Nom Nom Paleo

Dining Out Paleo(ish): Alexander’s Steakhouse (Cupertino, CA)

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Last night, to celebrate the end of my MIL’s chemo treatments, my parents invited us and my in-laws to dinner at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino.

This place is WILDLY popular and I was looking forward to chowing on MEATMEATMEATMEATMEAT.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing you see is a enormous window into the brightly-lit dry-aging area of the kitchen, along with a display of the different cuts of steak available. The most impressive-looking one was the Tomahawk Chop (or, as the restaurant inexplicably spelled it last night, “TOMAWAK SHOP”), an enormous 32-ounce bone-in ribeye.

We don’t often take the boys out to high-end (read: expensive) restaurants, but they were absorbed in our iPhones, and didn’t turn into pumpkins or anything. It helped, too, that service was quick, efficient, and personable. Our friendly waiter spent a good few minutes going over the menu with us, and was warm and attentive all night.

For starters, Fitbomb and I shared seared foie gras with cherries…

…and filet mignon tartare with quail egg.

When in Rome — or in this case, Cupertino, California — you should always order the restaurant’s best. So both of us ordered the same entree: A trio of different Wagyu New York steaks.

The steaks were perfectly-cooked — medium-rare edge-to-edge (sous vide, anyone?) — and each were topped with flavorful sauces and garnishes. The cuts of Wagyu were fatty and had a great mouth-feel, but I still missed the beefiness of grass-fed meat.

And that’s the rub with trying to stay Paleo at any steakhouse: The restaurant will always opt to serve grain-fed beef (some even proudly proclaim that they only serve grain-fed stuff) because of the taste and customer demand. Alexander’s meat, for example, is exclusively grain-fed. When asked, our waiter told us that Alexander’s has tried offering grass-fed meat in the past, but stopped because “of the metallic aftertaste” and “inconsistency” of the cuts.)

Our table also shared a bunch of sides: mushrooms, creamed spinach, fries, mac ‘n cheese and corn. (Yes, FRIES and MAC ‘N CHEESE and CORN. Not all of us at the table are Paleo eaters, sadly.)

As we’ve said before, we don’t keep non-Paleo foods in the house, but on the rare occasions when we eat out at restaurants with the kids, we typically let them order what they want. To be sustainable, we think that Paleo eating can’t be coerced. We teach our boys about making the right food choices, and cross our fingers that they’ll actually make ‘em. 

But that doesn’t mean they won’t see the bread basket their grandparents are eating from and not demand a gluten-y hunk. Or refrain from eating the mac ‘n cheese and fries. Or turn away the complimentary fizzy fruit soda that the waiter brought over to them. Or the palate-cleanser — a strawberry-orange granita — that arrived between courses. Or the celebratory piece of cake that my MIL received gratis from the restaurant. Or the humongous cone of cotton candy that was brought to every table after dinner.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t cover the kids’ eyes and hustle them away from the table. (I did, however, move the cotton candy out of reach after the kids had grabbed a few handfuls of fluffy spun sugar.)

Blech. Bad Paleo mommy.

It’s not the waiter’s fault, of course. The service was fantastic and well-orchestrated. After learning of the reason we were dining at Alexander’s, our waiter made a point of bringing out complimentary champagne and dessert to toast to my MIL’s health. These were thoughtful touches, and it made the dinner a very special one for our parents.

How was the food?

Tasty, but waaaaaay overpriced for nice but fairly standard steakhouse fare. Don’t get me wrong — I’ll gladly shell out for great food, but: (1) Alexander’s did not blow my mind, and (2) it was more expensive than meals we’ve had at Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park, Saison, and other super-insanely-awesome places.

Yes, I do go off the Paleo reservation once in a blue moon — even when we’re not at Per Se or whatever. I am under no illusion that restaurants cook with coconut oil instead of canola, and that restaurant sauces aren’t “enhanced” with sugar, corn starch and flour. It’s one thing for me to consciously decide to have an occasional eff-off meal — especially when the food’s fantastic — but I learned last night that it’s quite another thing to watch my kids blithely scarf down sugar, gluten and soy. I might have enjoyed the experience more if the Faileo foods weren’t devoured so gleefully by my children.

Lots of people love Alexander’s, and eat there guilt-free. Sadly, I’m not one of them.

Eating Out Paleo: 4505 Meats (San Francisco, CA)

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Without a doubt, I’m a HUGE fan of Ryan Farr and his meat magic. Remember? I called him the Jedi Master for all things meat and I regularly treat our family to his seasonal meat CSA packages.

However, up until today, I’d never tried one of his famous cheeseburgers. (I heard that audible gasp. Shut it.) 

He’d recently tweeted that the 4505 meat stand makes “Paleo-style” burgers so I vowed to get myself up to the Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market to try one.

But when I stepped up to order my sandwich, I saw a sign that said “no substitutions or alterations.” Whaaaa?

“Um, I know your sign says no substitutions, but can I get two double burgers with no bun and an extra egg?”

“Of course you can!” The friendly server turned and called out to one of the grill masters: “Two double burgers, extra egg, no bun please.”

One of the guys behind the grill yelled back, “Two burgers…PALEO-STYLE?”

My heart leapt!

“Nope, she wants cheese on them.”

“WAIT! No no no — I don’t! I want ‘em PALEO-style! I just didn’t want to be a pain in the ass and ask for more changes!”

The server smiled. “No problem! We’re very Paleo-friendly here. Kent, the cook back there, eats Paleo and gets very excited when someone orders Paleo-style burgers.”

