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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Local Flavor - Holiday Hotspots

Uploaded: Dec 2, 2018

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.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:35 am

Congrats to Marriott workers and the company on their recent settlement for better working conditions.

 +   16 people like this
Posted by OK For Some, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Overpriced and lacking a certain down-to-earth nature.

OK for the upwardly-mobile types who either like to brag about where they've eaten or entertain guests on a company expense account.

Now heading off to Harry's Hofbrau.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Apres, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:48 am

You can put up all the walls and pictures you want, in my head I'm still thinking "I'm in EPA at a place trying their best to make me forget that".
It's just something I cannot get past.

Interestingly enough, I have no reservations going to my fave burrito shop in EPA.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Dec 6, 2018 at 7:16 am

To each his own. We Food Party! both the trendy spots and the dive bars. It bugs me when people say "you can't make money in food." Food establishments / businesses that charge a higher rate (i.e. mine), offer creative and decent pay jobs for folks who choose to work in food in a way you may not value, but others do. That said, I love Harry's - say hi to bartender Dave for me!

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Joel, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:43 pm

Tell it like it is, Woman!!! Love ya!

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Higher Priced the Better, a resident of Atherton,
on Dec 8, 2018 at 8:52 am

> Overpriced and lacking a certain down-to-earth nature.

If one can afford to be a bon vivant, why not? We enjoy dining at the French Laundry and are more than willing to pay for their exquisite culinary presentations.

It's what separates the plebians from connoiseurs of 'the good life'.

An expansive wine cellar offering vintage Bordeaux from the late 1940s is also requisite to our dining preferences.

It is difficult for the 'Joe Six Pack' + Beernuts crowd to appreciate and comprehend.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Miguel, a resident of another community,
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm

"Food establishments / businesses that charge a higher rate (i.e. mine), offer creative and decent pay jobs for folks who choose to work in food in a way you may not value, but others do..."

I make $9.50/hour working at Taco Bell. So if I apply to a fancy restaurant, they will automatically pay me more money per hour? For a similar job?

This is very good to know. Thank you for advice.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by An SF Sous Chef, a resident of another community,
20 hours ago

> I make $9.50/hour working at Taco Bell. So if I apply to a fancy restaurant, they will automatically pay me more money per hour? For a similar job?

Sometimes...especially if you can come up with some sort of unique fusion style offering that no one has ever seen or tasted before.

Given your background, perhaps something along the lines of Fukushima-style tacos or maybe a Tandoori inspired burrito might have some possibilities. You have to experiment.

The bottom line is that you want to keep your food and prep costs down to a minimum while convincing diners that it is worthwhile to pay a premium for a sense of exclusitivity and uniqueness. Word of mouth is your best form of advertisement.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Use Your Imagination, a resident of another community,
7 hours ago

Miguel...Try mixing cultural components that ordinarily don't go together (i.e. Asian food with cheese and/or tomatoes) and create presentations out of the ordinary (e.g. Japanese pizza offerings in Japan are totally different than those found in the United States...some have squid + squid ink for a purplish coloring while others resemble a sushi pie).

Or combine Tex-Mex seasonings with classic French cuisine to really blow some minds. Hybridization is the 'new wave' and those with money to waste on new dining experiences are always getting bored.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Tastes Like Chicken, a resident of another community,
2 hours ago

Another option...Open up your own KRC (Kentucky Raw Chicken) and keep it simple. All you'll need is a sharp knife, some chicken and a reliable refrigerator.

Believe it or not, there are some 'upscale' restaurants actually serving chicken sashimi and a number of ignorant 'upscale' diners fool enough to order it.

Or if you happen to prefer the French variant, you can always go chicken tartare. *ugh*

The point being, you can serve up just about anything as long as people don't get sick en masse and the menu price is prohibitive to the poor folk.

There's no accounting for subjective taste anyway.

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