Heroic Dining in Saratoga

Trucker portions of wonderful food have made Hero Ranch Kitchen the new must-visit spot in Saratoga. This $200 “Ranch Platter” offers enough protein to feed a football team.

(To be published by South Bay Accent magazine.)

Ancient Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder called it right regarding experience being the best teacher. Close to 2,000 years later, South Bay restaurant entrepreneur Angelo Heropoulos is the embodiment of this concept, as seen in his new smash hit in Saratoga, Hero Ranch Kitchen. His earlier dining endeavors include launching small chains (Opa!), steak houses (Willard Hicks), Mexican cuisine (Tac-oh!) and breakfast/burgers (Mo’s) but his latest creation in the former Sent Sovi digs on the tony town’s main drag soars above them all. Continue reading

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Good Grains

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in July, 2019.)

They were once worshipped by the Egyptians, considered sacred by the Aztecs, found in King Tut’s tomb and were mentioned in the Old Testament.  First cultivated about 10,000 years ago, grains played a key role in turning prehistoric communities from hunter gatherers into farmers, helping usher in the creation of settlements and spurring population growth.  Much more recently, grains have become a potent food trend, with case shipments of whole-grain products to U.S. outlets jumping by double digits. Continue reading

A Culinary Melting Pot

A sexy, swanky Southeast Asian hot spot in Menlo Park, Black Pepper gets brisk business.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in June, 2019.)

“Fusion cuisine” is taken to a higher plane in the case of Malaysia. This Southeast Asian peninsula with Singapore on its southern foot reflects the country’s multi-ethnic population and history as a migratory crossroads.  Dining there today means experiencing complex, full-flavored dishes whose origins embrace Thailand, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Portugal, Britain and others whose citizens have wandered through over the centuries. Continue reading

Unlikely Baker Attracting a Growing Fan Base

China-born, Harvard-educated attorney Tian Mayimin switched law for loaves and taught herself to make outstanding, naturally leavened breads of all descriptions. To launch her Little Sky Bakery based in Menlo Park, she learned the craft by studying cookbooks, watching YouTube videos and producing endless delicious iterations that she shared with happy friends and neighbors. Her small, popular operation now makes a wide variety of unusual breads — choices like Nutella-filled challah, blueberry levain with walnuts and a lovely-textured, tangy country bread covered in sunflower seeds — from a 100-year-old starter that has reportedly traveled through France, Alaska, Taiwan and now resides in Menlo Park.  Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites.

Meet Gail Hayden, the godmother of California farmers markets

Hayden has been at the forefront of the farmers market revolution in California for 40 years.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in May, 2019)

Farmers markets have been supplying towns and villages with fresh produce for eons, with these lively bazaars feeding citizens worldwide as well as serving as social institutions in the community. Thomas Jefferson reportedly bought his meat, eggs and vegetables in the early 1800s at a Georgetown farmers market and billions of less-renowned individuals have historically relied on such operations. But unlike in Europe and Asia, farmers markets in America dwindled away as industrialization rose, farms got fewer and larger and bureaucracies interceded.

Gail Hayden helped change that. Continue reading

French Laundry South in Palo Alto

Soft, delectable ricotta dumplings that look like artwork are among the standouts at Protégé.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in April, 2019.)

Damning a serious restaurant as “too expensive” is as common as breadsticks at Olive Garden — whose prices seem to be what such self-appointed critics somehow expect for cutting-edge cuisine. However, savvier diners understand that meals at such exalted food temples with their precious ingredients and squads of culinary school grads aren’t about full tummies but rather delivering a unique experience, which doesn’t come cheap.  The South Bay has recently acquired one of these rarified dining spots, modeled on Napa Valley’s three-star French Laundry, no less. Continue reading

Hola to Gourmet Tacos!

This classic Mexican street food is being transformed by creative chefs into an unlimited range of delicious offerings.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in March, 2019.)

Food trends can be fleeting; think raw food, cupcakes, molecular gastronomy and that rusty fondue set way in the back of your grandmother’s cupboard. But some trends have such broad appeal that they stick around, gather momentum and move into the mainstream. Upscale tacos are now in that favored spot, with this traditional Mexican street food having morphed into an anything-goes movement in which all sorts of delicious items are wrapped up — usually in a soft, heated corn tortilla but not necessarily — and snarfed down by a delighted public. Continue reading