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Fresh local (maybe organic?) restaurants in Sunnyvale/ Mountain View area

j
jennbee Apr 3, 2012 01:34 PM

Hey all,

I recently moved to Sunnyvale for a teaching job in EPA. I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY and lived in Sacramento and Chico before settling in the south bay. When I lived in Sac I loved the restaurant scene and its focus on local, fresh, natural (not necessarily all organic) food. My favorites there were Sellands, Cafe Bernardo, Orphan breakfast house and One Speed. I'm not an organic or health fanatic but I like eating good food that I can feel good about. I was hoping someone could help point me in the right direction for places to try. I am open to all styles and types of food and especially love Mediterranean and classic California food.

Thanks!

  1. Melanie Wong Oct 9, 2012 09:24 PM

    In this vein, wondering if anyone has tried Bumble?

    145 First Street (downtown Los Altos, across from the Safeway)
    Los Altos, CA 94022
    650.383.5340
    http://www.bumblelosaltos.com/
    8am to 8pm daily

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      b
      bayareagirl2001 Oct 9, 2012 11:10 PM

      This is the first I am hearing about Bumble and I am planning to try it just as soon as I can. I am very impressed with how Bumble mentions right up front that their grass fed beef is from the Machado and when I looked up Machado I was extremely impressed to see how well they explain what they do and why: http://www.machadobrothers.com/whygra...

      Thanks for telling us about it Melanie! Can't wait to try it soon.

      1. re: bayareagirl2001
        Melanie Wong Oct 9, 2012 11:46 PM

        I focused on the same things and thought this would be right up your alley. Please do report back when you have a chance to try it.

    2. e
      ejayeych Sep 17, 2012 10:06 AM

      Check out Tigelleria in Campbell. The food is excellent, organic, fresh and always in season. The restaurant itself is intimate and waitstaff are very helpful. Love this place and every time I eat here, I always feel good afterwards and not bloated. A definite must try.

      http://www.tigelleria.com/

      1. m
        macdog Apr 30, 2012 08:52 PM

        Just returned from 5 days in Palo Alto area. We returned to old favorites Cafe Barrone, a great place in Menlo Park to sit outside and enjoy their salads and sandwiches and Coupa Cafe in downtown PA for great cappuccinos, pastries and Peruvian influenced breakfast items. Also we had a two really delicious dinners at Mayfield Bakery and St. Michaels Alley, both in Palo Alto. Lastly we had noodles at Cafe Yulong for lunch one day and coffee at Dana St. Roasting in Mountain View. We also really enjoy Calafia cafe in PA for tasty fresh meals. I have read that it was one of Steve Job's favorite restaurants.

        1. bbulkow Apr 6, 2012 10:52 AM

          I would put very few options listed here similar to "local fresh natural", or "food I can feel good about". Not that locally sourced grass fed beef isn't all of those, just red meat and fries isn't in the same trope as "healthy".

          zpizza, mountain view - actually tries to be lighter and healthier, claims organic
          Fresh Choice - looks like an old sizzler, too many old people
          Fresh Tomatoes - going in at the corner of 237 & ECR - supposedly the upscale of that
          Hobee's - several - faded, but love the salmon scrambles

          Basically, for everyday food, there isn't much south of Palo Alto that's in the fresh and healthy. Manresa is a $400/pp restaurant, if you can feel good about life as part of the 0.1%, good for you!

          PA there's more stuff ---
          Oren's
          Pluto's
          Med Delight (California Ave especially)
          Sprout
          Loving Hut (sort of)
          Lyfe (mentioned)
          Garden Fresh

          Very few of these serve organic, but I'm thinking of places that use less oil, have lighter food, taste cleaner and more californian, possibly don't use meat at all.

          1. j
            jennbee Apr 6, 2012 08:13 AM

            Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I will definitely put these on my list

            1. c
              ceekskat Apr 6, 2012 07:57 AM

              Since you are new to the area, you may also find the following thread useful. Some of the best eats the area has to offer.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/803108

              1. m
                melvin Apr 6, 2012 12:53 AM

                Mediteranean? Dishdash on Murphy St. in downtown Sunnyvale is excellent.
                Also in Sunnyvale, there's really good izakaya called Saizo on El Camino in a strip mall.
                It's a sleeper. Really good. Make a rez for Friday and Saturday nights when it's full of Japanese who know a good thing.
                Bistro Elan on California St. in Palo Alto is very good.
                Don't know if they're locavores per se, but it's a special, albeit low key, place.
                Despite (or maybe because of) all its restaurants MV doesn't have much special to offer.
                Tacqueria La Bamba is a standout, but it's a funky burrito joint without the ambiance or space to sit and linger.

