President Joe Biden surveys the damage at Paradise Beach Grille with owner Chuck Maier (left) in Capitola Village.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press via pool)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Biden’s local ice cream treat, fundraiser for Capitola workers & onstage with Deb Perelman

This week, Lily digs into what local grub the president sampled during last week’s visit, local chefs teaming up for post-storm relief — and dishes on her interview with a famous food blogger.

What Joe Biden ate during his visit to Santa Cruz County

President Joe Biden and his motorcade headed to Capitola Village from Watsonville.
(Via City of Watsonville)

The president, notorious for his love of ice cream, did indeed sample a Santa Cruz favorite, and his team also chowed down on some local pizza amid the whirlwind tour that included stops in Capitola Village and Seacliff State Beach. Read more here.

Local chefs cooking up fundraiser for Capitola workers

Piles of debris lie outside My Thai Beach on the Esplanade in the Capitola Village on Friday, Jan. 6.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

With more than 100 employees unable to return to work due to prolonged restaurant closures, chefs from Reef Dog Deli, Trestles, Home and Shadowbrook are teaming up for a Feb. 6 gala. Read more here.


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The chanterelle and guanciale pizza at Bookie's in Santa Cruz.
(Via Bookie’s)

One upside to the wet weather and cold temperatures is that wild chanterelle mushrooms are flourishing in the Santa Cruz Mountains and throughout Northern California. Enjoy their peppery, apricot-like flavor on a Detroit-style pizza with guanciale, caramelized onions and Aleppo pepper at Bookie’s, located inside Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Santa Cruz. Check it out, and more, in Friday’s Eaters Digest.


“Structurally, we’re sound. We’re missing walls. We’re missing windows. We’re missing a floor. But other than that we’re ready to go.” Josh Whitby, kitchen manager at Zelda’s On The Beach, discusses the damage to the beachfront restaurant sustained after the Jan. 5 storm surge. While the repairs are extensive, Whitby says the restaurant aims to reopen by Memorial Day.


Lookout's Lily Belli interviews Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman on stage at Hotel Paradox on Monday.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

On Monday evening, I sat down with Deb Perelman, cookbook author and creator of the massively successful food blog Smitten Kitchen at Hotel Paradox. It was my first time interviewing someone in front of a live audience (of more than 300 people!) and I had so much fun. Perelman couldn’t have been more charming or funny, despite having lost her voice due to a lengthy book tour, and we had a great time chatting about her newest cookbook, “Smitten Kitchen Keepers.” (I was also able to interview Perelman in advance of her visit, and she gave great advice on how to stay motivated in the kitchen.)

I particularly enjoyed Perelman’s insight on when she knew she could quit her day job and devote herself fully to her blog, her thoughts on Russian desserts, which she grew up eating with her family, versus American baked treats and why she’s so adamant about making a recipe as simple as possible. Hotel Paradox kicked off the event with a five-course dinner spotlighting several recipes from Perelman’s new cookbook. It was a wonderful way to bring her recipes to life ahead of the interview portion of the event, and they knocked it out of the park. I had wanted to try the cucumber salad with tzatziki that they offered as a first course, in particular, and now I can’t wait to make it myself.

A big thank-you to Bookshop Santa Cruz for inviting me to host such a fun and delicious event!


… polenta, my favorite quick-and-easy weeknight base for a warm and comforting dinner. Yes, I did just say “quick and easy” and “polenta” in the same sentence. I definitely do not have time to stand over the stove for 45 minutes carefully stirring anything, so a few years ago when I discovered Claire Saffitz’s recipe for polenta in the oven, it was a game-changer. I dig it out of the ol’ internet archives every year when the weather gets chilly so I can regularly have nearly hands-off polenta in about 30 minutes. With the polenta on the lowest rack on the oven and a tray of veggies roasting on the top rack, I can actually use that time to play with my toddler, chat with my husband or just put my feet up after a long day. What a concept! Check it out at


How Restaurant Workers Help Pay for Lobbying to Keep Their Wages Low (New York Times)
Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad (Bloomberg)
This is what it’s like to be a chef with ADHD (San Francisco Chronicle)

Enjoy the sunshine this week!