Imagine a goodie box stuffed with 15 delightfuly pampering products all made by Bay Area artisans. Who wouldn’t want to get spoiled with that?
Farm Box, a local company started during this ever-challenging year to help promote products from small family farms, has created the perfect holiday gift box — for your family, friends or even yourself — that can be delivered anywhere in the United States. Best yet, it helps support small local producers at a time when they could use a hand.
Farm Box co-founder Andreas Winsberg, whose father founded East Palo Alto’s Happy Quail Farms, sent me a sample box gratis to check out. Each box includes an extra special touch: a pretty painted card designed by his grandmother. Mine depicted the Golden Gate Bridge.
When it comes to what you eat and cook, Madison is far from rigid. In fact, she has eaten meat — and still does — occasionally. It’s just that she most often finds vegetables more interesting.
She came to develop a vegetable-centric palate after becoming enthralled listening to a radio program on Buddhism while growing up. It led to her fascinating journey in becoming an ordained Buddhist priest, and to forming the foundation for arguably the first significant vegetarian restaurant in the country. She set the bar early, eschewing the drab and flavorless vegetarian cooking of the time such as lentil loaves in favor of bold and beautiful dishes of her own creation. In the process, she introduced the world to what vegetarian cooking could and ought to be.
“The French Laundry, Per Se”
Let me just state from the get-go: It’s good bet that I’ll never cook anything from the new “The French Laundry, Per Se” (Artisan). Not when the forward in this book even states that the recipes are even more challenging and complex than those in “The French Laundry Cookbook,” which came out in 1999.
But just because you won’t necessarily be tempted to recreate one of the more than 70 recipes doesn’t mean you won’t find this latest book by chef-proprietor Thomas Keller deeply fascinating.
As the name implies, this lavish coffee-table-sized book showcases the synergy between his two Michelin three-starred restaurants, The French Laundry in Yountville, and Per Se in Manhattan.
When chef-owner Rob Lam closed his Butterfly restaurant on the Embarcadero in 2017 after 15 years, he thought it marked the end of his era in San Francisco.
In fact, his Perle Wine Bar opened to acclaim soon after in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood. But when family friends, sisters Lucy and Lily Lieu, asked him to take a look at a building they had just purchased on Clement Street in San Francisco, he fell hard for the first-floor restaurant space.
The result is Lily, which opened in October — yes, smack in the middle of the pandemic. It is the first restaurant for the two sisters, as well as Lam’s first one centered solely on Vietnamese cuisine rather than pan-Asian or French-influenced fare as he’s done in the past. Both he and the Lieu sisters, all of whom hail from Vietnam, want to present the true, bold flavors of their native cuisine without watering them down like they find so many other area restaurants are apt to do.
They invited me to come by recently to try some menu items gratis. While Lam has visions of offering both a la carte and a special family-style dinner once life gets back to normal, right now Lily offers only takeout at lunch and dinner.
The French Dip Pho Bo Banh Mi ($17) is a mash-up of a French Dip sandwich and deconstructed pho — and it is most excellent. A crunchy yet yielding roll is packed with thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth, five-spice-scented roast beef, house-made pate, a smear of hoisin for sweetness, pickled daikon and carrots for crunch, and shallot mayo for creaminess. A bowl of pho au jus dipping sauce is definitely made for more than just dunking the sandwich in. You’ll want to take a spoon to this to get every last drop of the broth that’s cooked with beef and chicken bones for 12 hours.
Picture a tantalizingly golden crusted, ooey-gooey mac and cheese.
Now, swap out that elbow pasta for rainbow quinoa instead.
Stay with me, stay with me.
Right about now, you’re thinking what an awful idea that is. Why in the world would you switch the classic tried-and-true pasta for something so healthful, and which frankly, always looks to me like a wool sweater that’s been put through a meat grinder?
Because my friends, it’s actually really, really good. And with the amount of cheese that goes into this dish, believe you me, it’s as far from health food as it gets. So there.
“Quac ‘N Cheese” is worth your while. If made with Tillamook Maker’s Reserve White Cheddar, it’s guaranteed to boast an impeccable cheesiness, too. I had a chance to try samples of the reserve cheeses, which are now available in stores, and are worth seeking out.