Freshly caught salmon in the Santa Cruz Harbor in 2022.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Salmon woes, Grahm’s Popelouchum blanc and Penny Ice expands north

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!

California salmon season a no-go for 2023

Workers unload fresh salmon at the Santa Cruz Harbor.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Citing record-low stock of the fish prized by commercial and recreational interests alike, a federal commission moved last week to cancel the 2023 salmon season, which had been set to open in May and run into the fall. “It’s a really tough situation for commercial fishermen in California,” said one industry veteran from Ben Lomond. Read more here.

Introducing the latest Popelouchum Estate wine

The 2021 Popelouchum Estate Blanc.
(Via Popelouchum)

There are only 200 cases of 2021 Popelouchum Estate Blanc, a blend of grenache blanc and grenache gris. It’s just the second white wine produced at Randall Grahm’s 415-acre vineyard in San Juan Bautista, and time is of the essence for fans of the Bonny Doon Vineyard terroirist. Read more here.

Penny Ice Creamery opening two Santa Clara County scoop shops

Kendra Baker, co-owner of The Penny Ice Creamery.
(Via The Glass Jar/Penny Ice Creamery)

Since 2009, The Penny Ice Creamery has been dishing up from-scratch ice cream in Santa Cruz. Now the business is expanding north, with a pair of stores slated to open in Los Altos and Palo Alto this spring. The new Bay Area locations bring the total number of spots to get your Penny fix to six — seven if you count the Picnic Basket on Beach Street by the Santa Cruz Wharf. If you’re headed over the hill, go check out Penny’s new locations, in the Town & Country Village shopping center in Palo Alto and the State Street Market food hall in Los Altos. Both are expected to open later this month.

Burger.Santa Cruz closes; La Marea of the Sea opens

Burger.Santa Cruz closed its Westside doors at the end of March, marking an end to over a decade of serving celebrity-inspired burgers, tater tots and craft beers. Messages sent via Burger’s email and social media channels weren’t returned, the phone number was taken out of service and the website was no longer functional as of April 5. A message posted on Facebook and Instagram on March 31 said simply, “Sorry, we’re closed.” The restaurant’s Aptos location shuttered in August, and is being taken over by Davenport’s Whale City Bakery.

Farmers market fave La Marea of the Sea has opened a brick-and-mortar location in Corralitos.
(Via Jessica M. Pasko)

La Marea of the Sea is a fixture of the Aptos farmers market with its Mexican-inspired seafood specialties. For about a decade, the team has been serving up oysters, fish tacos and more throughout the Monterey Bay area via their catering services. Now you can get your ceviche fix at their new restaurant in Corralitos at 2904 Freedom Blvd., which opened earlier this month.


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Mussels covering an exposed rock face.
(Via Blaire Hobbs)

Craving some moules frites? Skip the grocery store and harvest your own. Lookout’s Blaire Hobbs has put together a guide to how to safely and sustainably forage mussels in Santa Cruz County. First step — go get a fishing license. Check out the full guide here and get the lowdown on collecting your own bevy of bivalves.


Over $45 million — That’s the projected monetary loss from closure of the 2023 California salmon season.

Rexford Winery's Sam Miller and family
Rexford Winery’s Sam Miller with wife April and son Zev.
(Via Laura Sutherland)

“You could get the same credit for quantum physics that you could for wine tasting – so you can imagine which class was the most popular” — Rexford Winery winemaker and founder Joe Miller, on teaching both astrophysics and wine appreciation at UC Santa Cruz. Rexford Winery is one of nine wine tasting rooms on the Westside, as detailed by Laura Sutherland in her latest guide.


… loquats. When I first moved to Santa Cruz, one of the things that immediately stood out to me was the abundance of fruit trees in my neighborhood. From apples to oranges, lemons to figs, I was enthralled by how many of them there were — and how many people were generous enough to share their bounty. Then I discovered the plenitude of lesser-known (at least to me) fruits like hachiya persimmons, pineapple guavas and loquats that often seemed to be going to waste in many yards. As someone who loves to test out different canning and preserving projects, I’ve been trying to find different ways to use many of these. Loquat trees, a relative of Japanese plums, are mostly ornamental, but they produce a decent crop of fruit. They’re also a bit of a pain to prepare. For the amount of work you put into peeling and pitting, you wind up with fairly little yield. Still, when it’s free fruit, I don’t mind so much. I’m not above stopping to ask neighbors if I can glean some of their fruit for experimentation, and they’re almost always happy to oblige. I’ve made some tasty loquat jam throughout the years. You can also use the pits to create a liqueur similar to amaretto. I’ve never made it myself, but I tried it once at an event hosted by the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project and was impressed. Maybe this will be the year I give it a shot. They should be coming into season soon, so I’m starting my search. Anyone got the hookup on loquats? (Check out this article about, a website that maps edible plants in cities worldwide to encourage urban foraging.)


The dangerous weak link in the U.S. food chain (Wired)
Young oyster farmers struggle as working waterfronts disappear (Civil Eats)
When one three-star door closes, another opens (Town & Country)
Michelin-starred Manresa’s wine collection goes on auction block (San Jose Mercury News)

Happy eating!

~ Jessica