The Village Bakery, Woodside
The colonel’s got nothing on The Village Bakery, when it comes to a grand bucket of fried chicken.
The Woodside restaurant and bakery’s newest offering is “Fried Chicken Fridays.” And if last Friday’s experience was any indication, it’s already a hit. When I went to go pick up my order, the entire bar was covered with takeout bags, most for the chicken.
For $34, you get an actual bucket containing eight pieces of fried chicken, as well as containers of coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, and two buttermilk cheddar-chive biscuits.
It’s designed to serve 2 to 4. The chicken alone is definitely more than two people can finish in one sitting. As such, you might want to order another biscuit or two ($5 each) to go with the leftovers the next day. Crunchy on top and fluffy inside, the buttery biscuits are definitely hard to resist.
The chicken is quite moist, even the breast meat, with a dark golden brown bready, herby-tasting crust. It holds up pretty well for transport, too, staying crisp until you get it home, though its armor is less formidable than the fried chicken at its sister restaurant, Pizza Antica.
The accompanying coleslaw is creamy and crunchy; and the mac ‘n’ cheese covered in a mild creamy cheese sauce.
The fried chicken bucket meals are offered in limited quantities on Fridays. The ordering supposedly goes live on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. for pickup the next day. However, perhaps through a glitch last week, I was able to order mine on Thursday afternoon when the restaurant’s newsletter landed in my inbox. So, definitely check the link earlier in the day, just in case ordering commences far sooner. Shh, you didn’t hear that from me. (wink, wink)
Pro Tip: Don’t neglect the operative word “bakery” when picking up dinner. Be sure to scroll the online menu to pick up some sweet treats for dessert or breakfast the next day. The cowboy cookie ($4) and chocolate chip cookie ($4) are a commanding 5 1/2-inches in diameter a piece. The cowboy cookie is a chewy creation of oats, dried cherries, chocolate, and nuts. The chocolate chip cookie is crisp on the top and edges, and tender in the center, with that wholesome sweet vanilla taste.
Unlike so many blueberry muffins, this moist one ($5) isn’t weighed down by a mountain of streusel on top. Instead, it has a light sprinkling of crunchy oats overtop, so it’s much more like breakfast than dessert. The bran muffin ($5) is strewn with pumpkin seeds and oats, and boasts a sweet honey-like grain taste.
The coffee cake ($4) has a modest streusel top showered with powdered sugar. Its fluffy crumb is laced with ripples of lovely cinnamon sugar inside.
The dark chocolate brownie ($5) was a surprise gift from the restaurant, and it’s a true winner. Thick, crisp on top, and chewy within, it’s got a deep, dark chocolate taste, with a slight bitter edge perhaps from coffee. It’s the ideal brownie personified.
The restaurant also gifted us a box of six handmade chocolates ($18). These are beautiful little jewels, each one different in design. The truffles have inventive, fun fillings such as peanut butter marshmallow, strawberry Champagne, and cookies ‘n’ cream. They’re ideal for Valentine’s Day — or just to make any shelter-in-place day a whole lot sweeter to endure.
Ono Bakehouse, Berkeley
After a string of successful pop-ups, Maui-born pastry chef Desiree Valencia opened her brick-and-mortar Ono Bakehouse late last year to bring a tropical taste of Hawaii to the East Bay.
It’s open Wednesday through Sunday for pickups, with the pre-order menu dropping the day before at 3:30 p.m.
Valencia is a seasoned veteran of Morimoto Napa, Saison in San Francisco, and Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco, who, like many chefs, started her new business after finding herself unemployed during the pandemic.
My husband is one of the throngs who was hunting for the then-scarce Spam during the early days of shelter-in-place. He loves his Spam musubi, and Ono Bakehouse’s is a homey taste of the hand-held, sushi-like treats you’ll find all over Hawaii. The Spam musubi ($3.50) features a slice of Spam over a brick of furikake-seasoned rice, all wrapped in a sheet of nori. The meaty, salty snack is a true guilty pleasure.
The umami onion roll ($5) is reminiscent of a Chinese scallion pancake in flavor but in a spiral roll form with the addition of roasted garlic paste for more savory oomph.
The Furikake Snack Mix ($7) has a loyal following, and it’s easy to see why. Chex, Cheerio, and mini pretzels get doused in a soy butter glaze, dried fish, sesame seeds, and seaweed for a rich, crunchy, umami bomb that’s hard to stop nibbling on.
On the sweet side, the Queen Emma cake slice ($8) is an Instagram hero with its colorful layers of coconut, guava, and lilikoi mousses interspersed with coconut chiffon cake. Coconut frosting and toasted coconut shards cover the outside. It’s so pretty with its gradations in colors, and delicious with its sweet taste of the islands.
The butter mochi ($6) is chewy, sticky and bouncy with coconut chips and macadamia nuts over the top for contrasting crunch.
The big, thin chocolate tahini cookie ($4) is very crispy-chewy with the inspired combination of dark chocolate, tahini, and sesame seeds for intense nuttiness.
Pro Tip: The sleeper hit for me was the unassuming lilikoi poppyseed pound cake ($5). It’s tiny and homespun. But — wow — does it carry a whopper of tangy fruitiness from passionfruit in the batter, as well as in the glaze on top. It’s a big burst of brightness that pings the palate.
Boichik Bagels, Berkeley
Is the Bay Area having a bagel renaissance or what? Among those at the vanguard is Boichik Bagels, which fired up its ovens in late-2019 to bring New York-style bagels to the East Bay.
After hearing raves about them, I was eager to get my hands on some. The bagels ($3 each) have a nice malty sweetness along with a great chewiness. They aren’t as burnished from a long bake as the ones from nearby Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, but will definitely remind you of New York’s finest.
The bagels come in a wide array of flavors, too, including such fun ones as pumpernickel everything, pumpernickel raisin swirl, salt & pepper, and an egg bagel under development that contains turmeric to give it a natural yellow cast.
Boichik describes its bialy ($3) as the Jewish cousin of the focaccia. Indeed, it’s airy and chewy like that Italian bread. Its center is filled with sweet sauteed onions and crunchy poppy seeds.
Pro Tip: If you don’t feel like picking up a plain tub of cream cheese at the store, Boichik has a variety of flavorful cream cheese spreads, including horseradish-cheddar-scallion ($7), hatch chile ($7), and garlic-artichoke ($7). The bagel-inspired greeting cards (“Love you lox” and “Missing you in loxdown”; $5 each), designed by a Chicago artist, are just too cute to pass up, too.