Feed Local: Putting the “Giving” in Thanksgiving

November 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? It’s the question of the week, right?! We’re all asking each other whose house are you going to? and whatcha making? and who’s cooking? We’re digging up those old family recipes or searching the interwebs for last-minute genius side dishes and turkey hacks. We’re pulling out the stretchy pants and planning on lively, filling dinners followed by food coma and football. And leftovers — ohmergawd, leftovers! Not only are we planning how we’ll fill ourselves to capacity and beyond on Thursday, but how we’ll indulge in it all over again on Friday (pumpkin pie for breakfast, of course!). Hey, I’m right there with you.

Fixin's for Thanksgiving dinner!

Fixin’s for Thanksgiving dinner!

And yet, as I’m making my own Thanksgiving menu and dreading that last-minute trip to the grocery store, I’m also thinking about the fact that not everyone in the 650 will be celebrating with big meals. And some families will struggle to celebrate at all.

In San Mateo county, the heart of the 650, almost 12% of the population is food insecure. (Want more info? Check out Feeding America’s website.) I don’t want to be a big downer after I got you all excited about a food fest that is less than 48 hours away; I really don’t. And yet, the fact remains that food insecurity exists right here in our community, and no one should have to miss out on a healthy, home-cooked meal for the holidays. Good news: there’s something you can do to provide food to those who need help this holiday season. (And that would be the “giving” part of Thanksgiving.)

Feed Local: Whole Foods Market “Food Four More” Program
Did you know that $10 can provide a meal for a family of four? From now until December 24, Peninsula-region Whole Foods Markets are running a donation program called “Food Four More,” which benefits Second Harvest Food Bank. It’s simple and brilliant.

Stop in at a Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Redwood City, or San Mateo to support "Food Four More" with a donation

Stop in at a Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Redwood City, or San Mateo to support “Food Four More” with a donation

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Visit a Peninsula Whole Foods Market store: Los Altos, Palo Alto, Redwood City, or San Mateo.
  2. Make a donation to Food Four More at any checkout stand.

The money goes to Second Harvest, which uses it to feed the 1 in 10 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties who rely on their services. While any amount is helpful, needed, and welcomed, I like knowing how my dollars translate in terms of a meal: $10 = food for four people. Simple. Think about it — for what you might spend on two pumpkin spice lattes, you can give a local family a lunch or dinner. How cool is that?!

If you shop at Whole Foods, simply add the donation to your grocery bill when you check out (your cashier should ask you, but feel free to volunteer). Even if you’re not a Whole Foods shopper, you can stop into any Peninsula WF location and make a donation at a register — no purchase required!

Feed Regional: Farm Fresh to You “Donate-a-Box, Help Heal Hunger”
Want to extend your gift of food beyond the 650? Farm Fresh to You, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program of Capay Farms, is now offering the opportunity to donate a box of fresh, organic produce to a regional food bank within California. If you’re a Farm Fresh to You customer, log into your Farmstand to learn the different ways in which you can donate. Donations can be made at any time or as part of your weekly box customization.

Fresh, organic produce like this could be donated to a California food bank of your choice

Fresh, organic produce like this could be donated to a California food bank of your choice

If you’re not a Farm Fresh to You customer, you can still particpate in this donation program without subscribing to the service or making any other purchases (<– clicky here to find out more). You can choose the box size for donation and the food bank partner that will receive it. If you’d like to make a recurring donation, you can create an account the website.

See how easy it can be to share the holiday spirit and help feed your community? Are there other food-related programs in the 650 or beyond that you support (or would like to)? Share your suggestions in the Comments section below.

Eat Local: Gelataio in Palo Alto

August 21, 2014 § 5 Comments

A dozen years ago, I spent a week in Tuscany with friends, exploring the hill towns around Siena. As far as vacations go, it remains one of my most memorable for so many reasons — time with good friends, the beauty of the countryside, the kindness of everyone we met, not to mention a now-funny (not so much at the time) adventure to the Prada outlet store.

