Sweets and Savories Galore — Plus A Whole Lot More At The Village Bakery & Cafe
As a Woodside resident, Tim Stannard knew full well the small town could use another restaurant.
But the founder of the Bacchus Management Group of restaurants admits he also had a selfish reason for opening his newest establishment, the Village Bakery & Cafe, on the main drag there a couple of weeks ago.
“I had gone to the old bakery there almost daily. It was where I grabbed my pre-coffee after dropping my son off at school, before heading to Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto (another Bacchus establishment) to have more coffee. It’s embarrassing,” he says with a laugh. “That may still be my routine. It will just be better coffee now.
That’s because Bacchus’ own Oakland-based RoastCo beans are featured at the new Village Bakery & Cafe, which occupies the space previously held by the Woodside Bakery and a neighboring art gallery.
I had a chance to check out the new place last week, just days after it opened, when I was invited in as a guest.
It’s right next door to folksy, quirky favorite, Buck’s. It’s also just yards away from Bacchus’ Michelin-starred Village Pub. If you’ve been to its sister property Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, the concept will be familiar. There is a full-fledged bakery, as well as a bar and restaurant.
If you come for dinner, it pays to come a little early when the bakery is still open, so you can snag baguettes, coffee cake, fruit tarts, and big-fisted cookies to enjoy as a midnight snack or the next day for breakfast at home. You also might want to arrive a little early because the parking lot can fill up fast.
Walk though the doors and you are met with a handsome space — dark gray walls accented by groupings of framed artwork, a sleek marble bar, and a spacious, sunny back patio.
On a warm summer night, the Fraise ’75’ ($13) is a effervescent way to set the mood. Served in a coupe, it’s a pretty pinkish-orange blend of Beefeater Gin, Aperol, strawberry-black pepper shrub, lemon and Prosecco. Strawberry slices add even more color to this refreshing, fruity, tangy cocktail that finishes crisp.
Anthony Ruth, who was a sous chef at the Village Pub, is the chef de cuisine here. The all-day menu means you can have an American omelet (with Pecorino and greens; $14) or even stone fruit with yogurt and granola ($12) at dinner time, if that’s what you’re craving.
What I’m always in the mood for are Parker House rolls ($5). These are perfection — served warm with burnished tops sprinkled with grey sea salt. They are fluffy soft and irresistible.
A special of tempura squash blossoms sounded so intriguing that we couldn’t pass them up. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones because they sold out quickly that night. The delicate flowers are hidden inside a crisp, airy, golden tempura shell. They were stuffed with a shrimp mousseline. What was especially nice, though, was that some of the shrimp were still in small chunks, rather than being undetectable in a more one-dimensional, pasty texture. A spicy piquillo pepper sauce gave the dish a real depth and presence, while a drizzle of chimichurri added a pop of bright herbaceousness.
Sweet corn and cherry tomato pizza ($18) is the epitome of summer on a blistered crust with a cracker-crisp edge. This is what the image of California pizza should be, not eh-hem, a barbecued chicken-mottled one. The sweetness of corn kernels plus the juicy little tomatoes along with peppery arugula, creamy fromage blanc, and salty Pecorino made for a gourmet pizza that all made sense.
Yes, there are waffles. And yes, you can get them crowned with fried chicken. The Chattanooga Buttermilk Waffle ($13) is light and crisp with big divots to hold plenty of creme fraiche and apricot preserves. The seven-spice fried chicken ($6 per piece) is moist from a 24-hour buttermilk brine, crisp without any heavy batter, and redolent of Asian flavors owing to cinnamon and star anise. It’s like dinner and dessert all in one.
Each night, there are also a couple specials. We shared the seared wild Pacific salmon ($34), which arrived still nicely pink at the very center. The generous fillet got the French bistro treatment, garnished with a warm Nicoise olive-caper vinaigrette and smashed olive oil golden potatoes. This is the kind of dish that we in the Bay Area look forward to every summer during wild King salmon season because it does the magnificent fish justice.
Although the dessert menu featured chocolate mint profiteroles ($9), we opted for the special version that night: the puffs filled with mango sorbet, macerated fresh strawberries, and a drizzle of salted caramel. Because of the sorbet, it’s a surprisingly light tasting dessert.
Which was good since our other dessert was as rich as it gets. Double-Chocolate Wonder Cookie ($10) will make you wonder how you ever did without it. It’s like a brownie on steroids — deeply chocolatey, gooey and incorporating feuilletine, crispy little flakes that taste like Nutella praline. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream sits on top, and more of that salted caramel is spooned over. Best yet, because the Wonder Cookie is round, the entire outside of it is crusty, like that favorite corner piece from a pan of brownies.
It’s hard to believe the Village Bakery & Cafe only just opened its doors. The food is so spot-on and the place already humming with diners that it feels like it’s been around far longer. For a restaurant, you can’t ask for better than that.