Anyone who lives in or near Menlo Park has more than likely been to (or at least heard of or driven by) Cafe Borrone. It’s a family-owned restaurant doing everything from waffles to open-face turkey melts to salads, soups, pasta and more. This year, they opened a sister restaurant called Borrone MarketBar in a smaller space next door. The verdict: delicious, unique and hard to believe it’s a Menlo Park restaurant. It’s a little fancier than Cafe Borrone (I.M.H.O.) and more of a special occasion dinner, though the prices are pretty good for what you get. Solid portions and very, very well done food. They also have various prepared foods available for take out (housemade pasta, salads, marinated meats, desserts, etc.). To top it all off, they have a beautiful oyster bar, lovely outdoor seating (well set back from El Camino and near the train station so it’s its own quiet haven) and a full liquor license.
I particularly enjoyed a proscuitto/burrata/grilled leeks appetizer plate, crab spaghetti and a gin fizz, but everything was excellent. Make sure you save room for dessert; the bombolone are out of control (see below).
After almost a year of drooling over glowing reviews and desperately wanting to cave to the hype, I made it to Ramen Shop in Oakland. The College Avenue restaurant, run by three former Chez Panisse chefs, opened about this time last year and has been packed ever since. (We got there before 7 p.m. on a week night and were told there was a two-hour wait, but it only took about 30 minutes.) Though the concept of expensive, farm-to-table-like ramen might turn some off, it’s worth trying. The broths are amazingly different and flavorful without being overly rich (my problem with most ramen) and the noodles clearly made with care and quality. We tried two: shio ramen with green garlic, scallop tsukune, chashu, a shoyu-marinated egg, leeks and mizuna; veggie shoyu meyer lemon ramen with hedgehog mushrooms, salt-cured egg, roasted butternut squash, broccoli di ciccio and mizuna.
They also serve a few small plates/appetizers (the avocado citrus salad was a winner), cocktails and ice cream sandwiches for dessert to boot. All the details are beautiful too – a long wooden bar fronting the open kitchen; sauces, alcohol bottles and old records on display on shelves; beautiful cocktail (and even water) glasses; great music.
Not exactly an authentic ramen shop, but they know what they’re about and they do it well.
Checked out my hood’s farmers market this weekend and loved it! It’s a pretty petite market, so a few key things (strawberries) were sold out by the time I got there but otherwise I loved it. Fresh produce, custom-order/made-onsite juices, olives, cheese, prepared foods, music, cute kids, sun…
I made a pretty magical decision for lunch today. I decided to season small chunks of sweet potato and broccoli with olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, then roast them for about 15 minutes. Then I threw them into a bowl with some quinoa (already made) and tofu, and topped it all off with a generous drizzle of maple syrup. Mixed it all up and made my mouth/stomach incredibly happy.
The dominant flavor is sweet, but you get a bit of a kick with the cayenne and a tiny bit of savory from the tofu. Real good. I only made enough for one portion but you could totally make a lot to save.
Here’s what you need:
broccoli (could substitute for something else or take it out but the sweet potato is definitely crucial.)
tofu (could use chicken too!)
All you need to do:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
If you’re making quinoa, I’d suggest doing that now.
Cut the veggies into small pieces and toss into a bowl. Season. I used more cinnamon than cayenne pepper, don’t want to overdo either. Roast for 15 minutes or until soft/burnt to a crisp/whatever you prefer.
Throw quinoa, veggies and tofu into a bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup. I wouldn’t overdo the maple either — err on the side of caution and taste to see if it’s sweet enough.
This afternoon, I decided to take a friend’s recommendation and make spaghetti squash. I had never tried it before and am totally hooked. It was super easy to make and even easier to eat bowlfuls of.
Spaghetti squash (I only used half of one and it was plenty for one meal and leftovers, but for one person.)
Tomatoes (any kind you want)
Garlic powder, salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the squash in two, then drizzle/brush the halves with olive oil and garlic powder. Chop up the eggplant and tomatoes into similar sized cubes, not too big so they cook down quickly. Throw them into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a little water (to soften the eggplant). Put the squash, eggplant and tomato onto a pan and throw into the oven for 35 minutes.
I took the eggplant and tomatoes out at about 30 minutes. Then, threw them into a saucepan with onions, shallots and garlic (pre-chopped from Trader Joes), spinach and diced chicken (pre-cooked from TJs!) and let simmer until the squash was done.
Once the squashes are done, take a fork and start at either end of the squash halves, combing the squash with the fork prongs. It will just naturally come off like spaghetti. Easy peasy!
Throw everything into a bowl and mix together. Inhale and enjoy.