On first reflection, you might not think that beef bourguignon and chicken with egg noodles in a lavish cream sauce would be what you really want to dig into on a warm summer evening.
But these French classics, done so right at Zola in downtown Palo Alto, end up not necessarily feeling heavy and rich, but downright as comforting as a hug. And in this time of upheaval, who wouldn’t want to be enveloped in that kind of contentment?
Zola only offers its to-go food on Fridays and Saturdays. The week’s menu is usually posted on Wednesday (sometimes on Tuesday), so you can start reserving your picks then. The earlier the better, too, because some items sell out fast.
While most other restaurants provide the food warm with instructions to reheat a few seconds in the microwave when you get home, Zola actually goes the heat-and-eat route, meaning everything is refrigerated, and you need to heat it to enjoy it.
If like me, you can’t get enough of nuoc cham — that zesty, indispensable Vietnamese dipping sauce for spring rolls, rice noodle salads, and so much more — you will go bonkers for this summery tomato and grain salad.
“Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette” takes a dressing with a similar profile as nuoc cham — minus the lime juice — to dress a colorful, bountiful mix of chewy, nutty farro grains with fresh heirloom tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and a lavish amount of fresh parsley and tarragon leaves.
In the early days of shelter-in-place, I felt as if I was living through a “Seinfeld” episode.
Specifically, the one where Elaine is beside herself when she learns her favorite contraceptive sponge is being discontinued. Guarding her precious remaining supply tightly, she’d pick apart any new suitor to determine if they were indeed “sponge-worthy.”
I did the same — only with yeast. Because it was scarce at supermarkets and I had only three packets left, I found myself loathe to try any new recipes using yeast lest they turn out to be disappointing failures.
After all, I simply couldn’t afford to waste those few precious packets. So, I made only tried-and-true recipes that I knew were absolutely, without a doubt, yeast-worthy.
Until now. Three weeks ago, my husband miraculously scored yeast at Whole Foods. Hallelujah!
Now, restocked and raring to go, I couldn’t wait to try some new recipes that used yeast. The first one to catch my eye was “Sweet Tahini Rolls” from the new cookbook, “Falastin: A Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
The book is by Sami Tamimi, executive chef and founding partner of the Ottolenghi restaurant group, and Tara Wigley, a long-time Ottolenghi recipe writer. They titled the cookbook, “Falastin,” after the Palestinian newspaper that brought diverse people together.
Even veteran restaurants with long-time loyal patrons have struggled during this pandemic, so imagine what it must be like for a brand new restaurant to open for business after shelter-in-place took effect.
Fortunately, its chef-owner is John Le, the former operator of Three Seasons in Palo Alto, with years of experience under his belt.
Le was all set to open the doors to his new restaurant that serves modern takes on Vietnamese cuisine when those plans came to a sudden halt. Instead, he decided to offer to-go food instead, Wednesdays through Sundays. Last week, he invited me to stop by to try gratis a few of his new take-out, heat-at-home options.
When shelter-in-place first took hold, I took it to heart, cooking all my meals at home from pantry and freezer ingredients, and from grocery deliveries, so I wouldn’t have to venture out needlessly. But wanting to support my local restaurants, I also bought gift cards and donated to GoFundMe campaigns.
As restrictions have lessened, though, I’ve felt more at ease about getting food to-go. I prefer to pick it up myself rather than going through third-party delivery apps that tack on an extra charge to restaurants. Plus, after listening to a highly informative “The Tim Ferris Show” podcast with guest Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, I also realized I now needed to use those gift cards pronto. Kokonas, who owned a derivatives trading firm for a decade, explained that while the revenue from gift cards help restaurants in the short-term, they remain a debt on their books. Indeed, the worst-case scenario would be for every well-meaning patron who bought a gift card to descend upon that restaurant the first week it reopened to use them when the establishment had no revenue coming in.
So I’m making a point to use those gift cards I purchased in March for food to-go now, and to even order more beyond the card’s amount to give the establishment an extra boost.
Here’s where I’ve picked-up food in recent weeks, paying my own tab.