Lance Ebert pulls ramen noodles out of boiling water
Self-described ramen geek Lance Ebert — aka S.C. Bread Boy — living the dream at Avanti on Santa Cruz’s Westside.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Farmers markets’ spring plans, Alfaro family tree, Bread Boy’s ramen & Utica greens

Hello eaters! Jessica M. Pasko here. While Lily is out on maternity leave, I’m pitching in on the latest local food news. A little about me — I’m a writer and a native of upstate New York, living in Santa Cruz for over a decade. Our rich food culture is just one of the many things I love about our region, and I’m especially interested in the stories of the people who grow, serve and make the food we eat. Now, let’s dig in!

Spring refresh for Santa Cruz County’s farmers markets

The Blue Heron Farms stand at the Aptos farmers market
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Even as local growers and farmworkers face uncertainty after this winter’s storm siege, Santa Cruz County farmers markets are gearing up for the return of warmer weather with new vendors and expanded offerings from Aptos to Scotts Valley, Felton to the Westside to downtown. Read more here.

Keeping it in the family with Ryan Alfaro’s Farm Cottage wines

Ryan Alfaro is adding another branch to the family tree with his Farm Cottage Wines.
(Via Ryan Alfaro)

Sticking with the family business wasn’t always the plan for Ryan Alfaro, but a late-teens course correction has him not only head winemaker at Alfaro Family Vineyards but also branching out with Farm Cottage Wines, which you can sample April 1 at a Soif event. Read more here.

S.C. Bread Boy showcases ramen obsession at Avanti

Lance Ebert take a blowtorch to sliced pork belly for his ramen pop-up at Avanti
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

You might know him as the bescootered, focaccia-and-cannoli-slinging S.C. Bread Boy, but on Tuesdays at Avanti on Santa Cruz’s Westside, Lance Ebert is leaning into a childhood obsession: ramen. Read more here.

SLV restaurant owner calls on community amid ongoing road closures

With parts of Highway 9 still closed for the foreseeable future amid the ongoing storms, some businesses in the San Lorenzo Valley are feeling the impact deeply. Raffaele Cristallo, owner of Casa Nostra, posted on social media last week that the Ben Lomond location is struggling — and he’s asking the community to buy gift certificates, visit the Scotts Valley location and take the alternate route to come dine there. Casa Nostra is certainly not the only restaurant in the region that’s being affected by road closures and storm-related damages. I’ll have more on this in my newsletter next week.

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Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The COVID-19 pandemic, the CZU Lightning Complex fire and this year’s onslaught of winter storms have hit our local farms and farmworkers hard. Laura Sutherland recently spoke with Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, about the challenges posed by flooding and his outlook for the coming months. Read the full piece here.


360,000-plus – The number of acres of farmed land in neighboring Monterey County, according to Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Juan Hidalgo (who formerly held the same role with Santa Cruz County), discussing the impacts of this year’s devastating storms.

Santa Cruz Cider Company co-owner Nicole Todd at her location in Watsonville.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“I totally geek out when someone shows interest in apples. I love talking about the different kinds of apples. People don’t realize that cider apples are different from eating apples. Similar to wine grapes, cider apples are higher in acid and higher in tannins.” Nicole Todd, co-owner of Santa Cruz Cider, speaking with Lookout’s Kaya Henkes-Power about her job here.


… Utica greens. When it’s cold and wet outside, I turn to warm, comforting foods. Italian greens and beans is one such dish. Lately, however, I’ve been forgoing the beans as I try to nail down the perfect dish of Utica greens. Utica greens is a regional specialty popularized in the 1980s by chef Joe Morelle at the Chesterfield Restaurant in Utica, a small city in New York State’s Mohawk Valley. His original recipe (known as Greens Morelle) calls for escarole sauteed with garlic, prosciutto and hot cherry peppers, then topped with a bread crumb-herb-cheese mixture and broiled for a crispy top layer.

Like so many dishes, there is room for interpretation. Some people swear by pancetta over prosciutto. Others use Swiss chard, kale or a mix of greens instead of escarole. Some add cannellini beans, onions or chicken broth. There’s debate over whether to use pickled cherry peppers versus fresh. I like dishes like this, where you have a base recipe you can tweak based on what you have on hand or what you’re feeling. Gluten-free? Just substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs. Vegan or vegetarian? You could probably substitute a little tempeh bacon for the prosciutto.

I prefer using escarole, but I’m still mastering the right blend of breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan cheese. Sometimes I eat it as a side, but more often than not, I’ll eat it as a meal accompanied by some buttered toast. I’m more than ready for spring’s seasonal bounty — all the asparagus, favas and baby greens — but until then, I’m happily chowing down on plate after plate of this regional favorite.


No salmon season: California diners will see other fish and higher-priced salmon filling the 2023 void (East Bay Times)
California storms are taking a toll on farmworkers like those in the town of Pajaro (NPR)
Squid fishing is booming in unregulated parts of the ocean (New Scientist)

Happy eating!

~ Jessica