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[whitespace] Sherry Horst
Photograph by George Sakkestad

French Connected: Sherry Horst, chef de cuisine, brings exquisite salads and desserts to life on colorful dishes.

Tasteful Fixations

In the evolving East Main Street neighborhood of Los Gatos a decorator bistro caters to those in need of beautiful food

By Christina Waters

JOINED AT THE WELL-TURNED hip with its Gallic decorating depot next door, A Matter of Taste is easily one of the best-looking spots in Los Gatos. The word "tasteful" barely covers the sense of being in a carefully crafted, yet not overworked, interior, clearly inspired by French attitudes and aesthetics. A Matter of Taste specializes in lunches that look even better than they taste. That word again: taste. The chalkboard bill of fare--offering handmade soups, artistic salads and sinful desserts--shares the spotlight with orchids: a botanical garden of them on the front counter and a bloom sprouting from glazed pots at each table. Hardwood floors match the vintage of the historic brick walls. Colorful Soleido prints cover the round tables and a massive framed mirror catches all the conversational action in the tiny dining room. Lined with antique screens and bold French liqueur posters, this is a highly and warmly decorated interior. The perfect setting for winning service and impeccable food presentation.

From a long list of designer mineral waters, I spied my all-time favorite, Badoit, and pounced. Suzanne, my lunch companion, was amused at the idea of so many aquatic choices, but I was thrilled to find the tiny bubbles and faintly mineral flavor of the water that had seen me through many visits to Provençe.

Each and every dish served looked wonderful, and arrived on some wonderful piece of unusual and sunny pottery. A persimmon-hued ceramic dish, for example, held the day's special cauliflower soup. The bowl sat on yet another pretty plate decorated with lustrous lemon leaves, the décor du jour, it seemed. The soup was wonderful--tiny florets bobbed in a delicious broth; not the thick purée I'd expected ($5). Suzanne had to agree it was great, but saved her appetite for an entree sandwich of heroic proportions, something called Chicken Confit ($13) which actually wasn't confit but turned out to be a francese roll filled with grilled chicken breast, brie, spinach and caramelized onions. Suzanne found the toasted bread a bit overly charred; in addition to the high-calorie creaminess, the dish had been doused with additional hollandaise, and it was impossible to negotiate without oozing everywhere.

My crab cake salad ($15) arrived looking like an Aztec pyramid made of baby lettuces and edible flowers. Under the pile of greens, bathed with a strong-tasting vinaigrette dijonnaise, was a harmless, lukewarm crab cake. It contained lavish quantities of sweet Dungeness crabmeat, but the desired tang of deviled breading was absent. Unfortunately, what this generous entree did contain--abundantly--was a helping of cream sauce that did nothing to enhance either crab cake or greens. What I wanted was fewer greens, less dressing and a crisper, hotter crab cake, not more cream sauce.

A Matter of Taste positively excels in delectable housemade desserts, as we quickly discovered when we joined tiny Illy Caffe espressos with a very warm olallieberry cobbler ($7) and a textbook crème brûlée ($7). The cobbler came on a deco yellow dish with fluted edges and was powered to tart, berry glory by a scoop of vanilla bean gelato. Suzanne sighed over her dessert, served on an embossed, square white plate, decorated with lemon leaves, tiny kumquats and a single, perfect olallieberry. The sheer attractiveness of these desserts was undeniably part of their charm, but they were utterly delicious as well. Almost nothing this side of sex is as luscious in the noontime as the forbidden favors of a warm crème brûlée, with its crisp, burnt sugar topping and rich, custardy interior. But the cobbler, actually more of a thick tart filled with berries and walnuts, was at least as good. The small appealing touches, like smartly chosen serving ware and bright orange kumquats, all show the care that goes into presentation at A Matter of Taste. While I found the gratuitous presence of cream sauces a minus, there is much to admire at this Los Gatos cafe.

A Matter of Taste
Address: 35 E. Main St., Los Gatos
Phone: 408.399.1599
Hours: Lunch 11-3pm Tue-Sat; dinner 6-10pm Fri and Sat
Cuisine: Handmade Provençal-style cooking

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From the February 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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