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Fill’er Up in Los Angeles

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

Sycamore Kitchen

Sure, they serve lunch, but I was there for the baked goods. But of course.

Husband and wife owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield cooked for a spell in San Francisco, before departing for Los Angeles to open Hatfield’s. In 2012, they also opened the Sycamore Kitchen, an urban cafe and bakery with a large outdoor patio.

Karen is a long-time pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the pastries excel here.

How good are they?

Let’s start with the buttercup ($3.50), the renamed version of a kougin-amann. It’s buttery alright. It’s also the closest kouign-amann I’ve found to that of Belinda Leong’s of B. Patisserie in San Francisco and John Shelsta’s of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Redwood City (he trained with Leong). It’s golden and crisp, with airy layers that are just a smidge heavier in texture than Leong’s and Shelsta’s versions. It’s a dream to nibble on.

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

Yes, this is a babka.

Yup, this is a babka.

Then there are the cookies. At first glance, they look incredibly flat and thin — almost as if they were a mistake. But take a bite of the rice crispy cookie ($2.50) and the oatmeal toffee cookie ($2.25) and you know they were baked with purpose. The thinness means they are somehow crisp and chewy through and through. Brilliant.

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Christmas Biscuits? Why Not!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!


As you ready to open presents this Christmas morning or prepare for the big holiday feast to come tonight, wouldn’t a pan of fresh, warm biscuits hit the spot?

Imagine them slathered with sweet butter and marmalade for breakfast today or alongside glazed ham tonight.

Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine sure is.

Biscuits don’t get any easier or more irresistible than these from Howard Bulka, chef-owner of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto and Redwood City.

The Palo Alto location is all about pizza. The Redwood City one, with its much larger and fully equipped kitchen, goes beyond the charred, flavorful pies to include everything from house-made pasta to classic burgers, too.

What’s more, the Redwood City one also offers weekend brunch, which includes an astonishingly great array of baked goods. This is where you’ll often find these heavenly biscuits offered.

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Lines Are Already Forming at Asian Box in Palo Alto

Asian Box's slogan is: "What's in your box?'' In this one, it's Jasmine rice and seasoned, charred pork.

The fast-casual, gluten-free Asian Box in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village may have just opened last month. But already, lines are forming for this fun, new concept headed by Executive Chef Grace Nguyen, formerly of the Slanted Door and Out the Door, both in San Francisco.

On a recent Wednesday night, when I was invited to come in as a guest of the restaurant, to-go orders were flying out the door.

Unless it’s a nice day, you’ll most likely want to get your food to go, since there’s only one communal table inside the small space. And folks waiting for their food tend to linger right around it. Otherwise, there are a few tables outside, but no heaters.

But since all the food comes in handy compostable containers, it’s a breeze to grab and go.

The newest eatery in the Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.

Order at the counter, then come back to get it when your name is called.

The concept is simple. You choose the base of your box: Jasmine rice, brown rice, Asian vegetable salad or rice noodles. Then, you pick your favorite protein of the five offered, from six-spice chicken ($7.25) to coconut curry tofu ($6.95) to garlic and soy glazed beef ($8.25).

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Stuffed on Stuffed Crust at Patxi’s and a Food Gal Giveaway

Patxi's stuffed crust will leave you stuffed for sure.

California pizza of late has been all about the thin.

Crusts that snap, crackle and practically pop with crispness when you sink your teeth into them.

But if you’re more in the mood for heft, for a pie that’s a gut-busting two-inches tall, look no further than Patxi’s, famous for its Chicago-style stuffed crust.

The first Patxi’s (pronounced pah’-cheese) opened in Palo Alto in 2004 by William Freeman and Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz, who previously worked at the legendary Zachary’s Pizza in Berkeley. The restaurant features four types of pizza (stuffed, pan, thin, and extra-thin), as well as three types of dough (regular, whole-wheat, and a new gluten-free one).

Recently, I was invited to be a guest at the newest Patxi’s, which opened just a couple weeks ago in the Pruneyard in Campbell.

Early on a Sunday evening, the place was already packed when I walked in. The bustling, dimly lit restaurant features big-screen TVs that were broadcasting NFL football games that night.

The pizzas are baked to order, and the stuffed ones can take as long as 40 minutes to finish in the oven. So, settle into your chair and bide your time with an appetizer. Or a nice glass of wine, as Patxi’s has a pretty impressive wine list for a pizza joint. Indeed, you can sip Prosecco or a nice French Rosé from the Languedoc region.

A classic Caesar.

We started with a barely dressed, chilled Caesar salad ($6.95). The dressing could have been a bit more assertive. But the garnish of anchovies added bite. Crisp Parmesan toasts were a nice touch.

Then, it was on to the main attraction: a 12-inch stuffed pizza that has a layer of crust on the bottom and another that covers the fillings. We went with the “Special,” a mix of sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers ($25.54).

When it arrives at the table, it’s quite impressive looking — tall, with the loads of deep red housemade tomato sauce covering every inch of the top. If you’re a toppings person as opposed to a crust one, this is the pizza for you. The layers of cheese, sauce, meat, veggies and crust meld into one soft, saucy mouthful. It’s hearty and as filling as it looks.

I dare you to eat more than one slice.

On the advice of an insider, we also tried a 12-inch extra-thin with “cheese to the edge.” Our toppings of choice were prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato sauce ($16.69).

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A Dreamy Meal of Pizza and Soft-Serve

Pizzeria Picco's Margherita.

We came for the pizza. We stayed for the soft-serve.

After all, when no less an authority on Italian cuisine than Mario Batali declares in a national food magazine that the Margherita pie at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur is the best in the country, well, one must high-tail it over there to try it pronto.

My hubby and I finally did (hey, it is a hike from the South Bay).

A cyclist, my hubby got a kick out of how so many of the pies are named after bikes, including the “Specialized” (Hobbs’ pepperoni, house-made sausage, tomato, mozzerella, and basil), and the “Seven” (oyster mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino, and oregano). Since his nickname is Meat Boy, he opted for the “Cannondale” (house-made sausage, roasted peppers, spring onion, mozzarella, and basil; $13.50). I, of course, went for the Margherita (tomato, basil, house-made mozzarella, parmesan, and De Padova extra virgin olive oil; $10.95).

Vanilla soft-serve with olive oil and sea salt. Unbelievably good!

Since the pizzeria itself is teeny-tiny and it was a beautiful, warm evening in Marin County, we sat outside at a wrought-iron table. The Pizzeria is adjacent to the larger Picco Restaurant, which has a more expansive menu. Both were started by long-time Bay Area Chef Bruce Hill.

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