Lily Belli on Food: Andrea Nguyen’s local picks, Farm Discovery fundraiser, what does ‘foodie’ mean to you?

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… Here’s a farm-to-table dinner for a good cause to look forward to this fall: Farm Discovery at Live Earth announced Monday that its annual Fall Feast returns Sept. 24 for a thirteenth year. If you’ve been to any of the local farmers markets, you’ve probably shopped at Live Earth’s large booth and perhaps taken home some of its famously delicious strawberries and tomatoes. You might have even visited its farm for a culinary class or U-pick. It’s a stunning place — the 150 acres that makes up Live Earth Farm in the Pajaro Valley outside of Corralitos includes a riparian corridor and patches of redwood forest. Farm Discovery is Live Earth’s nonprofit arm, focusing on food education and using the farm as a big outdoor classroom to educate the young and old about organic farming and sustainability through programs like farm walks and overnight farm immersions. The program also works with Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes and Holy Cross Food Pantry to donate unsold organic Live Earth produce to people in need in the community.

This event is a fundraiser for Farm Discovery, and 100% of the ticket price goes to its programs and operations. The theme this year is “Mesa: a gathering around the table to celebrate our collective resilience and unity.” Its accomplishments are certainly worth celebrating: In 2021, the team helped deliver 70,000 pounds of organic produce from Live Earth Farm to farmworker families, seniors, foster youth and other in-need community members. This year, the group expects more than 3,000 young people to attend one of its organic farming experiences.

At the feast, guests will enjoy craft cocktails and live music followed by a multicourse dinner prepared by chef Jessica Yarr of Chicken Foot featuring Live Earth produce and paired with local wines. A silent auction after the dinner features some noteworthy prizes, including excursions to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Big Sur. Breigha Sawyer of Farm Discovery told me that this event sells out every year, so grab a seat soon if you’d like to attend. Tickets start at $200 per person and can be purchased on Masks are optional and proof of vaccination is not required, although the team says it will monitor COVID conditions closely to ensure guests’ safety.

… Santa Cruz area-based cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, with whom I recently discussed her new podcast on how to write a cookbook, has released a guide of Santa Cruz hot spots with Apple Maps. Overall, I heartily agree with her recommendations — and she had a few great tips even I didn’t know about. On her “Santa Cruz list for eaters — and cooks,” Nguyen shares her love of these top spots:

David Kinch’s Aptos restaurant, Mentone; the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market; spicy chicken wings at Chinese restaurant Shun Feng; club sandwiches at Garden Liquors & Deli; paella at Barceloneta restaurant; lions mane mushrooms from Far West Fungi; Birichino winery’s aromatic malvasia white wine; and Humble Sea Brewing Company’s lager and kolsch.

New to me, she notes that one can find a wide selection of Asian and Middle Eastern ingredients on the curated shelves of AJ’s Market in Soquel. At Del Pueblo Market, located at the corner of Capitola Road and Soquel Avenue, Nguyen buys frozen banana leaves — used in both Mexican and Asian dishes — and fresh tortillas, made on site every morning. So if you need me, you’ll find me at Del Pueblo inhaling the warm scent of fresh tortillas …

… What does the word “foodie” mean to you? This was the question food writer Alicia Kennedy asked Monday on Twitter. She believes the title is outdated and “signifies nothing,” and dozens of people weighed in with their takes. Some thought of it as a benign descriptor of someone who eats food and participates in food culture; others consider it a pejorative used to describe someone who’s just there for the Instagram likes. Chef and activist Preeti Mistry thinks people who refer to themselves as foodies are “hilarious/meaningless.”

I wonder: Is this discussion really about the word “foodie,” or is that title merely a lightning rod for criticism on how people eat? People who dislike the term tend to pile on their opinions of bad eating habits, whatever they might be — and there is no consensus among them. For example, taking pictures of your food is fine in some circles; for others, only the worst kinds of “foodies” would dare to do something so rude and superficial.

Personally, I take no pleasure in using “foodie.” I agree that the word has taken on a derisive quality in some circles that I usually want to avoid. However, I keep using it because I have to find another descriptor that works as well and is as universally understood. There should be a term for people who seek joy through eating, dining out and cooking at home, and who actively participate in the discourse surrounding food culture. So far, no one has put forth a worthy alternative. Until we do, I’m going to keep taking pictures of my food — call me a foodie if you want.

What’s your take? Do you have an alternative word or phrase? Reach me by email or text.

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Earlier this spring, I compiled a list of special farm-to-table dinners and events in the Santa Cruz area. The season is now in full swing, with many exceptional events still on the horizon. Don’t miss out on the fun — tickets to these outdoor events almost always sell out in advance, so use my guide to reserve your spot at a winemaker dinner in the vineyard, a seafood-focused meal on the beach or a cooking class in an apple orchard.


150 — The percentage price increase for glass wine bottles due to an international glass shortage, according to Santa Cruz area winemakers, who described to me how they are grappling with the skyrocketing prices, low inventory and unreliable deliveries. While many are covering the costs out of their own pockets, some local winemakers say they might soon have to raise the prices of their wines to stay afloat. It’s also likely that we will see more creative solutions, like wine sold in kegs and reusable containers.

Charlie Funk of Funk's Franks digs into dessert.

Charlie Funk of Funk’s Franks digs into dessert.

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“It seemed appropriate when we were facing a depressing time to resurrect this thing that got people through it back in the day.” — Chicago native Charlie Funk, on why he chose to offer Chicago-style hot dogs through his food truck, Funk’s Franks. Find out in Eaters Digest why this hot dog and its host of unlikely toppings has won hearts in Santa Cruz.


On Sunday, I took advantage of Marco’s long nap to prepare meals for the coming week. I’m always so grateful when I’m able to make time for this. It makes a busy week feel much more manageable when you have the components for healthy meals on hand — and why have a public platform if you can’t use it to pat yourself on the back every once in a while? I toasted pumpkin seeds and almonds and tossed them with a little olive oil and sea salt while they were still warm for snacking and to top oatmeal and salads. I poached several large chicken breasts to use for husband Mike’s lunch. He requested roasted bell peppers for his chicken sandwiches, so I hard-roasted a few with Italian seasoning, stuffed them in a jar, topped them with olive oil and stored the jar in the fridge. I also made a batch of rich chicken broth to store in the freezer and hard-boiled half a dozen eggs. Most important, I cleaned out the fridge so everything would be easy to find during the frantic evening dinner hustle between work and Marco’s bedtime. I know I’ll reap the benefits of this hard work as the week goes on.



… to Friday’s Milk Street Radio podcast, “The Secret World of Celebrity Catering with Mary Giuliani.” I was immediately drawn to this episode because my mother was a caterer for more than 30 years, and hoo boy does she have some stories. I worked for her waiting tables as a teenager, and I’ve seen some crazy things, too. From food tragedies like the time my mom tried to marinate pork tenderloin in pineapple juice and it disintegrated into goo at a party, to the time the mother of the groom spat on a shuttle driver because he wouldn’t stay late at a wedding, the catering industry can be wild. Caterer Mary Giuliani shares stories from her own career catering celebrity parties, including a brief love affair with Alec Baldwin. If you like stories of party disasters and celebrity gossip, give it a listen. And if you want more catering stories from my past, pour me a glass of wine and I’ll gladly dish.


The restaurant revitalization fund is dead (Eater)

Why these Bay Area restaurants list every worker’s name on the menu (San Francisco Chronicle)

Jif Peanut Butter is recalled over salmonella concerns (Food52)

Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.