Category Archives: Bakeries

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 39

The jerk chicken plate from Back A Yard.
The jerk chicken plate from Back A Yard.

Back A Yard, Menlo Park, San Jose, Campbell

There is comfort food. And then, there is comfort food with panache — heady with loads of allspice, ginger, and garlic.

That’s what Back A Yard serves up in spades. And for those still indulging in takeout, you’ll be glad to know this Caribbean fare travels well, too.

The plates come complete with a starchy mash of rice and red beans, and thoroughly addictive sweetly caramelized plaintains. You choose a main or a combo of two. The jerk chicken plate ($10.95) includes three pieces of tender dark-meat poultry, seasoned in a moderately spiced jerk rub redolent of fragrant cloves and allspice. You could also get all-white chicken for $11.95, but why? The dark meat is where it’s at.

Jamaican beef patty with a shatteringly flaky crust.
Jamaican beef patty with a shatteringly flaky crust.

The oxtails ($14.95 for a plate) are fabulous — fall-apart-tender in a sticky, reduced sauce, and with that fatty, meaty unctuousness that can’t be beat. It’s a rendition you’ll be craving anytime the weather turns chilly.

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You’ll “Heart” White Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies

Put a twist on Valentine's Day with pretzel cookies.
Put a twist on Valentine’s Day with pretzel cookies.

When it comes to romance, my husband is all about the art of subtlety.

When he proposed to me at the French Laundry, it wasn’t in the dining room, in the midst of a throng of well-heeled diners. It was in the restaurant’s parking lot as just the two of us sat in our car, and he pulled the ring out of his pocket.

When he buys me flowers, it’s not because it’s some Hallmark holiday. It’s because he just spies a pretty bouquet that he knows will unexpectedly make my day.

And when he wants to express his love these days, his favorite way is to flash the Korean finger heart symbol at me, because, yes, in the pandemic, he’s become addicted to Korean dramas like so many others.

That’s why these “White Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies” are right up his alley.

This is how you make the Korean finger heart.
This is how you make the Korean finger heart.

First, they feature white chocolate, which can be polarizing to some, but which he actually likes.

Second, they get fortified with and crowned whimsically with mini pretzels, whose classic looped knot shape slyly resembles a heart.

This cute cookie is from “Maman: The Cookbook: All-Day Recipes to Warm Your Heart” (Clarkson Potter, 2021), of which I received a review copy, by Elisa Marshall and Benjamin Sormonte. The couple are the founders and co-owners of Maman, the bakery-cafe with locations throughout New York, as well as in Montreal, and Toronto. The book was written with food writer and recipe developer Lauren Salkeld.

The couple named the cafe for the word “mother” in French to evoke the cozy, homespun environment they wanted to create.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2021

What a year. On the downside, normal is still far more of a concept than a reality. But on a bright note, my favorite eats this year are not comprised solely of takeout foods. I actually was able to dine outside at restaurants, and a couple times even indoors when the situation felt especially safe. So, there is that.

Whether you are comfortable dining indoors, only outdoors or just through delivery or takeout orders, please continue to support your local restaurants, which still need you more than ever.

To stoke your appetite to do so, here are my Top 10 eats of this year, in no particular order:

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Christina Tosi’s Take on Ted Lasso Biscuits

Pastry Chef Christina Tosi's version of the "Ted Lasso'' biscuits are even better than the original.
Pastry Chef Christina Tosi’s version of the “Ted Lasso” biscuits are even better than the original.

If you’re experiencing “Ted Lasso” withdrawal like me, there’s only one thing that can assuage it.

And that’s baking a batch of buttery biscuits, otherwise known in the States as shortbread cookies.

You’ll remember I tried my hand at the official “Ted Lasso Biscuit Recipe,” which were wonderful and super easy to make.

But what tops it is Pastry Chef Christina Tosi’s version.

The founder of the sugary phenomenon known as Milk Bar, Tosi is a Lasso fan, and recounts hilariously in this Bloomberg story how she would rewind episodes to meticulously study just how everyone’s favorite soccer coach made his biscuits.

The recipe she came up with takes a couple of liberties that definitely enhance the original. Don’t get me wrong; the original recipe turns out shortbread that’s crisp on the edges, tender within, and incredibly melt-in-your-mouth buttery delicious. They are good, basic, and classic.

But hers go beyond that, keeping everything you love about shortbread, but refining it to make it utterly exceptional.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 38

Shrimp sate from Warung Siska.
Shrimp sate from Warung Siska.

Warung Siska, Redwood City

One of the few Indonesian restaurants in the Bay Area, Warung Siska opened with a splash this year in downtown Redwood City, providing a real pop of joy in this dismal pandemic.

The space was formerly Nam Vietnamese Brasserie, which was opened by restaurateur Anne Le Ziblatt just weeks before the pandemic hit. Rather than reopen as is, Le Ziblatt decided to team with Chef Siska Silitonga and Ervan Lim, managing partner of Napa’s Live Fire Pizza, to start anew with an entirely different concept.

Perhaps it was kismet that the Indonesia-born Silitonga and Lim would join forces with Le Ziblatt, who fled Vietnam with her family and wound up in a Jakarta refugee camp, where local Indonesian families would help sustain them with homemade food.

Warung Siska is a tribute to the warmth and vivacity of the culture and cuisine, serving up Indonesian dishes full of big, bold, unforgettable flavors you’ll find yourself craving time and again.

The restaurant has no outdoor seating, and requires proof of vaccination to dine indoors. However, if your preference is takeout instead, you’ll be glad to know that the food travels quite well, which I discovered when the restaurant invited me to sample a to-go order recently.

Corn fritters that are to die for.
Corn fritters that are to die for.
Musubi-like sticky rice cakes with shredded chicken.
Musubi-like sticky rice cakes with shredded chicken.

When I interviewed Le Ziblatt for a story in the Nob Hill Gazette earlier this year, she told me one of Silitonga’s dishes that absolutely blew her away from the get-go was the bakwan (corn fritters, $13). I heartily agree. These golden, crisp and lacy fritters, each the size of my entire hand, are chock full of corn kernels, okra, and green onions. Makrut lime leaves give them an irresistible perfume and floral-citrus note. Best yet, they actually stayed crisp until I drove home with them nearly 40 minutes later.

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