Few restaurants anywhere reach a 40-year milestone.
That such a momentous achievement happened during the height of the pandemic last year for Menlo Park’s Flea Street might have put a slight damper on the festivities that had to be held over Zoom.
But it’s a testament to this restaurant, whose doctrine of organic and sustainable has been woven into its fabric since the beginning, that after the unprecedented challenges of a pandemic it’s come roaring back.
When I dined there last week as a guest of the restaurant, every outdoor table was full of smiling patrons, clinking glasses of festive cocktails, and chatting with Chef-Owner Jesse Cool as the made the rounds. The indoor dining room is undergoing a refresh, complete with a new ventilation system, and should be ready to welcome back diners soon. Executive Chef Bryan Thuerk, all of 23 years old, couldn’t be happier to be cooking for diners in-person again, after months of doing takeout, which the restaurant had never done before.
The outdoor dining has the air of a celebratory backyard get-together with bales of hay topped with cushions for bar-service only, and wood-slatted fencing in the dining area.
Indulge in a cocktail by bartender Eloy Martinez, who’s been with the restaurant for more than 15 years. The Apricot & Sage is a blend of brandy, apricot, sage, Contreau, bitters and lemon juice that get garnished with a fresh apricot half and sage leaf. It’s fruity with a nice bitter edge and a touch of menthol.
It’s not only a compelling memoir about a unique restaurant with a formidable sense of place, but it includes some delightful recipes, as well.
The Grey opened in December 2014 in Savannah, GA in what was once a segregated Greyhound bus depot. The restaurant is the vision of entrepreneur businessman Morisano, who had no previous restaurant experience whatsoever, and Bailey, who formerly cooked at Prune in New York, but had never opened her own restaurant before.
Morisano, who is white, and Baily, who is Black, formed a partnership to bring a new inclusivity to this once-divided symbol of the South, and in so doing, also elevated the region’s cuisine with fresh vitality. It proved a critical success, earning Executive Chef Bailey the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Southeast” in 2019.
For the two business partners, though, it was anything but a smooth road. That makes the book all the more commendable for its candid look at the sweat, tears and fortitude it took for them to understand and trust one another in this arduous project. With America’s reawakened reckoning with racism this past year, this book couldn’t be more timely. It touches on the here and the now, demonstrating how our present is vastly shaped by our past, much of it hard to forgive.
Even if you can’t score a coveted table at The French Laundry, you can still enjoy some luxe tastes in Yountville from Thomas Keller.
The acclaimed chef joined with caviar expert Shaoching Bishop to start their own caviar brand, Regiis Ova (“royal egg” in Latin), in 2017. Now, the two have collaborated on the Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge pop-up, 6480 Washington St. in Yountville. Open Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the pop-up is expected to continue at least through the fall.
Take a plush seat indoors or outdoors to enjoy a tasting of caviar, starting at $45 for 15 grams with classic garnishes, two deviled eggs topped with caviar for $35 or French onion dip topped with caviar and served with kettle fried potato chips ($65)
If that’s a little rich for your pocketbook, opt for smoked sturgeon rillettes with pickled garden vegetables ($20) or a whimsical Bouchon Bakery “Oh Oh” (a gourmet take on a Ho Ho) for $10.
Alongside, sip prestige French or California bubbly by the glass or bottle, or a variety of red, white and rose wines.
Whether for a sip and snack or a complete meal, kick back with the sounds from a jazz pianist or DJ.
Dine Downtown San Jose Restaurant Promotion Runs Through July 18
In a normal year, “Dine Downtown San Jose” would indeed last a week. But as we all know, this past year has been anything but conventional. As such, the annual promotion will run for 10 days this year, from now through July 18.
The lovely aroma of soft citrus, grassy leaves, and green tea wafts gently from a bottle of Suntory’s Roku Gin.
It’s no surprise that this Japanese gin, of which I received a sample, evokes the lightness and freshness of spring. After all, “roku” means “six” in Japanese, and this gin is crafted with six Japanese botanicals that were harvested at peak season in spring. They include: sakura (cherry blossom) flowers and leaves, Sencha tea, Gyokura tea, Sansho pepper, and yuzu peel.
The result is a smooth sip with juniper and coriander much more dialed down in favor of delicate yet complex floral and lemon-mandarin orange characteristics that give way at the very end to a subtle peppery pop.
Enjoy it in a G&T or muddled with strawberries or raspberries.
Cheers: Roku Gin comes in a weighty glass bottle etched with cherry blossoms, making it perfect for gift-giving.
Yebiga Bela Rakija
If you’ve never had or heard of Rakija, you’re in good company.
My curiosity about this Balkan fruit brandy was piqued when I received a sample of Yebiga Bela Rakija recently. It’s importer, surprisingly enough, is Bill Gould, bassist for the San Francisco rock band, Faith No More.
I am not the biggest fan of traditional baked beans. They’re just way too sweet, and frankly, I’d rather save the sugary part of my meal for dessert.
What makes these Southern baked beans so miraculous is that they are not cloying at all, but deeply, profoundly savory with just a whisper of natural fruity sweetness from tomato paste. In fact, it’s rather astonishing the depth and complexity they take on, given how few ingredients are used.