                3 Replies
                1. re: melvin
                  Melanie Wong Apr 6, 2012 08:19 AM

                  Bistro Élan closed some months ago, sadly.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    g
                    goldangl95 Apr 6, 2012 08:23 AM

                    Bistro Elan is actually re-open. They switched locations, and I haven't been to the new one, so I'm not sure how it has changed from the old one.

                    1. re: goldangl95
                      Melanie Wong Apr 6, 2012 08:53 AM

                      The new place is Birch St, around the corner. Here's a thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/769365

                      Edited to add: Here's the website, and it's now calling itself Bistro Elan on Birch St. It's a smaller and more basic location. Glad to see a drop in menu prices.
                      http://www.bistroelan.com/Bistro_Elan...

                2. s
                  sweethooch Apr 5, 2012 10:28 PM

                  I'll mention Scratch on Castro in Mountain View (corner of California) -- not always truly local suppliers, but good ingredients and carefully prepared food. Great bar.

                  Steak Out, right across the street, is a burger place with grass-fed beef, local greens/veggies, homemade buns.

                  http://www.scratchmtnview.com
                  http://www.steakout.us/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sweethooch
                    g
                    goldangl95 Apr 6, 2012 07:37 AM

                    I, sadly, must disagree about Scratch. I want to love the place, as it is weirdly one of the few restaurants in Mountain View that serves "Californian" cuisine or brunch. However, everytime I go the food is good in concept but bad in execution. Even simple things, like a shrimp cocktail we got last time at the bar - the shrimp was fishy.

                    Their bar, on the other hand, is interesting and serves good drinks. Only serves American liquors and most of the bartenders are very good.

                  2. c
                    ceekskat Apr 3, 2012 03:42 PM

                    Tava Indian Kitchen & Asian Box, Palo Alto. Amber Cafe, Mountain View. Also, recently opened Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto (& noticed it being sold in Redwood City Costco as well).

                    http://www.lyfekitchen.com/restaurant...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ceekskat
                      g
                      goldangl95 Apr 3, 2012 04:05 PM

                      I must admit to be slightly skeptical of a restaurant's attempts to be local/organic if their only statement on the subject is "strives" for organic (see Amber Cafe). Perhaps this is overly cynical on my part.

                      1. re: ceekskat
                        Melanie Wong Apr 14, 2012 01:21 AM

                        Have you had chance to try Tava or Asian Box yet?

                        I've heard from a teen that Tava's lunch special for Paly students is good.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          c
                          ceekskat Apr 30, 2012 09:59 PM

                          Just saw this...no haven't tried them. However, I did walk into Asian Box recently fully intending to get lunch, but became apprehensive when I saw the small kitchen, limited menu & use of shrimp. I am highly allergic to shellfish and don't recall seeing anyone use gloves. Perhaps I was being paranoid as I have eaten from Baja Fresh (small kitchen, etc.) and various Asian restaurants but actually seeing the kitchen just kind of shook me. I'll probably come around...

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            j
                            jsaimd Sep 4, 2012 04:53 PM

                            We tried Tava when they were doing their LevelUp promotion. They were quick and friendly. It is a Chipotle type set up - choose you form (bowl or roti wrap), meat, sauce and additions. We tried the chicken tikka bowl. Overall not bad for a quick lunch if you are in the area, but I wouldn't go out of my way, especially with all the fantastic Indian not far from here. My biggest beef is that they don't turn up the heat at all and the sauces are less complex and savory than others I have had.

                            My kids loved it and I can see it appealing to a lot of people. My husband had the dal sauce with lamb in a roti and said it was good, but not great. Again, not as complex as he would like and even their "hot" versions are not at all. My 3 kids all ate without complaining of heat.

                        2. m
                          mdg Apr 3, 2012 02:17 PM

                          The Menu in Mountain View is an Indian restaurant that focuses on local ingredients. They're in the location on El Camino west of San Antonia that formerly housed Southern Spice, Swagat, and a few other Indian restaurants. Our first visit was quite promising:

                          http://www.themenuindia.com/

                          Michael

                          1. g
                            goldangl95 Apr 3, 2012 01:58 PM

                            Sadly, most of the places I know somewhat in the area that represent as focusing on local/sustainable/organic are all really pricey (but the food quality ranges from satisfyingly good to excellent).