Gelato display at Gelataio

Molto bene: Gelato

And then there was the culinary experience: the food, the wine, and places we experienced them. Before you start thinking that it was all fancy — oh, a Tuscan villa! oh the Michelin-starred restaurants! — it was nothing like that. Not at all. What has stuck with me all of these years was the delicious simplicity of the food, created and served by small, family-run businesses. Pasta? Sure, but also grilled fish, salads served family-style, roasted meats, rustic jam tarts, and acqua pazza (a vegetable soup topped with a soft-cooked egg). Most of the places we ate were selected by nothing more than a group agreement of “that looks good, let’s try it” — well, that and whether the place could seat a group of eight on short notice.

Each day, we loaded ourselves into our economy-style rented van (hard seats, bumpy ride, hot and stuffy for those sitting in the back, and just a whisper of air conditioning) for an adventure to a different hill town: Montalcino, Montepulciano, San Gimignano. We’d sightsee, have a leisurely lunch, and around mid-afternoon, someone would suggest gelato. By the end of the trip, it was a given: the afternoon gelato break. We’d find a little cafe or gelateria and, after several tastes, make our choices. I loved that you could combine two or three different flavors in a small cup — enough to enjoy every bite without feeling overwhelmed. A well-made, flavorful, small portion of gelato was more satisfying than a double-scoop of any chain-store ice cream I’d tried.

So, what’s the difference between gelato (the word for “ice cream” in Italian) and, well, ice cream? It comes down to fat, air, and temperature.

  • Fat: Gelato contains less butterfat (the fatty content of dairy products) than ice cream; for gelato the content is typically 3.5 – 8%. Ice cream, on the other hand, has a higher butterfat content, with a USDA minimum requirement of 10%. Most premium ice creams contain 14 – 18% fat.
  • Air: Gelato is churned more slowly than ice cream, thus incorporating less air, resulting in a denser product. Air adds volume, but not flavor or substance.
  • Temperature: Gelato is stored and served at a lower temperature — which is why it looks a bit like soft-serve, but tastes more flavorful. Ice cream is typically served frozen. Studies have shown that we have a harder time tasting colder foods. Ever notice that softer ice cream is more flavorful and sweeter than when frozen?

Fortunately, you don’t have to run off to Tuscany to have your own afternoon gelato break. Locally owned Gelataio, which makes small-batch, Italian-style gelato has just opened in Palo Alto! With a commitment to using locally sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients, they’re creating some luscious gelato that reminded me of what I experienced in Italy.

For a shop that’s barely been open for three weeks, they’re off to a good start. The counter staff is friendly, knowledgeable about the flavors, and willing to answer questions about ingredients. The current flavor selection is small — 10 flavors of gelato and 3 flavors of sorbetto — but the selection is evolving and more flavors will be added in the future. (Coming soon: Daily flavor lists posted to their Facebook page.)

Just some of the gelati at Gelataio in Palo Alto: Chocolate, Vanilla, Stracciatella (chocolate chip)

Just some of the gelati at Gelataio in Palo Alto: Chocolate, Vanilla, Stracciatella (chocolate chip)

The flavor assortment includes classics such as Chocolate, Stracciatella, and Hazelnut, as well as more unique flavors like Earl Grey and Cajeta (caramel). Tastes are available, if you want to “try before you buy” or just can’t make up your mind.

Gelataio offers two sizes of cups and cones for gelato and sorbetto: small, which holds up two flavors and regular, which holds up to three flavors. I opted for the regular (hey, it was a late-lunch day) with Chocolate, Pistachio, and Cajeta.

"Regular" size with three flavors: Chocolate, Pistachio, and Cajeta

“Regular” size with three flavors: Chocolate, Pistachio, and Cajeta

Gelataio’s Chocolate gelato is a must for chocolate lovers. It has a rich, dark, cocoa flavor that isn’t cloying or powdery. The Pistachio was another wonderful surprise: the nutty, rich flavor was like eating a light, sweet, creamy pistachio butter. The Cajeta was one of the sweeter flavors I tried; it didn’t have as much of a true cajeta flavor as it did a sweet, light-caramel flavor. Flavor-wise, it’s milder than the Chocolate and Pistachio, so keep that in mind if you decide to pair it with another flavor.

