Category Archives: Great Finds

Selby’s Sizzles — Even Before It Opens

Halibut with Robuchon potatoes at the new Selby's.

Halibut with Robuchon potatoes at the new Selby’s.

 

You know a restaurant has got it going on when nearly all of its 48 main dining-room seats are already booked solid for the next two months and its private dining rooms already are sought after for Christmas soirees — and it hasn’t even opened its doors yet.

Such is the case of the hotly anticipated Selby’s in Redwood City on the edge of Atherton, which officially opens to the public on Tuesday, July 23 to serve dinner nightly.

It’s the latest project by the Bacchus Management Group, which also operates nearby Michelin-starred The Village Pub in Woodside, The Village Bakery & Cafe in Woodside, Pizza Antica in San Jose’s Santana Row, and Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto; as well as Michelin-starred Spruce, and The Saratoga, both in San Francisco.

The 10,000-square-foot property on El Camino Real has been various restaurants since 1938, most recently Chantilly’s. For more than a year, including four months of construction, the Bacchus Group labored to completely transform the interior into a sumptuous establishment, as I saw when I was invited in as a guest of a media preview dinner last week.

The main dining room on the first floor.

The main dining room on the first floor.

The mixed media "Golden State'' art work created by Lost Art Salon proprietor Rob Delamater hangs above the fireplace.

The mixed media “Golden State” art work created by Lost Art Salon proprietor Rob Delamater hangs above the fireplace.

The swank bar.

The swank bar.

Local artist Magnus Scheven's focal point chandelier.

Local artist Magnus Scheven’s focal point chandelier.

Dark emerald mohair covers the walls not only to add luxury, but act as a sound dampener. I dare you to not spend at least a few moments caressing the walls (yes, really) that feel like plush velvet to the touch. Real gold leaf glitters on the back wall of the bar, as well as the ceiling of the restrooms. There’s even a secret poker room upstairs that doubles as a private dining room.

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Olson’s Cherry Pie

Cherry pie time.

Cherry pie time.

 

A little piece of me dies when businesses like the Milk Pail in Mountain View and C.J. Olson Cherries in Sunnyvale shutter.

I know, I know, it’s all in the name of progress in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where tech companies have long ago supplanted farms and orchards.

Tech may (or may not) make my life easier. But quaint family-owned farm stands and gourmet open-air markets make my spirit soar.

In too short of a time, C.J. Olson Cherries went from being an expansive cherry orchard to a small fruit stand in a spanking new retail mall to merely a mail-order company now whose products are also stocked at a couple of local stores.

A heap of filling inside.

A heap of filling inside.

When it still existed as a fruit stand, I would buy not only fresh cherries but other stellar locally grown fruit. And at least once a year, I would splurge on one of their famous cherry pies. They were not inexpensive. But once you tasted one, you realized they were worth every penny. While other pies may be filled with a lot of sugary jam or nondescript pureed fruit, Olson’s featured nothing but whole, pitted Bing cherries — and a ton of them at that. As a result, it was a pie that celebrated cherries exuberantly.

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Celebrate Bourdain Day by Indulging In Iceberg Wedge With Stilton and Pancetta

Dig into Anthony Bourdain's easy and classically wonderful wedge salad on Bourdain Day.

Dig into Anthony Bourdain’s easy and classically wonderful wedge salad on Bourdain Day.

 

I am not normally one to pay much heed to National Fettuccine Alfredo Day, National Onion Rings Day, National Chop Suey Day or any other rather bogus food holiday of the like.

But when esteemed chefs Eric Ripert and Jose Andres declared June 25 to be “Anthony Bourdain Day,” I was all in.

Close friends of the author, chef, television host, cultural pundit, and larger-than-life icon, they wanted to honor Bourdain on what would have been his 63rd birthday. Tragically,  the much-loved Bourdain too his own life last year.

Appetites cookbook

“Bourdain Day” was thus ordained to honor a man who traveled the world to parts unknown, and in the process, introduced us intimately to people and places we never would have seen in quite the same fresh, nuanced way.

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Tony’s Seafood Is SO Worth The Drive

Sublime fish and chips at Tony's Seafood.

Sublime fish and chips at Tony’s Seafood.

 

Marshall, on the northeast shore of Tomales Bay, is not a quick hop, skip and a jump for most of us to get to. But if you make the trek, often along a narrow, twisty road, depending upon the route you take, you will be deliciously rewarded. Much like the end of a rainbow, what awaits is gold.

Or Tony’s Seafood to be exact.

The throwback seafood shack on Highway 1 founded in 1948 by a local fisherman. Last year, the venerable Hog Island Oyster Company, just up the road, took it over, embarking on a massive renovation that shored it up yet kept its seafaring spirit.

The old-school seafood shack has new owners.

The old-school seafood shack has new owners.

How's that for a view?

How’s that for a view?

It reopened earlier this spring. I had a chance to check it out at a media luncheon held on a warm, sunny day — the kind this place was made for.

Tony’s Seafood sits on pilings, jutting out into the blue water. When you dine here, you feel like you’re floating in the sea.

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La Calenda Proves Naysayers Wrong

Pork jowl in mole verde at La Calenda.

Pork jowl in mole verde at La Calenda.

 

When Thomas Keller first let wind that he was going to open a Mexican restaurant in Yountville, the response was immediate: lots of eye rolling and sarcastic remarks.

But like Rick Bayless in Chicago, Keller soon proved this gringo knew exactly what he was doing. Keller may not have made exhaustive trips to Mexico to immerse himself in the intricacies of the cuisine. But he did the next best thing; he hired a chef de cuisine with impeccable credentials and know-how, Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, who was raised in Oaxaca by his mother, Susana Trilling, the noted culinary teacher who owns the cooking school, Seasons of My Heart in Mexico.

As a result, Keller’s La Calenda, which opened in January, is a triumph.

I finally had a chance to check it out a month ago, when I dined at lunch, paying my own tab at the end.

Housed in the former Hurley's.

Housed in the former Hurley’s.

La Calenda is mere steps away on Washington Street from Keller’s other establishments: The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc, Ad Hoc Addendum, and the group’s lush culinary garden.

The former Hurley’s has been transformed into an airy, colorful space reminiscent of a Mexican hacienda.

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