Lily Belli on Food: Al fresco dining to stay in downtown Santa Cruz; a farm-to-table guide

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…Last week, the sudden deconstruction of parklets in front of Kianti’s, HoM Korean Kitchen and Snap Taco in downtown Santa Cruz might have led you to believe that pandemic-era outdoor seating was permanently dismantled, but fear not. The 1100 block of Pacific Avenue is expected to reopen to vehicles by the end of the month, and parklets will be rebuilt to accommodate one-way traffic. “We only do modifications,” says Rebecca Unitt, responsible for the economic development of Santa Cruz. In fact, the city aims to establish a permanent parklet program after the temporary program expires at the end of this year. To streamline the application process for businesses, Unitt and his city colleagues are working with local design group Dylan Design Associates to create two parklet designs that will be pre-approved by the city. Outreach to the initiative, including presentations and surveys, and requests for feedback begins in early April; find more information about the Economic development site. Until then, expect to see more changes to parklets as the need arises. “It’s an evolving process, but we’re working on it,” Unitt says. “We definitely support semi-permanent outdoor dining which we’ve really seen to be beneficial to our businesses.” …

Lily Belli, Lookout Food & Drink Correspondent

… The Second Harvest Food Bank honored two amazing people who are battling food insecurity in our community last week. The crucial Santa Cruz County organization turns 50 this year, and Cesario Ruiz is the newest member of Second Harvest’s board of directors – you might recognize his smiling face at his pop-up catering business, My Mom’s Mole, which serves up his delicious homemade mole and other homemade Mexican dishes. Ruiz manages the commercial kitchen incubator for El Pajáro Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization in Watsonville that helps small food businesses get started. The cooking incubator is home to over 30 entrepreneurs, including My Mom’s Mole. Hunger Fighter of the Year is Darrie Ganzhorn, the executive director of the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, which strives to connect homeless people to gardening and land while providing rehabilitation and work experience. Ganzhorn began working with HGP in 1991, shortly after its inception, and has led the organization for 14 years. During that time, she has shared thousands of healthy meals and helped countless homeless people get back on their feet. Earlier this month, Lookout spoke with Ganzhorn about her career and the important work she does. Congratulations and thank you to Ganzhorn and Ruiz for their dedication to fighting hunger in Santa Cruz County…

Darrie Ganzhorn of the Homeless Garden Project

(Kevin Painchaud / Belvedere Santa Cruz)

… Have you ever wanted to write a cookbook? In a new podcast, “All Cookbooks” Santa Cruz Cookbook Author and James Beard Award Winner Andrea Nguyen joins a team of equally honored writers and cooks, including Molly Stevens, Kate Leahy and Kristen Donnelly, to discuss the ins and outs of creating a cookbook. In my experience, you can trust Nguyen to know what she’s talking about. His book “Vietnamese Food Any Day” is a must in my house. All recipes are accessible and endlessly riffable (Shaking Beef and Sriracha Tofu are favorites). It won’t be long before I add “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” and “The Pho Cookbook” to my shelf. In the first episode of the podcast, she and her castmates ask, should you write a cookbook? When Nguyen comes up with a book idea, she is partly motivated by the belief that books are precious objects. She says she asks herself, “What can I give my readers that’s really going to be special, something that will help them be better cooks or lead healthier lives?” … I don’t know, that “mojo”. Having something to say is obviously something that is important to all four of us. Listen to hear their sage advice and experience. I also suggest you check out Nguyen’s website, vietworldkitchen.com, and follow her on Instagram at @andreanguyen88 — her advice on her favorite ingredients and cooking tips always spice up my cooking.

Andrea Nguyen, Santa Cruz-based cookbook author and James Beard Award winner

Andrea Nguyen, Santa Cruz-based cookbook author and James Beard Award winner, joins a team of writers and cooks in a new podcast, “Everything Cookbooks.”

