The Curious Palate

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Our neighborhood is ever changing; shops opening and closing.  Last year, a Taqueria had opened on Venice, east of Grand View.  I had meant to stop in, but as quickly as they had opened, they were closing down.

Soon after the Taqueria closed, a sign went up, indicating “The Curious Palate” was next to occupy the space.  I was hopeful for something different and exciting.

Some more time passed and I had almost forgotten about the new place, when a friend approached me with the idea of documenting a visit to the farmer’s market.  The week before, while shopping, she ran into the staff from Curious Palate, buying produce for their restaurant.  Her comments planted a seed back into my head; what about that new place?  They were definitely worth trying, especially if they were locally sourcing their produce!

Today felt like a nice day for a bike ride; after a week of rain, the sun was shining.  My mind returned to Curious Palate.  I could stop by and see what they were all about.

I arrived around noon.  There were three or four other groups of people seated inside, chatting over plates of food and coffee.  An attractive blond woman stood behind a tall deli cooler, filled with fresh cheeses and meats.  Asking if it would be okay to take pictures for my food blog, she smiled, nodded, and welcomed me.

I browsed the grocery section that stood opposite the counter.  Local dry beans from Lompac, gourmet nuts, handcrafted chocolates of many varieties, local unfiltered apple juice from Mill Road Orchard, local olives from Adam’s Ranch, dry pasta, tea from Intelligentsia Roasters, olive oils, vinegars, local honey, and more.

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Turning to the deli cooler,  I was pleased to see many tempting, unusual varieties of cheeses, some local and some from abroad.  Burrata made in LA (El Monte), fresh ricotta, Brindisi fontina from Willamette Valley Cheese Company in Oregon, Parmigiano Reggiano butter, and many others.  Their  charcuterie was just as inspiring, with nitrate-free salami from Fra’Mani in Berkley,  Salumeria Biellese guanciale, and soprassata from Marin County.  No need to drive all the way to Beverly Hills to get fine cheese and meats! It is right here in my neighborhood!

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As I was not very hungry, I only order a bowl of fingerling potato-leek soup, a bottle of fresh Mill Road cider, and a quarter pound Fra’Mani uncured salame rosa to go.  This way, if all goes well, I will be back soon to try out the rest of the menu.

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As I sat, enjoying my perfectly seasoned cup of potato-leek soup, I perused the menu and took notes.  They always have two soups, one standard and one “of the day”.  Today’s choices were either the potato or curried squash with coconut milk.  They also have a choice of two different salads, their signature salad with Christmas lima beans, feta, olives, roasted peppers, beets and baby artichokes, topped with a balsamic dressing, or the Prosciutto Americano, with greens, baby artichokes, olives, mozzarella,  roasted peppers, and a fig balsamic dressing.

There are a few sides on their menu as well; four cheese (including goat and 4yr old Quebec vintage cheddar) mac n cheese, lentil salad with feta, roasted peppers, and avocado, and sauteed spinach with garlic and pinenuts.

The rest of the menu is all sandwiches, thirteen to be exact.  Ranging from updated classics with a twist, such as the egg salad with ground mustard seeds. lemon, thyme and topped with guanciale bacon, or the sloppy giuseppe, with slow-braised lamb ragu and black eyed pea puree on a  brioche roll, to the more adventurous Wasabi Shrimp Wrap, with San Diego white shrimp, lettuce, wasabi mayo, daikon, and japanese pickles.

As I finished my soup, I chatted with Mark, one of the owners.  He was very friendly, happy to answer all of my questions (I had lots!), even going in back to find the answer for one.  He gave up his 15 year career as a TV producer, now devoting his life to his love of preparing delicious food for his neighbors (both owners live nearby) and new friends.

After only two months, business is growing and Mark and Elliot seem to have a good thing going.  They have a beautiful eco-friendly space with salvaged/reclaimed wood and materials, zero V.O.C. paint, natural kitchen cleansers, and high-efficiency ovens.  They even encourage customers to bring their own mugs, containers, and bakeware for them to fill.

With a wonderful selection of products from local farmers/artisans, seasonal delicious menu, and an easy-to-use informative website complete with online ordering and curbside delivery, there is no reason to ever ask the timeless question: what are we going to eat?

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I went back the other day and tried out the mac and cheese.  It was creamy, decadent, and unlike any mac n cheese I had ever tasted before.  The menu stated it contained goat cheese, 4 year vintage cheddar, Gruyere Surchoix, and Blue Paradise.  Definetely not your grandma’s mac and cheese!

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Categories: travel

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