Lily Belli on Food: ‘Unprecedented’ bluefin tuna numbers, Chef’store opens and turkey concerns
Want to stay on top of the latest local food news? I send text alerts every time I publish a story. And you can text me back! Share your thoughts, send tips and give feedback. Sign up for texts from me here. Thanks to those of you who’ve already subscribed! And check out all my recent work here.
… In a bit of unusually good news — especially for local anglers — Pacific bluefin tuna are flourishing in Monterey Bay. The prized fish has been seen in such huge quantities that the water appears to be “boiling” as they feed on anchovies and sardines close to the surface. According to the fishing report by Bayside Marine, a local bait shop in Santa Cruz Harbor that checks in with most fishermen on their way into and out of the water, the tuna are biting mostly up the coast near the Davenport Fingers and are weighing anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds.
While bluefin historically travel along the West Coast as they follow food from Mexico as far north as British Columbia, over the past few years more and more have been showing up. “This year, there’s just been an insane explosion of fish all over the Pacific. It’s unprecedented,” says Hans Haveman, a local fisherman and co-owner of H&H Fresh Fish.
Why is this happening? “I’ve seen conservation measures taken up within Japan that I believe are starting to have major positive impacts on the stock,” says Ethan Estess, a Santa Cruz-based marine biologist who spent seven years studying bluefin. Estess said he believes the reason larger numbers of bluefin are being seen on the West Coast is due to successful conservation efforts in Japan, where all bluefin originate. There, it’s now illegal to keep fish under 30 kilograms (66 pounds), which allows more young fish to embark on their migration across the Pacific Ocean. Mexico-based fishing boats are also now voluntarily catching fewer fish than they were previously. “Because Mexico is taking fewer bluefin, we’re seeing more bluefin,” Estess sums up.
But wait — shouldn’t eating and catching bluefin be avoided because they’re critically overfished? Not necessarily, says Estess. This year, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration gave commercial and recreational tuna fishing the green light — as long as anglers stay within strict quotas, which vary by region, boat size and other measures. So far, that hasn’t been a problem for local fishermen like Haveman, who proudly offers fresh, locally caught tuna at the H&H shop in the harbor from $25 to $45 per pound depending on the cut. “It’s incredible, some of the most sought-after sashimi on the planet. It looks like Kobe beef.”
Estess sees the return of bluefin in large numbers as a success story that benefits both fishermen and conservation: “It’s clear to me that everyone can benefit when conservation measures are taken.”
The best way to make sure you’re purchasing sustainably caught fish? Know your fisherman. Says Estess, “Understanding the source and knowing your fisherman are the most sustainable actions we as consumers can take in supporting responsible, sustainable operators.”
… Marshall’s and REI have a new neighbor in Live Oak — Chef’store opened the doors of its new Santa Cruz location Friday in the commercial center off of Soquel Drive. The 23,000-square-foot warehouse carries more than 7,000 bulk food items and restaurant supplies, including fresh meat, produce, dairy and deli items, as well as seafood, baking ingredients, catering essentials, janitorial supplies and grocery products — all geared toward food-service industry professionals. “We selected Santa Cruz due to its growing community of restaurant owners and culinary professionals and our desire to provide these operators with a conveniently located one-stop shop for their fill-in or stock-up needs,” Michael Krippinger, director of sales and marketing, told me last summer.
… Are you a local college student who uses EBT? Head to the farmers market in downtown Santa Cruz on Wednesday for CalFresh Student Day to score big on fresh fruits and vegetables. Use $10 of EBT at the market and get matched with $20 to spend on local produce. Getting $30 for the price of $10 is hard to beet — I mean, beat! Students from UCSC, Cabrillo College and any other college can also win $50 in market bucks and gear through a raffle. More info at santacruzfarmersmarket.org.
ON THE MENU
If your family plans to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, you might need to be a little flexible this year. An avian flu last summer necessitated the killing of millions of birds across the nation, including hundreds of thousands here in California. While there will still be plenty of turkeys to gobble up next month, fewer small turkeys will be available and consumers could see a price jump from previous years. I’ll have the full scoop later this week.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
What if the downtown branch of the Santa Cruz public library and the downtown farmers market switched places? It’s yet another option being considered by Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets and the city as they work together to find a permanent home for the market — and one that would be off the table if Measure O passes. Here’s a quick rundown of this idea and how it came to be.
$100,000 — Amount raised for Teen Kitchen Project at its 10th-anniversary farm dinner at Everett Family Farms on Oct. 1. TKP is a local nonprofit that teaches teenagers valuable kitchen skills while preparing meals for community members in need.
“Everything we make is beer, but not everything tastes like beer.” — Tallula Preston, co-owner of Fruition Brewing in Watsonville. See how she and brewer David Purgason use farmers market finds in their brews, especially Fruition’s Snacks, a popular series of fruit-flavored tart table beer. Check it out in Friday’s Farmers Market Profile.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
At 18 months old, my son, Marco, isn’t talking much yet, but it’s clear that he understands everything going on around him. And, we recently discovered, when it’s something of vital importance he can find other ways to communicate.
The other night Marco, my husband, Mike, and I were having dinner with my husband’s parents. Marco wasn’t particularly interested in his dinner, and got up about halfway through to go to the freezer. He was looking for one thing — ice cream. He knows which drawer his Nonna keeps it in, but she had hidden it behind some frozen sausages so he wouldn’t find it. I told Marco that he could have some ice cream after dinner, but he wasn’t hearing any of it — he wanted it now, as he communicated through loud, insistent babbling and concerned looks.
Not getting anywhere, I tried to distract him. I cut up some fruit and called him back to the dinner table. He finally came, and on his way he grabbed one of his toys, a set of blocks with pictures, numbers and letters on it. I was relieved, thinking we successfully distracted him from the ice cream and averted a toddler meltdown, but Marco had other plans. He grabbed one of the blocks and held it up in the air, babbling loudly at us. Mike took it and couldn’t believe his eyes — the block had a picture of ice cream on it.
Amazed, we gave in. We figured if he worked that hard for it, he deserved a little ice cream.
THIS WEEK, I’M LISTENING …
… to this sweet history of Halloween candy. This podcast episode by Stuff You Missed In History Class is from 2014, but it’s still a fun little dive to revisit this time of year. The hosts reveal how candy became part of the Halloween celebration and answer questions like, who invented candy corn?
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ Bay Area pizza trend: The rise of the pizzaiola (San Jose Mercury News)
➤ Starbucks’ negotiations with union stores begin and immediately collapse (Vice News)
➤ Everyone loves to hate the IPA (Punch)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.