                            Flea Street Cafe (Menlo Park)
                            Station 1 (Woodside)
                            Manresa (Los Gatos)

                            Hopefully someone else has more diverse recs.

                            41 Replies
                            1. re: goldangl95
                              t
                              takuhead Apr 3, 2012 07:23 PM

                              Don't forget Calafia in Palo Alto - they actually tell you where a lot of the menu is sourced from and they also a CSA there as well - I think it's Copay Valley - not sure - there is a poster in the lobby...

                              Lyfe is not all that organic - they don't even get real eggs there - just an egg white batter (but it's supposed to be organic...)

                              1. re: takuhead
                                m
                                mdg Apr 4, 2012 10:49 PM

                                And next door to Calafia is Mayfield Bakery and Cafe, a good (though pricy) classic California restaurant with lots of local sourcing.

                                Michael

                                1. re: takuhead
                                  b
                                  bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 02:13 PM

                                  I wouldn't be so sure about Calafia. They advertise "Grass Fed" beef, but on further investigation its becoming clear it is not true 100% grass fed/grass finished beef. Their menu states it is from Never Ever ranch, which doesn't exist, rather it is a marketing ploy.

                                  Next time you are in Calafia ask them Can you confirm whether your beef is fed corn, soy, grain (which includes barley and rice) or animal byproducts

                                  Whether you use any hormones or antibiotics.

                                  and whether the processing facilities are certified organic.

                                  I can make dietary compromises from time to time and eat not 100% grass fed beef, but please don't try to scam me and pass off something that isn't and charge for it.

                                  1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                    Melanie Wong Sep 4, 2012 02:22 PM

                                    That's interesting. I did some quick googling myself and come up with some branded beef called "Never Ever" from Harris Ranch. It doesn't claim to be grassfed, but is antibiotic and hormone free. I've see it in the grocery store. And one news story says it is fattened on feedlot so it would not fit within the USDA definition of grassfed beef.
                                    http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=GrassFedMarketingClaimStandards&rightNav1=GrassFedMarketingClaimStandards&topNav=&leftNav=GradingCertificationandVerfication&page=GrassFedMarketingClaims&resultType=

                                    http://www.newleaf.com/common/news/store_news.asp?task=store_news&SID_store_news=123&storeID=j3qsseqx5cs92j2000akhmccqja05t39

                                    http://santacruzwire.com/index.php/food/24-business/198-buying-beef-in-santa-cruz.html

                                    http://www.prlog.org/11194564-prime-meats-launches-new-line-of-never-ever-natural-angus-beef.html

                                    So yes, if that's what Calafia is using, the "pastorale" menu description for the "Never Ever Ranch" grass-fed filet mignon is incorrect. Actually, a downright lie.
                                    http://calafiapaloalto.com/the-food/m...

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      b
                                      bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 02:49 PM

                                      Yep. Pretty upsetting given that my friends and family purposely go out of our way to go to Calafia when we want true grass fed beef thinking that given their fancy Google reputation that we are eating what we are paying for. Turns out that's not the case and everyone should know about this!

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2012 04:38 PM

                                        I don't see any variation of "pastured" on that menu. A number of meat companies seem to be using "never ever" in their marketing.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          b
                                          bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 04:48 PM

                                          I think she was referring to "grassfed" which sometimes is used interchangably with pastured. I am not sure of the specific distinction between the two, but hopefully someone on here might enlighten us.

                                          Calafia advertises
                                          Grilled Filet Mignon of Beef (GF)
                                          grass-fed beef from Never Ever ranch, served with
                                          roasted shiitake demi glace, sous vide pureed
                                          cauliflower and butter-braised dinosaur kale: 24

                                          When I asked Calafia about Never Ever ranch, it turns out that it is not a place, but rather a method. At first they said they got their grass fed meat from Bassian Farms, but then later changed that to be Harris Ranch never ever beef, which is definitely not grass fed. I am not sure if Harris and Bassian are connected in anyway.

                                          They may be neat companies, but they are lying if they advertise grassfed and it turns out to be a lie. And this is a LOT of effort and time to research whether I am paying for grass fed beef and all of its high omega 3 and other great benefits or I am just paying for something I could get at most places in the bay area. It really shouldn't be this hard.

                                          1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                            Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2012 05:12 PM

                                            The restaurant buyers may be confused too.

