The Fall Feast returns to Farm Discovery at Live Earth on Sept. 23.
The Fall Feast returns to Farm Discovery at Live Earth on Sept. 23.
(Via Farm Discovery)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: A farm-focused event four-pack, New Leaf news and a dinnertime go-to

Hello again! I have returned from a break I took in March to have a baby. Now, Cecilia is a bouncing, thriving 3-month-old, and I am brimming with new story ideas to bring to you, our Lookout readers. Thank you to Jessica M. Pasko, who kept you up to date on Santa Cruz County’s dining news and shared her personal food experiences through this newsletter while I was on parental leave. And thank you to contributing food writers Laura Sutherland and Ashley Spencer for their reporting while I was away.

It’s good to be back! As always, I look forward to hearing from you at or via text message.

From Soquel to Pajaro, fundraisers put the focus on farms, farmworkers

Dolores Huerta at an 2022 event at UC Santa Cruz.
(Via Devi Pride Photography)

Community Bridges’ Farm to Fork Gala happens July 30 in Pajaro, followed by an August event featuring activist Dolores Huerta to raise money for the Center for Farmworker Families and Esperanza Community Farms. September brings benefit dinners featuring local chefs to Watsonville and Soquel. Read more here.

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At New Leaf, a foray into self-checkout and a move in Capitola

New Leaf Community Markets' Westside location
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

New Leaf Community Markets’ Aptos, Westside Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay locations have added robot cashiers (and don’t worry, they’re not taking anyone’s job) — as will its Capitola outpost, which is moving up and across 41st Avenue. Read more here.

Mutari maker White Label Chocolate launches investment campaign

Mutari owners Stephen Beaumier and Katy Oursler
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Stephen Beaumier and partner Katy Oursler are aiming to raise $75,000 for facilities improvements and equipment to boost their bean-to-bar chocolate operation, which they’ve run out of a kitchen in Watsonville since their Mutari Craft Chocolate café closed in Santa Cruz last year. Read more here.


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The soft serve ice cream at Honey B Market in Santa Cruz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

One of the best soft serves in Santa Cruz County isn’t found in an ice cream parlor. In fact, it isn’t even with dairy — or sugar. The cashew-milk soft serve at Honey B Market in Santa Cruz is made with just four ingredients — organic cashews, maple syrup, sea salt and vanilla — but is luscious and thick enough to achieve that crucial soft serve swirl. Read more in Friday’s Eaters Digest.


Flooding off East Lake Avenue in Watsonville
Flooding off East Lake Avenue in Watsonville in January.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“No one came to help, we don’t exist for anyone.” — Watsonville resident Maria Theresa Fuentes, one of hundreds of Watsonville and Pajaro-area residents preparing to sue the City of Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, Caltrans and the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife for traumatic experiences. The agricultural community in South County was severely damaged after a levee broke during last winter’s storms. Read more about the litigation battle.


Dinnertime is a different ballgame now that I have two kids. Between coming home from work and bedtime, dinner needs to be on the table fast — and my adult self would prefer it if it was reasonably healthy, delicious and ideally used as few dishes as possible. This spring, I became a devout follower of chef Caroline Chambers and her recipe blog, What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking. Chambers has three young kids herself and is the author of two cookbooks — the second comes out next year — and each recipe checks all the boxes on my list. Chambers leans into using shortcuts like frozen rice, pre-chopped vegetables and ready-made products, and she offers substitutions for every step and ingredient for when you really, really don’t feel like cooking. Every recipe I’ve made, including the esquites chicken salad, one-pot lemony garlic butter shrimp orzo, lamb pita with dilly minty yogurt sauce and sesame-ginger grilled steak, have all been winners. Subscribe to her Substack and Instagram if you need fresh, easy dinner ideas.


… “Making Box Mac & Cheese Like We’re in the Bear.” This short reel on Instagram is a must-see if you’ve watched Hulu’s hit series “The Bear,” which follows a young chef who leaves the world of fine dining to run his late brother’s sandwich shop in his hometown of Chicago. Actor Taylor Owen nails the aggressive urgency, drinks water from a plastic Tupperware container and even makes Siri call her “chef.” Check it out for a laugh.


‘Devastating’: California’s oak death is endangering the state’s signature barbecue (SFGate)
Found Treasure: Crow’s Nest summer sunset parties (and beach market) (Edible Monterey Bay)
Death by a thousand service fees (Eater)

Happy dining!

~ Lily