Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flea Street Cafe - Menlo Park

Sweet corn soup with basil

So my biggest expense in life right now is food (oh yeah and health insurance, but I try not to think about that - come one healthcare reform!) When I splurge on something, its usually not a new dress or a fancy purse, but perhaps a delicious fillet of wild salmon or a local raw milk cheese. While some girls spend hours shopping for shoes (don't get me wrong, I love me a pair of these too) I prefer to spend hours in the market searching for that elusive red quinoa or purple asparagus. These are things I take great pleasure in. While I do tend to cook a lot of my own dinners, it is also fun to have someone else cook for you, especially when the produce is fresh and local.

Blue cornmeal crusted diver scallops with green and wax beans

I rarely venture into Menlo Park, but I had heard good things about Flea St. Cafe. Jesse Ziff Cool, the owner of Flea St Cafe and Cool Cafe, takes pride in her restaurants mission of serving local and sustainable food and wine. This strategy ensures quality produce, protects farm lands and the environment, promotes economic growth, and preserves traditions.

This all sounded good, but would the food taste good? For our appetizer, AJ and I decided to split the vegetarian tasting plate - corn and bean succotash, sauteed peppers and onions, roasted beets, and fried squash blossoms. While everything on our plate was fresh, the only thing that really wowed us were the fried squash blossoms. Stuffed with goat cheese and fresh herbs, served with a bright slightly acidic tomato sauce, these were divine. We were sad there were only two.

Ricotta gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, guanciale, basil, and asiago.

For the main course I ordered two appetizers, the sweet corn soup and the cornmeal crusted scallops. I love ordering appetizers for dinner because it allows you to sample more items on the menu. Boy was I happy when my soup arrived. A sucker for soup, this creamy corn concoction was just divine. Let me tell you there is nothing better than fresh sweet summer corn. I scraped my bowl clean. The cornmeal crusted scallops were seared and cooked to perfection. Sweet with an excellent crust, these paired nicely with the sweet corn soup. However, for the price I wish there had been more than three of these!

AJ ordered the ricotta gnocchi. I am always tempted to order these soft potato pillows whenever they appear on a restaurant's menu, so I was delighted that I would be able to sample them. The gnocchi were light, topped with ripe heirloom tomatoes, basil drizzle, asiago cheese, and guanciale. AJ was a little disappointed to find meat in his dish. I think the salty bits were a nice pairing to the ricotta gnocchi, but not entirely necessary. I would have preferred more fresh basil, as opposed to the oil drizzle.

Rosemary angel food cake with rasberry sauce and creme fraiche ice cream.

Next to the corn soup, I think my favorite part of the meal was my rosemary angel food cake. I loved the use of this fragrant herb in a sweet dish. The angel food cake was light and airy, but still moist. A lot of angel food cakes end up being dry. The addition of raspberry sauce and creme fraiche ice cream sealed the deal. I think my angel food loving sister would enjoy this one.

AJ is a chocolate man, and went with Flea St's very own chocolate cupcake served with ice cream and pecan caramel sauce. The chocolate cake was dry and dense. I wasn't a fan. The ice cream was good, but even better was the pecan caramel sauce! Sweet, thick, buttery and loaded with pecans. I would serve just the sauce!

Chocolate cupcake with carmel sauce and pecans with vanilla ice cream.

Bottom Line: While a little overpriced, Flea St delivers on their promise of fresh, local ingredients.

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