                                            1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                              Melanie Wong Sep 4, 2012 05:59 PM

                                              Chef/owner Charlie Ayers' email address is on the web, so I asked him the same question. Here's his reply:

                                              ----Original Message----
                                              From: "Charlie Ayers"
                                              Sent: Tue, Sep 04, 2012 3:48 PM
                                              To: "Melanie S. Wong"
                                              CC: ""
                                              Subject: Re: Grass-fed Filet Mignon question

                                              All of our natural beef is

                                              “Never Ever Birth to box”= this refers to not using or administering antibiotics, pesticides or growth promoting drugs/pharmaceutical agents..

                                              All of our Never Ever beef is raised by small family farmers/ranchers. Animals are born, given maximum time to spend time nursing with their mothers, after that they eat fresh grass until their livers

                                              are mature enough to process grains. The animals will eat an all vegetarian diet until the end of their lives. Beef is raised in Washington State, Oregon and also Kansas city Missouri.

                                              Most small family ranchers belong to branded Co-ops that will receive a premium price for producing premium beef animals.

                                              These programs are (at a minimum) GAP

                                              Sent from my iPhone

                                              * * *

                                              Based on this, the beef identified on the menu as grass-fed is not.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                b
                                                bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 06:20 PM

                                                Wow this is super dissapointing! Such double talk and dishonesty. I always trusted Calafia, But I should have known something was up when their servers go into great detail to describe their salmon as some kind of special salmon from Scotland that is basically from a very large farm. Are there any restaurants we can really trust these days?

                                                1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                  Melanie Wong Sep 4, 2012 07:14 PM

                                                  A few years ago Loch Duart salmon that Calafia serves came on the scene in a big way. But many of the responsible restaurants that had been serving it have stopped as it turns out to be not as clean and sustainable as promoted.

                                                  Personally, I don't demand that all my beef be grassfed. But I do expect that restaurants be truthful on their menus, and in this case, Calafia has messed up.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                    b
                                                    bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 07:28 PM

                                                    Oh that is interesting to know about Loch Duart. When the servers start talking about it as this great new thing it just seems so suspicious. I don't eat a lot of red meat so when I do, I try to seek out 100% grass fed beef because it offers a higher content of omega 3 and CLA, There are times I make compromises on non grass fed beef, but at least it's an informed decision. But I guess it now turns out I have been eating a lot less grass-fed beef than I thought all these years of going to Calafia at least once a month or more.

                                                    I can think of several occasions we have quizzed our server about the beef, "it's 100% start to finish grass fed right?" "oh yes, it certainly is" I think I have had that conversation at least a dozen times there. I like a lot of things about Calafia, but they have blatantly lied over and over.

                                                    1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                      Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2012 09:34 AM

                                                      They're probably just misinformed or confused. It's not a sound business model to promote politically correct sourcing if you're not going to buy what you say you're selling.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2012 11:12 AM

                                                        Sure, the servers are just repeating what they've been trained to say. But certainly the buyers and the owner should know better. Since the restaurant opened in 2009, it has touted that all its beef and lamb is grassfed. For example, this piece from 7x7,
                                                        http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/google-pioneer-opens-calafia-palo-alto that hits on the affordability and the quality of sourcing. That's a big part of its appeal to Peninsula families and customers. Now we understand how the prices are kept low, Calafia fudges on sourcing.

                                                        Calafia's statement on sourcing says:
                                                        "Calafia Café & Market A•Go•Go is committed to using local,
                                                        seasonal and organic ingredients. Calafia has developed close
                                                        relationships with local farmers south to Watsonville and north to
                                                        Healdsburg. Calafia follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium
                                                        guidelines and seafood watch list. Calafia uses only free-range
                                                        organic poultry and grass fed beef, lamb and Berkshire pork. All
                                                        of the ranchers, growers and dairy producers Calafia works with
                                                        use zero amounts of growth hormones, antibiotics or harmful
                                                        artificial additives."
                                                        http://calafiapaloalto.com/the-food/c...

                                                        I wonder how long Calafia has been deceiving the market or if this is a recent decision to keep talking the talk but cut back on ingredients.

                                                        edited to add: I do applaud Ayers for using clean meat without hormones or antibiotics. But call it what it is, and don't label it as grassfed, something that's a higher standard, when it is not.

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                          Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2012 11:43 AM

                                                          "USDA certified grass-fed" is a standard and means no grain ever.

                                                          Minus certification, "grass-fed" just means the animal was fed some grass.

                                                          There are lots of other USDA certifications, so "USDA certified, grass-fed" isn't the same thing as "USDA certified grass-fed."

