There are some wonderful, new watering holes and eateries in the hood, perfect places to celebrate the holidays in style. Modern spaces, local touches; new hotels are so community-oriented now, with large spaces built to bring people together for conversation and networking.
Oak & Violet in The Park James Hotel
Developer and Portola Valley homeboy Jeff Pollack of Pollock Financial Group brings a taste of Menlo Park to a hotel where you least expect it. At that corner, you know, across from the gas station on El Camino and Valparaiso. Inside you’ll find a large public courtyard, and Oak & Violet, the all day, local foods, bar-restaurant-open space-even music space, named after Menlo Park’s official tree and flower. Eat anywhere!
It’s really bright and homey, with a spacious bar to get inspired and write your holiday cards or memoir. The vegetarian in me especially liked the Fall Quinoa and Honey Crisp Apple Salad ($14), the Salt-Cured Local Yoghurt Platter ($15)
and the Toasted Farro Risotto ($23). (Chef, if you are reading this, where does the farro come from?). The hotel was built for business traffic, so remember the local tip to book on weekends and get a deal when rates actually go down.
Apres at The Four Seasons
Recently renovated, think Tahoe off of 101. Apres – after the ski. It’s a new idea at the Four Seasons; a limited time, popup experience with holiday lights, sparkling trees, fireplaces, movies, bartenders in ski sweaters, falling "snow," and views of famous ski areas in the Four Seasons family.
The menu features the best dishes of those villages including: Jackson Hole Bison Burger ($24), Whistler Poutine (french fries, cheese curds and gravy $19), and Megeve (France) French Onion Soup ($13). The in-house pastry chef offers "grill-your-own" s’mores with house-made graham crackers and marshmallows, but insists on using traditional Hershey’s chocolate.
My only beef about the menu would be “where are the vegetables?” (hmmmm, can one actually beef about a lack of vegetables?), but just ask to order from the vegetarian menu served inside.
At Apres, the specialty drinks are fantastic. Personally, foo-foo drinks are hardly ever worth it para mi; they go down too fast for the time they take to make, and they usually cost too much. That said, I can’t stop thinking about Ski Lift, an interesting combination of champagne with bourbon and orange marmalade ($16), or snuggling up with a warm Mountain Side Mulled Wine with star anise, clove, diced orange and candied lemon zest ($12)
You’d better hurry though, this popup will pop down end of February. Can’t wait to see where we travel after that!
Craft and Code at the Marriott San Mateo
If you are looking for a new, secret place, and an amazing meal – this is your stop! You’ve probably driven by Craft and Code numerous times, never realizing the Marriott has undergone significant renovation,
now offering 18 different types of seating options, spread around an open, airy, social space. Eat anywhere again! Come after work for “Luxury Hour,” an upscale happy hour with deep discounts on glasses of really tasty, ok expensive, wine. In house, all-day eatery, Craft and Code has so many house-made touches; Executive Chef Scott Gorman does not fail to impress with his creative passion, “I’m one of the people who wake up and do exactly what I want to do.”
Gorman’s Italian heritage pays homage to the best risotto I have had in a long time, with mushrooms that Chef treats “like meat,” and a Madeira glace that will make you cry ($15). It reminded me of the ultra-creamy benefits one gets from constant stirring of the Arborio, a practice this lazy girl gave up long, long ago.
The vegetarian in me gave thanks for the Cauliflower Steak in a coconut curry sauce ($22) and the Kale Quinoa Salad with Citrus Yoghurt Dressing ($16), but my hidden meat-eater came out of hiding for the pure umami beauty of Guinness Short Ribs with horseradish potatoes ($30).
I would never think of going to a Marriott for dinner, yes I said it, but this place SHINES! Locals must come here, just for the food, and to see the space. Please say hi and happy holidays to Chef for me.