Because let’s face it, we all need a respite from CNN, daily press conferences, and ever-growing statistics on this pandemic that’s remade the world as we knew it.
What we need is pancakes. Because pancakes have had the uncanny power to put a smile on our faces as far back as, well, the invention of pancakes. When you start the day with pancakes, you know it’s going to be a good day. And we can all surely use more of those kind of days right now.
At times like this especially, it pays to have a well-stocked pantry loaded with spices, condiments, and dry goods from around the world.
My husband used to joke that our kitchen shelves runneth over with star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, yellow mustard seeds, cumin, pimenton, garam masala, za’atar, togarashi, and so much more.
Now, with a mandate to shelter in place during the coronavirus crisis, he is definitely grateful that I am such a culinary pack-rat.
Because that meant that after grabbing a bunch of fresh spring asparagus at the market just before the request came down to stay home as much as possible, I was able to easily make “Asparagus with Scrambled Egg Scattered Sushi.”
As the name implies, the recipes all require seven ingredients or fewer. Barber takes a little liberty with that because some recipes will require the making of sub-recipes to complete, which will add up to more than seven ingredients all together.
Normally in this space, I try to tempt you with mouthwatering food photos and interesting insights into new restaurants that are worth a visit. However, these are anything but normal times.
So let me merely provide a diversion in this unprecedented time when we are all mostly stuck at home, and going a little stir crazy. It’s a reminder that when life does get back on track, we ought to help support our local restaurants and other businesses that will have a hard time getting back on their feet.
Last month, before widespread lock-down ensued, I was invited in as a guest of the just-opened Ettan, a splashy new modern Indian restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. It’s a collaboration between Ayesha Thapar, a real estate and fashion entrepreneur, and Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef of the Michelin two-starred Campton Place in San Francisco.
The soaring, three-story former Three Seasons restaurant space has been redone in striking shades of cerulean, indigo and bright white. The leaded glass domed ceiling remains a focal point, even more so with clusters of sparkly and sculptural chandeliers dangling from it. There’s more bling with the water pitchers and champagne buckets that are made of copper.
On a warm night, the outside patio is an especially inviting spot with its lounge-y loveseats and chairs, done up with plentiful pillows.
And apparently, from the looks of social media, I’m not the only one. Peppering the updates of so many of my friends lately are photos and confessions of baking to ease the mind or merely distract from the news of late.
I readily admit that I sometimes fall victim to procrastibaking — ignoring writing deadlines only to bake a batch of cookies instead. Stress baking is merely its close cousin.
Psychologists have explained that those who hoard toilet paper or empty grocery shelves in a panic are only trying to exercise control in a world that now seems very much out of our hands. We can’t guarantee we won’t catch a deadly coronavirus. But darned if we can’t make sure our pantries and cupboards are filled to capacity.
And so, I bake. Because if I’m going down, I’m doing so fighting — and with a ready-steady supply of buttery sweet treats.
When you grow up in a legendary restaurant family, it’s not surprising that you follow in the same path.
Anne Le Ziblatt’s parents opened the 12-table Vung Tau restaurant in San Jose in 1985. It was such a hit that less than two years later, it moved to a larger location nearby that now serves more than 150 diners daily. Le Ziblatt later went on to co-found and manage with her aunt, the restaurants Tamarine in Palo Alto, and the now defunct Bong Su in San Francisco. She also worked in restaurant public relations for a spell.
But one thing she hadn’t done was open her own restaurant.
It’s a fast-casual concept, where you order at the counter, take a seat at a table, and wait for your food to be brought to you.
But Le Ziblatt prefers to call it “fine casual.” Indeed, it’s far more stylish than most other fast-casual concepts that lean more utilitarian in looks. When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, I was surprised by how lovely the decor is. It takes inspiration from the fishing village in Vietnam, where she was born. It’s done up with a fish scale-tiled floor, fishing basket ceiling lights, and colorful murals.