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            b
                                                            bayareagirl2001 Sep 5, 2012 12:12 PM

                                                            It's all pretty upsetting to find out we have been misled like this. I wish someone who was a great investigative journalist would take on the project of investigating all the restaurants in the bay area that claim to be grass-fed/organic etc and break it all down and verify each and every claim. I feel like I can't trust any of them anymore.

                                                            1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                              Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                              If the restaurant doesn't specify which ranch(es) their meat comes from, I would ignore any claim.

                                                              There are very few organic restaurants, that requires certification. Even Gather, which is the most sourcing-happy place around, isn't organic (though their bar is).

                                                              Most places that make claims say things like "All ingredients are sourced locally and organically as often as possible" or ""We are committed to supporting local farmers and sourcing only sustainable ingredients."

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                b
                                                                bayareagirl2001 Sep 5, 2012 12:37 PM

                                                                But that's the thing, in the Calafia example their menu says "Never Ever ranch" so I searched for it online. When I couldn't find it, I emailed Calafia and asked where it was. The first answer I got was "This is where we get our beef:

                                                                http://bassianfarms.com/aboutus.html"

                                                                but then I asked them to clarify where "Never Ever ranch" was because that is what is printed on their menu.

                                                                The next response was:

                                                                "I discussed it with one of our chefs and he said it is a term used to the way the cow is fed and treated, not an actual place."

                                                                So then I said I was confused about the menu. The next response from Calafia was:

                                                                "I hope you will feel more confident after you read what Never Ever Ranch refers too below. We stand by the quality of our food. It is the best for the price point, that is a guarantee!

                                                                My apologies that I was not more aware when you asked.

                                                                We've partnered with longtime California Central Valley ranchers at family-owned Harris Ranch to offer New Leaf's Natural Choice Never Ever Beef, a sustainably-raised "super natural" premium Black Angus beef that is NEVER EVER treated with hormones, antibiotics, or chemical additives. New Leaf's Natural Choice Never Ever Beef is not to be confused with the Harris Ranch Beef you might see at other stores. Unlike other natural meats, our meat is NEVER EVER treated with hormones or antibiotics - that's a promise others can't make!

                                                                This exceptionally clean, delicious beef is California-raised to New Leaf's high standard just for our customers. Family-owned and operated, Harris Ranch is located in Selma, CA, which is just under 200 miles away from Santa Cruz. All of their cattle are age and source verified and humanely handled throughout all aspects of production. Harris Ranch's plant was designed with the help of renowned animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, and currently half their fleet of trucks run on natural gas!"

                                                                Then I emailed her and told her that this does not qualify as "grass fed" like they advertise.

                                                                I was handed over to another person at Calafia who wrote:

                                                                "Over the Labor Day weekend, I know you had asked for clarification about our beef that we serve. Due to the Chef being out of town, I offered to assist with some information that I thought was current, but it turns out that information was not accurate. I know for certain now that we don't serve beef from Harris Ranch, but I want to be 100% of exactly what we are offering and for that information I need to speak with the chef/owner, Charlie Ayers. He will be in first thing Wednesday AM. I will speak with him and pass down the information. Thank you for your patience."

                                                                Melanie Wong on here was able to get a faster response from Charlie Ayers than his own staff which is in one of her message on this thread. Baiscally it was more of the "never ever" stuff, still NOT grassfed.

                                                                The person from Calafia then told me that the reference to Harris Ranch from another post on another site is wrong and needed to be removed. He said he would talk to the chef and let me know. I have not heard back yet. The closest response from the chef was Charlie Ayers email to Melanie about the never ever method, but still not giving a specific source for their beef.

                                                                So even though they did list "Never Ever ranch" on their menu, as far as I can tell it turned out to be fictional and inacurrate. So basically each time I want to go out to eat grassfed I need to plan a head a few days so I can thoroughly research whether the restaurant is lying. Wow this is exhausting and disappointing!

                                                                1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                                  Like I said, they sound confused, also like they're having internal communication problems and the staff who are updating the menus on a day-to-day basis aren't up on the fine points of sourcing. Are they deliberately misleading anyone? Dubious.

                                                                  "Grass-fed" without certification doesn't mean never any grain.

                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2012 01:37 PM

                                                              That is all correct. It is also true that all cattle are fed grass at some point in their lives, making the term without some definition completely meaningless as a differentiator. By using the term, Calafia is holding up its meat to be something different than that, otherwise, why attach a label.