I tasted, but didn’t order the Earl Grey — but it’s on my list for next time. This flavor reminded me of a favorite cup of tea with cream and sugar, without overdoing the bergamot. Another standout taste was the Green Tea sorbetto. Sorbettos are dairy-free, but with the same rich creaminess as the gelatos. They’re less icy and taste less syrup-y than American-style sorbets. Need a treat to go? Gelataio also sells chocolate-dipped gelato “pops” on a stick.

The shop has tables inside, as well as outside, where you can sit and enjoy your gelato. During my recent afternoon gelato break, two ladies came into the shop — one Italian, one American. The American lady, translating for her friend, placed their orders. When the staff asked if Gelataio’s gelato was authentic, the Italian lady gave a big smile and said — “Italian,” emphatically. I’d call that an endorsement.Regular cup of gelato with chocolate, pistachio, and cajeta

Have you tried Gelataio yet?

Details
What: Gelataio
Where: 121 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, California 94301 (between High and Alma)
Phone: 650-461-4334
Hours: 11:00am–10pm
Price: $3.99 for small cup or cone (up to 2 flavors); $4.50 for larger cup or cone (up to 3 flavors)
Parking: Street

Eat Local: Tin Pot Creamery

August 19, 2014 § 2 Comments

It’s mid-afternoon, and I’m craving ice cream. Not just any ice cream, mind you, but from-an-actual-ice-cream-shop ice cream. My first thought: head to Palo Alto. Why Palo Alto? Because this mid-peninsula city has more ice cream shops than any other city in the 650 (seriously, PA has about twice as many ice cream shops as other cities on the peninsula).

Peach Jamble and Toasted Almond from Tin Pot Creamery in the 650

Peach Jamble and Toasted Almond from Tin Pot Creamery in the 650

Whatever your style — chain or independent, old-school or trendy-and-new — Palo Alto has a place to feed your ice-cream craving. In addition to the usual chain shops (Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery), Palo Alto is home to some locally owned, independent shops that make their own ice cream right here in the 650!

Tin Pot Creamery, which opened last summer, is one of the newer independent ice creameries. As a local craft food producer, they’re doing a lot of things right. They make all of their ice creams — as well as sauces, toppings, and baked goods — on site, in small batches. Tin Pot is also supporting the local/regional food system by using local and organic ingredients, which makes them unique among Palo Alto’s ice cream shops. Straus dairy products, TCHO chocolate, and Four Barrel Coffee are just a few of the locally produced ingredients that Tin Pot uses.

You won’t find a huge assortment of flavors here; the current flavor list has about 18 choices, some classic (Vanilla, natch) and some unique (vegan ChocoCoco, made with coconut milk). What you will find are fresh flavors, natural ingredients, and no artificial colors. Sorry kids, but there are no neon-blue “bubble gum” ice creams here. Another thing that makes Tin Pot unique? An active awareness of food allergies and plant-based diets. Flavor labels note whether an ice cream is vegan, gluten-free, or contains nuts. Need more info? The counter staff is very knowledgeable about the ice creams’ ingredients.

So, what to get? If you’re not sure, ask for a taste. You can taste up to three flavors before making a decision. According to the staff, Four Barrel Coffee with Cocoa Nib Toffee and Salted Butterscotch are “customer favorites.” You can get your scoops in a cup or housemade waffle cone. I opted for side-by-side scoops of the Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl.

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl

As you might guess, I’m a bit picky about my chocolate ice cream (or um, chocolate anything) — I want it to taste like CHOCOLATE, not like chocolate powder. Tin Pot’s Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards delivered! The flavor was as advertised: rich, dark chocolate, with the added bonus of crisp, dark chocolate pieces. The Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl was a nice counterpoint: lighter in flavor, not too sweet, with a caramel-like swirl.

Want to try something a bit different? Taste the Earl Grey Tea or Lavender with Blueberry Swirl. Like all of the other ice creams I tried at Tin Pot (no, I won’t say how many), they’re flavor-rich with a texture that’s smooth and creamy.

