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Bringing Back Bongo Bongo 

Trader Vic's comes to Palo Alto

Wednesday, Jan 9 2002
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Trading Up Longtime San Francisco residents who miss the bygone Polynesian kitsch of Trader Vic's on Cosmo Alley may appreciate the resurrection of Cosmo Tidbits, Bongo Bongo Soup, and Chinese wood-fired ovens. Dinah Garden Hotel in Palo Alto is launching Trader Vic's 22nd location, the first new site in the chain to open in the United States in 28 years. Vic Bergeron opened his inaugural location in Oakland in 1934, calling it Hinky Dinks; in 1937 he added the Disney jungle tour vibe and changed the name to Trader Vic's. Somewhere along the way, though, the franchise moved away from the tiki bar theme toward a more refined (read: boring) look. Why aim for classy when you can embrace camp? San Francisco's outpost, which opened in 1951 and closed in the mid-'90s, hosted Queen Elizabeth II in 1983; it was allegedly the first and only public restaurant the queen ever visited. Executive Chef Henri Delcros, who hails from Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, will preside over the 200-seat dining room's menu.

Junior Leagues "The Dinner Party Project" may sound like the title of an indie film, but if you had happened upon Noe Valley's Edison Charter Academy on Dec. 18, you'd have discovered it to be a fete thrown by 33 fifth-graders for their families. The event was only one of 20 such tot-hosted evenings across the country, part of a kickoff for a national project. The five-part series of in-class and homework activities helps kids learn about nutrition, food safety, meal planning, etiquette, and cooking. Organized with the help of Bruno's chef Chris Pastena, Edison's feast included minted white bean dip and honey-mustard pork chops -- a far cry from the pancake days of home economics.

Cook or Be Cooked Kitchenware company Sur La Table hosts an array of local celebrity chef cook-offs through January at its Maiden Lane location. Similar in format to the hugely popular Iron Chef TV series, the SLT version pits two chefs against each other in a timed cooking trial. Contestants are given two proteins, one starch, three seasonal vegetables, two seasonal fruits, one cheese, and one exotic grocery item. The timer starts ticking at 10 a.m., and the opponents have a day to whip up five dishes, which they then present to the panel of judges at the store at 6:30 p.m. The moderator is Chronicle writer GraceAnn Walden; judges include Michael Chiarello (Tra Vigne), Arnold Rossman (Redwood Park manager), and Joanne Weir (cookbook author). Head-to-heads include Traci des Jardins (Jardinière) vs. Loretta Keller (Bizou) and Sylvain Portay (Ritz-Carlton San Francisco) vs. Brian Bistrong (Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay). Ringside tables are limited to 22 and run $60 a pop.

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Harry Coverte

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