After 22 years, Aptos Natural Foods has announced its imminent closure, although the exact date has not been set.
After 22 years, Aptos Natural Foods has announced its imminent closure, although the exact date has not been set.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Aptos Natural Foods closing, Phil’s new Castroville digs and a fridge reset

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Lily

… In a sudden move, Aptos Natural Foods has announced it will close. The exact day is not known, but it could be as soon as Tuesday, according to a store employee. William Dickinson, the brother of owner Gene “Dario” Dickinson, announced — on his brother’s behalf — the decision to close the natural foods store on the business’ social media pages on Monday. The store is open for limited hours from 8 a.m. to noon and all products are on sale at 50% off.

William told Lookout that Dario began experiencing medical issues soon after he purchased Aptos Natural Foods in 2015 and in recent years his health has suffered. He is currently on medical leave. As a result, over the past year or so the store has incurred financial difficulties due to “mismanagement.” William, who lives in Canada, says he attempted to help from afar but saving the store was “an impossible situation.” “We’ve had great staff who have been there in the past year and a half and in the past, but we can’t afford to pay the bills,” he says.

Dario came to Santa Cruz in the 1980s to attend UC Santa Cruz. He worked at and later managed the Kresge Food Co-op on campus, and after graduation went on to manage the Food Bin & Herb Room in Santa Cruz for 25 years. In 2012, he became the general manager of Aptos Natural Foods, which originally opened in 1990, and purchased the business in 2015. William created a GoFundMe to support Dario’s medical expenses.

La Scuola, a historic building in Castroville, is the new site of Phil's Fish Market & Eatery.

… Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery has found a new home. The new restaurant will be right next to the iconic Castroville sign at 10700 Merritt St. in Castroville — just 3 miles from its old spot in Moss Landing – in La Scuola, a historic building that was the first schoolhouse in Castroville and, until recently, a successful Italian restaurant. “We are very excited to carry on the Italian-influenced history and welcome you soon,” reads an announcement on the Phil’s website. Phil’s Fish Market 2.0 will open in the next week or two, although an exact opening date has not been set.

Last spring, it was revealed that Phil’s would be leaving its original home of 22 years near the beach in Moss Landing. The building will be demolished in order to make way for a new research facility for the neighboring Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Owner Phil DiGirolamo and MBARI worked together to find a suitable new location for the beloved fish shack, which specializes in Phil’s famous cioppino, clam chowder, fried fish and crab cakes.

Can’t wait to get your Phil’s fix? Phil’s Cioppino Truck is open daily from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. next to Phil’s Snack Shack in Moss Landing. It serves a limited menu of the classics — cioppino bowls with garlic bread, cod fish & chips, deep-fried artichokes, clam chowder and more. View the full menu on its Facebook page.

… With changing seasons comes a changing farmers market schedule. The Felton farmers market is now closed for the season and the Scotts Valley market’s last day for the year is Saturday, Nov. 19. Both the Felton and Scotts Valley markets will reopen in May. The Community Health Trust’s El Mercado farmers market is also closed for the season and will reopen in April. Thankfully, Santa Cruz County boasts several year-round farmers markets, including the markets in Aptos, downtown Santa Cruz, the Westside, Live Oak, Corralitos and Watsonville. Due to limited daylight, the downtown farmers market will enact winter hours from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Wednesday, Nov. 9. For more information about our local farmers markets, check out Lookout’s farmers market guide.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Already planning your Thanksgiving feast? You should know that last summer an avian flu killed nearly 50 million turkeys, and has now caused a shortage throughout the country. Santa Cruz County grocers have said that while they have plenty of turkeys, customers might need to be flexible on size — and expect higher prices. Here’s what you need to know.

NOTED

40,000 — Pounds of mushrooms that Sumano’s Organic Mushrooms sells every month through regional wholesale distribution, local grocery stores like New Leaf Community Markets and Watsonville’s Coast Produce, and select farmers markets. Lookout’s Blaire Hobbs reveals the story behind this business, including its relationship to Sumano’s Bakery.

Laab Brussels sprouts by Hanloh chef Lalita Kaewsawang at Bad Animal.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“Thai cuisine is broad, and my love for Thai cooking is abundant.”Lalita Kaewsawang, chef of Hanloh and new culinary artist-in-residence at Bad Animal is Santa Cruz. A Manresa alum, Kaewsawang’s menu at the downtown bookstore-slash-natural wine bar sings with bold flavors and playful textures. Check out my experience in Friday’s Eaters Digest.

LIFE WITH THE BELLIS

Last week, our fridge broke. After a few days of very suspicious noises, unplugging and plugging it back in and fighting the urge to just hit the noisy area with a hammer, it stopped doing the one thing we needed it to do.

It’s a drag, but in other ways it’s also liberating. While we keep our fridge pretty tidy, I have a habit of letting jars of condiments linger for way too long, rattling in my shelves every time I open the door like the ghosts of cooking projects past. I’ll tell myself that the inch of sauerkraut wilting in its juice is still good — it’s fermented, isn’t it? The garlic I poached in olive oil that I had big plans for last summer but never used certainly still has some miles left, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for that weird mustard that I bought but don’t actually like.

But when we were forced to live out of a small ice chest for a week, I had to face the fact that it could fit only so much. While I do believe that one who wastes not wants naught, I also prescribe to the minimalist philosophy that you should only keep what sparks joy. And that three-year-old hot sauce that is way too smokey and spicy for my gastrointestinal tract definitely does not spark joy. I channeled my inner Marie Kondo, threw away most of the weird jars of things in my fridge and felt mentally and culinarily cleansed. Now I get to restock with things I actually do love — and enter the holiday season with a clean slate.

THIS WEEK, I WENT APPLE-PICKING …

… and made Deb Perelman’s recipe for her Mom’s Apple Cake from her blog, Smitten Kitchen. Like many of her recipes, it’s both relatively easy to make and absolutely delicious — plush, loaded with apples and fragrant with cinnamon and vanilla. If you’re looking for something to channel our wonderful local apples into, this cake is it. Next time I might make it in a sheet pan with cream cheese frosting. ... P.S. Did you see that Perelman will be coming to Santa Cruz in January on her book tour for her new cookbook?

FOOD NEWS WORTH READING

Of course instant groceries don’t work (The Atlantic)
Delay in Bay Area Dungeness crab season means no local crab for Thanksgiving (San Francisco Chronicle)
How to use up your leftover Halloween candy (Food52)

Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.