Earl Grey Tea and Lavender with Blueberry Swirl

Earl Grey Tea and Lavender with Blueberry Swirl

Pairing Earl Grey with the Lavender/Blueberry was an interesting choice, but lavender is such a dominant flavor that it overwhelmed the Earl Grey. Next time I might try pairing either of these flavors with something else (chocolate!), although they’re totally luscious on their own. Of course, there are still another dozen flavors I want to try (hellooo, Malted Milk with Milk Chocolate Pieces!).

If you want to dress up your scoops, Tin Pot offers an assortment of housemade toppings and sauces so that you can create your own sundae. How about adding salted caramel sauce and shortbread crumbles? Or hot fudge sauce, almond toffee, and brownie crumbles? Overwhelmed by the possibilities? Choose one of the four “pre-designed” sundaes from the menu board.

If you’re in the mood to share or want to take something home for the family, Tin Pot has pre-packed ice cream pints, as well as ice cream cakes and pies in their freezer. Custom-order cakes and pies are available withseveral days’ notice. (Call the shop for details.)

So, let’s recap: small-batch ice creams, made with local and organic ingredients, not to mention an intriguing flavor list AND a luscious, creamy texture? Yeah, you gotta get some.

Have you been to Tin Pot Creamery yet? Which flavors did you try?Peach_ToastedAlmond_close

Details
What: Tin Pot Creamery
Where: Town & Country Palo Alto
855 El Camino Real, #121, Palo Alto, California 94301
Phone: 650-327-1715
Hours: Mon–Wed 11:00am–9:30pm; Thu 11:00am–10pm; Fri 11:00am–10:30pm; Sat 11:00am-11:00pm; Sun Thu 11:00am–10pm
Price: $$
Parking: Lot

Shop Local: Palo Alto Farmers’ Market

May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

The Downtown Farmers’ Market in Palo Alto is one of my favorite weekend markets in the 650. It’s a small market, but with an abundant selection of local produce and hand-crafted foods. For many years it was my go-to market on Saturday mornings from spring through late fall. During the Gâteau et Ganache years, my first stop was always Full Belly Farm for organic lemon verbena and peppermint for Gâteau et Ganache’s spring/summer collection bonbons, and then Green Oaks Creek Farm for sweet, juicy strawberries. If there was time, I’d run by Blue Heron for baby lettuces and broccoli, just to be sure that I had some fresh dinner food for the week.

Checking out what's fresh at the PA Saturday Farmers' Market

Checking out what’s fresh at the PA Saturday Farmers’ Market

Now that I’m getting a regular CSA delivery, and my little garden is starting to flourish, fresh food is basically on my doorstep. I don’t need to get out to farmers’ markets as often, and yet, that’s still where I want to be on a weekend morning. There’s something about a sunny spring or summer weekend morning that just about requires spending some time at a farmers’ market — admiring beautiful, fresh produce, chatting with food producers, and fantasizing about new dishes to make at home. Maybe farmers’ markets are for cooks what music stores are to musicians: a place full of possibilities.

This past Saturday I was up at the crack-of-way-too-early-for-a-holiday-weekend, but with good reason: I was waiting for the delivery of my new dishwasher. (Yay, no more resetting the breaker to make the machine go! No more re-washing dishes that didn’t get clean the first time!) Fortunately, the delivery guys arrived on time and completed the installation by mid-morning. Perfect timing to head to Palo Alto to get my market fix. With no shopping list and no schedule, I was able to just wander the market, enjoying the experience. Here are some of the highlights.

Eat the Rainbow
Color was everywhere — fruits, vegetables, flowers — and it felt like summer already! Full Belly had a pretty display of lettuces, rainbow chard, and kale. Gorgeous? Sure — and good for you, too. If you need any incentive to eat more veggies, here ya go:

Colorful organic greens from Full Belly Farms

Colorful organic greens from Full Belly Farm

Herbalicious
Fresh herbs can make the difference between an ok dish and something really flavorful and special. Lemon verbena (one of my favorites!), rosemary, oregano, and chives — just for starters — are plentiful right now. Full Belly and Coke Farm had good assortments of fresh, organic herbs.

