How incredible are the sandwiches at Troubadour in downtown Healdsburg? After I scarfed down an entire one in no time flat, I actually contemplated getting another. Yes, that’s how amazing they are.
The sando shop, which opened earlier this year, can’t be missed, not with its adorable sign that’s like a toad in the hole, except this is a slice of bread with a “T” stamped in its center.
A great sandwich has to start with fabulous, fresh-baked bread, and Troubadour has no shortage of that, thanks to the fact that it’s owned by the same folks behind Quail & Condor bakery on the edge of Healdsburg.
Both establishments are the brainchild of couple, Melissa Kane and Sean McGaughey, who both worked at Michelin three-starred SingleThread in Healdsburg. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the quality you’re in for, too.
When the inaugural Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week debuted in February last year, the pandemic was still raging in full force and vaccinations had only begun to roll out, making for a subdued event intended to showcase the restaurants in Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton.
This year, however, with vaccination rates high and Omicron petering off, the second annual Taste Tri-Valley has kicked off with a bang, not to mention spring-has-sprung weather, as I found out last week when I was invited as a guest to the kick-off dinner at Sabio on Main in Pleasanton.
With supply chain issues and labor shortages coming on the heels of a roller-coaster list of restrictions over the past two years, local restaurants and wineries still very much need your support and business. So, there’s no better time than now through Feb. 27 to check out the special indoor dining, outdoor dining, and takeout promotions at dozens of these Alameda County establishments.
Among the highlights are a $35 three-course dinner menu at Danville Harvest, dinner for two for $35 at Burma! Burma!, a $50 three-course dinner at Bridges, a $50 three-course dinner at Sabio on Main, and a $15 small stuffed pizza at lunch at Zachary’s Pizza. For the full list of participating restaurants, click here.
A benefit for Open Heart Kitchen, the largest hot-meal program serving those in need in the Tri-Valley, Thursday’s festive kick-off dinner at Sabio on Main sold out in no time flat, and even had a 60-person wait list, an encouraging sign as any that folks are definitely excited about dining out again. Tables were filled inside and out, the latter being where my husband and I dined on the cozy patio at the side of the restaurant.
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:
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.
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.
After being furloughed during the early days of shelter-in-place, Chef Sophie Smith thought she would pass the time by baking cakes for fun.
Little did she know that it would turn into a sweet new business that set her on an entirely new career path.
As she started baking cakes for her nascent Butter & Crumble, she wondered if anyone in the world would want an entire cake while stuck at home.
Turns out loads of people did.
She now runs her baking business out of bar in the Marina District of San Francisco that has a full-fledged kitchen. That’s where customers can pick up their pre-ordered cakes, too.
On an outing to San Francisco recently, I decided to to try one, myself.
The lofty, 4-inch-tall, 6-inch-diameter, three-layer cakes can serve 8 easily. They are priced at $45 on up, depending upon the flavor. There are usually at least nine different ones available, including Lemon Ricotta Pistachio, Chocolate Ganache Toffee, and Chai Creme Brulee.
I went with the Cinnamon Brown Butter Almond ($48). Styled after the “naked cakes” made famous by Milk Bar, Smith’s creations also sport unfrosted sides that reveal every layer clearly.