                                                              Given the fervor today about sourcing, Ayers is really foolish to continue to promote something that is not what his customer expects of "grass-fed", certified or not. The 2009 article from 7x7 touts Calafia's use of ONLY grassfed beef and lamb. Ayers has been making hay off this for a long time. This is not just an oopsie from the daily menu writer.

                                                              When a customer such as bayareagirl2011 asks whether the cattle are grassfed from start to finish as she did, she should not be lied to. This reminds me of the lawsuit awhile ago against a local restaurant that had been serving pork for years presenting it as veal or the more recent revelations about seafood mislabeling.

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                b
                                                                bayareagirl2001 Sep 5, 2012 02:23 PM

                                                                Great points Melanie. I haven't heard of the pork/veal lawsuit, I imagine that was pretty serious given the religious dietary restrictions of some people. But I also know many people in the Paleo community who view their diets and the origins of every thing that they eat as a religion, so this could be equally as shocking to them.

                                                                1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                                  Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2012 11:37 PM

                                                                  Please keep us posted on any further response you receive. Would also hope to hear from "takuhead" as well.

                                                                  When you first brought this up two days ago, I saved off a snapshot of Calafia's meat-eaters menu as it appeared online on Sept 4. Yesterday I noticed a small edit for the description of the filet mignon. The filet is now described as "grass-fed beef from a Never Ever ranch", inserting "a" since Never Ever refers to a protocol and not a physical place. But unfortunately, Calafia continues to say its grass-fed when Never Ever is no such thing.

                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Sep 7, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                                    Absent USDA certification, "grass-fed" has no particular definition, so they're not lying on the menu, though it's probably bad business to use the term.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      b
                                                                      bayareagirl2001 Sep 7, 2012 09:09 AM

                                                                      Robert, this is Palo Alto and I assume the customers are mostly well informed about grass fed and when we see that we assume this means what we all generally accept "grass fed" to mean beef which is never fed grain or corn. Calafia admitted in Charlie Ayers own email that this never ever beef is finished on grains.

                                                                      The USDA defines it as:

                                                                      Grass (Forage) Fed – Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.

                                                                      There are lots of ways to interpret some of this, but we all know there are true 100% grass fed suppliers who proudly stand by their beef and are very honest about it and restaurants that serve it. I just want Calafia to be one of those instead of trying to doubletalk their way out of this and fool their customers.

                                                                      1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Sep 7, 2012 09:29 AM

                                                                        The USDA definition applies *only* to USDA-certified grass-fed meat. Vendors of meat that's not USDA-certified grass-fed remain free to define the term any way they like and to use it for meat that's grain-finished.

                                                                        Contrast this with the USDA rules for "organic," which can be used *only* when the product or vendor in question is certified.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          b
                                                                          bayareagirl2001 Sep 7, 2012 09:37 AM

                                                                          ah that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying Robert! Sounds like Calafia is using some tricky used car salesman maneuvers :)

                                                                          They referred me to their PR department who said they are making menu changes ASAP. Which is nice to hear and I hope they follow through with that, but I still just would rather know I could go there for true 100% grass fed beef. There are so few places to go for that in the bay area.

                                                                          1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                                            Robert Lauriston Sep 7, 2012 11:09 AM

                                                                            It's easy to find grass-fed, grass-finished beef around here. It's rare in restaurants because it's even more expensive than regular beef.

                                                                    2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                      b
                                                                      bayareagirl2001 Sep 7, 2012 08:59 AM

                                                                      Hmmm that is interesting about the "a" Melanie. It just makes things even worse for them that they seem to be trying to deceive their loyal customers.

                                                                      Compare that to a place like ROAM in the city that clearly explains what grassfed is on their wall and is very upfront about where they get their beef.

                                                                      The last email I received was from Mark at Calafiaa;

                                                                      Over the Labor Day weekend, I know you had asked for clarification about our beef that we serve. Due to the Chef being out of town, I offered to assist Ivy with some information that I thought was current, but it turns out that information was not accurate. I know for certain now that we don't serve beef from Harris Ranch, but I want to be 100% of exactly what we are offering and for that information I need to speak with the chef/owner, Charlie Ayers. He will be in first thing Wednesday AM. I will speak with him and pass down the information. Thank you for your patience.

                                                                      Mark

                                                                      But this was 3 days ago and so far no response back about what they serve. And they managed to get my Yelp review filtered out.

