Author Archives: foodgal

The Warmth of Zareen’s

First-time restaurateur Zareen Khan has created a gem in Zareen's in Mountain View and Palo Alto.
First-time restaurateur Zareen Khan has created a gem in Zareen’s in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

This summer, when timing necessitated postponing my birthday dinner at Michelin three-starred Manresa to two months later, my husband asked me where I wanted to go instead on my actual birthday weekend. I immediately knew the spot.

It was another Michelin-recognized establishment.

One where the food would be equally unforgettable and fill me with similar contentment.

And where my husband would be especially thrilled because it turned out to be the least expensive birthday dinner he’d ever bought me.

It was, of course, Zareen’s.

Though she had never opened a restaurant before, Pakistani-born Zareen Khan decided to do just that when she opened the original fast-casual Zareen’s in Mountain View on 2014. It proved such a hit that two years later, she opened a second, larger Zareen’s on California Avenue in Palo Alto, which is the one we frequent. In 2020, look for a third and larger location to open in downtown Redwood City.

The unassuming establishment on California Avenue in Palo Alto is always crowded.
The unassuming establishment on California Avenue in Palo Alto is always crowded.
On a sunny day, the sidewalk tables fill up fast. Khan has regulars who come every week.
On a sunny day, the sidewalk tables fill up fast. Khan has regulars who come every week.

Tech workers who get all the free food they want on their campuses gladly flock to Zareen’s to stand in line and, yes, pay their own money, for her incredible contemporary Pakistani-Indian food. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have dined here. And Chef Anthony Secviar and Master Sommelier Dennis Kelly, the team behind Michelin-starred Protege in Palo Alto across the street from Zareen’s, have made no secret about being so addicted to Zareen’s chicken tikka masala that they eat it weekly.

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Sorrento Limoncello From A Carmel Restaurateur

The family recipe for this limoncello dates to 1902.
The family recipe for this limoncello dates to 1902.

Rich Pepe may have grown up in New Jersey, but his family’s southern Italian roots have lived on deliciously since his grandparents emigrated here.

His upbringing, surrounded by a large extended family who made their own wine, jams, breads and pastas, had a profound impact on him. Indeed, after arriving on the Monterey Peninsula, Pepe worked as a baker, and eventually purchased the historic Carmel Bakery in Carmel-by-the-Sea. He, his wife and two sons now oversee half a dozen Italian-inspired establishments in the area. Besides the bakery, they include Little Napoli, Bistro Italian; Vesuvio; and Peppoli at Pebble Beach.

If that weren’t enough, he also makes his own limoncello. PepeCello is hand-crafted in small batches in Sorrento, using only certified organic Sorrento lemons.

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You Won’t Believe What’s In This Chicken Dish

Chocolate milk is one of the main ingredients in this chicken dish. How wild is that?
Chocolate milk is one of the main ingredients in this chicken dish. How wild is that?

Yes, chocolate milk.

This recipe is pure crazy.

And it’s mind-boggling good.

“Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken” is one of those dishes that sounds so far-fetched and weird that you can’t help but be drawn to it. At least for curiosity’s sake.

Braising pork, veal or chicken in milk has a long tradition in Italian cuisine, where it not only helps tenderize the meat but creates its own velvety sauce.

But chocolate milk?

It actually does the same. And when combined with chiles, makes for an almost mole-like sauce.

This unusual recipe is from the new “Food52 Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. The 60 recipes were created by Tyler Kord, chef-owner of No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn and the author of the fun, irreverent cookbook, “A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches” (Clarkson Potter).

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Who Can Resist A Sunny Slice of Tahitian Pineapple Pie?

A taste of Hawaii in a pie.
A taste of Hawaii in a pie.

What do two Centers for Disease Control scientists know about making pies?

Apparently, a whole heck of a lot.

Married couple, Chris Taylor, an epidemiologist specializing in Alzheimer’s and aging, and Paul Arguin, retired head of the CDC’s domestic malaria unit, are avid home bakers. After meeting, they began entering amateur baking contests together — and winning them like crazy. To date, they’ve won more than 600 awards, trophies, ribbons and certificates for their glorious pies.

Now, they’re showcasing their fanciful creations in their first cookbook,

“The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert: A Baking Book” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

There are pies for every occasion and for every baking level, from the “Mocha Mystery” and “Guavaberry Apple” to “Strawberry Margarita with Salted Rim” and the one that garnered them “Best of Show Winner” at the National Pie Championships, the jaw-dropping “Peanut Butter Checkerboard.”

As befitting two scientists, this is a very technical book, which means the recipes are quite long because they are extremely detailed. So, don’t freak out when you scroll down at the one below.

Their “Tahitian Pineapple” pie is the one I tackled. While I’ve made my share of pineapple upside-down cakes, I’d never made a pie with fresh pineapple at its heart.

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Check In For A Dose of Wellness At the Stanford Court Hotel

Presenting the "Maude,'' made with rooftop honey at the Stanford Court Hotel.
Presenting the “Maude,” made with rooftop honey at the Stanford Court Hotel.

San Francisco’s Stanford Court Hotel is buzzing — in more ways than one.

Last year, the Nob Hill hotel added an apiary to its rooftop terrace just outside its Seven Stills restaurant. Now, it’s reaping the sweet rewards of those bee hives — from honey that’s accenting fun offerings on the menu.

I had a chance to try a few recently, when I was invited as an overnight guest of the hotel.

The restored, 3-ton penguin statue by Beni Bufano graces the entrance.
The restored, 3-ton penguin statue by Beni Bufano graces the entrance.
Depictions of horses owned by industrialist Leland Stanford decorate the lobby.
Depictions of horses owned by industrialist Leland Stanford decorate the lobby.
The night-time skyline view from one of the rooms.
The night-time skyline view from one of the rooms.

Take a seat at the bar or one of the tables in the restaurant that’s open to the lobby to order one of the specialty cocktails ($15 each) that are all named for movies that were filmed in San Francisco.

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