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Palo Alto Grill Grows Into Its Own

Wednesday, 2. July 2014 5:25

Mango cheesecake at the Palo Alto Grill.

Mango cheesecake at the Palo Alto Grill.

 

The Palo Alto Grill in downtown Palo Alto has undergone some tweaks.

When it first opened last year, it was decidedly much more of a steakhouse with a dedicated section of the menu devoted to various beefy cuts. That has been jettisoned, leaving just one steak on the menu.

For a time earlier this year, it also featured a separate menu of Croatian specialties in homage to co-owner Luka Dvornik’s heritage. That, too, has now been abandoned.

In its place now are dishes that lean more toward Modern American that highlight plenty of local, seasonal California products, sometimes with an Asian sensibility. The whimsy also has been turned up, as evident in the plating of several of the dishes.

Husband-and-wife team Chef Ryan Shelton and Pastry Chef Yoomi Shelton helm the kitchen with a fine eye for detail. Their previous experience includes stints at Baume in Palo Alto, and Randall Grahm’s former Le Cigar Volante in Santa Cruz.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant for a return visit to try out the new menu.

The bread basket you can't stop eating.

The bread basket you can’t stop eating.

A cocktail made with fresh blackberries.

A cocktail made with fresh blackberries.

You could easily fill up on the bread basket alone, as the offerings are superb. Shelton bakes them all in-house every hour, including airy brioche, fragrant walnut bread and a fantastic salted pretzel shaped like a wheat stalk. Alongside is a Dijon-parmesan sauce for slathering on.

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Al’s Italian Beef Comes to San Jose Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Monday, 30. June 2014 5:25

The Chicago Dog at Al's Beef in San Jose.

The Chicago Dog at Al’s Beef in San Jose.

 

People often think my life revolves around copious chef’s tasting menus night after night.

But not when you’re married to someone nicknamed Meat Boy, whose guilty pleasure is fast-food.

I usually steer clear, but I have been known to snatch a handful of fries or the pickle from his burger now and then.

So when Al’s Beef recently opened its first Northern California outpost right here in San Jose at The Plant, I was game to try it with my husband when I was given a $50 gift card to do so.

Meat Boy and I went on a Wednesday night. Although there was a line out the door for The Boiling Crab next-door, Al’s Beef was fairly empty.

Banners inside the eatery.

Banners inside the eatery.

The eatery started out as a family-owned food stand in Chicago in 1938. It now has 17 locations, most of them in the Chicago area.

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Verbena Blooms on Polk Street in San Francisco

Wednesday, 25. June 2014 5:25

Aged Mangalitsa ham flavored with house-made shoyu at Verbena in San Francisco.

Aged Mangalitsa ham flavored with house-made shoyu at Verbena in San Francisco.

 

Fans of Gather restaurant in Berkeley have even more to rejoice now with the opening of Verbena in San Francisco.

When Gather opened five years ago, it celebrated vegetables prominently by assuring that 50 percent of its menu would always be devoted to vegetarian selections.

Verbena continues that thread of giving star treatment to veggies, but goes even further. It’s Gather’s more ambitious young cousin.

A dramatic back-lit wall stacked with jars of house-made pickles attests to that. Executive Chef-Partner Sean Baker has a penchant for preserving. He makes his own kimchi. And miso. Plus shoyu and even fermented black beans.

Pickles as wall art.

Pickles as wall art.

The dining room and bar.

The dining room and bar.

Parking is at a premium in this neighborhood. So are seats at this bustling six-month-old restaurant, as I found out when I was invited to dine as a guest a few weeks ago on a busy weeknight.

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Modernist Cuisine Comes to The Tech, Plus New Eats in the South Bay

Monday, 23. June 2014 5:26

The humble mushroom Swiss burger, as deconstructed by the Modernist Cuisine team. (Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine)

The humble mushroom Swiss burger, as deconstructed by the Modernist Cuisine team. (Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine)

Modernist Cuisine Photo Exhibit at The Tech

Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer for Microsoft turned culinary mad scientist, invites you to see food like you’ve never experienced it before.

The author of the seminal “Modernist Cuisine” books, is bringing 75 eye-popping, large-format photographs of food to The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.

The exhibit opens June 25 and runs through Sept. 1. It’s the second stop on a three-year worldwide tour for this exhibit.

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Madera with a View

Friday, 13. June 2014 5:25

Hamachi crudo with strawberries at Madera in Menlo Park.

Hamachi crudo with strawberries at Madera in Menlo Park.

 

Majestic is the word all right for Madera restaurant in the Rosewood Sand Hill resort in Menlo Park.

It’s got to be one of the most breathtaking dining rooms in the Bay Area, what with its floor-to-ceiling windows and wide terrace with a panoramic view of the Santa Cruz mountains. It’s easy to forget you’re in the thick of the hustle-bustle of Silicon Valley and not on vacation instead.

Over the past five years, with its proximity to all the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road, it’s turned into a hot spot for business wheeling and dealing, as evidenced in my recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Even if it’s well known among the VC and CEO set, it’s still rather under the radar for the rank-and-file tech employees, says Chef Peter Rudolph, who is always surprised when he does corporate events at how few people have even heard of Madera.

That’s a shame because it’s such a lovely oasis. And we sure need more of those, don’t we?

Madera boasts a lofty feel with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Madera boasts a lofty feel with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Chilled wine awaits.

Chilled wine awaits.

I ate at Madera when it first opened. Although I liked the food, I found many of the dishes had just too much going on.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. The dishes are still far from simple, but they felt more reined in than previously.

Dinner is not inexpensive — starters are $15 to $20, and mains are $33 to $41. But to put it in perspective, this is also a place where tech folks are known to celebrate by ordering premium scotch for $500 a shot (again, see my link to my Chronicle story above). There’s also an impressive 2,000 wines to choose from.

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