Fresh herbs from Full Belly Farms

Fresh herbs from Full Belly Farm: Lemon verbena front and center

There’s a Mulberry Guy
The Mulberry Guy has taken over the spot where Green Oaks Creek used to be. *sigh* I really miss those strawberries, but hey… mulberries? That’s new and intriguing. Unfortunately, I arrived after the mulberries had already sold out (turns out they’re really popular and had sold out within the first hour or so of the market opening), but stayed to chat with business owner Kevin Lynch. I love the story of this business: the mulberries are grown locally — within a mile of the market location — and like most small food businesses, it’s a labor of love. Talk about Grow Local — Buy Local — Eat local! If you’re a fan of mulberries or just want to know more, clicky on over to themulberryguy.com.

The Mulberry Guy: locally grown mulberries (as in: a mile from the market)

The Mulberry Guy: Palo Alto-grown mulberries, jam, and honey

Hail Her Coconess
One of the cool things (for me) about spending time at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market is getting to visit with other artisan food producers. I met Shelly Seward, creator-owner of Her Coconess Confections, several years ago at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, when we were both exhibiting at the show. Shelly hand-produces award-winning, classic treats such as Rocky Road and Salted Caramels in a facility in Belmont and sells them throughout the Bay Area. (Yep, that’s right — Her Coconess is home-grown in the 650!)  In case you’re wondering: yes, there are samples. Be sure to try ’em. Want to know more about Her Coconess? Check out the website.

Shelly Seward: Owner/confectioner/creator of Her Coconess, award-winning confections

Shelly Seward: Owner/confectioner/creator of Her Coconess, award-winning confections

Aw, Nuts!
After some sweet samples and catching up with Shelly, I stepped “next-door” to visit Nut ‘n Bean to try something more savory. Nut ‘n Bean is a young Hayward-based business making nut butters, dips, and spreads. While chatting with co-owner Katie Griffin, I tried the Blueberry Almond and Orange Honey Cashew nut butters. Both were delish, with a nice balance between the toasted nut and fresh fruit flavors, without being too sweet (Katie says the nut butters have very little added sugar). Knowing that I still had a few nut other butters in the fridge at home, I moved on to  try the Chipotle Lime Almond Dip and the Jalepeno Cilantro Cashew Cheese. Oh. My. Yes, please!

Katie of Nut n' Bean nut butters, dips, and spreads

Katie Griffin of Nut ‘n Bean with the goods: nut butters, dips, and spreads

The Chipotle Lime Almond Dip has the consistency of a whipped cream cheese, with a nice nutty, smoked-pepper flavor that’s got just the right amount of spice. It’s perfect with rice crackers and sweet potato corn chips (or, erm, a spoon, right out of the container). The Jalepeno Cilantro Cashew Cheese has a softer, more sauce-like consistency, and while it works as a dip, is fabulous as a sauce on grilled wild salmon (or seared tofu or baked chicken or…). Nut ‘n Bean has a serious product line, and something for every taste and diet. Vegan? Paleo? Gluten-free? You’ll love Nut ‘n Bean. Check ’em out at the market or online.

Nut n'Bean: Cashew Jalepeno-Cilantro Dip and Almond Chipotle-Lime spread

Nut ‘n Bean: Cashew Jalepeno-Cilantro Dip and Almond Chipotle-Lime spread

Overall, a fun trip to the market. And yes, I came home with enough food to make plenty of dirty dishes and try out my new dishwasher — booyah!

Details
What: Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market
Where: Gilman Street & Hamilton Avenue
Directions: Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market website
Saturdays, mid-May through mid-December: 8am-12pm
Parking: Street and nearby lots

Eat Local: Get Yer Sexy On

May 21, 2014 § 2 Comments

It all started with the Sexy Fries: waffle-cut sweet potato fries smothered in melted cheese, grilled onions, a spicy sauce and cubes of Indian cheese called paneer. That was my introduction to CurryUpNow’s “Indian street food” at Off the Grid a couple of years ago. The weather was typical for an August evening at Fort Mason: cool, headed toward freezing. My sister was visiting from Alabama, and we were in the midst of a weekend-long food-palooza. I barely remember what else we ate during our extensive sampling of other food trucks at OTG. But the Sexy Fries? Yeah, baby. Those were memorable. I have been in lust with CurryUpNow ever since. (Not to mention the fact that the biz name is cute enough to make me smile every time I hear it.)

