Back when Silicon Valley was still called the Santa Clara Valley, the region was famous not for tech products but for its abundant fruit and nut orchards, family farms and vineyards. Today that agricultural legacy lives on in a new way through an innovative culinary scene that emphasizes locally sourced foods, wines and craft beers served in convivial surroundings.
A favorite dining spot for the late Steve Jobs, the Garden Court Hotel (www.gardencourt.com), a boutique hotel in downtown Palo Alto that caters to small meetings, is among local places that stay on top of forward-thinking food trends and healthy eating practices. Along with orchestrating regular Chef’s Tables dinners that sometimes emphasize vegetarian and vegan options, Executive Chef Enrique Michel frequently creates six-course tasting menus for groups with such dishes as quinoa cakes with summer squash coconut curry and chilled yogurt soup with dates.
“Our chef is very creative and loves to get involved with highly customized menus that are far from standard banquet fare—he recently did a full vegan/vegetarian dinner for over 50 guests that people were amazed by,” said Jeffery Phillips, general manager. “He also takes this approach to meeting breaks by making his own energy bars with dried fruits and other natural ingredients.”
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home to the San Francisco 49ers, is another dining hot spot for corporate groups, especially at chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak (www.michaelmina.net), which serves up classic steakhouse fare. Available for buyouts for up to 95 people, the restaurant also offers two private dining lofts named for football greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice that seat up to 35 and Tailgate, an event space accommodating up to 360 people.
In downtown San Jose, groups can gather in San Pedro Square Market (www.sanpedrosquaremarket.com), a complex of vendors selling everything from tapas to sushi and Asian noodles around a large central courtyard. The venue is the scene of a popular farmer’s market and also offers several private event spaces. It can be reserved entirely for large events of 800 to 2,500 with live bands and classic cars.
In San Jose’s SoFA (South of First Area), a downtown district of galleries, nightspots, restaurants and brewpubs, new group options include Forager Tasting Room & Eatery (www.sjforager.com) and Uproar Brewing Company (www.uproarbrewing.com).
“Uproar Brewery brews their own beers on-site and features a local selection of beers to taste, while Forager is a mix of local craft culture, beer, coffee, food and arts,” said Cheryl Little, director of sales for Team San Jose. “Both establishments offer unique venue space with a rustic, warehouse setting. They’re great places for attendees to refuel their creative thinking.”
Winery venues also abound in the region, especially in the hillsides of Saratoga and Los Gatos. Among these is Testarossa (http://testarossa.com) in Los Gatos, which offers atmospheric event space in historic caves and cellars that date from the late 19th century as well as outdoor areas shaded by sycamore trees. The winery hosts everything from dinners for small groups on up to strolling receptions for up to 250 guests.