Another year, another 365 days of satisfying the appetite. Which eats do I still dream about? Which would I go back to just for another sublime taste?
These are my Top 10 dishes of the year (in no particular order). Here’s to 2019 — and more unforgettable meals to come!
Get ready for fried chicken on a potato bun at the Bay Area’s only Shake Shack.
You might as well get in line right now because hordes are no doubt going to descend upon Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto on Saturday when the first Northern California Shake Shack finally opens.
Yes, the wildly popular gourmet burger chain by New York’s Danny Meyer will finally open its doors in the Bay Area. It is right next to P.F. Chang’s in the ritzy outdoor mall.
Opening hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. And the first 100 people through the doors on opening day get a free Shake Shack travel bag.
Last night, I had a chance to get a sneak peek and taste when I was invited to a media preview party.
The Palo Alto Shake Shack in Stanford Shopping Center.
The menu boards.
The interior features reclaimed and repurposed materials.
The 2,491-square-foot former Wells Fargo bank building features outdoor as well as indoor seating, including tabletops made of reclaimed bowling alley lanes.
It’s also cashless. You place your order at self-serve kiosks.
Portioning levain dough at the Manresa Bread production site.
Spoiler Alert: That flaky, golden croissant you can’t wait to dig into at Manresa Bread consists of 1 part dough to 3 parts butter.
Maybe more than I wanted to know, too.
But at least I’ll own up to the fact that it still won’t stop me from nibbling on them any chance I get.
Which is exactly why I didn’t turn down an invitation to be part of a small group of media to visit Manresa Bread’s 3,400 square-foot production kitchen in Los Gatos last week.
The facility bakes the goods for both Manresa Bread retail locations in Los Gatos and Los Altos, as well as for Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, The Bywater restaurant in Los Gatos, and its stands at the Campbell and Palo Alto California Avenue farmers markets.
You smell the unmistakable aroma of yeast the moment you walk through the doors of the production kitchen. At a large wooden table, two bakers weigh and portion dough for the bakery’s crusty levain loaves.
Apple-cranberry galette ($32) from Manresa Bakery. (Photo courtesy of the bakery.)
Pre-Order At Manresa Bread Bakery
Yes, Manresa Bread Bakery in Los Gatos is now taking online pre-orders for breads and pastries up to two weeks in advance.
For Thanksgiving orders, you can pick up your items anytime from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25. Just note that the bakery will be closed on Thanksgiving and the day after that holiday.
For those of you in Santa Cruz, you can even choose to pick up your items Nov. 25 at the bakery pop-up at Assembly in Santa Cruz.
The super-sized kouign-amann. (Photo courtesy of Manresa Bakery)
Items that can be ordered ahead include baguettes, brioche rolls, almond croissants, apple-cranberry galettes, pumpkin loaves, pumpkin pie, and even a giant version of the kouign-amann ($28) that feeds 6 to 8 (or probably one in my case).
Stock Up on Pies and Cakes To-Go at Presidio Social Club
Up in San Francisco, Presidio Social Club is also making it easy to enjoy fresh-baked pies and cakes this holiday season.
A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).
The South Bay’s most anticipated bakery, Manresa Bread, finally opened a week ago, in downtown Los Gatos.
If you think that means bypassing those long, long lines at its stands at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmers markets on Sundays, guess again.
The queue may be shorter at the new bakery, just around the corner from Michelin two-starred Manresa restaurant, but there likely will be one no matter what time you go.
When I got there at 11 a.m. last Friday, there were already half a dozen people in front of me. And the baguettes were already gone.
If you think that was bad, on opening day on Feb. 21, the bakery sold out in just five hours.
Inside the bakery.
All of that speaks to the quality of the artisan products being turned out by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute who also trained with master baker Ben Hershberger of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se restaurant.