                                                                      I don't want to ruin their business, I just want them to be honest about what they are really serving and charging us for. I guess what upsets me the most is that I have raved and raved to everyone I know, friends, family, colleagues, about this place and always mentioned their "grass-fed" beef. I always investigate restaurants claims of grass-fed, organic, etc and try to learn the source. I didn't do this right away with Calafia because for some reason I felt that whole "Google" connection and the rumors that Steve Jobs went there made me feel they were trustworthy. What makes me angry is that they are using these connections to fool the public and probably making huge profits by buying very low quality ingredients and trying to pass them off as something better price wise.

                                                                      I hope Takuhead reports back on the experience at Calafia. I think we should all go there and quiz the server and manager about this "Never Ever" beef and force them to come clean. Maybe this will pressure them to choose a different supplier who is truly grassfed.

                                                    2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      b
                                                      bayareagirl2001 Sep 4, 2012 06:27 PM

                                                      Also, I emailed Charlie Ayers 2 days ago and never got a response. In the meantime his staff has completely got their stories all screwed up. I hope they can clarify this ASAP. I also hope they change their supplier and start REALLY serving grass fed beef. I liked that place a lot for other reasons.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                        bayareagirl2001 Sep 15, 2012 11:14 PM

                                                        Hey Melanie, Just wanted to update you that a friend went to Calafia tonight and asked what a Never Ever ranch was and the server said it was not a place but a way of raising the beef. She asked if it meant it was 100% grass fed, never fed any grain, and he said with complete certainty that ALL their beef is 100% grass fed. So they are training their staff to misrepresent their beef as real grass fed even though it isn't this is SO upsetting. And of course she said the menu hasn't been updated even though their PR firm confirmed to me that they would do it ASAP.

                                                        I just want to be able to walk into a restaurant, ask is this 100% real grass fed beef and not be lied to over and over. That shouldn't be too much to ask.

                                                        1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                          t
                                                          takuhead Sep 16, 2012 12:59 AM

                                                          I went in briefly the other day to hopefully chat with Charlie - usually he will stay and chat a moment - he took off to the back quickly when he saw me come in...I asked the barista about the beef - he still thought they had grassfed...I will try to make an appt with Charlie to get clarification - in the meantime - we no longer eat there since I don't want to eat conventional beef and don't trust whatever other proteins they got...

                                                          Like bayareagirl2001 - I feel so bad about singing their praises as a good place to eat to my customers over the past few years - glad I didn't end up adding them to my cookbook I just finished - I do have a food resources guide in the back with many bay area locales for getting true grassfed and pastured meat - but no restaurants....it's sad that our choices for the area are now one less when there just isn't that many to choose from...

                                                          I've been delaying blogging about it partly hoping that they rectify the situation soon and also to be sure that i have first hand confirmation of the facts - I really don't want to slam a local restaurant without reason...

                                                          Any recommendations for tried and true sources to places to eat out at in the area with menu items that would suit the more Paley-oriented eater?

                                                          1. re: takuhead
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                                                            bayareagirl2001 Sep 16, 2012 12:20 PM

                                                            Yes I think it's important for everyone to confirm facts for themselves. Plus it is also good that restaurants receive multiple inquiries about the source and quality of their product so that they realize we are informed consumers and we aren't easily fooled. Takuhead, if you do find some other factual source confirming that the Calafia beef is or isn't true grassfed, please let me know. My ideal resolution to the situation is not to harm their business, but for them to offer true grass fed like they claim to and like they are charging for.

                                                            As for other grass fed sources, so far I have confirmed Roam in SF is reliable and just a great place to eat overall, they really know how to do it right, Steak Out in Mountain View, although Steakout didn't impress me much, but I think it caters to the young Google crowd who just goes there for beer and isn't too concerned with ambiance. Lyfe in Palo Alto, but I haven't been there personally yet. Also Birks in Santa Clara and Cin Cin in Los Gatos both claim to have grass fed, but I haven't researched them in detail to confirm their source/supplier and then go to the supplier and question them until I am satisfied they are telling the truth. It's an exhausting process that's for sure. But if you want to avoid inflammatory omega 6s found in conventional/grain fed beef and instead consume only grass fed for the beneficial omega 3s, its what you have to do.

                                                            1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                              t
                                                              takuhead Sep 16, 2012 04:40 PM

                                                              Ask questions at Lyfe - I went in there hoping for just an organic egg with some cheese on it - and no go - they only get egg batter delivered - no actual eggs that you can crack - and mostly it's egg white batter
                                                              Plus stuff that would seem to be gluten free is not - like the sweet potato fries and the chicken soft tacos on corn tortillas....
                                                              We were very unimpressed with this place with a focus on total calories and soy in lots of stuff - low fat emphasis - no understanding of real whole foods and nutrient density...so we don't eat there...plus the food just tastes mediocre and is pricey...so not worth it IMHO
                                                              This place is ready to be scaled into a chain....

