COMMUNAL DINING AT GARDEN COURT ... A unique, once-a-month dining experience was quietly launched in March and has quickly become a talked-about event, particularly for Bay Area foodies. It takes place on the third Thursday of the month at Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto. Called "520 Chef's Table," the dining event is held at one long table that can seat a maximum of 30 people. "We purposely wanted to keep it small so that it remains an intimate event," said Barbara Gross, Garden Court Hotel's general manager. The idea for a Chef's Table began last summer when the hotel hired classically trained chef Clive Berkman for its catering service (the hotel doesn't have a restaurant). "We wanted to give people in the community an opportunity to experience what the chef had to offer," Gross said, and the 520 Chef's Table came to fruition. Berkman prepares a four- to five-course meal for diners and each course consists of three items. "I suggest that diners eat them from right to left, and that order is based on temperature, taste, then texture," Berkman said, adding that if guests have trouble remembering if it's right to left or left to right, "I tell them that Hebrew is read from right to left and to think of that as they eat." Passionate about the local food movement, Berkman said: "The dining experience truly pays homage to the San Francisco Bay Area's small farmers." Menlo Park resident Gwen Books has been to the sold-out dinners and is a fan. "There is really no other place in town that does anything like this," she said, describing the atmosphere as intimate. "It's not in a restaurant so you don't have to shout to talk to people. There is music playing and flowers everywhere. And the placemats have the menu printed on them, so you know what is coming next." The chef talks to the group and explains how the different foods were prepared, the unusual combinations, and the order in which to eat them. "It's folksy in the sense that we're all sitting at a communal table but elegant because everyone is dressed up," Books said. Cost for the dinner? $109 without drinks and $129 with drinks.
LYFE KITCHEN NAMED TO ELITE LIST ... A shout-out to Lyfe Kitchen, the healthy, fast-food restaurant at 167 Hamilton Ave. It was named last month by entertainment website Thrillist.com as one of the "12 Small Chains That Might Someday Dominate The World." Lyfe's first-ever restaurant opened in Palo Alto in October 2011. It has grown to four locations, with six more scheduled to open soon.
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