Open since 2009, CurryUpNow is a Bay Area success story. In addition to four food trucks, they now have three — count ’em three — brick-and-mortar locations: one in San Francisco and two in the 650 (San Mateo and Palo Alto). I recently had dinner at the Palo Alto restaurant to see how the brick-and-mortar vs. food truck experience compared. Would it be CurryUpNow as I remembered it — food-truck food, but without the truck — or something completely different?

Turns out the restaurant has the same casual-dining approach and fast service as the food truck, without the truck’s long lines and lack of seating. My dining companion and I scored one of the outdoor tables — in front of the restaurant — perfect for enjoying an extra-warm Palo Alto evening. There’s also plenty of indoor seating, too. Ordering is a bit more posh at the restaurant: you place your order at the counter, take your number, and restaurant staff delivers your order to your table.

CurryUpNow’s menu is a fusion of classic indian dishes and Asian/Mexican street-food presentation. What the heck does that mean? Well, imagine that tikka masalas, saags, rice, and indian-style flatbreads become burritos, quesadillas, and rice bowls. Trust me, it works. Oh, you were expecting a “traditional” Indian food presentation? Not to worry, CUN has you covered. Order the 8-item Thali Platter option, which comes with your choice of two entrees (choose from 13 options), white or brown rice, garbanzo beans, pickles, salad, and flat bread.

One thing that I really appreciate about CurryUpNow is that the menu accommodates almost any diet. Meat-eater? Vegan? Gluten-free? No problem! CUN has something for all of you. Aside from the main menu, which lists all options, vegans and gluten-free folks can peruse menus specifically made for them. There’s also a special Kids’ Menu that lets you customize options for your small humans. The menu consists of eight different “bases” (burrito, quesadilla, rice bowl, and so on) — including vegan and gluten-free choices — and three protein choices. All items on the Kids’ Menu are $6.

With so many options, the big question during my recent visit was: what to order? Sexy fries? Natch. But it’s also good to try new things. I was up for a little sumpin’-sumpin’ from as many categories as possible: vegan, gluten-free, and traditional thali platter. So what did we eat?

Hella Vegan Sexy Fries
Honestly, Hella Vegan wasn’t my first choice for the Sexy Fries, but I’m glad we tried them! The sauces were flavorful, the fries are delish (disclaimer: I haven’t met a sweet potato fry I didn’t like), and the tofu and vegan cheese added more flavor and texture to an already flavorful dish. The full order is enough to share as an appetizer or for one person as a meal.

Hella Vegan Sexy Fries: Criss cut sweet potato fries with vegan cheese and tofu

Hella Vegan Sexy Fries: Criss cut sweet potato fries with vegan cheese and tofu

Gluten-Free Kathi Roll with Aloo Gobi
If I could have ordered every dish with Aloo Gobi, I would have — it’s one of my favorite Indian dishes (saag paneer is my other favorite). Wrap it, stuff it in something, put it over a bowl over rice…whatever. A flavorful “dry” dish, it’s made with potatoes, cauliflower, onions, and spices. The Kathi Roll’s gluten-free flatbread reminded me a bit of a cross between a tortilla and African flatbread called injera. The roll idea was interesting, but as far as I’m concerned, it was an aloo gobi delivery device.

Gluten-Free Kathi Roll: Egg washed pan-fried gluten-free flat bread, pickled onions & chutneys rolled up with aloo gobi

Gluten-Free Kathi Roll: Egg washed pan-fried gluten-free flat bread, pickled onions & chutneys rolled up with aloo gobi

8 Item Thali Platter
Here’s your traditional Indian “buffet plate,” served in the traditional, lunch-tray presentation. We chose Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer (cooked, pureed spinach with cubes of paneer cheese) for our entrees. They were served with the standard thali accompaniments: garbanzo bean stew, papadum, paratha (flatbread), pickles, and raita. The gluten-free thali comes with gluten-free flatbread, and doesn’t include the papadum.