(By Facebook)

When I go out, I usually allow myself a glass of wine or a cocktail, but my husband doesn’t drink alcohol at all. I also abstained for almost a year when I was pregnant, and it made me realize the lack of non-alcoholic options in local bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, most don’t take non-alcoholic options on their menus seriously. While Mike enjoys an Arnold Palmer as much as the next guy, with so many interesting, adult-oriented soft drink options on the market today, there’s really no excuse not to have a few sodas, seltzers and fresh kombuchas on the menu. Readers, I need your help – which local drinking establishments offer great cocktails and soft drinks? Tell me to [email protected] Where text me through Subtext.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

After a pandemic-induced two-year hiatus, farm-to-table events and other outdoor dining events are back in full force. In my first guide to Lookout Santa Cruz, learn about over 30 special events happening on the Central Coast through the end of the year. Use this guide to plan ahead, as most tickets sell out quickly. And save it for later – we’ll add more events as dates become available. Read it here. Keep an eye out for the rocket icon — it notes my picks for particularly cool events.

Expect breathtaking locations at Outstanding in the Field events.

Expect breathtaking locations at Outstanding in the Field events.

(via Outstanding in the Field)

THE NUMBER

33.7 — percentage of American adults who do not drink alcohol, according to a study 2018 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

THE QUOTE

“I felt like I was ready” — 21-year-old cook malik williams, on the decision to open his first restaurant. Malik Williams restaurant officially opened in Aptos last week. Check out Santa Cruz County’s newest fine dining establishment in Eaters Digest.

A QUICK REQUEST

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LIFE WITH THE BELLIS

bay area meme "12 seasons"

According to this brilliant meme, we may only be in the spring of disappointment, but with all this warm weather, Mike and I are already thinking about firing up the grill. Early in our relationship, we bonded over a shared love of cooking over an open fire. The first Christmas gift I bought her was a Santa Maria style grill top that fits over a standard Weber (here is a similar model). For us, there are few foods that can’t be enhanced with a good char – protein, vegetables, stone fruits, even potatoes (cut into wedges and parboiled beforehand). We’ve always used charcoal, but last year for Christmas my dad gave us a little propane grill. While nothing can replace the flavor and ceremony of charcoal grilling, the promise of cutting dinner prep from 45 minutes to an hour without waiting for the coals to burn is very appealing. Have you ever lit your grill? Do you use charcoal or propane?

THIS WEEK, I WATCH…

… “Bad vegan: fame. Fraud. Fugitives.” Netflix’s latest crime documentary shares the rise and fall of the vegan poster Sarma Melngailis, which opened Pure Food and Wine in New York, the world’s first gourmet vegan restaurant. Melngailis and her then-husband, Anthony Strangis, were convicted of defrauding employees of investors and even members of Melngailis’ family out of millions of dollars, but in this four-part series, Melngailis shares the psychological abuse that led her to her crimes. Fair warning, it hurts your stomach, but if you’ve watched the headlines from 2014 to 2016, this is a must-watch.

THIS WEEK, I DEBATE…

Sun Hothe food critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, who recently asked: “Is it OK to send an invoice to your friends when you host a dinner party?“She raised the issue in response to a viral tweet from someone who had been invited to dinner at a friend’s house – then received a Venmo request for $20 to help pay. So what do you think? Is it OK, and has it even happened to you? I admit that once I threw a party and asked guests to contribute – it was a crawfish boil, and the amount of crawfish needed to feed our guests was over $400. But, before you dumped me, I asked them for the donation ahead of time, and since it was such a special experience, all of our friends were up for it. But in all other circumstances, I’d be personally mortified to ask my guests anything, especially after the fact. Do you agree? Email me at [email protected]Where text me through Subtext.

FOOD NEWS TO READ

What increased unionization means for food and farm workers (Civil Eats)
Ukrainian leaders are determined to fight (Eater)
The 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards nominees (James Beard Foundation)

Happy Spring! Enjoy the sun this week.

David H. Henry