Lily Belli on Food: SLV restaurants under storm siege, Coffee Conspiracy’s new home & farmworker fundraiser
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!
Hit hard by storms, San Lorenzo Valley restaurants lean on community
Road closures and power outages have been a near-constant fact of life in the San Lorenzo Valley since the parade of atmospheric rivers began New Year’s Eve. And as stressful as that’s been for restaurant owners, they’ve felt plenty of support from residents of the area that’s still recovering from 2020’s ruinous fires. Read more here.
Coffee Conspiracy goes from bike to building
After three years of selling coffee by bike and in various pop-up locations, Eddie Alaniz is taking a run at the brick-and-mortar life, bringing Coffee Conspiracy for a six-month trial at the spot that’s been occupied by Central Coast Juicery on Locust Street in downtown Santa Cruz. Read more here.
Pajaro Valley Pride, Fruition Brewing host fundraiser for Pajaro farmworkers
Watsonville’s Fruition Brewing will be the scene Sunday as Pajaro Valley Pride puts on a drag and burlesque show as part of relief efforts for farmworkers affected by the catastrophic flooding that followed the Pajaro River levee failure. The fundraiser also includes a raffle for prizes including gift cards for Mentone, Lupulo and Pacific Cookie Company and a tasting experience at Big Basin Vineyards. Read more here.
A smorgasbord of food and beverage tidbits
Sometimes there’s too much good stuff to fit into one weekly newsletter. Here are a few more bites to get you through the week.
• Stagnaro Brothers restaurant is slated to reopen on the Santa Cruz Wharf on Thursday. The seafood restaurant closed in 2020 during the pandemic. You can read more about Stagnaro’s plans, as well as other changes at the wharf, in a feature by Ashley Spencer coming Friday.
• Signup is now open for the Homeless Garden Project’s annual community-supported agriculture program. The season runs 23 weeks, with pickups at the farm starting May 19. It’s $700 if you pick it up at the farm on Fridays; $525 for the “U-pick” option. More information here.
• Cider slushies are back for the season at Santa Cruz Cider Company’s tasting room in Watsonville. (Lily did the hard work of sampling the best slushies in the county last year.)
• Golden City Chinese on Mission Street in Santa Cruz is now under new ownership, joining the Canton family of restaurants. The restaurant closed at the end of 2022 when owners Sue and Paul Leung retired after 22 years at the Westside location.
• Got kids who love to bake? Register them for next week’s spring break baking camp with chef Stephany Buswell through the Teen Kitchen Project. Classes run the week of April 3-7 and are for 11- to 14-year-olds.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Many locals were saddened when Mumbai Delights closed its Pacific Avenue doors in 2020. Fortunately, when one door closes, another opens. The same owners opened Namaste India Bistro in the former Vasili’s location last summer, as Lily reported. Lookout contributor Laura Sutherland recently took a culinary tour of the restaurant’s offerings with her friend, a Bengali connoisseur. Read about their meal here. I’m already craving that avocado chaat.
900 tons — That’s how many oranges the residents of one small Italian town are expected to pelt at each other this year, as part of an annual spring tradition called the Carnival of Ivrea.
“Pajaro is a community largely dismissed because they are majority migrant workers and low-income families. These people matter more than some numbers on a spreadsheet and we wanted to support and help in any way we can.” — Danielle Elizalde, president of Pajaro Valley Pride, speaking about the organization’s upcoming fundraiser for Pajaro farmworkers.
THIS WEEK, I’M PLANNING AHEAD FOR …
… Dyngus Day. This highly underrated Polish holiday marks the end of Lent and the start of spring, taking place the Monday after Easter Sunday (Easter falls on April 9 this year). Traditionally, the boys and men in each town would throw water at the women and girls, who would retaliate by hitting them with pussywillow switches. And then everyone would have a big party with plenty of Polish favorites: kielbasa, pierogies and, of course, vodka. I’m not making this up. This is really a thing. It’s under the radar in most of the U.S., but cities with large Polish American communities like Cleveland and Buffalo host annual Dyngus Day celebrations. Buffalo’s festival is huge, attracting tens of thousands of people to the western New York city each year for fun, food and polka. Every year, I tell myself I’ll find a way to partake in this piece of my Polish American heritage, but I’ve yet to make it happen. Monday holidays are always a little tricky, but this year, I’m committing to it. I won’t be pulling out all the stops — where does one find pussywillows locally? — but I can certainly cook up some golabki and enjoy a Zubrowka cocktail. A Śmigus-dyngus to all!
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ Fish sauce, loud and proud (Taste)
➤ California’s upcoming fast-food ballot measure, explained (Eater)
➤ A Tahoe ghost town held the lost secret to a 150-year-old beer (SFGate)