8 Item Thali Platter: Brown rice, flat bread (paratha), lentil wafter (papadum), garbanzo beans, pickles, salad, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer

8 Item Thali Platter (from upper left): Chicken tikka masala, garbanzo bean stew, saag paneer, papadum on paratha on brown rice, pickles and raita. To the right: mango lassi

The CurryUpNow menu also includes an assortment of Indian beverages, including three variations of lassi, the traditional yogurt-fruit drink (mango, rose mango, and mint mango) and chai tea. I had the mango lassi, which was deliciously fresh, sweet, tart, fruity, and yogurty. It’s also filling, so there was no room for dessert, which was bad planning on my part. CUN’s dessert menu offers an assortment of traditional dessert items, such as gulab jamun (deep-fried dumplings made of reduced milk, soaked in rose syrup), kulfi ice cream, and (yes!) Hot Balls on Ice — gulab jamun on kulfi.

Now that’s definitely going on my list for the next trip to CurryUpNow: Sexy Fries, followed by Hot Balls on Ice. What more could a girl want?

Have you tried Curry Up Now? Food truck or restaurant? Which dishes were your favorites?

Details
What: CurryUpNow
Where: 321 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: 650-278-4888
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm; Sat 11:30am-10pm; Sun 11:30am-9pm
Price: $
Bar: No bar per se, but beer on tap

Field Trip: Taylor’s — er, Gott’s Roadside

April 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

The first time I walked into Taylor’s, Gott’s Roadside in Palo Alto’s Town & Country shopping center last fall, I was super excited to order my all-time-favorite Ahi burger. Maybe I’d even splurge and order a side of sweet potato fries!

Gott's Roadside in Palo Alto, CA

Gott’s Roadside in Palo Alto, CA

From the time construction started and the “Coming Summer 2013” sign appeared in the window, I was counting the weeks. Even after the opening date slipped into fall — and seemed like it might slip into winter — I kept the faith. So on that cloudy, grey fall day when I saw the front door wide open, my stomach did the happy dance. Yes, finally!

I walked right in and up to the counter, ignoring the wall-sized menu and legal-sheet-sized paper versions in a galvanized metal pail. Nope. I knew exactly what I wanted. How disappointed was I to find out that the restaurant wasn’t quite open yet — and that I’d actually walked in on a staff training session! Oops. Opening Day was still about three weeks away. The thought of jumping in the car and fighting afternoon traffic and city parking to get my fix at the Ferry Building started an internal tug-of-war that lasted the rest of the day. I decided to bide my time and wait for the Town & Country location to open. It was a loooong three weeks.

THE Ahi burger

THE Ahi burger: seared Ahi with ginger-wasabi mayo and Asian slaw on an egg bun

I’ll be honest: I just can’t get used to calling it Gott’s. To me, it will always be Taylor’s Refresher. The Palo Alto location, now open about six months, is the fourth in the growing Gott’s empire. The original location is in St. Helena, on Main Street, right before you cross the bridge into downtown. (Other locations are at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and Oxbow Market in Napa.)

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher was opened by Gott brothers Joel and Duncan in St. Helena in 1999. The concept was a classic 50’s style drive-in with upscale Napa Valley burgers, thick milkshakes made with Double Rainbow ice cream, and a decent wine-by-the-glass selection. (Not to mention a pricey corkage fee that brought criticism from the locals.) On a hot summer weekend afternoon, the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot was long and slow. The wait was always worth it — especially if you could score a picnic table in the back, away from the road. For me it became a must-stop location during any trip to the Wine Country.

When I moved up to St. Helena to attend the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone a few years later, Taylor’s would turn out to be a saving grace. Despite a hefty tuition at one of the nation’s finer culinary schools, student meals left something to be desired. Let’s just say the student-meal program had some major kinks that needed to be beaten worked out. On the days we couldn’t take the third re-run of walk-in leftovers that had seen better days, someone would stand up and announce a Taylor’s run. Lifesaver!

