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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Growing Culinary Village in San Mateo and Amazing Quiche From KitchenTown

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Nuri's Kitchen's Poblano Pepper, Feta & Gruyere Quiche at KitchenTown in San Mateo - TREVOR FELCH
  • Trevor Felch
  • Nuri's Kitchen's Poblano Pepper, Feta & Gruyere Quiche at KitchenTown in San Mateo

It sounds like a neighborhood that will open inside a Food Network amusement park in Orlando, but KitchenTown is actually on the San Mateo-Burlingame border near 101. It's a 10,000-square-foot warehouse instead of a village, but in that space is a burgeoning commercial kitchen, a culinary store, and a café home to a contender for the Bay Area’s best quiche.

Last year, KitchenTown replaced the old production facility for Anna’s Danish butter cookies, and right now, it’s mostly pastries and Sightglass coffee — coffee buzz alert, this is one of about five cafes with Sightglass coffee on the whole Peninsula — in a tidy, leisurely space drenched with sunlight from one side and overlooking the food-making operations on the other. The whole atmosphere feels like a museum café with a grand food-making floor in lieu of a statue garden.

Pastries baked at the facility could hold their own against San Francisco’s premiere cruffin-glitterati, with a banana bread full of walnuts and a good nudge of clove being high on the list. Cookies, though not Danish butter cookies, happen to be the strongest of the desserts offerings, highlighted by marshmallowy s’mores and a dark chocolate cookie studded with chocolate chips and crowned with sea salt. Either could turn anybody into a certain Sesame Street character.

The café’s shelves are stocked with products from the warehouse’s food makers: salsas from Zepeda Foods, Mammoth Bar’s raw, sprouted nut Paleo bars, and nut milks from Three Trees. New addition Nuri’s Kitchen, a project of Tartine alum Nuri Rivera, show off her flaky hand pies, pot pies and quiche. Rivera knows golden pastry dough like very few others, calling her recipe a “$35,000 Pie Crust.” Frankly, it's the ideal base for a quiche ($10, with salad). It's flaky, a little crunchy, and a little buttery, with a beautiful ribbon at the edge of the filling as if painted on with a brush. The filling is topped with a bronze glaze as if it spent the past week in Rio. Roasted poblano peppers give a sleek, spicy undertone to the feta and gruyere cheese filling, whipped up to an airy mousse-like texture. The combination of earthy green pepper and nutty cheese seemed straight out of Santa Fe's green chile-cheeseburger playbook.

For an idea of how fresh the salad is, the café worker strolled into the production room and tossed everything from scratch as if taking this time to make a salad was no big deal. It was the perfect foil to a hearty quiche that was a small enough slice not to feel like a Lorraine version of deep dish pizza. Nuri’s Kitchen also delivers her products to customers on Tuesdays each week and can be found at various farmers’ markets.

What will lunch be tomorrow? No idea. Maybe quiche from Nuri’s Kitchen, maybe not. Pop-ups happen all the time with short notice. One recent week featured empanadas at lunch and another had paella — the latter from KitchenTown co-founder Solis, so maybe that tapas bar concept may be closer than we think. (A word to the wise, however: KitchenTown's website menu is practically useless.)

Despite the menu unreliability, it really is a wonderful communal work idea, in the same spirit as La Cocina and the many communal tech workspaces that have opened around the Bay Area and the country. KitchenTown's pioneering philosophy does sound much like a university's world-changing promises, except here instead of reading Goethe by the main quad’s fountain, you get a 60-gallon steam kettle, a temperature-controlled chocolate room, a Baxter oven, and plenty of storage for your granola or pies.

If every town had a KitchenTown, we can only begin to think of what the new tastemakers would create. I’m guessing their quiche, though, wouldn’t be this good.

KitchenTown, 1007 Howard Ave., San Mateo, 650-458-8080.
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Trevor Felch

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