                                                              1. re: takuhead
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                                                                bayareagirl2001 Sep 16, 2012 11:48 PM

                                                                Oh that is very good to know Takuhead thanks! I have never been there so I didn't know what else was on their menu. I was just trying to confirm that their grass-fed beef claim was true. They told me they get their grass fed beef from Hearst Ranch near Hearst Castle. And as long as Hearst Ranch isn't lying, then this could be a reliable source for grass-fed beef. But the other stuff you told me about the eggwhite batter and the soy/low fat emphasis is very disappointing. Yet another restaurant that just doesn't quite get it. *sigh*

                                                            2. re: takuhead
                                                              Melanie Wong Sep 26, 2012 11:00 PM

                                                              For kicks, I just refreshed the tab for the Meateater's menu and I see that the Never Ever beef filet mignon dish is gone, replaced by a pork dish, and the Calafia burger is no longer described as grassfed but as pasture-raised.
                                                              http://calafiapaloalto.com/the-food/m...

                                                              However, the sourcing statement on the online catering menu still claims that Calafia only uses grassfed beef and lamb. The changes to the meateaters' menu descriptors suggest otherwise.

                                                              Have you had a chance to talk with Ayers?

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                b
                                                                bayareagirl2001 Sep 26, 2012 11:18 PM

                                                                Oh interesting! I also notice that they have this:

                                                                Calafia Burger
                                                                half pound of pasture-raised beef, grilled onions,
                                                                applewood-smoked bacon, white cheddar,
                                                                house-made pickles: 15 or with roasted crimini
                                                                mushrooms and Jarlsberg swiss: 15

                                                                I think it used to say grass fed, but I can't remember. But pasture raised is still misleading and inaccurate. It would be more accurate if they said pasture raised and grain finished or just put "never ever" and accurately described what never ever really means.

                                                                I would be interested to know what they say now if people go there and ask about the beef and whether it is grass-fed, pastured, never ever and for a detailed description of what it means. I suggest anyone following this thread go there and quiz them just to keep them honest.

                                                                But what would really be great is if they changed their supplier and served 100% grass fed beef.

                                                                Thanks for the update Melanie!

                                                                1. re: bayareagirl2001
                                                                  Melanie Wong Sep 26, 2012 11:32 PM

                                                                  Yes, that's the burger that I was referring to.

                                                                  But if you look at the brunch menu, it still says the Calafia burger is grass-fed as you remembered, when it probably is not.
                                                                  http://calafiapaloalto.com/the-food/b...

                                                                  I agree that staff re-training is in order and that customers need to keep asking questions.

                                                                  Judging from Chef Ayers and Calafia's twitter streams, the changes in the menu seem to be part of a new fall menu rolled out on Tuesday. I suspect that there's no source of 100% grassfed beef that will fit within the price point for the menu and the reason the beef filet has been replaced by pork.

                                                                  And thank you for being a concerned consumer!

                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                                    bayareagirl2001 Sep 26, 2012 11:46 PM

                                                                    Sorry you are right, you did mention the burger already, I just read the first part and then went to look at their menu.

                                                                    I just don't feel I can trust anything they say or anything I read on their menu. I would gladly pay a dollar or more extra to get true grass fed because I love their restaurant for other reasons. And seriously the guy is a gazillionaire, how much profit does he have to squeeze out of the restaurant by cutting corners and misleading advertising?

                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        Melanie Wong Sep 4, 2012 05:41 PM

                                                        Guess I should apologize to Michael Pollan for riffing on his "supermarket pastoral" to describe the bucolic PR spin on the menu.

                                                        The USDA's voluntary standard for marketing claims of "grassfed" (linked above) does require the animals to have access to pasture. Clearly Calafia is not entitled to describe its beef as grassfed according to that standard.

                                                        Did you mean "neat" or "meat"?

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                          Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2012 06:07 PM

                                                          Uh, meat. Not such neat companies.

                                                2. re: goldangl95
                                                  a
                                                  arlenemae May 1, 2012 03:52 PM

                                                  You can add Parcel104 (Santa Clara), definitely focused on local/seasonal/etc. but again a bit on the pricey side:
                                                  http://www.parcel104.com/

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