Lily Belli on Food: First taste of fall’s bounty, in search of BLT greatness and the staying power of ‘The Bear’
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… As the temperatures this week will emphasize, we are still clearly in summer, but some of the fruits of fall are starting to make their way to local markets. Last week, Watsonville’s Prevedelli Farms brought pink pearl apples to the downtown Santa Cruz and Aptos farmers markets, an all-around lovely apple good for snacking, baking, preserving and juicing, whose striking pink flesh is revealed when you bite into it. This week, the Warren pears at Live Earth Farm are ready for markets and CSA boxes. These large, rosy, rough-skinned pears have the sweet, floral taste and silky texture you always wish a pear would have. And in Watsonville, the team at Santa Cruz Cider Company harvested the first crop of Gravenstein apples at Five Mile Orchard, a hundred-year-old orchard in Corralitos. Soon, they’ll be pressed and the juice fermented into hard cider, the ultimate fall beverage. I love this time of year when tomatoes and stone fruit begin mixing with the autumn harvest.
… This is your last chance to make reservations for the Santa Cruz Mountains Vintners’ Festival this weekend. More than 30 wineries based in the Santa Cruz Mountains will welcome visitors for tasting Saturday and Sunday, including newly opened Regan Vineyards Winery, Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards and Lester Estate Wines. This event might remind you of the old Passport Days, but there is one crucial difference: All tastings must be reserved in advance. In an attempt to limit crowds and maintain safety for visitors and staff alike, guests can no longer just show up at a participating winery. Organizers hope this will improve each tasting experience and help you calculate the distance between wineries. The access to exclusive local wineries, many of which do not keep regular tasting hours, is the same. Tickets are $45 for one day or $80 for both; gather your friends, pick your wineries and reserve your spots at winesofthesantacruzmountains.com.
… All right, food fans, I need your help — who serves the best BLT in Santa Cruz County? The BLT is one of my favorite sandwiches and can truly be enjoyed for only a few months every year when tomatoes are ripe. That’s right now, and I’ve been making them regularly at home with bacon from Corralitos Market & Sausage Co., perfect early girl tomatoes and organic greens. Homemade is great, but there must be a chef somewhere who is killing it in the BLT department. I am willing to eat however many BLTs it takes to find the best in the county in order to crown the ultimate winner — such is my commitment to my community. Email or text me to tell me your favorites!
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ON THE MENU
The Lookout team and I have been hard at work on the ultimate guide to Santa Cruz County’s farmers markets. In it, you’ll soon find information on the nine seasonal and year-round markets, including a complete searchable list of vendors, tips and tricks for getting the most out of your visit, farmers market history, interviews with artisans and farmers and a lot more. Our hope is that this will allow locals and visitors to enjoy these special weekly events to their fullest while deepening their connection to our local agricultural community. Keep an eye out for our series of stories.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
If you love eating tiny portions of perfect pastries with homemade jam and clotted cream, sipping on fragrant teas out of delicate china cups while munching on a smorgasbord of savory snacks, I recommend keeping your eye out for Vim Dining & Desserts’ next afternoon tea. I attended the first monthly event a couple of weekends ago and was delighted by the service and chef Jesikah Stolaroff’s impeccable creations. Check out my experience in Friday’s Eaters Digest.
50% — The percentage of businesses in the Capitola Mall that are locally owned. With the mall’s eventual reconstruction still years away, general manager Brian Kirk is working to attract local business owners with low rents, flexible leases and a “can do” attitude. So far, it’s working. Read about how his vision is transforming the mall into a “community marketplace.”
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
If you’ve been splurging on peaches, plums and nectarines and are struggling to finish them before they go soft, I have a solution — my mom’s recipe for peach bread pudding. My mom, Jennifer, had a restaurant, market and wine bar in Murphys, my tiny hometown in the foothills, in the early 2000s. Many of the homemade items were beloved by local residents and tourists, but none like her bread pudding. More than 15 years after it closed, my mom still has people ask her for the recipe. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy, and a few tablespoons of good bourbon elevates the notes of vanilla and warm spices. The other day I was scrolling through her old cooking blog and found the recipe, this time modified to include peak summer fruit. It’s simple to make — I used to make it for my friends in college — and goes equally well with yogurt for breakfast or homemade whipped cream and caramel sauce for dessert. She even gives a tip at the bottom for peeling stubborn-skinned peaches. If you make it, let me know! Maybe together we can get her to revive her blog again — there are a ton of great, simple recipes on there.
THIS WEEK, I’M A LITTLE AMAZED …
.. that six weeks after “The Bear” was released on Hulu, food writers are still publishing articles about it. It’s clear that the first eight-episode season of this show, centered around an acclaimed fine dining chef who returns to his hometown to revive his late brother’s Italian-beef shop, struck a chord with the restaurant industry. The show lays bare the passion, abuse, injuries, intense camaraderie and financial struggles of many who work in restaurants, and it has come at a time when the industry is struggling to regain its footing after the pandemic. An opinion piece in the New York Times shows how a scene in the show between the chef and his sous-chef reflects restaurant employees’ desire to improve conditions for workers. Writer Helen Rosner remarked in a piece for the New Yorker that “the most authentic thing about the Beef might be how awful it seems to work there.” Star Jeremy Allen White, whose portrayal of the chef made him an unlikely sex symbol, told Eater how restaurant workers tell him that the show made them feel “seen.” I adored the show and at times it reminded me of my own time working in restaurants in a way that felt personal and real. Any show that inspires this much conversation in the industry is worth checking out. I’ve said this before, but go watch it. Let me know what you think!
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ Can you dig it? (Edible Monterey Bay)
➤ Find the perfect cake recipe for your current mood with our interactive recipe tool (Epicurious)
➤ Where to eat on your road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles (San Francisco Chronicle)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.