Kent, I love you.

The burger was fantastic, with perfectly seasoned patties, a thick slice of ripe heirloom tomato, and nice, runny egg yolks.

When I went back to tell Ryan and Kent how much I loved my Paleo burger, they joked that Ryan is actually “Bi-Paleo.” (And if you’re scratching your head, you’re clearly not from San Francisco.)

Lunch at the 4505 Meats stand was one of the highlights of my summer FO SHO.

p.s. Don’t forget to pick up a few bags of their amazingly delicious chicharrones as an eff-off treat. Yes, I’m aware that they’re fried in rice bran oil and seasoned with sugar, but I don’t care. At all.

Eating Out Paleo: The Patty Shack (Redwood City, CA)

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I love me some tasty burgers so I was super excited to hear about the recent opening of The Patty Shack in my neck of the woods. The pedigree behind this unassuming, family-friendly joint is pretty impressive: it’s managed by Adam Torres of the insanely popular Sancho’s Taqueria and the guy in charge of the kitchen is Chef Gary Shelley, formerly of Alexander’s Steakhouse.

The menu lists a bunch of delicious burger combinations and the usual side dishes (e.g fries and onion rings) BUT there’s also a bunch of cool veggie sides (e.g. roasted Brussels Sprouts!) AND a handful of interesting salads to round out your meal. Plus, you can totally customize your burger (e.g. No bun! Extra patty! Extra avocado!)

The burgers aren’t grass-finished but it’s hard to find a joint down on the peninsula that:

  1. serves 100% grass fed beef or
  2. grills a palatable burger, grass fed or not.

For our inaugural meal, Fitbomb and I both ordered bun-less Midnight Burgers (1/3 patty topped with bacon, fried egg, and cheddar) with sliced avocado ($1.00 extra)…

…and our table split a roasted beet salad (butter lettuce, herb roasted beets, shallots, champagne vinegar, and goat cheese)…

…roasted Brussels sprouts (with crispy shallots and tossed with raison and bacon vinaigrette)…

…and steamed asparagus (with a lemon vinaigrette).

 

What’s my verdict?

Thumbs up!

The burger was juicy and well-seasoned (despite being well-done) and the sides were tasty. I was especially fond of the savory, sweet, bacon-y roasted spouts. I’m sure the place is still ironing out some kinks but so far so good. We’ll be returning soon! 

Eating Out Paleo: Marlowe (San Francisco, CA)

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As I’ve written before, I love, love, love Marlowe. We come here with our little posse every few months and we’re always served delicious chow by friendly waitstaff in an unpretentious setting. How can you not love a place that has these two quotes (among many awesome foodie bons mots) printed on their front window:

Today, I took the train up with the boys to meet Fitbomb here for dinner. It’s so damn convenient since it’s located right behind the Caltrain station.

For our dinner, we opted to split a mess of starters and also ordered a burger for Big-O. It’s always funner to sample a large variety of dishes, don’t you think?

We began our meal with a couple warmed deviled eggs with aged provolone, pickled jalapeno, and bacon…

…and then the yumminess continued with a bowl of crispy Brussels sprout chips with lemon and sea salt…

…which Lil-O devoured like he had a bad case of the munchies…

…Little Gem salad with avocado, market vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette…

…spiced jumbo gulf shrimp with hot & boozy cocktail sauce…

…Dungeness Crab & Rock shrimp Louie…

..that we made into mini lettuce wraps topped with Tabasco and sea salt…

…roasted bone marrow with salsa verde and fine herbs…

…and steak tartare with poached quail egg.

Big-O gobbled up the famous Marlowe burger

…and we were all happy campers.

The eats were phenomenal as usual but I especially enjoyed the warm deviled eggs (we ordered a second round of them!) and Dungeness crab and rock shrimp louie.

I’m definitely mad about Marlowe.

Eating Out Paleo: Prospect (San Francisco, CA)

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Prospect is the modern, edgy new restaurant from the talented team at Boulevard. Both times we’ve eaten here, we’ve waddled away stuffed and satisfied. Prospect offers modern farm-to-table fare with some more exotic touches thrown in by acclaimed executive chef Ravi Kapur.

I’m not gonna lie: The preponderance of dishes include one or more elements that’s not Paleo-approved (e.g. lentils, gluten, polenta, etc.).  Just be a big caveboy or cavegal, and ask nicely to substitute with something else. They’ll be happy to do so as long as you aren’t acting like a demanding, pushy, and entitled bee with an itch.

Fitbomb and I decided to share two salads and two entrees for dinner. Portions were so substantial that dessert didn’t even look tempting to me. 

Wanna see what we ate?

The summer salad was a refreshing mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, crispy spiced onions, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese…

…and the green goddess salad was a lovely pile of greens with cucumbers and avocados hidden below.

For one of our entrees, we ordered the McCormack goat mixed roast…

…which came with sauteed spinach (in place of new potatoes), coriander Greek yogurt, lamb’s quarters, roasted eggplant sesame puree, and goat jus.

We also shared the Eden Farms Berkshire pork loin chop…

…which was accompanied by sauteed spinach (in place of polenta), roasted belgian endive, and roasted nectarine.

The salads were delicious but the meats really stole my heart. It’s no secret that I love goat meat so the mixed roast platter that came piled high with sausage, chops, and belly was heaven on a plate.

Great eats and even better company (we were at Prospect with S & J) — the best way to spend an evening!