LILY BELLI: Eaters Digest dives in on FLASHbird’s fungi, some cool events & a secret holiday crush

When a mushroom takes on chicken-like characteristics via FLASHbird.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Yes, Lily is fond of pumpkin spice lattes — from some locations, anyways — and she’s not too proud to admit it. The Crispy Fried Hen-Mushroom Sandwich at FLASHbird in Abbott Square is also becoming an interesting, unexpected favorite.

Greetings, ghoulies! As we enter the Halloween weekend, we say goodbye for the season to the Friday Midtown block parties and Food Truck Fridays. I also offer some unasked-for advice about pumpkin spice lattes, one of my favorite fall treats (yes, really).


On Monday, we will have officially entered the holiday season, and for many that means feasting with friends and family. I spoke with local grocers on how they are dealing with persistent supply chain challenges, and what that means for holiday shopping.

I hope you enjoy a terror-ific weekend, with more treats than tricks ...

Food news

Local grocery stores continue to grapple with supply chain issues, as they have for much of the pandemic. Customers should be mindful of this as we head toward the holiday season, and might need to be flexible about the availability of some of their favorite holiday items. Read more about problems facing local grocery stores, and what it means for holiday shopping, here.

Eat this

Regardless of whether or not you eat meat, next time you’re craving a fried chicken sandwich, try the Crispy Fried Hen-Mushroom Sandwich ($12) at FLASHbird, located in Abbott Square. Instead of chicken, the sandwich is made with a big clump of smoked hen-of-the-woods mushroom. (Yes, that’s its actual name, and it really does kind of look like a chicken.)

The mushroom sandwich in the making at FLASHbird.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

It’s an excellent substitution, because all the frilly, feathery bits on the outside of the mushroom fry up beautifully into a thousand crispy edges, and the inside is meaty and juicy. Squished between a soft bun, piled with shredded iceberg lettuce and pickles and covered in BBQ sauce, it ticks all the great fried chicken sandwich boxes.

I had a wonderful meal at Trestles restaurant in Capitola last week, and my favorite dish was the Ahi Tuna Tartare appetizer ($17). The ahi was tossed with pear, avocado and apple mustard ponzu, and I loved the combination of citrusy ponzu and sweet pear, with the gentle pop of mustard seeds. It was served with two large sheets of nori that were dredged in lacy tempura batter and deep-fried, creating the perfect briny cracker. Read my full review this weekend.

The temperature has dropped, the recent storm has blown sherbert-colored leaves across the city, and we are officially deep into PSL season. It’s true: I am one of a legion of millennials who feels a shift toward autumn and hurries to order a pumpkin spice latte. This fact is simultaneously a source of deep embarrassment, because nothing is more mainstream and therefore less cool than these over-hyped, saccharine, barely coffee coffees, and a source of deep pleasure, because pumpkin spice lattes are delicious.

What can I say? I contain multitudes, and one of them loves ridiculous seasonal coffee drinks. On this topic, I do have one strong opinion. One of the paradoxes of this drink is that it should not, nay, cannot contain actual pumpkin. I have tried many pumpkin spice-type coffee drinks at local coffee shops, and the ones that clearly contain actual pumpkin are, unfortunately, terrible. The squash is nearly flavorless, and lends an awful, glumpy texture that sinks to the bottom of the cup. I will not name names. I’m sorry if this upsets anyone, but in my defense, I’m upset that I have an opinion about this, too.

Food events

The final Midtown block party is Friday from 5-8:30 p.m, and host Event Santa Cruz is going big. More than 30 vendors will be there, and Off the Lip Radio Show is bringing reggae rock group Nomalakadoja to perform. Food will be provided by Pana Food Truck, Tacos El Chuy, UNION Foodie Truck and SC Bread Boy. 1111 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz

It’s also the last Food Truck Friday of the year at Skypark in Scotts Valley, and they are celebrating the end of the season with a Halloween party. Everyone who wears a costume will get a free treat from participating food trucks Saucey’z, Pana, Taquizas Gabriel, Scrumptious Fish & Chips and Aunt LaLi’s ice cream truck. Shoutout to whoever wrote their flyer and included these spook-tacular puns: “Who knows, you might even find some sandwitches, booritos, horrors d’oeuvres & terrormisu on the menu.”

Chef Jessica Yarr’s latest passion project, a pop-up restaurant called Chicken Foot, will be at Mountainside Made General Store’s three-year anniversary party in Felton on Saturday from 2-6 p.m. Chicken Foot is a celebration of Yarr’s Ukrainian heritage and focuses on Eastern European foods “with a plant-forward, California cuisine twist.”

The menu for this event offers pelmeni dumplings filled with four cheeses and served with vadouvan curry butter, knish stuffed with potato, kale, caramelized onions and goat cheddar, warm brioche donuts and kohlrabi salad. Go early to snag some of this delicious Eastern European comfort foot, and check out Mountainside Made’s gorgeous handmade jewelry.

That’s all for this week. Got food news? You can reach me at, and on Twitter and Instagram.