Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout Of Late, Part 1
When shelter-in-place first took hold, I took it to heart, cooking all my meals at home from pantry and freezer ingredients, and from grocery deliveries, so I wouldn’t have to venture out needlessly. But wanting to support my local restaurants, I also bought gift cards and donated to GoFundMe campaigns.
As restrictions have lessened, though, I’ve felt more at ease about getting food to-go. I prefer to pick it up myself rather than going through third-party delivery apps that tack on an extra charge to restaurants. Plus, after listening to a highly informative “The Tim Ferris Show” podcast with guest Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, I also realized I now needed to use those gift cards pronto. Kokonas, who owned a derivatives trading firm for a decade, explained that while the revenue from gift cards help restaurants in the short-term, they remain a debt on their books. Indeed, the worst-case scenario would be for every well-meaning patron who bought a gift card to descend upon that restaurant the first week it reopened to use them when the establishment had no revenue coming in.
So I’m making a point to use those gift cards I purchased in March for food to-go now, and to even order more beyond the card’s amount to give the establishment an extra boost.
Here’s where I’ve picked-up food in recent weeks, paying my own tab.
The Village Pub, Woodside
The Village Pub, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Woodside, goes so far as to include printed instruction cards for many of the dishes to let you know how each should be plated if you choose to transfer them from the compostable containers to your own honest-to-goodness plates.
This is how the Beet “Steak” Au Poivre ($24) was packed. And here’s how I attempted to plate it using the instructions. What do you think? Pretty good, huh?
This vegetarian dish could be a starter. It’s even ample enough to easily satisfy as an entree. I actually ate half that night, and saved the remainder for lunch the next day. The tender-chewy farro makes this an especially hearty dish. The big slices of roasted beets are quite filling, too. I love how the grilled avocado adds smokiness and lushness. There are even tiny fried yellow beet chips for garnishing.
Pan-roasted salmon a la Grenobloise ($35) is the best of California on a plate — a good-sized salmon fillet cooked perfectly medium-rare so it was incredibly moist, served with buttery new potatoes and grilled asparagus. Even the roast chicken ($34) rises above the usual with a concentrated jus to pour over, and lovely saffron-scented risotto to form a bed underneath.
When you don’t typically fry at home like me, one of the things you do rather miss during shelter-in-place is fried foods. So do yourself a favor and order the beignets ($14). Airy and tender, they come showered in sugar, with containers of chocolate sauce and creme anglaise. They hold up well even after getting them home, and waiting patiently until after the appetizers and entrees were done to dig in.
Pro Tip: Do check out the list of wines by the bottle. The Village Pub is selling them at retail price, which is a great deal. I snagged three bottles of Pinot Noir.
Flea Street Cafe, Menlo Park
If you never thought getting takeout food would ever come close to replicating a fine-dining, dine-in experience, then you haven’t tried Flea Street Cafe’s offerings yet.
It’s as thoughtful and thought-out as it gets. It starts with the friendly, comforting note by Owner Jesse Cool and her staff, along with reheating instructions for the food, as well as a postcard about Meals of Gratitude, a charitable organization that Cool founded with a Stanford professor of medicine to feed hospital workers during the pandemic.
What’s more, there’s even a mini bottle of hand-sanitizer made by Cool with 75 percent alcohol scented with wild flowers and herbs. There are also a couple of the restaurant’s signature sesame-flecked, butter-laden biscuits, made from her dad’s original recipe, and for later, a couple of strawberry pate de fruits just like you’d get actually dining in a restaurant.
And that’s all before you even get to the food you ordered, which comes in a range of compartmentalized compostable containers, so that each dish is neatly packaged, and doesn’t slop all over the place on the drive home.
The longtime classic dish of McFarland Springs trout ($21) is arrayed over discs of potato, and even garnished with fresh flowers. The Pacific halibut ($40) is wonderfully moist with a shower of capers and lemon juice, piccata-style. It comes with more broccoli and purple potatoes than you can finish, too.
The Marin Sun Farms short ribs ($38) are pure comfort food given a little touch of luxury with truffle whipped potatoes, and grilled artichokes crowned with bacon lardons.
The moist, buttery square of strawberry cobbler ($13) is full of jammy berries and sports a nice pop of fresh mint leaves on top. Pour on the brown-sugar, sour cream sauce for a toffee-like richness.
Pro Tip: Add a dozen frozen biscuits ($22) and a pint of Tin Pot Creamery ice cream ($12) to tuck away in your freezer for later.
Tapas Tokki, Santa Clara
Seoul drummer-turned-Morimoto-trained chef Jin Jeong runs nearly a one-man show at the tucked away Tapas Tokki. Like any good musician, his food is all about creative riffs and brash rhythms. It’s Korean food that’s fun, bold and highly creative.
Don’t worry if you can’t find the restaurant right away. It’s tucked away in a small, nondescript strip mall. Just drive down the back alleyway to spot the sign with the leaping rabbit to find the restaurant.
Order online the day before and choose what time you want to drive up to pick up Korean comfort food like Dduck & Cheese ($15), a spin on mac ‘n’ cheese with elbow pasta swapped out for chewy Korean rice cakes instead, then covered with kalbi beef and melty Mexican cheese. I get this every time I go there. That’s how wonderfully satisfying it is.
The fried chicken ($12) is a winner, coated in potato starch for a light, super crisp coating. The Korean Bolognese ($12) marries fresh Korean noodles with ground pork enlivened with Korean fermented bean paste. A whole egg comes with it; just crack the shell gently and let the jiggly, soft-poached egg slip out on top of the noodles.
Because the food is made for drinking, Tapas Tokki also offers packs of specially selected sakes, beers, yuzu, soju, and ciders to-go, too.
Pro Tip: No desserts are offered. Instead, end the meal with Amabuki Sake ($20 for two different ones), specialty sake brewed with strawberry flower and sunflower yeasts.
Luna Mexican Kitchen, San Jose and Campbell
If you’re jonesing for Mexican food, but can’t figure out what you most want to order, Luna Mexican Kitchen has got you covered.
Just opt for one of its parrilladas, a family-style, mixed-grill feast, available in four sizes, as well as three different versions along with a make-your-own option.
My husband and I shared the mixed grill for two ($54), and still ended up with leftovers for lunch the next day. It’s a mountain of crispy-edged carnitas, chicken breast, extremely tender steak fajita, a St. Louis rib, a grassy-sweet jalapeno sausage, one herb-garlic butter wild shrimp and one bacon-wrapped wild shrimp. That all comes with containers of carrot- and pea-flecked arroz verde, guacamole, sour cream, salsa fresca, and a choice of velvety Rancho Gordo black beans or pinto beans. Tuck a bit of this, a bit of that, into a rough-hewn tortilla until you happily reach your limit.
Also not to miss are the refreshing wild-caught cod ceviche ($11) made with plenty of lime and habanero; and the smoky, earthy, inky-hued mole poblano enchiladas ($17).
Pro Tip: Luna Mexican Kitchen prides itself on using primo ingredients, including Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. These dried beans were so coveted during the first part of shelter-in-place that the Napa company is still having a hard time filling orders for consumers. So order extra sides of the creamy-as-can-be black beans or pinto beans here, and enjoy them later in the week. Or freeze them.