I left this to the very last minute (again) – the top ten list! Since 2010, I’ve created a top ten list of the restaurants that were the most memorable to me out of the places I’ve visited over the past year. This year’s list has a little bit of SoCal and a little something special mixed into all of these awesome Bay Area places (and a lot of coffee, it seems). Who doesn’t love arbitrary Top Ten lists? I know I read them all the time when I’m lurking celebrity gossip sites, heh. Don’t take my rankings too seriously since I am in no way a food/culinary expert, though I like to pretend I am. Enjoy. 🙂
10. Manresa Bread (Los Altos, California)
In an ideal world, I would have gone to the flagship restaurant, Manresa, Chef David Kinch’s 3-star Michelin restaurant in Los Gatos. But, I don’t make the kind of money you need for those 4-dollar sign restaurants (…yet). So, I went to the next best thing – Manresa Bread, the bakery that grew out of the restaurant, with two locations in the Bay Area (Los Altos and Los Gatos, respectively). Manresa Bread serves Verve Coffee at their bakeries, and the barista made a really good latte! I didn’t even add any extra sugar – a rarity for me. That monkey bread was sticky, sugary, and flaky. It was perfection and I was sad when I ate it too quickly.
9. Academic Coffee (San Jose, California)
I first stopped by their pop up at Five Points in Downtown San Jose, but I’ve also since visited them at their brick and mortar. I intended to come in for a hot latte, but because it was too hot for that, I ordered a Mint Iced Latte. I’m a big fan of the Mint Mojito at Philz, so I had a good feeling about it. You can customize it by selecting which type of milk you want, such as soy or coconut milk. AND IT’S AMAZING. They use Temple Coffee currently, and that coffee is smooth af. The mint is nicely dispersed throughout the drink and it isn’t overpowering. You don’t get any of those acerbic notes of coffee – in fact, it just tastes pleasant. It was so perfect, in fact, that I didn’t add any sugar. And I didn’t regret that one bit. They now serve pastries from Third Culture, and the churro cake is delightful!
8. Alexander’s Patisserie (Mountain View, California)
This year, I’ve come back to this part of the peninsula, and one of the spots I now frequent is Alexander’s Patisserie. When I’m in need of coffee for an early morning or a late night, grab an elegant pastry for a last minute birthday, or if I’m honestly bored tbh, I take a short walk over to their shop. They make their coffee with Stumptown, and the lattes are foamy and very sweet – just the way I like it. It’s really nice to come in, relax with friends at one of the tables with the sofas. The drinks pair well with their pastries, of which they have a variety, ranging from savory croissants to sweet Kouign Ammans, which have been the closest I’ve found to b. patisserie so far, and they are approved by my mother, so I know it’s legit. I always appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into their pastry making, especially since it’s so meticulous!
7. Mademoiselle Colette (Menlo Park, California)
In search of good bakeries, I found it through Yelp, and after scouring through pictures on Instagram, it became a place I needed to visit. Needing to find a place to meet up with friends, I picked Colette for us to enjoy an afternoon coffee date. When you walk into Colette, you’re greeted with a multitude of pastries. This is the spot to get quality French pastries, including Kouign Ammans! Both the owner and pastry chef are French trained chefs and have worked in Paris, so you know you know it’s about to be legit. I ordered a Spring Tartine, which had lemon crème fraîche, slow cooked breast chicken, honey corn, apricots, and lemon confit on homemade cumin bread, served with roasted herbed potatoes. This was such an interesting and surprisingly complex dish that harmonized really well.
6. Proposition Chicken (San Francisco, California)
5. Broadway (Laguna Beach, California)
Broadway by award-winning Chef Amar Santana focuses on his interpretation of modern cuisine of the Americas. Chef Amar Santana was on last season’s Top Chef, making it to the finale, where he used inspiration from his Dominican and New York roots, which are also exhibited in the menu. This is the Creamy Farro Risotto with Grilled Trumpet Mushrooms, Roasted Butternut Squash, and a Citrus Butter Sauce. In fact, Risotto is what Chef Amar Santana cooked on his Top Chef finale, and broke the curse of having unsuccessful risottos on the show. SO, the man knows risotto. It was so perfectly creamy and buttery without being soupy, and it wasn’t overcooked and hard either. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, but I ate everything I could on this plate until I got full. My mouth is literally salivating as I write this up.
4. August 1 Five (San Francisco, California)
When you hear that a chef from Rasika is cooking out in the Bay, you gotta get over there to eat Indian fine dining, stat. The name August 1 Five comes from the date that India became independent from the British Empire. Just as that ushered a new era for Indians, the food at August 1 Five is approached in a modern way. It combines street food and home cooking into a fine dining experience. One of the ways was with this elevated Gol Guppa flight! This consisted of wheat shells, chaat masala, potatoes and five different flavored waters: grape, tamarind, mint-cilantro, mango, and fruit punch. I was super excited to try these as I’ve grown up eating Gol Guppas. It’s a little flaky wheat puff, which you then poke a hole in and put in the potatoes and masala. After that, it’s topped up with a flavored water, traditionally slightly spicy one with tamarind.
3. Marcus Samuelsson’s Cooking Demo (Harlem. New York or London, United Kingdom)
I was given the unique opportunity to attend a cooking demo by Marcus Samuelsson, where we got to watch him cook, hear him tell us some fun stories, and, of course, eat the food that he made. We were first served a Squash Salad with Crunchy Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette. This was my favorite of the things we were served – I was sad when I finished my plate. The salad has all of these nutty elements from the almonds and quinoa, sweet and tangy with the Asian pears and feta, to spicy with a hint of Aleppo pepper. Though it seems like a simple dish, it’s so complex with all of the different flavors and textures, but it works so well! I’m so glad they gave us these recipe cards with the full recipes on them! I’m looking forward to recreating this one.
2. Chang’s Sensory Trails (Bangkok, Thailand)
I also got to cover Chang’s Sensory Trails festival in San Francisco, and was invited to attend the Chef’s Tasting, where the dishes were inspired by Chef Bo Songvisava and Chef Dylan Jones culinary and life journey. Chefs Bo and Dylan are the wife and husband team behind Bo.Lan in Bangkok, considered one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. This Grilled Eggplant with Scallops entree was my favorite! The scallops were surprisingly light and not super chewy, so it worked very well with the eggplant which was grilled just right. Everything in this dish worked so well, from the main components to the mint to the citrusy sauce. I kept going back to this entree when things got too spicy since it had light citrusy and mint flavors that cooled my palette.
1. Republique (Los Angeles, California)
I’ve been wanting to go to République for a minute now, and I made sure to include it in my itinerary during my latest visit to LA! Every thing we ate was truly amazing, but one dish stood out – the Cucumber and Heirloom Tomatoes, with Tenerelli farms peaches, pistachio tahini, yogurt, and mint. This was my favorite dish of the entire night, which is saying something. We all expected it to taste predictable because it has a lot of Mediterranean flavors, but the peaches added something so unexpected but satisfying! They were perfectly crunchy, and the sweet and tartness worked so well with the other herbier and savory flavors. Next time peaches are in season, I am going to figure out how to make this.