Prepare to Wait in Line: Din Tai Fung Ends Reservations

Read it and weep?

Read it and weep?

 

The sign above says it all. Dumpling-maker extraordinaire Din Tai Fung, which had to institute the first reservations system ever when its first Northern California location opened in May 2016 at Santa Clara’s Westfield Valley Fair mall, will no longer be accepting reservations starting today.

With waits of up to five hours when it first opened its doors last year, what can one expect now? The hostess said at dinner time on a weeknight, it shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half wait. On weekends, expect it to be longer. Yikes! But during the off-hours, you might be able to just walk right in.

I just squeaked in last week with one of the last reservations available. Of course, I did have to eat “dinner” at 4:15 p.m. — the latest reservation of the day that was open. But my friend and I (we paid our tab) didn’t mind at all. We were just glad to get in easily.

No line. But then, it was at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday.

No line. But then, it was at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday.

The bar area.

The bar area.

This was my first time to the Santa Clara location, though, I’ve dined at the original Southern California ones in Arcadia many times before. There were two, located just one block from one another. What made that ideal was that if there was a line at one, you could just walk to the other and usually get in without a hitch. But no more. The second Arcadia location has moved to the Westfield Santa Anita. That seems to be the new trend with the Taiwanese chain — opening its new locations in upscale malls.

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Culinary Courier & Market Opens, Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Enchiladas Suizas from the new Culinary Courier & Market in Los Gatos.

Enchiladas Suizas from the new Culinary Courier & Market in Los Gatos.

 

Saratoga native Terri Piazza Shong has had a successful catering company in the South Bay for 13 years. Now, she’s expanded the business to include a new market that just opened in downtown Los Gatos.

Culinary Courier & Market offers her catering company’s most popular dishes — all packed up and refrigerated, so all you have to do is stop by to grab and go. It’s the perfect solution to those times when you don’t want to cook dinner, need a healthful lunch fast, or want to pick up some late-morning noshes for a small business meeting at work.

Selections include prawn lettuce wraps, kale salad with toasted almonds, meat lasagna, chicken Marsala, Yukon Gold potato hash, and French toast loaf with praline pecans and raspberry syrup.

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A Swank Evening at The Saratoga

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

 

Even though it opened in November, The Saratoga feels like it’s been a part of San Francisco for years — which I think is one of the greatest compliments you can bestow upon a bar-restaurant.

The newest establishment by the Bacchus Management Group is housed in a 1907 building in the Tendernob neighborhood that was once a hotel. The original brick in the interior was exposed in the renovation, as were its striking steel beam trusses. The effect is a modish industrial look that’s also timeless — old-school San Francisco spit and polished. I had a chance to check it out on a recent packed Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

A wide staircase sits almost in the center of the two-story establishment, making for rather tight quarters between tables. A dramatic steel and crystal chandelier of cascading sparkling hoops dangles from the ceiling into the stairwell, doubling as a sculptural art piece. Tables are set around the stairwell, both on the main floor and the one below. A massive bar with shelves of liquor lighted from below is the focal point of the first floor. There’s also a second bar downstairs. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go downstairs and thread your way gingerly past all the people standing at the bar or sitting at the nearby tables.

The incredible chandelier.

The incredible chandelier.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

The Saratoga has that glam yet illicit feel the moment you step in the doors, owing to the quite dim lighting that’s broken up only by that showstopping chandelier and the small candle on each table. Mine was definitely not the only table pulling out a cell phone to use as a flashlight to read the menu. The darkness provides a certain edgy moodiness, but it also makes it hard to really see the food on your plate in detail. And that’s kind of a shame because the food is so playful and inviting here.

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Crunching on Crunchies

Beets and nothing but beets.

Beets and nothing but beets.

 

You have to love a “processed” snack food that has only one ingredient in the bag. What a rarity, right?

Crunchies is exactly that — freeze-dried fruit and veggies that have nothing added to them. They’re non-GMO verified, gluten-free certified, vegan, kosher, halal, and contain no added sugar or artificial flavoring. The produce is picked, then frozen before being freeze-dried. leaving it dry, light as air and crunchy.

And they’re pretty darn delicious, too, as I found out when I had a chance to try some samples.

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Bad Boy Cauliflower

Anthony Bourdain's craveable cauliflower.

Anthony Bourdain’s craveable cauliflower.

 

Anthony Bourdain is never one to hold back. That’s why fellow chefs and food writers love him.

So when he describes this dish as “This s–t is compulsively delicious,” you can bet that it is.

And I concur heartily after having made it.

“Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame” is from his new book, “Appetites: A Cookbook” (Ecco), of which I received a review copy.

It’s his first cookbook in more than 10 years. This isn’t a collection of necessarily cutting-edge cooking, but rather recipes for dishes that he loves to cook at home — well, on the rare days that he actually is in New York and not traveling the globe for his must-see “Parts Unknown” show on CNN. They’re also dishes that Bourdain thinks every home-cook ought to have in his or her repertoire.

AnthonyBourdainAppetites

Besides the recipes for fundamentals such as “Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni” and “Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce,” you get plenty of personality and snark.

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