Chefs Jeremy Cheng and Chef Randy Magpantay couldn’t have been more excited to finally open their Winner Winner Chicken after conceiving of the Nashville-style hot chicken establishment in 2018.
Only, they opened it in March 2020 in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center. Five days later, the pandemic put the kibash on it.
Fortunately, with the Bay Area seemingly turning the corner now in this health crisis, Winner Winner Chicken has been able to sling its specialties for the past couple of months. I was invited in by the fast-casual eatery a week ago to try some menu items gratis, which I ferried home as takeout.
It’s a family operation, with Cheng and Magpantay, and their wives, behind the counter overseeing the ordering and cooking. Cheng and Magpantay are veterans of the South Bay’s Avenir Restaurant Group, which includes Nola in Palo Alto, Milagros in Redwood City, and Town in San Carlos.
At Winner Winner Chicken, you can choose how incendiary you like it, from Classic (no heat) to Medium (starting to heat up) and Spicy (That’s hot) to Extra Spicy (Hot as cluck).
I went with medium, though I think Magpantay dialed it down a bit and gave me medium-light (which you can request, by the way) that offered up a modest amount of heat on the palate.
This Berkeley-based bakery, which has amassed a huge following during the pandemic, was co-founded by local baker, Joyce Tang, who had the wholesale bakery Chinoiserie, and previously supplied pastries to Boba Guys.
Each week, Bake Sum offers one set pastry box ($35) filled with about half a dozen treats, as well as a specialty bun box, Gochujang sourdough loaves, mochi bites, and cookies.
Sign up for its newsletter ahead of time because it drops Monday morning with that week’s offerings. It pays to be quick on the draw because the baked goods, especially the pastry box, sell out quickly. Pick up your order on Fridays or Saturdays at the Bread Project in Berkeley; Fridays at Golden Goat Coffee in San Francisco; Saturdays at Grand Coffee in San Francisco; or Fridays at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City.
Last week’s pastry box included a Croissubi, a unique riff on a traditional ham and cheese croissant that paid homage to Spam musubi. Just on its own, this was one beautiful croissant — shattering into deep golden shards upon the first bite. Add in the novelty of thin slices of Spam wrapped in nori, and get ready for your taste buds to take a French-Hawaiian ride. Crispy Parmesan cheese and flecks of togarashi dot the top to add more umami, savoriness and just a hint of spice. It is every inch like a nostalgic ABC Store musubi transformed into a perfect French croissant.
The owner of the lovable, guava-sized Tin Roof Hawaiian eatery. A devoted husband and dad. A “Top Chef” finalist and two-time “Fan Favorite.” And what I like to call, the MacGyver of chefs.
There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.
Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.
So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.
Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.
Los Gatos’ PintxoPote is a sliver of a restaurant that has managed to survive this incredibly challenging year, despite not having the ability to provide either outdoor or indoor seating.
Instead, the Spanish-Basque restaurant has persevered, largely through the support of a loyal clientele that orders takeout, along with the fact that Chef-Owner Hector Figueroa and his wife Angie Lipsett have operated the restaurant all on their own without any staff, and without taking any salaries.
If you haven’t yet discovered this charming Spanish restaurant, it’s high time that you did.
Right now, the restaurant is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. The takeout menu for the week usually posts on Thursdays.
Figueroa, whose grandparents hailed from Spain, is a former tech engineer. When you pick up your order at the doorway, you can spot him in the kitchen, as Lipsett hands you your food.
Fellow U.S. Marines nicknamed Brandon Busch “The Candy Man” for this lieutenant colonel’s major sweet tooth. It was a passion he took rather seriously, too. So much so that the heavy-lift helicopter pilot spent any downtime during his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan reading textbooks from the Culinary Institute of America.
So, when he segued into civilian life to pursue a Willy Wonka-like dream, Busch couldn’t resist naming his business Lift Chocolate in a nod to his former occupation, as well as to the feeling he hopes to impart in anyone who enjoys his chocolates.
Indeed, his creations are sure to lift your day, especially on Easter.
I had a chance recently to try samples from this Boulder, CO chocolate shop, opened in 2017 by Busch, a graduate of the pastry program at Johnson & Wales.