it off and decided to work together to create a special beer for the barbershop. The result was Bien Faded, a custom hazy IPA that Moya offers to his clients when they come in for a cut. It’s such a hit that Ornelas and Moya have teamed up again. SoFria, their second collaboration, is a kettle sour with kiwis and strawberries, a fruity not-too-sour quencher that sounds extra refreshing in this warm weather. The name is a combination of “so fria” — so cold — and Moya’s daughter’s name, Sofia.

This Friday, you will have an opportunity to try SoFria, Bien Faded and other Buena Vista beers at a release party at Cruz Kitchen & Taps at the corner of Laurel and Pacific in downtown Santa Cruz. Co-owner Mia Thorn tells me it’s going to be a real “fiesta” — the Santa Cruz Car Club will park classic and custom lowriders in the parking lot while Cali-reggae group Santa Cruda strums inside. After 6 p.m. a DJ will play on the patio, and chef Damien DeWorken will offer special small plates in addition to his full menu. Anyone who orders a beer will also be entered in a raffle to win prizes from local businesses like Botanic & Luxe and Berdel’s.

While everyone loves a party, Thorn feels this event is significant. She, Ornelas and Moya are all local Latinx business owners, and through this collaboration she hopes they are helping to draw more visibility to their community. “Joining forces with these guys is so refreshing, because we’re asking, how can we uplift the community together and do it authentically? I feel like I’m part of something that I haven’t been a part of before.” The event is from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is free to enter.

… Mark your calendars for the first weekend in August — the local festival celebrating the Pajaro Valley’s largest and most profitable crop is back. The Watsonville Strawberry Festival is returning in full force, with carnival rides for all-ages, sweet treats, local artists and vendors and a lineup of musical entertainment — and probably a few people dressed up as strawberries, because that’s just how they roll. This family-friendly event is arguably our sweetest local festival and is held in the heart of Watsonville in the historic downtown. Stop by on Friday, Aug. 5, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Aug. 7, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. More info at

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Are you looking for fresh wasabi or sea beans? How about a skillfully made veggie burger? On the hunt for your favorite foreign treats and snacks? Check out Friday’s Eaters Digest, in which I reveal where to find all of these hard-to-find items in Santa Cruz County, as well as the two local restaurants and one food truck that made Yelp’s top 100 list in the Bay Area.


9 — Number of local restaurants, wineries, bars and breweries where you can enjoy boozy slushies, a summery trend that has spread across the county. Even restaurants with serious cocktail programs are jumping in on the fun with creative, well-crafted takes on this childhood beverage. Check out my guide to see what’s on the menu.

“What’s it going to hurt? Either there’s a vacancy there, or we have a great small business come in and thrive.” — Capitola Mall manager Brian Kirk, who is working to attract local businesses to the mall as the timeline for its eventual reconstruction is kicked further down the road.


Remember a few months ago when my then-8-month-old son Marco was just starting to explore different foods and seemed to eat anything I put in front of him? Today that seems like a distant dream. Now 14 months old and squarely in toddlerhood, he has entered a phase that I had hoped we would avoid: picky eating. Once, he approached new foods with curious interest; now he’s apparently decided that he’s tried everything worth trying and has picked only “the best” foods to subsist on. Unfortunately, this is a very short list that includes scrambled eggs, pasta with tomato sauce (that counts as a vegetable, right?), rice, most fruit, yogurt, mozzarella cheese sticks, crackers and Mama’s Smoothie (which, thank god, has spinach in it at least). The introduction of any meat is met with utter disdain and he has never knowingly eaten a vegetable. I know that his behavior is completely normal for his age, and I will continue to introduce these foods to him in a “no pressure” environment until he’s ready, although I worry sometimes that he will actually turn into a plate of spaghetti. His doctor tells me he’s perfectly healthy, but what really comforts me is this: Until I was 14 years old, I was also a picky eater. New foods intimidated me for my entire childhood until a family trip to Italy opened my mind to new flavors. The dam broke, food experiences rushed in, and the rest is history. To other parents out there who may be struggling as well, I see you. Don’t give up.


… to roadtest my new kebab skewers. The 24-inch-long, 1-inch-wide stainless steel skewers could be more accurately described as swords, which is fitting considering the fabled origins of kebab — it’s said that Turkish soldiers used their swords to grill meat over an open fire. I was inspired by Naz Deravian’s cookbook “Bottom of the Pot,” a beautiful homage to Persian home cooking. I’m not very familiar with Persian cuisine, but am enthralled by the gorgeous photos and dishes in the book, and decided to dive in and discover it in my home kitchen. I figured kebab is a good place to start. The long, wide skewers will prevent the meat and vegetables from falling off while allowing my charcoal grill to evenly cook everything to roasted perfection. I’m salivating already. Wish me luck!



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Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.