The weekends that I stayed in town, I’d treat myself to an Ahi burger and — if they hadn’t run out yet — the sweet potato fries. That was the thing then: the sweet potato fries weren’t on the regular menu. They were only available on weekends, and when they ran out, well, you were S.O.L. As a “local,” I learned to call ahead for my order and skip the line, gliding over to the pickup window, while hot, hangry tourists waited in the ordering line for up to 30 minutes. (Trust me: been there, done that.)

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries

So how did Taylor’s get to be Gott’s? The Taylor family owned the original burger spot, which opened in 1954 with the name Taylor’s Refresher. When the Gotts leased the place from the Taylor family so many years later to open their version, they did so with the agreement that the Taylor name would stay in place. Which it did — until 2010 when, after a disagreement between the Gotts and Taylors over trademarking resulted in legal action on both sides. So, in 2010, Taylor’s was renamed Gott’s. (Want to know more about the dispute? Check out this article from the Napa Valley Register.)

What else has changed in 15 years? Burgers are still the heart of the menu, but there are some additions — salads and fish tacos — that provide more options for the non-meat eaters. Sweet potato fries are available all the time now, and there are seasonal menu specials as well. What hasn’t changed? You still get a pager to let you know when your order is ready. Orders are still delivered on stainless steel quarter sheet pans and “napkins” are actually paper towels. The quality of the food is still excellent. You can still find parking near the restaurant (although you might have to wait a bit to get a good spot). The Ahi burger is still my favorite. And without fail every guy I know loves the Western Bacon Blue Ring burger. (No idea why. I’ve just learned to accept it as a fact of life.)

Western Bacon Blue Ring: Niman Ranch beef patty, onion ring, Pt. Reyes, blue cheese, bacon, pickles, red onion, BBQ sauce, all on an egg bun

Western Bacon Blue Ring Burger: Niman Ranch beef patty, onion ring,
Pt. Reyes blue cheese, bacon, pickles, red onion, BBQ sauce — all on an egg bun

What will you love about Gott’s Roadside in Palo Alto? Lots! The restaurant sources high-quality, local-ish ingredients — Niman Ranch beef and Mary’s Free-Range Chicken, for example — and the results are simple, yet delicious, fresh, and craveable. With a family-friendly environment and something for every taste (yes, vegetarians, too!), you can keep the kids and the grownups happy. Let the kids choose what they want from the Kid’s Menu and enjoy a milkshake on the side. Grownups can indulge in burgers (beef, turkey, or veggie), chicken sandwiches, and salads (if you must).

True to its Napa Valley roots, Gott’s is not just a basic beer-and-burger place. Wine lovers will find a thoughtful, reasonably priced assortment of wines by the glass, half bottle, and full bottle. Some of my favorites: St. Supery Sauvignon ($8/glass) and Merryvale Starmont Chardonnay ($12/half bottle).

Ahi Burger, Western Bacon Blue Ring Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, Starmont Chardonnay

Ahi Burger, Western Bacon Blue Ring Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, Starmont Chardonnay

Wanna get fancy? There’s also Rombauer Chardonnay ($24/half bottle) and Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon ($50/half bottle). For you beer drinkers, Gott’s offers a good selection of draft, bottled, and canned beers. Craving that PBR or a Lagunitas IPA with your Double Cheeseburger? Either way, Gott’s has you covered.

Got room for something sweet after the burgers and fries? Head back to the counter and order a classic Black-and-White (chocolate and vanilla, so good!) or seasonal milkshake, ice cream in a cup, root beer float, or fountain soda.

I have to admit that the original Taylor’s Automatic Refresher will always hold a place in my heart. And yet, Gott’s Roadside in Palo Alto brings a bit of the Wine Country to the 650. Whatever you want to call it, it’s still the home of one of my favorite dining experiences. Good food and good times. So, if I ask you to meet me at Taylor’s, you’ll know what I mean.

Have you been to the newest Gott’s Roadside location? What did you eat?

Details
What: Gott’s Roadside
Where:  Town & Country, 855 El Camino Real #65, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Parking: Lot
Phone: 650-326-1000
Hours: Sun-Sat: Breakfast 7am-11am; Main Menu 10:30am-9pm
Price: $$
Bar: Wine, beer

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